The Ecologist: Four decades of global warning

A pioneering environmental magazine in the 1970s, The Ecologist has spent 40 years alerting people to what we are doing to our world. Gillian Orr celebrates its birthday


Ponder these subjects if you will: the extensive waste produced by an overpopulated Britain. The depleted stock of natural resources. The damage inflicted on the environment by oil companies.

These are some of the most prevalent green issues around and articles about them could have appeared in any number of newspapers or journals today. Only they were also the lead stories in the first issue of The Ecologist, published in July 1970. Environmental concerns, it seems, remain the same 40 years on.

The 1960s and early 1970s saw the first wave of environmental awareness; Rachel Carson's seminal book Silent Spring, about the dangers of pesticides within food chains, had caused ripples when it was published in 1962. Friends of the Earth was founded in 1969, Greenpeace in 1971.

And it was in 1970 that Edward "Teddy" Goldsmith and a small group of collaborators first published The Ecologist. In an article on its 40th anniversary, to be published this week, Peter Bunyard, the science editor who has worked on the magazine since its inception, recalls that The Ecologist set out to challenge the notion that the world had never had it so good and that economic growth resulting from that vague concept of development was a panacea for virtually every human condition, whether that be poverty, starvation, pollution, ill-health or wars. It was to be a forum for Goldsmith and other academics to publish essays on the environment that were deemed too radical for the mainstream press. It connected with the public, growing from an initial circulation of 400 to become the world's leading environmental affairs magazine, with monthly sales of 20,000.

The magazine made waves in 1972 when it dedicated an entire issue to the now-famous "Blueprint for Survival" manifesto. It reported that because humans disrupted the ecosystems in which they exist, they alter other ecosystems all over the world. This was one of the earliest forecasts on what would come to be known as climate change. It was also published as a book and went on to sell 750,000 copies. Among other things, the text called for the formation of a movement for survival, leading to the creation of the People Party, later renamed the Ecology Party and finally, the Green Party.

Another famous issue came in 1998 when the magazine dedicated an entire edition to exposing the damaging environmental activities of biotech giant, Monsanto. The company threatened to sue The Ecologist's printers, who then pulped the entire print run. After another printer was found, it went on to become the biggest-selling issue ever and brought the concern of corporate interests behind genetically-modified crops to a wider audience.

The Ecologist came under the media spotlight when Teddy's nephew, Zac Goldsmith, became editor in 1998. Under him, The Ecologist's appeal was broadened by moving away from its academic origins towards a current affairs magazine.

He was made an advisor to David Cameron in 2005 and decided to stand as a candidate in the Richmond constituency in 2007, stepping down as editor (he won the seat in May's General Election). At the time he said: "The magazine has to remain impartial and feel free to have a go at the Government and at the Conservatives. So I can't both be the editor and a parliamentary candidate." While it is now edited by Mark Anslow, Zac Goldsmith remains the Chairman and Director.

In July last year The Ecologist became an online-only publication. Anslow says that this move "has enabled us to take this message and world view to a much wider audience, which has already grown way beyond that which we had as a printed publication". Going paperless was an appropriate move for a magazine with such long-held environmental credentials – and one that, according to a spokesperson at the time of moving online, was not profit-making.

The Ecologist's aim hasn't changed a great deal over the years. Of course, the public is much more familiar with environmental issues today than in 1970. However, Anslow believes there is a huge way to go: "Very few people – and still fewer politicians and policy-makers – seem able to join the dots when it comes to environmental issues. Understanding how climate change is linked to economic growth, population, consumption, and the structure of Western society is something few seem willing to contemplate – The Ecologist's role has always been to point out these links." Writing in 2009, Zac Goldsmith stated: "The Ecologist has lost money from the day it was launched in 1970, and will continue until the last edition is printed." But profit is, of course, not the point. The Ecologist's purpose is to campaign, inspire and inform and is needed now more than ever before.

To read more about how The Ecologist was founded, go to

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform