« Michael Kinsley | Main | Michelle Hanson »

November 28, 2006

Top 100 Environmentalists

How wonderful, The Environment Agency has released it's list of the greatest 100 environmentalists of all time. Here it is in The Guardian.

Top, of course, is Rachel Carson, who unfortunately turned out to be wrong. The widespread use of DDT did not, beyond its effects on the eggs of raptors, threaten widespread environmental destruction (the malaria issue is better understood by thinking about resistance developing).

Number two is EF Schumacher who wrote Small is Beautiful. It's many years since I read it and I don't have a copy to hand, but wasn't he the Chief Economist to the National Coal Board? And doesn't a significant chunk of the book talk about how the UK should power itself on coal? A corporocrat insisting upon the use of his own company's product? Very green indeed.

Third is Jonathan Porritt (oh Dear Lord!)

8 is William Morris who essentially wanted an end to industialisation and a return to craft manufacture. Very much the basis of Blueprint for Survival, a century or so later.

19 is Bazalgette and how he got in I've no idea. He actually invented a technology to deal with pollution which will never do for of course technology won't save us.

33 Gives us Malthus, our second economist on the list. Such a pity no one thought to add Ricardo, who really rather showed that trade reduces the resources required to make or do something....that's a fairly green idea isn't it?  Walk more lightly upon the earth and all?

49 Is Thoureau....living in a cottage and sending his laundry back to town to be done.

51 Is Lester Brown, a man never knowingly correct about any matter whatsoever. He's built his entire career on ignoring the fact that resources are things humans create by inventing the technology to use them, not things that exist ab initio.

53 Is Swampy, which at least provides a giggle.

56 Caroline Lucas: her recent suggestion after the Stern Review was that we should restrict trade. Given that the worst outcomes of the IPCC models are those that restrict trade that's a wonderfully stupid way of combatting climate change.

64. Dame Miriam Rothschild. Again, as someone who came up with practical solutions (most especially about wildflowers) what on earth is she doing here?

96. TEBAF Margot. Sorry, are we descending into farce now?

So, now our task is to build another list, who should be on there but isn't? Bjorn Lomborg, of course. Norman Borlaug....he kicked off the Green Revolution, without the increase in agricultural productivity of which there wouldn't be any forests left at all. Fritz Haber for his method of ammonia production, essential for fertilisers without which, once again, there would be no forests left as we'd have cut them all down for farmland. Enrico Fermi for his work on the nuclear reactor...energy with a very low carbon footprint. Garrett Hardin for pointing us to the Tragedy of the Commons and thus to a solution, property rights.

Anyone with any more?

November 28, 2006 in Environmentalism | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Top 100 Environmentalists:



"He was the primary proponent of the cornucopian belief in endless resources and unlimited population growth empowered by technological progress. His works are often cited by libertarians in support of their arguments."

[Meanwhile, on space ship Wikipedia]
Pull up! Pull up! we're going to crash,
No, not that one!
the one marked 'POV'...

Posted by: Forester | Nov 28, 2006 11:43:56 AM

You seem to have missed Prince Charles at number 7. About the same place he would come on a list of people with the biggest carbon footprints. He's always flying his noisy helicopter over my flat and has forced me to wait in the cold and rain on my bike a couple of times so that he can swish by in his vintage bentley unincumbered by traffic lights.

I agree with you on Fermi and would even go so far as to propose Oppenheimer et al for developing the nuclear bomb, which appears to have put an end to all-out global war (fingers crossed).

Not sure I can second your nomination for Fritz Haber though, because the haber process enhanced the ability of people to conduct conventional warfare, which they did, at length, and the fertiliser thing goes hand in hand with intensive farming (good for population growth but not very green).

I also seem to recall he might have been involved with developing chlorine and other gases as a weapon (and insecticide) and was by all accounts a proper bastard too, so much so that his wife killed herself - actually just followed your wikilink and it does say all this, but since I already typed it i'll leave it.

Bjorn Lomborg you just put in there to wind people up. Just another environmental scientist with a view on climate change at the moment. His view just happens to coincide with yours, which is nice for you, but not a reason to make him a top 100 green person. (probably more of a reason not to in fact)

Posted by: Henk Van Vleck | Nov 28, 2006 5:09:31 PM