One of the towering figures in the professional landscape when I started working on environmental issues in the early 1970s was Walt Patterson. Alongside Amory Lovins, at Friends of the Earth, he helped put sustainable energy on the map – in the process denting wider enthusiasm for nuclear power.
Elaine and I took the train to Amersham today for Walt’s 80th birthday party – wonderful turn-out: those shown in the picture were about a third of the attendees at any one time. A great man, a huge influence, and wonderful to be invited to such a gathering of the tribes.
Among those I was able to catch up with were Tom Burke (a previous executive director of Friends of the Earth, and a co-author with me of a couple of books back in the day, The Green Capitalists and Green Pages*), Nigel Haigh (who I worked with in the early 1990s at the Merlin Ecology Fund, when we were part of an advisory board convened by Tessa Tennant) and Richard Macrory (who started my ongoing relationship with Imperial College back in the early 1990s).
Nigel, Tom, Elaine and I travelled back together on the train to Marylebone, comparing notes on the deep history of environmentalism and the sustainable business movement in the UK. One idea we were toying with by the end of the journey was an oral history of environmentalism. I have long wondered about the possibility of creating a real or virtual museum of environmentalism, so this had that beast stirring again at the bottom of the pond.
Took Walt a bottle of Nyetimber English ‘champagne’, which I love. One of the few good things that can be said about climate change in this country.
* Due to be republished later this year by Routledge. When I first heard the suggestion I couldn’t imagine what the book would have to offer in today’s world. But was persuaded by the publishers – and on rereading the book, which includes 50 essays by leading figures at the time – that this was some sort of milestone. It laid out much of the agenda that the sustainability industry has subsequently worked to address.