Then & Now: Environmental Leaders You Need to Know
Then & Now: Environmental Leaders You Need to KnowAs a society, the United States is more environmentally conscious now than ever before. We’ve come a long way, but this doesn’t mean we don’t have a long way to go. There’s much work to be done to ensure our planet remains beautiful for generations ahead.
The environmental movement took force in the 1940s with leaders like organic visionary J.I. Rodale and marine biologist Rachel Carson. These leaders paved the way for future generations, and set a crucial precedence: the Earth is vital and important, but it’s not invincible. In honor of #EarthMonth, we’ve highlighted four environmental leaders we think you need to know. This list is not exhaustive, as there are many environmental influencers, but it’s a good start. There are reasons these four individuals are still making waves decades later.
J.I. (Jerome Irving) Rodale (1898 - 1971)
The word “organic” is commonly thought to mean grown without pesticides, and that definition is largely because of publishing magnate J. I. Rodale. Rodale was an early organic visionary advocating a return to sustainable agriculture, founding the Rodale Organic Gardening Experimental Farm in 1940. In 1942, Rodale launched Organic Farming and Gardening magazine, later shortened to Organic Gardening, and now titled Organic Life, is still widely read today. In 1950, Rodale also launched Prevention magazine, which focused on healthy living to prevent disease. Rodale’s Experimental Farm, located in Lehigh, PA, was put on the on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
Rodale’s efforts are now carried on by his granddaughter Maria Rodale, chairman and CEO of Rodale, Inc., which continues to publish his flagship magazines Prevention and Organic Life as well as other magazines and books focusing on health and fitness.
Rachel Carson (1907 - 1964)
Fifty-three years after publication and people are still talking about Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s 1962 book about the destructive impact fertilizers and pesticides have on the Planet. A marine biologist, environmentalist and writer, Carson was wholly devoted to the environment and spent the late 1940s and 1950s conducting research into the effects of pesticides on the food chain. Carson published five influential books, in addition to numerous articles. Her most well-known, Silent Spring, was originally published by The New Yorker as a three-part series, and because of its strong position against DDT, garnered many enemies, as well as powerful supporters.
On June 4, 1963, less than a year after Silent Spring was published, Carson, age 56, testified before a Senate subcommittee on pesticides. She was dying of breast cancer, but kept it a secret from most people. To hide her baldness, she wore a dark brown wig.
“Every once in a while in the history of mankind, a book has appeared which has substantially altered the course of history,” said Senator Ernest Gruening, a Democrat from Alaska, at the subcommittee meeting.
Carson was born on May 27, 1907, in Springdale, Pennsylvania. She died of cancer April 14, 1964. In 1972, the United States “banned the domestic sale of DDT, except where public health concerns warranted its use,” according to the New York Times. However, American companies continued to export the pesticide until the mid-1980s.
Frances Moore Lappé (1944 - )
Frances Moore Lappé, through her cookbook Diet for a Small Planet published in 1971, was one of the first to challenge people on a large scale to consider their food choices in terms of overall planetary health. Arguing for what she called “environmental vegetarianism,” Lappé combined the ideas of environmental activism with diet.
Publishing 17 additional books since her groundbreaking cookbook including most recently EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want, Lappé continues to serve as a respected thought leader in environmental health. Frances Lappé, along with daughter Anne Lappé, formed the Small Planet Institute designed to help foster positive social change. The two have also created the Small Planet Fund, which supports grassroots initiatives throughout the world seeking solutions to environmental problems, food scarcity, poverty and other global trials.
John Francis (1946 - )
One day in 1973, John Francis, a.k.a. the “planetwalker,” went out for a walk—and he didn’t stop for 22-years. He made this decision after seeing the damage caused by the 1971 Standard Oil Company oil spill in San Francisco Bay. He pledged to never ride in a car again.
All those years, he travelled around North and South America by foot and by sailboat with one mission in mind: respect the Earth. He spent 17 of the 22 years silent, and during those years spent not speaking, he earned a masters degree in environmental studies as well as a PhD in land resources. He ended his vow of silence on Earth Day in 1990.
Francis later established Planetwalk Foundation, an organization that consults companies and other organizations on sustainable development and works with educational groups to teach kids about the environment. In February 2008, Francis gave a widely watched TED Talk titled “Walk the earth ... my 17-year vow of silence.”
These are just four environmental leaders who have made an impact then and now. We would love to hear what environmental influencers you think have made big impacts over the decades. You can tweet us @Naturepedic!