October 23, 2017

I am where I am today because of Teddy Goldsmith

Jonathon Porritt writes his personal tribute to Teddy. 10 September 2009.

Teddy Goldsmith, one of the most important and original thinkers the Green Movement has ever had, died on August 21st 2009.

In a funny kind of way, I’m where I am today because of Teddy Goldsmith. I wouldn’t have joined The Ecology Party (now the Green Party) if I hadn’t read Blueprint for Survival in 1972: I probably wouldn’t have stuck with the Green Party were it not for the radicalism and intellectual integrity of the Ecologist magazine; and without all of that, I probably wouldn’t have been the right person for the Friends of the Earth Director’s job in 1984 (from that point on, I think Teddy can be absolved of further responsibility!).

I was completely bowled over by the Blueprint for Survival in 1972. Despite the odd spasm of late-60’s student rebelliousness, politics had played little part in my life before then. Indeed, I had hated student politics at Oxford. But Blueprint for Survival was a ‘get real’ summons like no other. I promptly got my hands on all the back copies of the Ecologist (which started publishing in 1969) and pretty soon joined the Ecology Party – just after Teddy’s highly entertaining campaign in the 1974 General Election in Suffolk, where he rode around the constituency on a camel – to alert prospective voters to the imminent threat of desertification elsewhere in the world, as well as in Suffolk itself!

I got to know him well after that – usually via the medium of passionate debates and arguments about every conceivable aspect of green politics. His virulently anti-establishment views constantly entertained, his depth of knowledge was daunting, and the way he pursued the ‘inner logic’ of a particular issue, even into the depths of political incorrectness was very stimulating.

The obituaries have wrestled with the difficulty of placing Teddy on any conventional political spectrum – which is a fairly crazy thing to want to do anyway. He could be withering about every political persuasion, and seriously loved getting people worked up as he challenged their complacent orthodoxies.

Was he intolerant? Not particularly. Xenophobic or even racist? Absolutely not. He just advocated a particular kind of uncompromising sustainability that inevitably made things uncomfortable for friends and foes alike.

And thank God for that.

He was an extraordinary man. And I owe him a huge amount.


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