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Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet Hardcover – March 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pulitzer Prize–winner Humes (Mississippi Mud) profiles a band of idealistic environmentalists devoting their lives and fortunes to protecting nature, including such tycoons as Doug Thompson, the founder of fashion house Esprit, who now spends his millions buying up thousands of acres of land to create nature preserves, and Roxanne Quimby, creator of the cosmetics giant Burt's Bees, who is purchasing huge tracts of forests in Maine woods to trump the real estate investor's visions of resorts, golf courses and suburban homes on clear-cut lands. But other barons are more David than Goliath. The Center for Biological Diversity, a cash-strapped nonprofit founded by an owl expert, scientist and mystic and a former engineering student turned philosopher, is responsible for the recent campaign to fight climate change by protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. Engineering professor Andy Frank has spent 20 years battling a recalcitrant [auto] industry and confused policy makers to produce an affordable, plug-in hybrid car. Readers concerned with conservation will appreciate this optimistic if starry-eyed introduction to these little-known giants of the environmental movement. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* An eco baron is the opposite of a robber baron, using talent, gumption, and wealth not for personal gain but for environmental good. Award-winning journalist Humes brings a fluency in complex issues and a love of David-Goliath stories to this illuminating group portrait of embattled visionaries who “are showing the world that nature can be nurtured.” Douglas Tompkins, a Mayflower blueblood, dropped out of high school, cofounded the Esprit clothing empire, then abandoned corporate life to devote himself to preserving the wilds of Patagonia, in spite of vehement resistance. Roxanne Quimby, the artist who founded the company Burt’s Bees, faced vicious opposition to her efforts to preserve the Maine Woods. Carole Allen, a citizen of modest means but immense passion, received death threats for her volunteer advocacy on behalf of endangered sea turtles. Eco-philanthropist extraordinaire Ted Turner has been harshly criticized for his part in re-wilding the West. The most maddening tale of derailed eco-ingenuity is the sabotaging of Andy Frank’s plug-in hybrid car; the most encouraging story is that of a gutsy not-for-profit, the Center for Biological Diversity. A dramatic, insightful history of environmental conflicts and breakthroughs threaded through timely and inspiriting profiles in courage and creativity. --Donna Seaman
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; First Edition edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006135029X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061350290
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,858,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

QUICK STORY: A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Edward Humes' latest books are A MAN AND HIS MOUNTAIN (Public Affairs, October 2013), the biography of winemaking legend Jess Jackson, and GARBOLOGY: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash (Avery/Penguin, April 2012). His other books include the PEN Award-winning NO MATTER HOW LOUD I SHOUT: A Year In the Life of Juvenile Court, the bestseller MISSISSIPPI MUD, FORCE OF NATURE: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution, and MONKEY GIRL: Evolution, Education, Religion and the Battle for America's Soul.

BACK STORY: When I was six I decided I wanted to be a writer, and I've been at it ever since. I started my writing career in newspapers, and I think I probably would have paid them, instead of the other way around, for the thrill of seeing my first byline in print. As a newspaper reporter, I gravitated toward stories that allowed me to dig behind the scenes and beneath the surface, looking for questions others hadn't asked or imagined. For me, the job amounted to this: license to find out the things I had always wanted to know, about anything and everything that interested, touched or outraged me. Then, within the space and time limitations of a daily newspaper, I had the chance to mold it all into a story to pass onto others. I loved that work.

When I left newspapers to write nonfiction books, I suddenly had weeks or months, rather than hours or days, to immerse myself in the inner workings of the places, characters and events I seek to understand and write about. I had found the greatest job I can imagine.

In my books, I try to take readers inside worlds most don't get to visit or see close up on their own. My first stories were about crime -- real-life murder mysteries-- and I still enjoy reading and writing true crime. But I've pursued broader and more varied narratives in my more recent books. I've written about the nation's crumbling juvenile justice system, the California high school that went from worst to best in the state, the harrowing but surprisingly humane world of a neonatal intensive care unit, the front lines of a modern-day Scopes Monkey Trial, a Gulf Coast murder mystery solved by the victims' own daughter.

Lately - in ECO BARONS, FORCE OF NATURE and GARBOLOGY - I've focused on narratives about the environment and sustainability. I believe this to be the most important story of our age - for ourselves, and for our children.

But after immersing myself in trash for GARBOLOGY, I dove into the very different world of wine and undertook my very first biography. I feel privileged to tell the classic American success story behind the founder of Kendall-Jackson Wines, Jess Jackson, in A MAN AND HIS MOUNTAIN.

OTHER WRITING: I've written for numerous publications, including Los Angeles Magazine, Sierra Magazine, Readers Digest, California Lawyer, the Oxford American, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times. I have taught writing and journalism at the University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, and the University of Oregon.

SPEAKING: I enjoy speaking about my work, and have been invited to address a wide range of groups and organizations:the National Education Summit, the National Steinbeck Center, the ALOUD series, the National Association of District Attorneys, the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the National Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Dole Center for Politics, the National High School Journalism Conference, the National College Newspaper Convention, the National Association of Teachers of English, the California Department of Corrections, the California Appellate Project, the American Psychology and Law Society, the Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Poynter Institute, the Crichton Club and numerous universities and other schools. I was called to testify about my reporting on juvenile court before the U.S. Senate and a joint session of the California Senate and Assembly. I've had the pleasure of delivering a commencement address at Hampshire College in Amherst, my alma mater, and have enjoyed speaking at venues throughout California as a contributing writer to MY CALIFORNIA, an anthology from which all proceeds were donated to the California Arts Council to support arts and writing programs for the state's school children. I served as a Regents Lecturer at the University of California, Irvine, and taught writing workshops at the University of Oregon graduate program in literary nonfiction.

