Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet

Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet

“Well written and compelling, Eco Barons gives the reader a first glimpse of the activists, philanthropists and gadflies who may well turn out to be the J.D. Rockefellers and Rachel Carsons of our time.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer Pulitzer Prize-winner Edward Humes offers readers an eye-opening look at the remarkable philanthropists and visionaries who are devoting their lives...

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Title:Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet
Author:Edward Humes
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Edition Language:English

Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet Reviews

  • Riku Sayuj

    Eco Barons is a well-written and profoundly moving collection of inter-linked real-life stories that is surprisingly dramatic and engaging in its concise chronicling of the lives of these heroes who are making it their life’s work to save the planet in their own outrageous, touching and sometimes idiosyncratic, but always genuine ways.

    There are thousands of  environmentalists and activists doing important work in America and around the world. But a few of them go farther—these dreamers, schemers

    Eco Barons is a well-written and profoundly moving collection of inter-linked real-life stories that is surprisingly dramatic and engaging in its concise chronicling of the lives of these heroes who are making it their life’s work to save the planet in their own outrageous, touching and sometimes idiosyncratic, but always genuine ways.

    There are thousands of  environmentalists and activists doing important work in America and around the world. But a few of them go farther—these dreamers, schemers, moguls, and coupon clippers; these eco barons. There are others out there, certainly, more all the time; this book is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is an inspiring selection. The eco barons depicted here stand out because they are  game-changers, accomplishing  something  extraordinary, raising the bar of  the possible, usually after being told that what they are attempting is impossible. They have undertaken an epic project: to set an example for the rest of us.

    Their actions are their message: that there is a clear choice, a difficult choice, a right choice, and to make it is to express the faith that it is not too late to save the world—and that a new way of living can be better, healthier, smarter, and more prosperous.

    The first and probably the most inspiring is the story of how the legendary Doug Tompkins, millionaire and the founder of Espirit, abandoned his sprawling fashion empire, found a rugged cabin in the middle of Eden (read Chile), and started saving and restoring paradise, one plot, one fence, and one tree at a time, conquering government antagonism, lobbyists and big industry that wanted to make concrete jungles out of these majestic old-growth forests.

    The second story elaborates on two naturalists and lawyers who lived like monks and found a way to use the law to save forests, species, and clean air when no one else could.

    Then is the techy tale of a professor and his students building magical cars that burn no gas and trying to redefine the doomsday trajectory plotted by Big Oil, Big Auto, Big Coal and the other leviathans and to set us on a new course. His cars are cleaner, cheaper, faster, more enduring, gives more mileage - how many more boxes do you want your dream car to tick?

    Also, there is the story of a cosmetics queen who, like Doug, sold her empire and is spending her fortune to save the last great forests of Maine and having to fight every inch of the way to do it.

    Not to be forgotten is the Media Mogul who gave us CNN and Cartoon Network and numerous other entertainments, who owns more land than anybody else in the country and is devoting his real estate might to trying so hard to return the land to its pristine state before humans arrived to despoil it, working step-by-step to re-wilding the lands and to reintroduce native species and to preserve a heritage fast vanishing.

    Last, and seemingly the least, but still an eco-baron, is the “turtle lady” who walks along a beach inspecting turtles and single-handedly saved a species - As good a story as the traditional rags-to-riches story that makes for a newspaper headline? Shouldn’t it be?

    These eco-barons see, clearly, that what we’re doing as a society is not working. Their response is not to shout about it, or lobby about it, or generate self-aggrandizing headlines about it. Their response is to do something about it, and their results have been spectacular.

    For the Internet supplement to this book, including photos of the eco barons and their projects, maps, background information, links to their individual Web sites, and more resources, visit

    .

    Grist: Environmental News and Commentary:

    and the related blog,

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    Greenwash Brigade:

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    The Sietch Blog:

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    Green Options:

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    Climate Debate Daily: Get all sides of the global warming debate at

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    Terrapass:  Calculate  your  carbon  footprint  and  find  green  products  at 

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    NativeEnergy:  Learn  about  and  purchase  carbon  offsets  at 

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    Service trips: Earthwatch Institute and the Sierra Club maintain lists of volunteer vacations that put you to work on conservation and public lands projects.

