April 22, 2019 by Species Ecology
Today, April 22, 2019, is Earth Day! To mark the 49th anniversary of this most historically groundbreaking and monumental day, Species Ecology pulled together twelve most influential figures that helped us to shape and hone our ecological and conservation skills against the backdrop of anthropocentric persecution and capitalistic exploitation of our earth and all its natural resources (both renewable and non renewable). In the face of current ecological and social degradation leading the earth into 6th Mass Extinction Event, commemorating these brilliant minds as part of celebrating Earth Day cannot be overemphasized. Without these people, we wouldn’t have achieved biodiversity conservation, national and internal conservation mandates, environmental laws and treaty! These are their stories!
Happy Earth Day
49th Earth Day : Commemorating Twelve Most Influential Figures
Gaylord Nelson, Politician and Environmentalist
No other name is more associated with Earth Day than that of Gaylord Nelson (1916-2005). After returning from World War II, Nelson began a career as a politician and environmental activist that was to last the rest of his life. As governor of Wisconsin, he created an Outdoor Recreation Acquisition Program that saved about one million acres of parkland. He was instrumental in the development of a national trails system (including the Appalachian Trail) and help pass the Wilderness Act, the Clean Air Act, and other landmark environmental legislation. He is perhaps best known as the founder of Earth Day, which has become an international celebration of all things environmental.
Theodore Roosevelt, Politician and Conservationist
It might surprise some that a famed big-game hunter would make it onto a list of environmentalists, but Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) was one of the most active champions of wilderness preservation in history. As governor of New York, he outlawed the use of feathers as clothing adornment in order to prevent the slaughter of some birds. While president of the United States (1901-1909), Roosevelt set aside hundreds of millions of wilderness acres, actively pursued soil and water conservation, and created over 200 national forests, national monuments, national parks, and wildlife refuges.
Henry David Thoreau, Author and Activist
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was one of America’s first philosopher-writer-activists, and he is still one of the most influential. In 1845, Thoreau — disillusioned with much of contemporary life — set out to live alone in a small house he built near the shore of Walden Pond in Massachusetts. The two years he spent living a life of utter simplicity was the inspiration for Walden, or A Life in the Woods, a meditation on life and nature that is considered a must-read for all environmentalists. Thoreau also wrote an influential political piece called Resistance to Civil Government (Civil Disobedience) that outlined the moral bankruptcy of overbearing governments.
Aldo Leopold, Ecologist and Author
Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) is considered by some to be the godfather of wilderness conservation and of modern ecologists. After studying forestry at Yale University, he worked for the U.S. Forest Service. Though he was originally asked to kill bears, cougars and other predators on federal land because of protests from local ranchers, he later adopted a more holistic approach to wilderness management. His best-known book, A Sand County Almanac, remains one of the most eloquent pleas for the preservation of wilderness ever composed.
Edward Abbey, Author and Monkey-Wrencher
Edward Abbey (1927-1989) was one of America’s most dedicated — and most outrageous — environmentalists. Born in Pennsylvania, he is best known for his passionate defense of the deserts of America’s Southwest. After working for the National Park Service in what is now Arches National Park in Utah, Abbey wrote Desert Solitaire, one of the seminal works of the environmental movement. His later book, The Monkey Wrench Gang, gained notoriety as an inspiration for the radical environmental group Earth First!which has been accused of eco-sabotage by some, including many mainstream environmentalists.
Rachel Carson, Scientist and Author
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) is regarded by many as the founder of the modern environmental movement. Born in rural Pennsylvania, she went on to study biology at Johns Hopkins University and Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. After working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carson published The Sea Around Us and other books. Her most famous work, however, was 1962’s controversial Silent Spring, in which she described the devastating effect that pesticides were having on the environment. Though pilloried by chemical companies and others, Carson’s observations were proven correct, and pesticides like DDT were eventually banned.
John Muir, Naturalist and Writer
John Muir (1838-1914) was moved to Wisconsin as a young boy. His lifelong passion for hiking began as a young man when he hiked to the Gulf of Mexico. Muir spent much of his adult life wandering in — and fighting to preserve — the wilderness of the western United States, especially California. His tireless efforts led to the creation of Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and millions of other conservation areas. Muir was a profound influence on many leaders of his day, including Theodore Roosevelt. In 1892, Muir and others founded the Sierra Club “to make the mountains glad.”
