Born in India in 1936, Satish Kumar is a peace activist, ecologist, editor-in-chief of Resurgence & Ecologist (the flagship magazine of the Green movement), founder of the pioneering Schumacher College, a world renowned centre for environmental activists and member of the advisory board of Our Future Planet, an online community sharing ideas for change. A former Jain monk, Satish decided he could achieve more ‘back in the world’ – and has been quietly setting the agenda for global change ever since, starting with an 8,000-mile peace pilgrimage, recounted in No Destination. Satish’s work is underpinned by Gandhian values of action through non-violence and he promotes the new trinity of Soil Soul and Society.
“The hallmark of a good activist is being able to embrace the deep human and spiritual values of respect, appreciation, kindness and humility – without these values, an activist will not be able to touch the hearts and minds of others.
An activist cares for the Earth, serves the poor, liberates the oppressed and achieves the highest heights of both imagination and self-realization.”
Born in London in 1972, Franny Armstrong is a self-taught and fearless filmmaker. Through her company, Spanner Films, Franny has produced the highly acclaimed documentaries McLibel, Drowned Out and The Age of Stupid, and also pioneered the ‘crowd-funding’ finance model, which enables independent filmmakers to raise workable budgets.
“When I set out to make McLibel, I never for the slightest second thought we would have any noticeable impact on the corporate behemoth. I just found the story of two people daring to stand up to McDonald’s enormously inspiring – and felt that others would too. But ten years later – thanks also to Fast Food Nation, Jamie’s School Dinners and Super Size Me – there’s been a sea change in public awareness about healthy eating, corporate power, workers’ rights, industrial food production and all the other McLibel issues. These were niche subjects discussed on the fringes of society when we started in the mid 90s; now they are part of everyday mainstream discourse. Plus, McDonald’s were forced to change many of their animal production methods for the better, their profits nosedived (although have since recovered) and, best of all, the UK Government banned the advertising of junk food to children.”
Born in London in 1934, Dame Jane Goodall is a primatologist, anthropologist, ethologist and UN Messenger of Peace. She is best known for her forty-five-year study of social and family interactions of chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, and she still works extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues.
“There is an enormous amount of hope, which lies with each one of us. We all have to do our bit. It isn’t just going to happen. Everywhere in our world there are problems. But wherever there are problems I find a group of caring, compassionate, dedicated, courageous people who are working for little or no money, who are risking their health, sometimes risking their lives, to try to put those problems right. And it’s this that gives me the greatest hope. ”
Born in Scotland in 1968, Polly Higgins is a barrister, author and environmental activist, voted one of the ‘World’s Top 10 Visionary Thinkers’ by The Ecologist. Polly’s campaign to make ecocide a crime subject to trial by jury attracted worldwide attention in 2011, when a mock trial of the CEOs of the oil companies operating in Canada’s Athabasca Tar Sands was live-streamed online.
“Each of us has the potential to be a leader. When we stand up and say ‘Let’s make it happen’, we are demonstrating leadership. Often the person who speaks out and has a vision of what the future can hold has the skills to help bring the change into being. All it takes is commitment and help from those around us. Sometimes we meet with hurdles and stumbling blocks, and that is part of the journey. ”
Polly Higgins Small World Big Ideas interview (mp3 audio)
Born in India in 1952, Vandana Shiva is a key figure in the alter-globalization movement, best known for her support of the wisdom and traditional practices of indigenous Indian peoples. In 1982, she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, which led to the creation of Navdanya, a woman-centred movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources in India and to promote organic farming and fair trade.
“In twenty-five years, Navdanya has helped set up sixty-five community seed banks across the country; trained over 500,000 farmers in seed sovereignty (self-sufficiency), food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades, and helped set up the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country. Navdanya has also set up a learning centre, Bija Vidyapeeth School of the Seed, on its biodiversity conservation and organic farm in Doon Valley, Uttarakhand, North India. Thus from training, research, advocacy, to finding livelihood solutions and actual praxis, Navdanya has been a pioneer in engendering food security, water sovereignty, seed sovereignty, and land and forest sovereignty in the country, so that everyone in India can live with dignity, equality and justice.”
Born in Worcestershire in 1960, Caroline Lucas is MP for Brighton Pavilion and for 4 years, she served as Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. She is a passionate campaigner on the environment, social justice and human rights. Caroline’s career as an activist began with CND protests as a university student, and she has since worked with numerous NGOs and think-tanks, and also campaigned and has written extensively about green economics, localization, alternatives to globalization, trade justice, animal welfare and food. A former MEP, Caroline was elected to the House of Commons in 2010. She is one of the Environment Agency’s Top 100 Eco-heroes.