    Earthwatch:

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    Sierra Club:

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    Treehugger: This environmental Web site’s How to Go Green guide offers tips on green home buying, green dishwashers, green gift buying, greening your sex life, and more at

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    EPA Green Vehicle Guide: Learn about the greenest cars in America at

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    Plug In America:

    Green Car Congress: News, reports, and information on sustainable transportation at

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    The California Cars Initiative:

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    Drive Green: Calculate and offset the greenhouse gas emissions for your travel at

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    Green Daily Green Eating Guide:

    .

    Eat Well Guide: Find, cook, and eat sustainable food at

    .

    Sustainable Table: Another excellent resource for local and sustainable food is

    .

  • Catherine

    Did you know that before World War I Henry Ford and Thomas Edison had plans to market electric cars, with curbside recharging stations available across the country? Some of the segments of this book were certainly more interesting than others -- besides the section on "Andy Frank and the power of the plug" I really liked the segments on "eco baronesses" -- Roxanne Quimby, founder of Burt's Bees, and Carole Allen, who was instrumental in saving sea turtles in the gulf seas off southern Texas.

  • Colin

    Really good book. Really interesting biographies.

    The book highlights several individuals who exceed the environmental call of duty. Ordinary treehuggers, like myself, or TINO (treehuggers in name only), like Al Gore, don't make the cut.

    People, like Doug Tompkins, exemplify the single-minded commitment to preservation of the world around us. He ensures the world would be a better place for all of us, no matter how foolishly we undermine his actions.

    His life, arguably, personifies the maximizatio

    Really good book. Really interesting biographies.

    The book highlights several individuals who exceed the environmental call of duty. Ordinary treehuggers, like myself, or TINO (treehuggers in name only), like Al Gore, don't make the cut.

    People, like Doug Tompkins, exemplify the single-minded commitment to preservation of the world around us. He ensures the world would be a better place for all of us, no matter how foolishly we undermine his actions.

    His life, arguably, personifies the maximization of rational self-interest. Interestingly enough, his self-interest entails saving the planet. Not monetary profit (ahem, Ayn Randian cultists.)

    The book is both encouraging and frustrating, and a quick read yet slow. For that reason, the book gets 4 stars and not 5.

    It also gets 4 stars because it promotes some of the environmental solutions that still revolve around the "worse vs. less worse" approach. The book "Cradle to Cradle", which received 5 stars, provided the win-win approach to environmental solutions. C2C's approach removes the ability of the bad actor to choose bad. If some dumbass, let's call him "Geoff W. Bush", wanted to litter, the C2C approach would have his litter, essentially, nourish the ground onto which it's thrown.

    Overall, I highly recommend this book.

    Though you should read and re-read "Cradle to Cradle" first and second.

  • Fiona

    Good book about people who have improved the planet with their conservationism. Even though the title says "millionaires", not all the people were millionaires.

    Here are some of what I learned.

    -- owls are a great index species. "If owls are thriving, the theory goes, the food chain is intact, top to bottom and the whole ecosystem is likely to be thriving".

    -- there have been 5 major extinction events in history. We are currently int he sixth event called the Holocene which is not yet complete. It

    Good book about people who have improved the planet with their conservationism. Even though the title says "millionaires", not all the people were millionaires.

    Here are some of what I learned.

    -- owls are a great index species. "If owls are thriving, the theory goes, the food chain is intact, top to bottom and the whole ecosystem is likely to be thriving".

    -- there have been 5 major extinction events in history. We are currently int he sixth event called the Holocene which is not yet complete. It is estimated that half the planet species will disappear in 100 years. In previous major extinction events, it took thousands of year for the extinctions to occur.

    -- Kieran Suckling, one of the people referenced in the book, studied the link between vanishing biological diversity and the loss of linguistic diversity in humans. Example 1: people used to be able to walk down the street and name the tree names such as maple, sycamore, etc. Now they are just called "trees". Example 2: The first four notes of beethoven's Fifth (da-da-da-daah) is the sound of the wood wren which was a common bird in Beethoven's time.

