Beekeepers and Communists: How Environmentalists Started a Global Conversation

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      Now the issue began taking off. The number of Americans concerned about air and water pollution doubled between 1965 and 1970, to 70%. That April, 20 million people demonstrated on the first Earth Day, leaving – to opponents’ delight – much litter behind them. Richard Nixon’s environment chief described Washington’s mood as “hysteria”, and the then US president devoted a quarter of that year’s State of the Union address to the issue. Over the next three years, he brought in 14 pieces of legislation laying the foundations of environmental US policy and institutions.

      In Britain in 1970, Ted Heath came to power and established one of the world’s first environment ministries (originally he wanted to call it the Department for Life until he realised that would make his pushy minister Peter Walker “secretary of state for life”).

      Developing world leaders were becoming worried, fearing wealthy countries would use environmental concern to deny them development. Those worries were not assuaged by the publication of two bestselling books: the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth (the title says it) and A Blueprint for Survival by 30 top UK scientists, which called for deindustrialisation and extolled tribal societies. Alarmed, some considered boycotting Stockholm, with Brazil calling it “a rich man’s show”, and India and Nigeria also publicly expressing concern.

      Also this year another summit will be asked to approve a 10-year strategy to protect nature and biodiversity. And what of economics, once thought to conflict so much with environmentalism? It is increasingly recognised that they must be in concert, that the old models of extractive capitalism just do not work, that the only way to forward is to embrace a circular economy and go green. Just this week a study by Deloitte said reaching net zero carbon emissions would benefit the world economy by $43tn (£34tn) over the next half century. It’s desperately late, long past time to stop driving, full tilt, down the wrong side of the road. Who’s for a global Högertrafikomläggningen?

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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