July 27, 2017

Global movement mourns the death of Edward Goldsmith, and celebrates his life

A personal tribute from his close friend and colleague Jerry Mander and staff at the International Forum on Globalization (IFG).

See also Comments from colleagues and friends on the IFG website.


The Board of Directors and staff of the International Forum on Globalization, joined by dozens of Associates and colleagues, deeply regret to announce, and gravely mourn the death of Edward (Teddy) Goldsmith on August 21, while in Italy. This follows several years of struggle with a devastating illness. He was [80 years old].

Goldsmith is widely acknowledged as the founder and catalyst of the European ecology movement during the late 1960s, as well as founder and intellectual leader of the Green Party in England. His influence was also broadly credited throughout Asia in those years, for helping articulate and build a new strong environmental movement on that continent. In 1969, Teddy also founded the celebrated English journal The Ecologist and was its publisher and editor for three decades. The publication continues its important international role today under the guidance of Teddy’s nephew, Zac Goldsmith and now also publishes separate editions in France, Spain, Italy and in the Pacific region.

Throughout the 1970s, Goldsmith had a key visionary leadership role and was a driving force in the rapidly expanding international environmental movement. In those days, he was often compared to, and shared a global spotlight with another great charismatic figure in the United States, David Brower, the director of the Sierra Club and founder of Friends of the Earth.

In 1993, Goldsmith was among the co-founders of the International Forum on Globalization, and remained an active participant in all IFG activities from then forward, including co-authorship of many major IFG publications. He delivered several important public presentations at the giant IFG teach-ins, conferences, and protests at the turn of the 21st century, events marking the early days of the expanding anti-globalization movement. Included among these landmark events were the enormous demonstrations and teach-ins in Seattle and Washington DC, as well as in South America, Asia and Europe. Teddy continued as a Member of the IFG Board of Directors from 1993-2008. For the past two years he has been an Emeritus member.

In 2007, IFG hosted the first annual Edward Goldsmith Lifetime Achievement awards ceremonies, in London, with Goldsmith himself honored as the first recipient. This was partly in thanks, and in celebration of his 50+ years of activism and leadership.

It is an understatement to say that Teddy was hugely loved and appreciated by the entire IFG community, and the wider global movement, not only for his great collaborative work within the organization, but for his decades of prophetic activism on ecological and social issues, and not least of all for his joyful spirit, renowned wit, profound wisdom, exuberance and visionary international leadership. He was equally appreciated for his inspirational ideas on the possibilities and necessities for radical structural change in society, towards ecological sustainability, cultural preservation, the crucial need to replace globalization with localization, and in decrying the social and ecological ravages of out of control industrialism.

But as meaningful as all his achievements on the global political stage, for all of his colleagues and collaborators these works may have been overshadowed by the larger-than-life presence of the man himself, the inspirational teacher, beloved guide, hilarious raconteur, and great, intimate, generous friend. Most of us in the IFG community believe, and have often said over the years, that there has never been another person like Teddy Goldsmith—such a profoundly emanating spirit, such a joy to experience—and there is never likely to be. He was one of a kind.

Goldsmith was author of dozens of highly important seminal books, including many original works in ten different languages. He was also a deserving recipient of the “Right Livelihood Award” (1991), known as “The Alternative Nobel Prize,” “for his uncompromising critique of industrialism and promotion of environmentally sustainable and socially just alternatives to it.” Additionally, he received the “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur” (1991), and was cited for “Best Book of the Year for Ecological and Transformational Politics” for The Case Against the Global Economy; and for a Turn Toward the Local, awarded by the American Political Science Association (1997).

But it was as publisher of The Ecologist, that he may have had his greatest impact. He devoted decades to advocating fiercely against globalization and its destructive instruments such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. He warned repeatedly of the inherent unsustainability of a profits-and-growth driven global economic and financial system, which, decades ago he prophetically predicted, would soon crash. And he actively campaigned, throughout his life, on behalf of the inherent rights and the cultures of indigenous and traditional peoples of the world.

As long ago as the early 1970s, he was already speaking, reporting, and campaigning on the imminent dangers of climate change, and the multiple grave ecological threats from large dams, industrialized agriculture and biotechnology, the threats to global forests and life in the seas, and the terrible intrinsic outcomes of a society dependent on unlimited economic growth and material consumption. These latter were, he asserted, inevitably doomed to fail given the limits of the planet’s carrying capacities. Many of his articles in The Ecologist, as well as books, speeches and campaigns stimulated by Goldsmith were appreciated by thousands of activists as seminal expressions, stimulating new movements and campaigning around the world.

Among Goldsmith’s most famous and popular books include several which are credited with directly awakening movement activity, including:

Blueprint for Survival (1971)
Can Britain Survive? (1972)
The Stable Society (1978)
The Social and Environmental Effects of Large Dams (1984, first edition)
The Great U-Turn: De-Industrializing Society (1988)
Gaia and Evolution (1990) 5000 Days to Save the Planet (1990)
The Way: An Ecological Worldview (1992)
The Case Against the Global Economy; and for a Turn Toward the Local (1996)
The Doomsday Fun Book (2006)

His early major work, Blueprint for Survival, was often cited among international activists on several continents for having set out the first roadmap for effective local and international organizing. But The Way qualified as Goldsmith’s personal primary magnum opus, an immense 550 page work containing his full vision, and the details of a transition to a society in which ecological principles would guide all economic and social decisions and activities. Goldsmith often acknowledged in this work, and elsewhere, his debt to the philosophies, worldviews, and practices of indigenous and traditional peoples and worked closely with IFG’s campaign on behalf of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Way will shortly be re-released in a slightly edited form.

Goldsmith briefly attended Oxford University but withdrew from his studies there after a few years, famously saying “what I learned there about the realities of the world was exactly the opposite of what turned out to be true and necessary.” [Editor’s note: in fact Goldsmith did complete his studies at Oxford, gaining his degree in PPE, with Hons.]  In later years he was in constant demand as a speaker and lecturer at dozens of universities around the world. However, he was especially pleased to have helped create in 1989, an extraordinary International Honors Program, in conjunction with Bard College of New York state. In this remarkable program, students spend a year in an around-the-world course studying ecological circumstances, crises and opportunities, and meeting ecological activists on every continent. He remained active in the program until a few years ago, when his illness took its toll, but the program continues its popularity today.

Teddy was born in Paris in 1928 to a British father, Frank Goldsmith, and French mother Marcelle Mouiller. He and his late brother James, who was later to become a famous financier, spent much of their childhood in Monaco, where their father managed hotels. Teddy tried various business pursuits in his younger years, without great success, but soon cheerfully pronounced himself profoundly disinterested in those endeavors, and in 1967 moved to England. A small inheritance from his father enabled him to begin his quickly flourishing ecological activities, which occupied his passions thenceforth.

Teddy is survived by his wife Kathy, his daughters Dido and Clio, his sons Alexander, Benedict and Zeno, and many beloved grandchildren, as well as nephews and nieces from his brother’s family.

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