Barry Commoner is an American environmental scientist. He is also an author and a strong social activist.
Commoner was born in 1917. He attended Harvard University and received a doctorate in biology in 1941. In his work as a biologist, Commoner has focused especially on ozone layer depletion.
In the 1950s, Commoner began to push for atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, thereby bringing himself into public prominence. In the 1960s, he became involved in other environmental issues; these
included pollution and energy sources. He gave speeches and wrote numerous books: Science and Survival (1967), The Closing Circle (1971), Energy and Human Welfare (1975), The Poverty of Power (1976), The Politics of Energy (1979), and Making Peace with the Planet (1990).
Among his views, Commoner believes that industrial methods, especially those involving fossil fuels, are causing environmental pollution. He feels strongly that
the quest for maximum profit currently takes priority over environmental reasoning. Commoner also believes that it is pointless to try to undo the environmental damage we have caused; this is a losing battle. We should instead focus on preventing future destruction; for the most part, the solution to environmental problems lies in not destroying the environment in the first place.
Commoner's solutions for many problems are considered radical. He is a strong advocate of renewable energy sources, specifically solar energy, which would decentralize electric utilities and use sunlight as an alternative power source for most energy consumers. To make the transition from one to the other, Commoner suggests that we use moderates such as methane and make the switch a little at a time.
Commoner also has strong views on social causes of the present environmental
situation. He argues, for example, that eliminating Third World debt payments would lesson the economic gap between developed and less developed countries and end the desperation that usually results in overpopulation. This debt forgiveness could also compensate for previous decades of damage inflicted on such countries. Commoner also calls for redistribution of the world's wealth.
Commoner combined his socialist and environmental beliefs in a brief Citizen's Party presidential campaign in 1980. For the past nearly twenty years, he has directed the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems at Queens College in New York City.
An interview with Barry Commoner
Quotations from Barry Commoner