George Mitchell and the Idea of Sustainability

George Mitchell and the Idea of Sustainability

George Mitchell and the Idea of Sustainability

George Mitchell and the Idea of Sustainability

Synopsis

An energy tycoon, real estate developer, and philanthropist, George P. Mitchellnbsp;is alsonbsp;an idealist, a big thinker who gave his time and fortune to the study of sustainability long before it became a household word.
Jurgen Schmandt, who has worked for Mitchell for many years, explains and traces the idea of a sustainable society, from its origin in the eighteenth-century concept of the "commons" to its twentieth-century iteration in the 1987 United Nations report "Our Common Future." He then chronicles Mitchell's commitment to this idea from the early 1960s, when the focus was on population growth, to today, when climate change and global warming dominate the debate.
Mitchell advanced his belief that humankind could create "a balance between economic and ecological well-being"nbsp;by organizing and hosting conferences, awarding prizes, supporting scholars and scientists, and funding research and publications. He did it at the Aspen Institute, at The Woodlands Conferences, at the National Academy of Sciences, at the Mitchell Center for Sustainable Development, and at the Houston Advanced Research Center. (Paradoxically, he did not always do it in his own energy company.)
Documenting one important man's engagement with one important idea, Schmandt has preserved a significant episode in the ongoing quest to create societies that are "capable of reaching and then sustaining a decent quality of life for their citizens."

Excerpt

This book tells two stories. The first one is devoted to sustainability—what it is and how the idea grew over time. To develop the story I cite key authors who contributed to the sustainability debate during the last half century: Rachel Carson, Garret Hardin, Paul Ehrlich, Ian McHarg, Buckminster Fuller, Ken Boulding, Dennis and Donella Meadows, E. F. Schumacher, Herman Daly, Eleanor Ostrom, Jim MacNeill, Gus Speth, Robert Kates, William Clark, and Lester Brown. I will also look back in time and retrace the early history of sustainability, which, as best as I can see, started some two hundred years ago. This provides the context for my main story, which tells how several of the above-mentioned scholars, through direct contact or through their written work, inspired George P. Mitchell to build a unique program in support of sustainability. Mitchell is a business leader who built a Fortune 500 company. His initiatives in support of sustainability span four decades. They stand out as a model for linking entrepreneurial success to the sustainability movement.

My ideal readers are Mitchell’s children and grandchildren and young men and women around the world. I want them to better understand sustainability and why George Mitchell—as family man and citizen—invested such a large amount of time and money into sustainability projects. Hopefully, this knowledge will inspire the younger generation to continue Mitchell’s journey toward sustainability. It is they who must move us from sustainability research and planning, where we have made progress, to building sustainable societies, where we are lagging behind.

The number of studies, reports and conferences on sustainable development is by now substantial. With few exceptions I will deal only with those in which my two stories—the intellectual history of sustainable development and the work of George Mitchell—meet. As I will show, this happened repeatedly. By and large I follow a chronological order and switch between chapters de-

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