Barry Commoner

Biografie şi Bibliografie

Barry Commoner (born May 28, 1917) is an American biologist, college professor, and eco-socialist. He ran for president of the United States in the 1980 US presidential election on the Citizens Party ticket. He was also editor of Science Illustrated magazine.


Commoner was born in Brooklyn. He received his bachelor's degree in zoology from Columbia University (1937) and his master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University (1938, 1941)." After serving as a lieutenant in the United States Navy during World War II, he moved to St. Louis where became a professor of plant physiology at Washington University. He taught there for 34 years and during this period, in 1966, he founded the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems to study "the science of the total environment".

In the late 1950s, Commoner became well-known for his opposition to nuclear testing. He went on to write several books about the negative ecological effects of above-ground nuclear testing. In 1970 he received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. His 1971 book The Closing Circle suggested a left-wing, eco-socialist response to the limits to growth thesis, postulating that capitalist technologies were chiefly responsible for environmental degradation, as opposed to population pressures. He had a long running debate with Paul R. Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb and his followers, arguing that they were too focused on overpopulation as the source of environmental problems, and that their proposed solutions were politically unacceptable because of the coercion that they implied, and because the cost would fall disproportionately on the poor. He believed that technological, and above all social development would lead to a natural decrease in both population growth and environmental damage.

In 1980, he founded the Citizens Party to serve as a vehicle for his ecological message, and he ran for President of the United States in the 1980 US Election. His official running mate was La Donna Harris, Native-American wife of Fred Harris, the former Democratic Senator from Oklahoma, although she was replaced on the ballot in Ohio by Wretha Hanson. His candidacy for President on the Citizens Party ticket won 233,052 votes (0.27% of the total). After his unsuccessful bid, Commoner returned to New York City, and moved the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems to Queens College. He stepped down from that post in 2000, and is now a senior scientist at Queens. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Commoner criticized Ronald Reagan and George Bush for regulating pollution and not preventing it.

Four Laws of Ecology

One of Commoner's lasting legacies is his four laws of ecology, as written in The Closing Circle in 1971. The four laws are:

1. Everything is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.

2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no "waste" in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.

3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.”

4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.


    * Science and Survival. New York : Viking, 1966.
    * The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology. New York : Knopf, 1971.
    * The Poverty of Power: Energy and the Economic Crisis. New York : Random House, 1976.
    * The Politics of Energy. New York : Knopf, 1979.
    * Making Peace With the Planet. New York : Pantheon, 1990.

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