Barry Commoner: The Paul Revere of Ecology

Another sound byte on Barry Commoner’s passing. I was interviewed this afternoon by Melissa Block of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” The brief interview is here.

As the dust settles, I want to sit down and write a brief response to the multiple obituaries that are appearing this week (this one included). I submit that Commoner’s big contribution is not the Four Laws of Ecology or the Paul Revere of Ecology stuff. Rather he committed his entire career to the science information movement, dedicated to disseminating scientific information to the public in an accessible format so that citizens were informed and able to participate in political debate on pressing social, environmental, and public health issues. Remember this first. Commoner enjoyed recounting how, at the height of the disputes over aboveground nuclear testing and the dangers of radioactive fallout, one official told him they were getting countless letters from the public, “and they know what Strontium 90 is.  And they know how to spell it right.”  Commoner was rightly proud of this.

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