OVIEDO, Spain – Spain’s King Felipe VI presented on Friday the Princess of Asturias Awards to individuals and organizations exemplifying “the value of knowledge, altruism, self-improvement, will and the determination to make life better.”
In his speech during the ceremony in Oviedo, the monarch recalled the “alarming signs” of global ocean warming linked to rising CO2 levels, as well as the 8 million tons of plastic that are dumped into the world’s oceans each year, a situation that “needs to be reversed, that we have to change without delay.”
King Felipe highlighted the “perseverance and absolute dedication” of US oceanographer Sylvia Earle, who was presented with the Princess of Asturias Award of Concord for leading the efforts of 200 stakeholders to expand marine protected areas and list those areas “in need of urgent protection.”
Felipe VI emphasized the dedication to seek the truth “at all costs” of Mexican journalist Alma Guillermoprieto, who was presented with the Communications and Humanities award, and who took up journalism “almost by chance” until she became “one of the world’s finest reporters.”
Regarding director Martin Scorsese, who was presented with the Arts award, the king said he was capable of making “the screen explode with pure, extreme emotions” fueled by “the constant search for truth and redemption.”
The monarch also recognized the “magnificent work” of Amref Health Africa, a non-profit organization that was presented with the International Cooperation award for expanding and improving health care for millions of people throughout the continent during the last 60 years, based on the “fantastic idea” of providing “flying doctors” to remote areas using small planes.
The sports award went to mountain climbers Reinhold Messner, of Italy, and Krzysztof Wielicki, of Poland, for their “discipline, valor and a spirit of sacrifice, in addition to skill and precision.”
Felipe VI exalted the reflections of US philosopher Michael Sandel, winner of the Social Sciences award, on the issues of dialogue, public debate, justice and the common good, as well as his “critical, informed thinking unconcerned with passing trends or superficiality.”
Swedish biologist Svante Pääbo, the first scientist to demonstrate that modern humans mixed and interbred with Neanderthals, was presented with the Technical and Scientific Research award for his “intelligent and conclusive work.”
The Literature award went to French novelist Fred Vargas, who did not attend the ceremony because of health reasons.
This is the third year that the awards have been presented under the name of the Princess of Asturias, which is the title of the current heiress of the Spanish Crown, 12-year-old princess Leonor.
Each award winner receives a diploma, 50,000 euros ($54,896), a Joan Miro sculpture and an insignia.