“Trying to change the world is more of a compulsion than anything else – a feeling that something is wrong and that you cannot live with yourself if you do nothing about it. For me at least, the greatest satisfaction comes from the shared endeavour, the sense of common purpose with others to try to reach your goals.”
Born in Australia in 1944, Bob Brown has been a lifelong and courageous campaigner on a diverse range of issues, from gay rights to pacifism and environmentalism. In 1972, he moved to Tasmania, where he became a member of the United Tasmania Group, Australia’s first ever Green party, and director of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society. He was elected to the Senate in 1996 and in 2005 became parliamentary leader of the Australian Greens. He retired from the Senate in June 2012 to set up his own foundation, The Bob Brown Foundation.
“Drawing on the best of our character, Earth’s community of people is on the threshold of a brilliant new career in togetherness. But we, all together, have to open the door to that future using the powerful key of global democracy.
I think we are intelligent enough to get there. My faith is in the collective nous and caring of humanity, and in our innate optimism. Even in its grimmest history, the optimism of humanity has been its greatest power. We must defy pessimism, as well as the idea that there is any one of us who cannot turn a successful hand to improving Earth’s future prospects.”
Born in India in 1946, Deepak Chopra is a doctor and a globally acclaimed writer of spiritual and self-help books. His book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, published in 1993, and a subsequent American TV series, sparked a revolution in Western attitudes to complementary medicine, which recognizes the importance of the mind/body/spirit connection in healing illness and promoting good health. Deepak opened The Chopra Center for Wellbeing in California in 1996 and in 2002, founded The Chopra Foundation, dedicated to improving health and well-being.
“The fame that I have enjoyed has provided me with what I refer to as ‘convening power’, the ability to bring together people from every conceivable field of research for discussion about the problems we are facing both individually and collectively, in an attempt to create a critical mass of conversation around the solutions. I have been given the extraordinary gift of being able to initiate a worldwide debate about those issues.”
Born in Australia in 1956, Tim Flannery is a renowned scientist and writer. An early interest in fossils inspired a fascination with the past, and Tim’s roles in this field have included director of the South Australia Museum and principal research scientist at the Australian Museum.
Observation of the environmental effects of climate change led Tim to write The Weather Makers in 2005, and to help found the Copenhagen Climate Council in 2007. He is now head of Australia’s Climate Change Commission.
“Looking back over the fifty-odd years that separate my earliest memories from the present, I can see threads that have influenced my moral philosophy. The brutal destruction of the natural environment I witnessed as a child, for example, has left me with an enduring belief that Nature is precious and vulnerable, and that humans can destroy beautiful things in an almost malicious manner – as if they hate beauty, perhaps because it lies outside their control. I am also wary of the idea of progress. Those in business who promote it are almost always following self-interest. In studying the past, I have been able to enter a world without man, and have found there such an astonishing richness and diversity that it makes our current world look poor indeed. And that impoverishment, I’ve learned, was all too often wrought by ourselves.”
Born in Massachusetts in 1960, Bill McKibben has been described as ‘probably the US’s leading environmentalist’ and ‘the world’s best Green journalist’. Published in 1989, Bill’s book The End of Nature is still regarded as the first-ever on climate change for a mainstream, non-specialist audience. Subsequent books have tackled a wide range of topical subjects. In 2007, Bill set aside his quiet life as a writer to found 350.org, the global grass-roots organization that works to halt and reverse climate change.
“…the real problem was being forced to watch other people die and realizing that, as representative Third Worlders, they’d done exactly nothing to cause the problem. When the UN tries to measure how much carbon each country emits, you can’t even get a number for Bangladesh; the US, by contrast, churned out about a third of the twentieth century’s CO2, carbon, which will linger in the atmosphere for an average of a century.”
Born in Italy in 1949, Carlo Petrini is a ‘slow food’ activist who first came to prominence in the 1980s when he campaigned to stop McDonald’s opening near the Spanish Steps in Rome. In 1989, Carlo founded Slow Food, a global, grass-roots organization that connects its supporters through the pleasures of good food and a commitment to the community and the environment; and in 2004 he founded the University of Gastronomic Sciences to bridge the gap between agriculture and gastronomy.
“…I am convinced that the power of ideas is without boundaries and, above all, is never compromised by a particular local context. On the contrary, it is precisely by learning how to inhabit our own real world that universal ideas find unexpected inspiration, precious lifeblood, surprising connections, and ultimately, make us all feel part of the same humanity, capable of determining our destiny together.’