HONORS: I received a Pulitzer Prize for my newspaper coverage of the military, a PEN Center USA award for NO MATTER HOW LOUD I SHOUT, a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for "The Forgotten," my LA Magazine account of life inside Los Angeles's nightmarish home for neglected children, and a Silver Gavel honor for MONKEY GIRL. The Washington Post named SCHOOL OF DREAMS a best book of 2003; the Los Angeles Times named MEAN JUSTICE a best book of 1999.

BORN: Philadelphia.

EDUCATION: Hampshire College, Amherst, Mass.

CURRENT WHEREABOUTS: Southern California

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Josie Jean on August 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist/Author Edward Humes ascribes the name eco baron to the innovative conservationists/ environmentalists striving to save the earth. The opposite of the former robber barons, they are having a positive impact on saving the natural environment instead of merely accumulating wealth and power. Mr. Humes shares the inspiring stories of devoted men and women committed to being the protectors of the planet, thereby ensuring a better future for all the earth's inhabitants. These little-known white knights have dedicated their entire lives and fortunes to this cause. They all valiantly fought against insurmountable obstacles and overwhelming opposition. One example is Doug Tompkins, who used his Esprit fashion company profits to buy and preserve thousands of rainforest acres in Chile's Patagonia. Also, described are the fascinating history and monumental accomplishments of the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity, including their plan to fight climate change. Roxanne Quimby sold her cosmetics company, Burt's Bees, and used the proceeds to save the Maine Woods. Volunteer Carole Allen advocated and saved a species of endangered sea turtle. These are just a sampling of the individuals profiled. Also included, is a list of simple things that every household can accomplish to save both money and the environment. The book concludes with an appendix of resources to assist in further educating oneself. Mr. Humes has magnificently written an engrossing book that had me eagerly turning the pages. He provided proof that one person can make a difference. Each one of us, in our own way, have the ability to be an eco baron with these exceptional individuals showing us the way. At times, we may feel the need to be inspired and this book can do just that. I absolutely loved this outstanding book and HIGHLY RECOMMEND it as a 'must read' for everyone.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kristen M. Wares on March 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Fascinating book. So much environmental literature can be depressing but this is an inspiring account of men and women who are making very real steps towards bettering the planet. Not only is the book well written, interesting and hopeful, but it helps the reader by providing real steps anyone can take to become an eco baron.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ted on August 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
While this book profiles the 'Conservancy' style of Roxanne Quimby (Burts Bees) and Doug Thompkins (Patagonia), what especially stuck with me was learning more about Andy Franks, a big mover behind the electric car/California Car project. Humes also has an excellent summary of how our freeway/road system was a gift to the auto industry at the expense of the electric trolleys, etc, that were once a common feature of American Cities.
In the long run, while conservation is crucial, praiseworthy, etc, in the long run what this country needs now is futurist and opinion makers who can reshape society into a healthy place for children and for those of a collaborative spirit. The idea of milking 'the commons' for all it's worth ala Bernie Madoff, Kenneth Lay...has got to stop. Humes does an excellent job of putting a positive spin on these changes.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By P. Strayer on February 10, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I read it in a day. Loved this book. Excellent writer and, as he says in interview with Booklist, sustainability is The Story of Our Time. Even though we've ditched the Bush era insanity in the government re environment, we really haven't made the kind of progress we need to - the kind of common sense that most of the examples in this book show. I wish the author had gone more into the examples of Sweden's Natural Step, but this is a book I'd like to write. For video examples and more info about Green Plans, see Huey Johnson's nonprofit [...]. You can also read his book. Green Plans, Revised Ed: Blueprint for a Sustainable Earth (Our Sustainable Future) I made the videos on his web site. Huey won the top prize for environmentalism from the UN in 2001 for his Green Plans movement building and evangelizing. We need a hundred more books like Eco Barons (which is not the best title this book could have had but oh's a good book!)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Norma Campbell on October 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First let me say that I read a lot of books of varied themes, ideas etc and most do come from Amazon. This is the first book I have ever felt strong enough about to bother with a review.

For any one who is concerned, interested or just curious about the environment, this book should be read. Totally amazing what individuals can do for this planet, some are rich, others are barely scraping by, but all have made a profound impression and effort to help correct the ills effecting our home, this Planet Earth.

The inner workings of trying to help our Planet and the political roadblocks that keep good ideas and inventions from not becoming accepted or commonplace is eye opening and mind boggling.

Whatever I can do to help them I shall do. I do a lot now in my own capacity, due to this book, I shall do more.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on June 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Deserving of ongoing recommendation is ECO BARONS: THE DREAMERS, SCHEMERS, AND MILLIONAIRES WHO ARE SAVING OUR PLANET, a unique coverage of those who have used their money to save the planet from ecological destruction. These monied barons are saving forests and wetlands, pioneering green technologies and making real changes. An outstanding presentation.
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