Martin Holdgate Born (1931)

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

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).  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

October 1
Yosemite National Park Created (1890)
October 2
San Diego Zoo Founded (1916)
October 3
James Herriot, English Veterinarian, Born (1916)
October 4
Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Ecology
October 5
Catherine Cooper Hopley, British Herpetologist, Born (1817)
October 6
Mad Hatter’s Day
October 7
Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture, Born (1888)
October 8
World Octopus Day
October 9
Vajont Dam Disaster (1963)
October 10
Dnieper Dam Began Operation (1932)
October 11
Big Cypress and Big Thicket National Preserves Created (1974)
October 12
William Laurance, Tropical Conservationist, Born (1957)
October 13
International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction
October 14
Timpanogos Cave National Monument Created (1922)
October 15
Isabella Bird, Pioneering Eco-traveler, Born (1831)
October 16
World Food Day
October 17
Oliver Rackham born (1939)
October 18
Clean Water Act established (1972)
October 19
Research Vessel Albatross Launched (1882)
October 20
OPEC Oil Embargo (1973)
October 21
“Ding” Darling born (1876)
October 22
Wombat Day
October 23
Cumberland Island National Seashore established (1972)
October 24
Antoni von Leeuwenhoek born (1632)
October 25
Secretary of the Interior Convicted in Teapot Dome Scandal (1929)
October 26
Erie Canal Opens (1825)
October 27
Golden Gate and Gateway National Recreation Areas Created (1972)
October 28
Henry Mosby, Wild Turkey Biologist, Born (1913)
October 28
First Ticker-tape Parade Held (1886)
October 29
Stanley Park, Vancouver, Dedicated (1889)
October 30
UNESCO Designates 9 Natural World Heritage Sites (1981)
October 31
Lincoln Highway Dedicated (1913)
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