Martin Holdgate, British Conservationist, Born (1931)

Martin Holdgate, one of the leaders of British conservation during the past half-century, was born January 14, 1931.  He has been part of most of the major environmental and conservation developments in England and around the world dkuring the last half-century.

Holdgate studied biological sciences at Cambidge University, completing a doctorate in insect physiology in 1955.  At the conclusion of his studies, he joined an expedition to the south Atlantic island of Gough, then a poorly known outpost of the British empire (later made an UNESCO World Heritage site) (learn more about UNESCO here).  That expedition spurred Holdgate’s interest in the Antarctic, which continued as he taught courses at Manchester and Durham universities.  Eventually, he joined the British Antarctic Survey, becoming its Chief Biologist within a short time.

He moved more directly into the practice of conservation and environment in 1966.  He joined the British Nature Conservancy then, performing research that informed their decisions about what lands to protect (the organization is now known as Natural England).  Beginning in 1970, he joined the UK Department of the Environment, rising to the position of Chief Scientist and Deputy Secretary prior to his departure in 1988.  His time in these agencies coincided with the growth of the environmental movement in the UK, representing a “major step-change after World War 2.”

Holdgate was among the world’s environmental leaders who espoused the concept of sustainable development, recognizing that economic development and environmental sustainability had to work together. He was a member of many global environmental commissions, representing the British government. “The environment,” he noted, “is not against the economy.”  Understanding that economy and environment need to go together, he introduced the concept BATNEEC as a guiding principle, requiring that industry use the “Best Available Technology Not Entailing Excessive Costs.”  He later apologized for the tongue-twisting acronym.

From 1988 to 1994, he served as Director General of IUCN (the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources).  IUCN is the largest association of governments and non-governmental organizations concerned with the environment, most notably providing the scientific guidance for species in peril (the Red List) and for protection of unique and outstanding ecosystems .

Holdgate has been honored broadly for his work on behalf of the environment.  He was knighted in 1994, holds several honorary doctorates and is a “Global 500” advisor to the UN Environment Programme.  Since retiring, he resides in the English Lake District, where he serves as President of The Friends of the Lake District.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, he succinctly summed up his understanding, after a lifetime of ecological study and public service, of the relationship of humans and nature:  “If we muck our environment about, we muck ourselves about.”

References:

Friends of The Lake District.  President.  Available at:  https://www.friendsofthelakedistrict.org.uk/presidentmartinholdgate.  Accessed January 13, 2018.

Holdgate, Mr.  1988.  Interview profile of Dr. Martin Holdgate.  The Environmentalist 8(2):87-91 (June 1988).  Available at:  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02240273.  Accessed January 13, 2018.

The Guardian.  2012.  Martin Holdgate: reconciling the economy to the environment has been a huge achievement since WW2 (video interview).  Available at:  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2012/jun/13/martin-holdgate-economy-environment.  Accessed January 13, 2018.

United Nations Environment Programme.  Sir Martin Holdgate, CB PhD FIBiol.  Global 500 Advisors.  Available at:  https://web.archive.org/web/20100605000825/http://www.global500.org:80/smholdgate.html.  Accessed January 13, 2018.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 16
Alvaro Uglade, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 17
Sombath Somphone, Laotian Environmentalist, Born (1952)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 18
World Pangolin Day
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
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