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September 30: Barry Commoner

September 30, 2014

barry-commoner_470Ecologist and political activist Barry Commoner died at 95 on this date in 2012. In the early 1960s, his research and advocacy about strontium-90, which was concentrating in babies’ bones during the worst days of nuclear-weapons testing, helped to prompt the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963). In 1970, during the first Earth Day, Time magazine put him on its cover and called him the “Paul Revere of Ecology.” Commoner wrote these four laws of ecology in his best-selling 1971 book, The Closing Circle, which introduced the idea of a sustainable economy: “Everything is connected to everything else... Everything must go somewhere... Nature knows best... There is no such thing as a free lunch.” In 1980, Commoner founded the Citizens Party and ran for President of the United States on its ticket, but won only 234,000 votes. His other books included The Poverty of Power: Energy and the Economic Crisis (1976), The Politics of Energy (1979), and Making Peace with the Planet (1990).

“I don’t believe in environmentalism as the solution to anything. What I believe is that environmentalism illuminates the things that need to be done to solve all of the problems together. For example, if you’re going to revise the productive system to make cars or anything else in such a way as to suit the environmental necessities, at the same time why not see to it that women earn as much as men for the same work?” —Barry Commoner