Farewell to Vo Quy, Vietnam’s hero of the environment

Vietnam’s Professor Vo Quy has passed away in Hanoi at age 87. The well-known and well-loved zoologist had a storied career that spanned decades and, even in his 80s, he was still working and busy, as passionate as ever. I met Professor Vo Quy in Hanoi late last decade, when he was in his late 70s. It was the middle of a bitter North Vietnamese winter and his office was so cold our breath came out in clouds. He worked in an old building, part of the Hanoi National University, with tiled floors and heavy wooden furniture. Bundled up in an enormous padded black parka, like a Michelin man using rubbish bags, he was as cheery as anything, offering me tea and a surprisingly long and comprehensive interview. Vo Quy had worked for years on Agent Orange-related issues. He began entering the forests where the United States had dropped the toxic defoliant in the 1960s and 1970s. “It was like the moon!” he recalled, noting how only days after Agent Orange was emitted, the forest had died, leaving a creepy dead-tree
scape and nothing living, even on the ground.

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