Green Pioneers

Short potted biographies of some key Green activists and thinkers who pre-date 1972. List available in blog layout (with picture and intro text) or table layout (all listed on a single page)

  • For short introductions to those who were active in the UK in the early stages see Green Activists.
  • For general articles about individuals including obituaries and interviews see People.

Svante August Arrhenius (1859–1927) was a Swedish scientist who won the Nobel Prize for his work in physical chemistry. In 1896 he became the first person to show by calculation that burning fossil fuels would produce global warming.

Chico Mendes (1944-1988) was a Brazilian rubber-tapper who became a campaigner for his people and for sustainable use of the rainforest. He built links between politics, trade unions and environmentalists and won international awards for his work. He was murdered by a local rancher who wanted to clear-cut an area of rainforest that was designated as a nature preserve.

Donella Meadows (1941 to 2001) was an award-winning environmental scientist and writer. She is best known as lead author of the Limits to Growth, 1972, a study which predicted global collapse unless urgent action was taken to restrain growth. This work stimulated the formation of the Green Party (which was then called PEOPLE) in 1973. 

Francis of Assisi  (c.1181 to 1286) Italy. Taught the fundamental belief that people have a duty to protect and enjoy nature both as stewards of God’s creation (standard anthropocentric Christian doctrine) but also as creatures ourselves.

Ernst Friedrich "Fritz" Schumacher (1911–1977) was an influential economic thinker, statistician and economist. He was Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board for two decades, wrote “Small is Beautiful!” and founded the development charity Practical Action. 

Archibald Belaney known as Grey Owl (1888-1938). Born in Hastings, emigrated to Canada and lived as a native American. At age 40 he dedicated his life to protecting wildlife & wilderness, taking up writing and lecturing under the name Grey Owl. His uncompromising position on hunting and vivisection caused controversy – and after his death his true identity became known and he was rejected as a fraud. More recently he has been hailed as one of the first eco-warriors. 

John Muir (1838 to 1914) Born in Scotland, lived and died in California.  Naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and mountaineer. Advocate for wilderness protection, helped create Yosemite, Sequoia and many other parks and nature reserves. His writings were followed and read by millions. Founded the Sierra Club in 1892.

Lady Eve Balfour (1898 to 1990) Farmer, educator, organic pioneer. Founded The Soil Association in 1946 following the publication of her book “The Living Soil” in 1943 based on her experience farming at Haughley Green. .

Peter Scott (1909-1989) was a sportsman, ornithologist, painter, TV presenter and conservationist. His greatest legacy is the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) which he founded in 1946. 

Rachel Louise Carson (1907-1964) was a marine biologist and writer. She was most famous for her book Silent Spring which criticised excessive pesticide use and triggered advances in the environmental movement and in environmental regulation. 

Zeno of Citrium (c. 334 BC to c.262 BC) Lived in Greece. Teacher and founder of the Stoic school of ancient Greek thought. Stoicism held that a life of Virtue should be lived in accordance with nature. Individual souls are part of the ‘world-soul’ of the divine fire. The universe is cyclical and the goal of life is to live in harmony with nature.