    -- When the Model T debuted in 1908, Henry Ford chose to use electric cars for his wife and son & not his fossil fueled car. In past years Andy Frank has developed electric & battery cars but the big auto makers have stalled the progress of alternative cars.

    -- Roxanne Quimby, creator of Burts Bees, used her money when she sold her company to buying wilderness areas near established parks to protect them from commercial development.

    -- Carol Allen, who is not a millionaire, saved the Ridley turtles on the Texas/Louisiana coast even when she had to battle the shrimping industry.

    -- Ted Turner,not a millionaire but a billionaire, has converted his cattle ranches to bison ranches because cattle gas harms the air.

    -- Doug Thompson, former Esprit(?) founder, used his earning from selling his company to buy lands in patagonia area in Chile to protect from development. He later gave much of the lands to Chile.

    Good book about how these individuals were able to improve planet earth.

  • Michael

    A really fun read. Thanks to Ellen for finding it and sending it to me. I really couldn't put it down, and before I knew it, I had finished. Favorite parts: the Burt's bees lady and the Center for Biological Diversity. I had no idea that the Endangered Species Act was such a big deal. After reading this book, I've decided I'm going to do a presentation on the endangered species of the area. Must read more on Deep Ecology...

  • Tracy

    Very informative book regarding a great group of folks trying to do their part to conserve and preserve nature. Kind of slow at times, but interesting, especially if you are a tree hugger like me. Kudos to those individuals that found their calling by being environmentalists.

  • Laura

    I've been reading good reviews for this book, which must mean that other readers have a higher tolerance for hero-worship, lack of foot-/endnotes, and generally sloppy reporting than I do. By that I mean that the dreamers, schemers and millionaires come in for unquestioning approval, while the Big Bad Other Side comes in for unremitting approbation. My guess is that there's a middle ground, and had this book been written there, it would have been far more instructive and interesting.

    When I read

    I've been reading good reviews for this book, which must mean that other readers have a higher tolerance for hero-worship, lack of foot-/endnotes, and generally sloppy reporting than I do. By that I mean that the dreamers, schemers and millionaires come in for unquestioning approval, while the Big Bad Other Side comes in for unremitting approbation. My guess is that there's a middle ground, and had this book been written there, it would have been far more instructive and interesting.

    When I read that someone learned certain facts about a species or an area of the world, I want to know from whom? who's say-so? None of that is provided.

    This trend towards "these people are great, take my word for (almost) everything I write" non-fiction is troubling.

  • David Biello

    the best way to save the earth is apparently making a lot of money exploiting it, then feeling bad about it and reforming your ways. ecce eco barons!

  • Feistymonkey

    I agree with the reviewer who complained about sloppy reporting. There were a few things in the footnotes that hinted that there was another side to some of the stories, but they were not expanded on and did not make it into the main text. The book was basically hero worship. Granted, there were definitely some inspiring people in the text, but a good writer would have idolized less. After all, if the work that these people are doing is so important, why do they need the extra bump to their repu

    I agree with the reviewer who complained about sloppy reporting. There were a few things in the footnotes that hinted that there was another side to some of the stories, but they were not expanded on and did not make it into the main text. The book was basically hero worship. Granted, there were definitely some inspiring people in the text, but a good writer would have idolized less. After all, if the work that these people are doing is so important, why do they need the extra bump to their reputations that omitting controversial data gives them? At the very least he could have given the data in the text and explained why he didn't feel that it had merit. I mean, go green, woo hoo, but don't expect me to check my intelligence at the door.

    I also noted that the hero worship phenomena grew dramatically worse with the size of the bank accounts involved.

  • Ryan

    Focus is on the U.S., (with few chapters on Chile) therefore the scope is limited. Lots of pages given to biographical sketches of successful business people, good to know for some background on how they came to be environmental champions but could be briefer. Expected more on conservation, but there are chapters on hybrid car technology, and general environmental philanthropy too - interesting but felt like a digression. The parts about Deep Ecology concept was particularly interesting for me.

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