Farewell, Teddy

The British environmental scholar and campaigner Edward Goldsmith died in Tuscany, aged 81 on August 21. What follows is the English translation of a tribute written by Carlo Petrini and published in the Italian daily La Repubblica on August 26.

The death of Edward Goldsmith leaves a gap in the environmentalist movement that cannot be filled. A campaigner since the 1970s, he fought to promulgate ecological sensitivity and promote forms of behaviour conducive to the protection of our planet. I first met Goldsmith a few years ago, when we were both asked to sit on the Commission on the Future of Food, set up by the Tuscany Regional Authority and presided over by Vandana Shiva. Not that I wasn’t already familiar with the wealthy Englishman’s achievements and extraordinarily lucid, clear, irrevocably radical writings.

Goldsmith was known as Teddy by his friends. On the one hand, it was hard to call this by no means easy man by such a familar name; on the other, the diminutive rested well with his sometimes childlike manner and way of posing questions. Once he brought to an end a discussion of many hours over a document we were supposed to sign with the words, “The only way out is to build a society that can manage without money”. We all looked at each other, a little taken aback. Eventually, Vandan Shiva concluded no less bluntly, “I agree. But in the meantime, I reckon we can consider this document complete. Thank you, all”.

In 1970s Britain, Teddy founded what is still one of world’s most authoritative environmental affairs magazines, The Ecologist. In the homeland of The Economist, the name alone was a clear position statement. The environment first and foremost, no ifs and buts.
When the first number of the Italian edition, L’Ecologist, appeared n 2004, thanks to the efforts of Giannozzo Pucci, Teddy wrote that, “The terrible problems we are facing today are not the result of technical accidents in the application of ongoing policies, but the consequence of the policies themselves”. Now that, albeit very belatedly, the question of eco-protective food policies is imposing itself to general attention, the death of Edward Goldsmith constitutes at once a sorrow and a commitment. Sorrow for the loss of his unique mind and capabilities, which will live on in his writings.

Commitment because his intuitions, as precocious as they were crystal clear — and , for good or for evil, all confirmed by facts — cannot be stopped, and must not stop changing the world. Zac Goldsmith, Teddy’s brilliant young nephew, who edited The Ecologist for years, once declared that the most important thing he learned from his uncle was awareness that the privileges of those who can afford to spend extra are also responsibilities towards those who struggle day by day against hunger, thirst, death, sickness, and the injustices of by no means inevitable underdevelopment. Together with Zac, and all the other people who worked with Teddy, we intend to carry forward all the projects embarked upon over the last few decades. And our emphasis will be, above all, on the quality of relations and the truth of affirmations.

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