Interview by Lucy Miller published in The Express, 3 February, 1999.
“Edward Goldsmith, 70, the environmental campaigner and brother of the late multi-millionaire Sir James Goldsmith, launched his magazine The Ecologist almost 30 years ago. After running an organic farm in Cornwall for 17 years, he now lives in Richmond, London, with his second wife Katherine and their two sons, Benedict, 18, and Zeno, 12.”
My most fundamental belief is that the Earth, as we originally inherited it, perfectly satisfied our real needs and we should seek to preserve it, not systematically destroy it. The order of the natural world is a moral order, it is the only possible morality for me. Yet the morality of today contradicts it: [namely] things that satisfy the requirements of big corporations are “right”, things that increase their costs are “wrong”.
I wasn’t born green, it came to me slowly. My father ran a chain of hotels in France and I was brought up in Monte Carlo and Cannes. I felt I didn’t belong to that world. It was a world where few people care about green issues.
My son is taught at school that development solves problems. It doesn’t, it creates them. It systematically annihilates the natural world. But we can’t live without the natural world. If we don’t change course quickly it will be too late to do anything about it. It may already be too late. The destruction is so rapid. We’re told the Amazonian rainforest could be turned to desert by 2050.
I believe that traditional societies in the past were right. They may have had certain customs that shock us today but the one thing they didn’t do is wipe out forests or cover the soil with chemicals. Their aim was to maintain the natural order.
I believe in tradition. I once organised a small party for some bushmen in the swamps north of Botswana, bringing everything for a feast in a dug-out canoe. They ate and danced. The men formed a circle, so did the women and the dances were imitated by the boys and girls. It all seemed so right to me. The young imitating their elders so that the tradition could be passed down intact. It was a moment which made it quite clear to me that our modern world was fundamentally wrong.
My brother James always understood that nuclear power was wrong and that organic farming was right. We never clashed on those issues though we did differ on certain political issues. I was a marginal figure, he was in the world of successful people and of course held some of their values. But even though we lived in different worlds we always remained very close.
By the time of his death I should think we saw things almost the same way. He stopped his business because I think he had done everything he could, there was nothing left for him to do.
It’s difficult to tell how much I influenced him. He came to many of these ideas by himself but I must have had some effect in the end – I’d been brainwashing him for decades!
I certainly believe in religion, but religion doesn’t necessarily require God. I don’t know what heaven is like, I haven’t thought much about it, but I do believe in faith. Faith is necessary because nothing can be built on doubt.
You have to go back a long way to find the religion I believe in; that of tribal societies, which are religious in the true sense of the word.
Religion should above all serve to bind people together to society and the natural world. The danger with religions that are otherworldly, that talk too much about heaven, is that they forget that our duties are primarily to the Earth. That obligation should be sacred.
Marx got it totally wrong when he said that religion is the opiate of the people. Materialism is.
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