The obits have been coming in, albeit a little slowly, for Edward “Teddy” Goldsmith, founder of the fearless and influential British journal The Ecologist, co-founding member of Britain’s Green and Ecology parties, and publisher of the instrumental 1972 manifesto A Blueprint for Survival. Goldsmith, who died in his sleep on August 21, was a controversial figure, as well known in some circles for his conservative, some might say paleo-conservative, social views as for his ecological activism. Despite its faults and cringe moments, his 1992 book The Way: An Ecological Worldview synthesized a certain subset of environmental theories — ecological holism (Gaia, systems theory, etc.), anti-modernism, pro-indigenous and “vernacular culture” traditionalism (premised on a somewhat timeworn cultural ecology and an incipient ecopsychology), and anarcho-decentralism — as lucidly and ambitiously as anyone had done at the time (save perhaps Murray Bookchin). The fiery dust-up at The Ecologist over Goldsmith’s cavorting with figures in the European New Right in the mid-1990s left that magazine a little tattered (and a few editors short), though it’s recovered well since then. As a side effect of the split, former co-editors Nicholas Hildyard, Larry Lohmann, and others founded Corner House, which has been producing some of the most incisive left-green assessments of the state of the world since then. Hildyard et al’s earlier document Whose Common Future? Reclaiming the Commons remains a socio-ecological classic.
Derek Wall at Another Green World has called Goldsmith “Hegel to the Greens, like Hegel was to Marxism…vital but conservative.” There was something larger-than-life about “Teddy,” just as there was about many of the prominent first-generation male eco-radicals — gruff, bearded, ideologically-clear, no-fussing-around activist-intellectuals like Paul Shepard, Gary Snyder, Greenpeacenik David McTaggart, Sea Shepherd-er Paul Watson, and author and filmmaker John Livingston (co-founder of the Canadian television show The Nature of Things), among others. And there’s something of the Oedipal son in those who criticized them, even if the critiques were warranted. (I speak as one who had occasional differences with Livingston, who was my Master’s advisor and mentor while he taught environmental thought at York in the 1980s, but also as someone who can’t conceive of getting to where I did without his incendiary style of thinking). But there was something necessary in their positions, the way the first generation to realize some important injustice is occurring always becomes adamant and uncompromising in its stance.
Obituaries include these from the Telegraph and The Ecologist. See also Goldsmith’s response to his detractors, and French New Right philosopher Alain de Benoist’s tribute. (Pagan anti-democrat de Benoist is a whole ‘nother topic — something the quirky post-Left journal Telos has gotten into several times, and that Roger Griffin incisively critiques here.) If, as I believe, all politics in fifty years will be ecopolitics, then I’d rather have Goldsmith representing the far right of that spectrum than others who’ve taken up that banner since.