Ai Weiwei / Artist & Activist
"Creativity is the power to reject the past, to change the status quo, and to seek new potential. Simply put, aside from using one's imagination – perhaps more importantly – creativity is the power to act."
Via The Art Story: Ai Weiwei is the most famous Chinese artist living today. As an activist, he calls attention to human rights violations on an epic scale; as an artist, he expands the definition of art to include new forms of social engagement. In a country where free speech is not recognized as a right, he is viewed as a threat to "harmonious society." From smashing an ancient vase to reciting the names of children who died due to government negligence, Ai's dramatic actions highlight the widening gap between the ideal and the real in Chinese society. He is also one of the earliest conceptual artists to use social media - Instagram and Twitter, in particular - as one of his primary media.
Kate Raworth / Social & Ecological Economist
"I set out to write the book I that I wish I could have read as an undergraduate."
In her own words: Kate Raworth is a renegade economist focused on exploring the economic mindset needed to address the 21st century’s social and ecological challenges, and is the creator of the Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries. Her internationally acclaimed idea of Doughnut Economics has been widely influential amongst sustainable development thinkers, progressive businesses and political activists, and she has presented it to audiences ranging from the UN General Assembly to the Occupy movement. Her book, Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like A 21st Century Economist is being published in the UK and US in April 2017 and translated into Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese. The Guardian has named her as 'one of the top ten tweeters on economic transformation.'
Amory Lovins / Physicist & Energy Advisor
"Facts are more mundane than fantasies, but a better basis for conclusions."
Via the Rocky Mountain Institute: Physicist Amory Lovins is cofounder and Chief Scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute; energy advisor to major firms and governments in 65+ countries for 40+ years; author of 31 books and 600 papers; and an integrative designer of superefficient buildings, factories, and vehicles. A Harvard and Oxford dropout, former Oxford don, honorary US architect, and Swedish engineering academician, he has taught at ten universities, most recently Stanford’s Engineering School and the Naval Postgraduate School (but only on topics he’s never studied, so as to retain beginner’s mind). Time has named him one of the world’s 100 most influential people, and Foreign Policy, one of the 100 top global thinkers. His recent efforts include exploring how to make integrative design the new normal, so investments to energy efficiency can yield expanding rather than diminishing returns.
Gus Speth / Environmental Lawyer & Advocate
"Materialism is toxic to happiness, and we are losing our connection to the natural world.."
Via World Resources Institute: James Gustave Speth is a senior fellow at Demos, the Democracy Collaborative, and the Tellus Institute. He served as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the UN Development Group; founder and president of the World Resources Institute; chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality; and cofounder, Natural Resources Defense Council. Throughout his career, Speth has provided leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives to many task forces and committees whose roles have been to combat environmental degradation, including the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment; the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development; and the National Commission on the Environment.
Herman Daly / Ecological Economist
"There is something fundamentally wrong in treating the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation."
Via CASSE: For decades, Herman Daly has been an inspiration to students of economics and public policy — how often do you see students lining up at the end of the semester to have their professor sign their textbooks? Over his career, Herman has taken a courageous stance, swimming upstream against the currents of conventional economic thought. Not content to bequeath his ideas on economic development solely to the academic realm, he did time at the World Bank to change policies in the real world. He also has written books that are popular with citizens around the world. It’s a rare combination indeed to have keen insight, kindness, razor-sharp analytical skill, wit, amazing capacity for work, humility, and an uncanny way with words all rolled up into one human being. It’s a good thing, too — the planet needs Herman Daly.
Johan Rockstrom / Environmental Scientist
“As the global population increases towards nine billion people, sustainable development should be seen as an economy serving society within Earth's life support system.”
Via the Stockholm Resiliance Centre: Johan Rockström leads the Stockholm Resilience Centre, focusing on a new approach to sustainability: the capacity to use change and crisis to spur renewal and innovative thinking. In 2009, working with an international team of scientists, he identified and quantified a set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come – while crossing them could generate abrupt or irreversible environmental changes. Since then, the boundaries research has spread among international organizations, governments, NGOs and companies and has been adopted as a new framework to guide the discussion about 'sustainable growth.'
Kerryn Higgs / Environmental Historian
"The notion of ever-expanding economic growth has been promoted so relentlessly that 'growth' is now entrenched as the natural objective of collective human effort. The public has been convinced that growth is the natural solution to virtually all social problems – poverty, debt, unemployment, and even the environmental degradation caused by the determined pursuit of growth. Meanwhile, warnings by scientists that we live on a finite planet that cannot sustain infinite economic expansion are ignored or even scorned."
