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 Mostafa Kamal Tolba - an Eulogy
picture 9 Apr 2016 @ 09:36, by Heiner Benking

Only few of the heads of UN organisations or programes are as vivid in my memory as Mostafa Kamal Tolba. I learned last week he passed away in Geneva March 28. He was for UNEP in office for 17 years and I would hope that other UN executive would have the same commitment and experience and would not leave office the moment they understood their institution inside and outside in the UN family and the world.

This lack of overview and long-view is a central problem I see with our "leaders" today. Check the new book from Yehrzkel Dror about other leaders for new epoches/times.
Definitely it also needs people as "cross-fertilized" or "gate-crashers" along and across various organisations, in various sectors, cultures, and at all levels! But this is not my point now. I believe Tolba was like Tietze able to act across sectors, scales, cultures and times.
Nowadays I see most of the time only the struggle for personal gains. Leaders and Editors like these men have seemingly left this place...

When looking back Tolba was deep and friendly, attentive and responsive in comparison not only to all the other UNEP - or UN DGs I had the honor to meet over the years. He definitely stands out. Even when I very much admire the DGs who served as role models, even when the international structures are deserving...

When looking back he was deep and friendly, attentive and responsive in comparison not only to all the other UNEP - or UN DGs I had the honor to meet over the years, (UNEPs) Strong, Tolba, Dowdeswell, Töpfer, Steiner,.... and maybe in this crowed for me only Noel Brown stands out, but he was "only" Director for UNEP-RONA in New York...

Mostafa is the light-tower for me - the forgotten Green Giant, in particular in his work and commitment for with Tietze, Editor of the GeoJournal, Kluwers Academic Publishers, now Springer.
As an aside, I find it surprising that central articles, like the TRILOGY: Credibility of Ecology (Francesco di Castri, Malcolm Hadley) are now available online ! but for big money !! The pro: They are at least available ! Hadley worked with Michael D. Gwynne [link] (Michael has even 408 hits (compare Tolba below): [link] D. Gwynne) and worked under Tolba for decades. Maybe we should revisit their work also, check if and where they are today, as I feel such "intellectual and pragmatic achievements hold much learning for our times.
I had to scan/put articles for example: Geo-Object Coding 1988-1990) [link] and Access & Assimilation: [link]
which refers to and we learned much from this "Credibility of Ecology" Trilogy
ACCESS is available since long on my website, and now even with the publisher predecessor Springer: [link]
It looks to me much of such "old work" is not in the public, nor in the "academic mind". Our scientists seem to be reinventing wheels with their new technologies, wording and thinking. Another dismay of mine Nathan Keyfritz (IIASA those days) called "sectarianism of science": [link] (footnote 15) [link]

I see benefit in finding Mostafa Tolba's now 229 times on SPRINGER LINK: [link] Tolba this can be contributed to his function in the Editorial Board of GeoJournal those days and a treasure, how much value in the communication with Wolf Tietze got lost....
It might be interesting to find such environmental forefahter which are not in the public eye/ media maze beside SPRINGER also in SCHOLAR.Google or WIKIPEDIA. This would be helpful for pupils and students to learn how distorted and slanted our search results are !

I feel Mostafa, like Elmaranj and many other great persons and deep thinkers and spirits got lost - and feel we are missing such committed "activist" in the noise of big data today. See "Big Data - Big Noise".

There is much to read to create your own idea about this very special man !
UNEP: [link]


I am presently too much burdened with deadlines and pressures to respond more appropriately and personally - but I promise to put up some recollections from many occasions, projects, communications and what could be learned and why. Maybe this is story-telling !

Hastily, HEiner

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