Reflections on race, environment, politics, and living on the front lines of change
Angels by the River: A Memoir
Come chat with author Gus Speth and host Will Potter, 5pm ET, 2pm PT.
In Angels by the River, James Gustave “Gus” Speth recounts his unlikely path from a southern boyhood through his years as one of the nation’s most influential mainstream environmentalists and eventually to the system-changing activism that shapes his current work.
Born and raised in a lovely but racially divided town that later became the scene of South Carolina’s horrific Orangeburg Massacre, Speth explores how the civil rights movement and the South’s agrarian roots shaped his later work in the heyday of the environmental movement, when he founded two landmark environmental groups, fought for the nation’s toughest environmental laws, spearheaded programs in the United Nations, advised the White House, and moved into a leading academic role as dean of Yale’s prestigious School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Yet, in the end, he arrived somewhere quite unexpected—still believing change is possible, but not within the current political and economic system.
Throughout this compelling memoir, Speth intertwines three stories—his own, his hometown’s, and his country’s—focusing mainly on his early years and the lessons he drew from them, and his later years, in which he comes full circle in applying those lessons. In the process he invites others to join him politically at or near the place at which he has arrived, wherever they may have started.
James Gustave “Gus” Speth is the former dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, founder and president of the World Resources Institute, and co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council. He has also been administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, chair of the U.N. Development Group, professor of law at Georgetown University, and chair of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality in the Carter administration.
He currently teaches at Vermont Law School, and is a senior fellow at the Democracy Collaborative where he is co-chair of the Next System Project. He is also distinguished senior fellow with Demos, associate fellow with the Tellus Insitute, and the recipient of numerous environmental awards. His previous books include America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, and the award-winning The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability and Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment. (Chelsea Green Publishing)