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Goldsmith, Edward René David [Teddy] (1928–2009), environmentalist and politician, was born on 8 November 1928 in Paris, the elder son of Francis Benedict Hyam (Frank) Goldsmith, formerly Goldschmidt (1878–1967), landowner, hotelier, and Conservative MP for Stowmarket from 1910 to 1918, and his wife, Marcelle, née Mouiller (1903–1985), a young woman from the Auvergne who was half his father's age at the time of their marriage. His younger brother was the financier and politician .

Goldsmith described his childhood as one long holiday, moving between different French hotels. He was educated at Millfield School, Somerset, before he went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1947, where he read philosophy, politics, and economics. Always interested in the big picture, he found academic life frustratingly myopic. He graduated with a third-class degree in 1950, having spent much of his time with his younger brother, James, and friends gambling. He then joined the intelligence corps in Germany for his national service, acting as second in command of a security unit in Hamburg, and then attached to the allied staff in Berlin. On 21 October 1953 he married 23-year-old Gillian Marion (Jill) Pretty, the daughter of Ralph Edmund Pretty, a civil engineer; they had two daughters and a son.

In 1955 Goldsmith started a company selling electronics in Paris, but it did not prosper, as he had a limited appetite for business; he passed it, along with his family inheritance, to his brother, James, who was determined to make himself a fortune. Teddy Goldsmith benefited from his brother's financial acumen, and freedom from business allowed him to travel. He read, pursued wildlife with his friend John Aspinall, and studied African anthropology. This brought with it the recognition that the survival of traditional societies or ‘primitive peoples’ (as they were then called) was threatened by Western-style development, and led him to campaign on their behalf.

In 1970 Goldsmith launched The Ecologist magazine, which gave shape to the environmental concerns of a generation that was beginning to reject the hidebound lifestyles and consumer values of their parents. It gave him a platform for his views about the true nature of the relationship between humans and the biosphere. The first of his books had the characteristically pointed title Can Britain Survive? (1971). In January 1972 The Ecologist published A Blueprint for Survival, which he co-authored with Robert Allen. Blueprint received huge publicity, eventually sold 750,000 copies, keeping The Ecologist afloat financially, and ignited the green movement. Goldsmith and Satish Kumar attended the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm that year, which drew unprecedented media attention to environmental problems and helped boost sales of Blueprint. The following year Kumar became editor of Resurgence magazine, with which The Ecologist merged in 2012.

Goldsmith set up his own ‘movement for survival’, to bring the disparate elements of the incipient green movement together, but merged it with the newly formed PEOPLE party, which in 1975 became the Ecology Party and in 1985 the Green Party. Blueprint for Survival became party policy. When in February 1974 he stood in the general election as the PEOPLE party's candidate in Eye, Suffolk, he employed a camel, borrowed from his friend John Aspinall's zoo, to make the point that Suffolk could become a desert if the destructive march of agribusiness was not halted. In the first direct elections to the European parliament, in 1979, he stood as candidate for the Ecology Party in Cornwall, but his social conservatism was by then putting him at odds with many in the party.

In order to practise what they preached about localism, in 1973 Goldsmith and his fellow Ecologist editors had moved to Cornwall. He lived at Withiel, where one of his neighbours was James Lovelock, the author of the theory of Gaia, the planet as a living entity. Goldsmith, having already developed a similar theory, became an advocate of Gaia and the two became good, though not uncritical, friends. Lovelock later wrote:
Teddy was wonderfully erudite, fast on his feet, and effective. His strength and consistency made him for me a touchstone on Green affairs and his book on Green philosophy, The Way, is a powerful statement on the philosophy behind Green thinking. (Lovelock, 254)
In 1981, his first marriage having ended in divorce, Goldsmith married his second wife, Katherine Victoria James, a New Zealander, and this cemented his attachment to New Zealand and the Pacific. They had two sons. The family moved to France, but maintained a home in New Zealand.

Goldsmith wrote or edited a stream of books, challenging the World Bank in three volumes (1984–92) on the social and environmental effects of large dams, campaigning against the destruction of rain forests, and attacking the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, which he saw as a stooge for multinational agribusiness. He courted unpopularity, for example with his trenchant views about overpopulation and his old-fashioned views on the role of women, and his contempt for the ‘religion’ of science. In 1997 his fellow editors of The Ecologist resigned after he attended a meeting of far-right politicians from Europe (not the first time he had done so); he edited the magazine single-handedly for a year before handing over to his nephew Zac Goldsmith (later a Conservative politician).

In his book Green Warriors, Fred Pearce described Goldsmith as ‘uncle to the radical wing of the international green movement as well as one of its most potent intellectual forces’ (Pearce, 9). He was happy that his own legacy was one of stimulating debate about the runaway juggernaut of globalization, but many of his ideas, for which he had been labelled cranky in the 1970s, had become mainstream long before his death. He died in Siena, Italy, on 21 August 2009, and was survived by his wife, Katherine, and his five children. At his memorial service Zac Goldsmith described him as a green pioneer who was the inspiration of his life. Acorns were handed out in the church, some being dropped on the floor, adding a note of chaos which Teddy Goldsmith would have enjoyed.

James Robertson

Sources  

F. Pearce, Green warriors (1991) · J. Lovelock, Homage to Gaia (2000) · The Times (26 Aug 2009) · Daily Telegraph (26 Aug 2009) · The Guardian (29 Aug 2009) · The Independent (19 Oct 2009) · www.edwardgoldsmith.org, accessed on 2 July 2012 · WW (2009) · m. cert.

Archives  

 

FILM

 

BFI NFTVA, ‘Edward Goldsmith: the green revolutionary’, N. Claxton (director), Channel 4, 28 Jan 1990


Likenesses  

A. Purkiss, bromide print, 2000, NPG, London · N. Kurtz, C-type colour print, 2002, NPG, London · obituary photographs

Wealth at death  

£0: probate, 29 Dec 2011, CGPLA Eng. & Wales