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Environmentalist Teddy Goldsmith, elder brother of the financier Sir James Goldsmith, who predeceased him, passed away on August 21.
I met Teddy in 1993 at Jimmy’s vast Mexican estate consisting of tens of thousands of acres, one of the few remaining cloud forests, and seven miles of beachfront on the Pacific Ocean. If one looked beyond the luxuries and pleasures of the fabulous estate, one saw a serious environmental operation. Scientists propagating sea turtles, protected habitat for jaguars, scientists working with the venom of the near-deadly scorpions.
Teddy Goldsmith believed that the high consumption era of hydro-carbon man was of short duration, totally dependent as it is on cheap but exhaustible petroleum energy. Teddy believed that only small-scale societies are viable in the long-run. He opposed
the spread into the remaining traditional societies of the development model pushed by the World Bank and western economists.
With brother Jimmy’s money he founded a serious journal, The Ecologist. An early issue became a book, A Blueprint for Survival, which sold 750,000 copies.
Teddy presented the UN with a petition signed by three million people calling for attention to the destruction on the rainforests. But eventually Teddy ran afoul of a new generation of politically-correct environmentalists, who in turn were replaced with politically-attuned environmentalists funded by the very interests they purported to oppose.
Teddy thought that saving the environment was everyone’s responsibility. He was astounded when colleagues resigned from The Ecologist because he spoke not only to gatherings of the left but also to right-wing groups. Today the environmental movement is collapsing as mainline organizations buy-in to cap-and-trade and other mechanisms of environmental destruction.
Teddy was an environmentalist who was ahead of his time. Humanity will pay a high price for ignoring his warnings.
My memories of Teddy include a story he told on himself. When he and Jimmy were young men long before Jimmy had made his fortune, they saved their money while they studied the horses. Having accumulated a stake and having picked a horse, they went to the races and placed their bet. Their horse won, bringing them a large pot.
Jubilant, Jimmy told Teddy to collect the winnings while he arranged the dates, the limo, and the restaurants.
While standing in line to collect their winnings, Teddy’s nervous habit of chewing on things ruined their expectations of the evening. By the time Teddy reached the window, he had nibbled away the winning ticket.
Jimmy had to cancel the dates, limo, and restaurants. As there wasn’t a dime left between them, they had to walk the many miles home. The story is a metaphor for the illusory winnings of economic progress that are being nibbled away by the exhaustion of nature’s capital.
Jimmy’s capitalist profits funded Teddy’s endeavors in behalf of the environment. It is not money that we should damn, but its misuse. Teddy was a pioneer of the environmental movement. Jimmy’s money assured Teddy an independent voice that was not besmirched by compromises with vested interests.
Teddy Goldsmith, rest in peace.