Carl Segan, Astronomer, Astrobiologist, Astrophysicist and Author
Carl Edward Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996) was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences. He is best known for his work as a science popularizer and communicator. Sagan published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books. He wrote many popular science books, such as The Dragons of Eden, Broca’s Brain and Pale Blue Dot, and narrated and co-wrote the award-winning 1980 television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Sagan advocated scientific skeptical inquiry and the scientific method, pioneered exobiology and promoted the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). He spent most of his career as a professor of astronomy at Cornell University, where he directed the Laboratory for Planetary Studies.
Edward Wilson, Father of Biodiversity
Edward Osborne Wilson (born June 10, 1929), usually cited as E. O. Wilson, is an American biologist, theorist, naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants, on which he has been called the world’s leading expert. Wilson has been called “the father of sociobiology” and “the father of biodiversity”,for his environmental advocacy, and his secular-humanist and deist ideas pertaining to religious and ethical matters. Among his greatest contributions to ecological theory is the theory of island biogeography, which he developed in collaboration with the mathematical ecologist Robert MacArthur, which was the foundation of the development of conservation area design, as well as the unified neutral theory of biodiversity of Stephen Hubbell.Wilson is the Pellegrino University Research Professor, Emeritus in Entomology for the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, a lecturer at Duke University and a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
Robert MacArthur, Father of Ecology and Ecological Mathematics
Robert Helmer MacArthur (April 7, 1930 – November 1, 1972) was American ecologist who made a major impact on many areas of community and population ecology. MacArthur received his Master’s degree in mathematics from Brown University in 1953.A student of G. Evelyn Hutchinson, MacArthur earned his Ph.D. from Yale University in 1957; his thesis was on the division of ecological niches among five warbler species in the conifer forests of Maine and Vermont. MacArthur was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, 1958–65, and professor of biology at Princeton University, 1965-72. He played an important role in the development of niche partitioning, and with E.O. Wilson he co-authored The Theory of Island Biogeography (1967), a work which changed the field of biogeography, drove community ecology and led to the development of modern landscape ecology. His emphasis on hypothesis testing helped change ecology from a primarily descriptive field into an experimental field,and drove the development of theoretical ecology. At Princeton, MacArthur served as the general editor of the series Monographs in Population Biology, and helped to found the journal Theoretical Population Biology. He also wrote Geographical Ecology: Patterns in the Distribution of Species (1972). He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1969. Robert MacArthur died of renal cancer in 1972 at age of 42.
George Schaller, Conservation Biologist and Author
George Beals Schaller (born 1933) is a American mammalogist, biologist, conservationist and author. Schaller is recognized by many as the world’s preeminent field biologist, studying wildlife throughout Africa, Asia and South America. He is vice president of Panthera Corporation and serves as chairman of their Cat Advisory Council. Schaller is also a senior conservationist at the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society. Schaller received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alaska in 1955, and went on to the University of Wisconsin–Madison to obtain his PhD in 1962. In 1959, when Schaller was only 26, he traveled to Central Africa to study and live with the mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) of the Virunga Volcanoes. Little was known about the life of gorillas in the wild until the publication of The Mountain Gorilla: Ecology and Behavior in 1963, that first conveyed to the general public just how profoundly intelligent and gentle gorillas really are, contrary to then-common beliefs. Schaller also, in 1964, recounted this epic two-year study in The Year of the Gorilla, which also provides a broader historical perspective on the efforts to save one of humankind’s nearest relatives from the brink of extinction. The American zoologist Dian Fossey, with assistance from the National Geographic society followed Schaller’s ground-breaking field research on mountain gorillas in the Virungas. Schaller and Fossey were instrumental in dispelling the public perception of gorillas as brutes, by demonstrably establishing the deep compassion and social intelligence evident among gorillas, and how very closely their behavior parallels that of humans.
David Brower, Environmental Activist
David Brower (1912-2000) has been associated with wilderness preservation since he began mountain climbing as a young man. Brower was appointed the Sierra Club’s first executive director in 1952; over the next 17 years, membership grew from 2,000 to 77,000, and they won many environmental victories. His confrontational style, however, got Brower fired from the Sierra Club — he nonetheless went on to found the groups Friends of the Earth, the Earth Island Institute and the League of Conservation Voters.
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