Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti, subject of my first published article, 40 years ago in the AAQ
My first article appeared in 1974. Elaine reminds me that I had had so many rejections by that time that I sent the piece off to the Architectural Association Quarterly (AAQ) saying to her that if they didn’t take it I’d give up on writing. The threat, though silent, seems to have worked.
Having now written several thousands of articles, it has all become a bit of blur. But digging through the boxes at home, I surfaced a number which were important to me at the time—and they are a key part of the Articles section here.
There is little point in listing the literally thousands of articles I have written for publications likeBiotechnology Bulletin, Earthlife News, The ENDS Report and The Guardian – let alone the many occasional pieces written for the likes of BP Shield, Director Magazine, Glaxo World, ICI Magazine, The International Herald Tribune, Management Today, New Scientist, The Observer, Resurgence, The Sunday Times and so on. Worth mentioning, though, are the columns I wrote for publications like Tomorrow, Nikkei Ecology and The Guardian—notably, in the latter case, ‘From the Top’ (1996-2000).
I used to regularly interview leading figures in the CSR and SD areas for SustainAbility’s newsletter, Radar. Recent interviews have profiled Ed Gibson (Microsoft UK’s Chief Security Advisor), Al Gore (former US vice-president), Kevin Kelly (Chief Maverick, Wired magazine, among many other things), Jed Emerson (originator of the ‘Blended Value Proposition’), Sara Fox (new Building Director for Swiss Re’s London HQ, the ‘Erotic Gherkin’), Paul Rice (President and CEO, TransFair USA), David Stubbs (Head of Environment, London 2012 Olympics bid) and Angela Wilkinson (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS). See also the monthly Full Disclosure columns I contributed to Grist magazine with Mark Lee.
The first decade: Winding the clock way back, pieces that stand out in my memory from the first decade of writing include:
1974: ‘Paolo Soleri: A Flight from Flatness,’ Architectural Association Quarterly, vol 6, no 1. The 6-page article also featured 10 of my photographs of Arcosanti.
1975: ‘Strangers in the Playground,’ New Behaviour, 18 September. A report on some of the school playground greening projects I had been involved in around London.
1975-on: ‘Beware the Wrath of Osiris,’ New Scientist, 11 December 1975. This 3-page article was high-risk, exposing problems with a major development project I had been involved with in Egypt. In the event, however, it led to a restructuring of the work in Egypt—and to New Scientist commissioning dozens of contributions over the next 5 years. One early article in which I switched from international issues like desertification back to UK issues, was ‘Breathing Life into the Thames,’ which appeared in the 24 March 1977.
1977 issue of New Scientist. A longer treatment of the subject appears in the book The English Landscape, 2000.
An unusual set of contributions was commissioned by then-Editor Dr Bernard Dixon. It focused on the role and contributions of the ecologists who were increasingly being employed by planning authorities. The 3 articles in this series were co-authored with John Roberts of TEST. They were: ‘Who Needs Ecologists?’, 27 October 1977; ‘Is There an Ecologist in the House?’, 3 November 1977; and ‘The Ecology of Tomorrow’s World,’ 17 November 1977.
These articles, in turn, led to a series of articles in which I explored the ways in which business was adapting to the environmental challenge. One of these was ‘Reclaiming the Cornish Moonscape,’ focusing on English China Clays (5 January 1978). And the New Scientist writing, done while I continued to work with TEST, led directly to my being invited to be a co-founder of Environmental Data Services (ENDS) in 1978 – and the founder-Editor of The ENDS Report.
1977: ‘The Impact of Development Projects on Estuarine and Other Wetland Ecosystems,’ Environmental Conservation, vol 4, no 2, Summer 1977. Commissioned by Professor Nicholas Polunin, this was probably the most widely referenced piece of work of mine in the scientific world. It built on the New Scientist article on Egypt’s Lake Manzala (1975), but went much wider. Among other things, it led to my being invited to Nicholas Polunin’s Second International Conference on the Environmental Future, held in Reykjavik in 1977. I wrote a 3-page article on the conference on the flight back to London, which appeared as ‘The Reykjavik Imperative’ in Is 23 June 1977 issue. This was also the event where I met people like Teddy Goldsmith, Editor of The Ecologist (we platonically shared a bedroom for a number of days) and Buckminster Fuller, a long-time hero.
1978: ‘Red Herrings in the Inner City,’ The New Ecologist, no 3, May/June. A direct follow-on from the meeting with Teddy Goldsmith. Although I have prioritised publication in business media, I have also enormously valued such opportunities to publish in what would once have been viewed as ‘alternative media’. A case in point has been my writing through the 1990s for Resurgence.
1978: A key piece in the development of my own thinking appeared in New Scientist on 7 September 1978, in which I reviewed the various handbooks produced by Social Audit. Much later, in the mid-1990s, Social Audit founder Charles Medawar would become a member of SustainAbility’s Council. The notion of auditing companies was to resurface both at ENDS and in SustainAbility’s work from 1990 on.
1980: ‘The Environmental Pressure,’ Management Today, January. The first of several contributions to the magazine, as part of an effort to mainstream the environmental agenda. Management Today gave a full-page review to my first book, The Ecology of Tomorrow’s World, in its February 1981 edition. Another major piece – ‘Making Money out of Sunshine’—appeared in Management Today in December 1981.
1985: Outside the first decade horizon, but building on earlier work, Director Magazine published my piece ‘Please: No More Bhopals’ (their choice of title) in its March 1985 issue.
While continuing to write Biotechnology Bulletin until the end of the last century, a project that started in 1983, I also did regular columns for publications like The Guardian, Tomorrow and Nikkei Ecology. Effectively, I have now lost track (and count) of the numbers of articles and blogs I have done. By mid-2014, for example, I was contributing regular articles or blogs to magazines and websites like CSRwire (in the USA), Director magazine (UK), Ideia Sustenetável (Brazil), Monday Morning (Denmark) and Semana (Colombia).