British Universities Film & Video Council

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Green Gurus

Environmentalism is often likened to religion. To its followers it has its indisputable truths, its holy books and its saints and prophets. In this series of three programmes Julian Pettifer examines the legacies of three influential environmental thinkers and assesses their influence both on activists and on society as a whole.
Great Britain
Year of release
Year of production
Broadcast in 3 weekly parts on Radio 4 from 17/10/2002
Economics; Environmental science; Politics & government
environmental campaigning; political movements; Schumacher, Ernst Friedrich; Green Party; Kelly, Petra; direct action - political

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E.F. Schumacher
The programme starts by investigating the legacy of radical economist EF Schumacher. When his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ came out in 1973, it was a huge best seller. He was courted by both politicians and the media. Schumacher’s message was that conventional economics had failed us. In headlong pursuit of greater consumption, we had lost our humanity. We needed to get back to basics, he argued, and embrace small scale production and ‘economics as if people mattered’. Schumacher believed passionately that the poor of the Third World were perhaps the greatest victims of modern capitalism. He set up an institute to design ‘appropriate’ technologies for the Third World that would not rely on Western manufacturers. Julian Pettifer examines how Schumacher’s ideas have endured, nearly thirty years on. In a world dominated by global corporations has ‘Small is Beautiful’ been trounced by ‘Big is Best’?
30 mins

Petra Kelly
The second programme in the series looks at the legacy of Petra Kelly. Dubbed ‘the Princess Di of The Greens’, she is credited with having brought Die Grünen into mainstream politics. But her fundamentalist views led to her falling out with her party and with realists like Joschka Fischer, the current German Foreign Minister. Kelly remains a powerful icon for green political aspirations. Her mysterious death, apparently murdered by her lover, perhaps heightens her allure. What did her public life achieve and can Green parties now look forward to a more influential role in the European political arena?
30 mins

Edward Abbey
In the final programme Julian Pettifer visits the American South West to explore the world of the cult writer Edward Abbey. His underground classic ‘The Monkey Wrench Gang’ inspired a generation of eco-activists who sought to emulate the book’s fictional heroes - a gang of oddball eco-terrorists. Abbey wrote the book as satire, yet ‘monkeywrenching’ became a standard tactic for green campaingers across the globe. Road protesters in the UK soon caught the bug. Emerging from his dugout, grungy green hero Swampy responded to press questions about why he had done it by declaring: ‘Would you have come if I had just written to my MP?'

Pettifer asks Abbey’s co-campaigners about their fight to save the fragile environment of the American desert and meets the founder of Earth First! Dave Foreman. Direct action may guarantee headlines, but will it really save the wilderness?
30 mins

Production Company


BBC Radio 4

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