Via Club of Rome: Dr. Kerryn Higgs is an Australian historian and activist who engages with environment, social justice and social-ecological limits issues. Her work includes numerous articles on environment and politics, as well as her book, Collision Course: Endless Growth on a Finite Planet. She holds a Ph.D. in Geography and Environmental Studies (GES).
Kumi Naidoo / Human Rights Activist
"A movement only becomes a movement of substance, size, and power when the artists say 'we want to add our voice.'"
Via Huffington Post: Dr. Kumi Naidoo Kumi Naidoo is currently serving as the Launch Executive Director for Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity, a new and evolving project that aims to unite civil society across the continent. As Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Naidoo led the organization to critical campaign victories, augmented its influence in international political negotiations, and was responsible for promoting considerable growth and activity by Greenpeace in the Global South. He also fostered increased cooperation between Greenpeace and many diverse parts of civil society in the fight to avert catastrophic climate change and promote environmental justice.
Marjorie Kelly / Business Ethicist
“We have words for racism and sexism, but wealth discrimination isn’t fully recognized. It is a bias in favor of the wealthy and against labor, the environment, and the community. Concern for the public good must become the animating force of our economic order.”
In her own words: Marjorie Kelly is the Senior Fellow and Executive Vice President of The Democracy Collaborative and author of Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution, which explores experiments with new forms of ownership aimed at creating the conditions for life for many generations to come. She specializes in ownership and financial design for the “mission-controlled enterprise,” companies that maintain a primary focus on social mission, even when they might be publicly traded. She has been inducted into the honorary portrait gallery of Americans Who Tell the Truth.
Michael Pollan / Environmental Journalist
“You are what what you eat eats.”
In his own words: For the past twenty-five years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment. He is the author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (2013) and of four New York Times bestsellers: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (2010); In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (2008); The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006) and The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World (2001). Pollan was named to the 2010 TIME 100, the magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
Paul Hawken / Environmental activist
"The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them."
In his own words: Paul Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, author and activist who has dedicated his life to environmental sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment. He is one of the environmental movement’s leading voices, and a pioneering architect of corporate reform with respect to ecological practices. His work includes founding successful, ecologically conscious businesses, writing about the impacts of commerce on living systems, and consulting with heads of state and CEOs on economic development, industrial ecology, and environmental policy. Paul is Executive Director of Project Drawdown, a non-profit dedicated to researching when and how global warming can be reversed.
Paul Raskin / Environmental Scientist
"The future shape of global society remains profoundly uncertain. Though perhaps improbable, a shift toward a planetary civilization of enriched lives, human solidarity, and environmental sustainability is still possible."
Via Great Transition Initiative: The overarching theme of Dr. Paul Raskin’s work has been the development of visions and strategies for a transformation to more resilient and equitable forms of social development. His research has spanned issues (energy, water, climate change, ecosystems, and sustainable development) and spatial scales (local, national, and global). He has conceived and built widely-used models for integrated scenario planning for energy, freshwater, and sustainability (PoleStar), and he has served as a lead author for the U.S. National Academy of Science’s Board on Sustainability, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Earth Charter, and UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook.
Richard Heinberg / Renewable Energy Advocate
"All of the solutions to our growth-based problems involve some form of self-restraint. That’s why most of those solutions remain just good ideas."
In his own words: Richard Heinberg is Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He has authored scores of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, The American Prospect, Public Policy Research, Quarterly Review, Yes!, and The Sun; and on web sites such as Resilience.org, TheOilDrum.com, Alternet.org, ProjectCensored.com, and Counterpunch.com. Richard’s animations Don’t Worry, Drive On, Who Killed Economic Growth? and 300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds (winner of a YouTubes’s/DoGooder Video of the Year Award) have been viewed by nearly two million people.
Wendell Berry / Environmental activist
"To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only legitimate hope of survival."
Via Poetry Foundation: Poet, novelist, and environmentalist Wendell Berry lives on a farm in Port Royal, Kentucky near his birthplace, where he has maintained a farm for over 40 years. Mistrustful of technology, he holds deep reverence for the land and is a staunch defender of agrarian values. He is the author of over 40 books of poetry, fiction, and essays. His poetry celebrates the holiness of life and everyday miracles often taken for granted. Critics and scholars have acknowledged Wendell Berry as a master of many literary genres, but whether he is writing poetry, fiction, or essays, his message is essentially the same: humans must learn to live in harmony with the natural rhythms of the earth or perish.