* Defining Figures (Quick reports)

Sustainable development, the topic of our seminar, is pure concept.  It is not a “fact” as such; it is rather an ongoing and ever shifting interpretation of an planet sustainability esl-educationimperfectly understood complex system. And as such it is defined by human minds.  To get the ball rolling on this important aspect of the sustainability phenomenon here you have a very personal and very incomplete  list of a number of the people who in my view are collectively defining the field.  With  all the necessary contradictions that entails.  The one-click references are in each case to Wikipedia, and are presented as only a starting point to understand  the contributions that these splendid people are making to our more than challenging topic.

Any such listing will ultimately be very personal, even if it has been carried out by a committee, which was definitely not the case here. I have developed this particular personal pantheon of independent  thinkers, writers and doers who in my view have been among the leading influences in the move over the last half century from (a) a world not giving much attention to the broader implications of our collective choices and actions, to (b) the one that we live in today where we are at long last starting to become more aware that much of what we do, or make done, actually does impact on the future our small planet and others in many and often drastic ways.

Defining Figures: A personal list

  1. Al Gore
  2. Albert Hirschman
  3. Amartya Sen
  4. Andrés Duany
  5. Aubrey Meyer
  6. Barbara Ward
  7. Bill McKibben
  8. Carlo Petrini
  9. David Brower
  10. Denis Baupin
  11. Denis Hayes
  12. Dennis Meadows
  13. Dominique Voynet
  14. Donald Appleyard
  15. E. F. Schumacher
  16. E. O. Wilson
  17. Edward Tufte
  18. Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk
  19. Enrique Peñalosa
  20. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker
  21. Garrett Hardin
  22. Gro Harlem Brundtland
  23. Herman Daly
  24. Ivan Illich
  25. Jaime Lerner
  26. James Lovelock
  27. James Hansen
  28. James Tobin
  29. Jane Jacobs
  30. Jeffrey Sachs
  31. Jigme Singye Wangchuck
  32. John Whitelegg
  33. Joseph Stiglitz
  34. Kenneth E. Boulding
  35. Lester Brown
  36. Mason Gaffney
  37. Mathis Wackernagel
  38. Maurice Strong
  39. Nicholas Stern
  40. Paul R. Ehrlich
  41. Paul Krugman
  42. Peter Calthorpe
  43. Pope Francis
  44. Rachel Carson
  45. René Dumont
  46. Richard Douthwaite
  47. Robert Costanza
  48. Robert Underwood Ayres
  49. Thomas Picketty
  50. Wangari Maathai
  51. William Nordhaus
  52. Wolfgang Sachs

Of course I have missed more then one, and perhaps you can draw this to my attention.  An email to eric.britton@ecoplan.org would be a fine way to get the job done. Thank you.

If you wish to see what an earlier class did with this assignment, click here –


Again, this is a purely personal list based on my experience, and with a bit of inspection and reflection the shortcomings leap out at us.  Fully ninety percent of the people on this list are males. Equally and with only few exceptions these people are all from the Global North.  There are also a fair selection of economists, a reflection of my training and understanding of the importance of getting economics on the side of the good guys. Your list will certainly look rather different, and your comments and suggestions will get our full  attention.

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