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Environmentalist David Suzuki has been recognized by the Right Livelihood Foundation for his work to raise awareness about climate change. ((Tom Hanson/Canadian Press) )

Environmentalist David Suzuki has received a prestigious award known as the "alternative Nobel" for his work to raise awareness about climate change.

Suzuki, 73, received the Right Livelihood Award, along with three other activists.

The awards were established in 1980 by Swedish-German philanthropist Jakob von Uexkull to recognize work that he felt was ignored by the Nobel Prizes.

The awards, which were announced in Stockholm on Tuesday, will be presented in a ceremony at the Swedish parliament on Dec. 4, six days before the Nobel Prizes are handed out.

Suzuki is known for his television and radio series and books about nature and the environment. He's also been harshly critical of governments for their lack of action on climate change.

The prize citation describes Suzuki as "one of the most brilliant scientists and communicators about science of his generation," adding he has shown a "lifetime advocacy for the socially responsible use of science."

He was selected for "his massive contribution to raising awareness about the perils of climate change and building public policies to address it," the citation said.

Suzuki, who was born in Vancouver in 1936, was sent with his family to a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War, before moving east to London, Ont., to finish school. He later returned to Vancouver to teach genetics at UBC in 1963, a position he held until his retirement in 2001.

He first joined the CBC in 1970 to launch an award-winning broadcasting career that eventually made him a household name across Canada and around the world as an outspoken proponent for protecting the environment.

Suzuki's honorary award does not include a $77,000 cash prize that the three other winners will receive from the Right Livelihood Foundation.

Protecting rain forests, health, peace

Congolese activist Rene Ngongo, 48, was honoured for his work to protect rain forests. Ngongo founded the OCEAN environment group in 1994, which exposed the impact of deforestation and monitored the plunder of minerals by warring factions during Congo's 1996-2002 civil wars. He also has worked for Greenpeace in Congo.

New Zealand peace activist Alyn Ware, 47, was recognized "for his effective and creative advocacy and initiatives over two decades to further peace education and rid the world of nuclear weapons," according to the citation.

Australian Dr. Catherine Hamlin, 85, was honoured for her work to improve women's health. Hamlin moved to Ethiopia in 1959 to work as an obstetrician and gynecologist and founded a hospital where women can seek free treatment for obstetric fistulas.

"The 2009 Right Livelihood Award recipients demonstrate concretely what has to be done in order to tackle climate change, rid the world of nuclear weapons and provide crucial medical treatment to the poor and marginalized," the foundation said in a press release.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press