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Eric Roston and James Gustave Speth

James Gustave (Gus) Speth (born March 4, 1942) is a United States environmental lawyer and advocate.


He was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1942. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in 1964, attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and graduated from Yale Law School, where he was a member of the Yale Law Journal, in 1969. He served in 1969 and 1970 as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black.

Speth was a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, where he served as senior attorney from 1970 to 1977.

He served from 1977 to 1981, as a Member and then for two years as Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality in the Executive Office of the President. As Jimmy Carter's Council on Environmental Quality Chairman, he was a principal adviser on matters affecting the environment and had overall responsibility for developing and coordinating the President's environmental program. In 1981 and 1982 he was Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, teaching environmental and constitutional law.

In 1982, he founded the World Resources Institute,[1] a Washington, D.C.-based environmental think tank; served as its president until January 1993. He was a senior adviser to President-elect Bill Clinton's transition team, heading the group that examined the U.S.'s role in natural resources, energy and the environment.

In 1991, he chaired a U.S. task force on international development and environmental security which produced the report Partnership for Sustainable Development: A New U.S. Agenda.

In 1990 he led the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development which produced the report Compact for a New World.

From 1993 to 1999, he served as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme; he served as Special Coordinator for Economic and Social Affairs under Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and also served as Chair of the United Nations Development Group.[2]

In 1999, he became the dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. He served the school as the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean and Sara Shallenberger Brown Professor in the Practice of Environmental Policy when he retired from Yale in 2009 to assume a professorship at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont.[3] Speth was succeeded as Dean at Yale by Sir Peter Crane.[4]

In 2014 he published his memoir Angels by the River. In that year he was also board member of the New Economy Coalition.[5]

Environment work[edit]

Speth has been a leader or participant in many task forces and committees aimed at combating environmental degradation, including the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment; the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development; and the National Commission on the Environment.[citation needed]


Among his awards are the National Wildlife Federation’s Resources Defense Award, the Natural Resources Council of America’s Barbara Swain Award of Honor, a 1997 Special Recognition Award from the Society for International Development, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Environmental Law Institute, and the Blue Planet Prize. He holds honorary degrees from Clark University, the College of the Atlantic, Vermont Law School, and Middlebury College.




  • Beyond Reform Our Planet Magazine PDF
  • America the Possible: A Manifesto, From decline to rebirth link
  • America the Possible: A Manifesto, A new politics for a new dream link


  1. ^ World Resources Institute Biosketch of James Gustave Speth. Accessed March 27, 2012.
  2. ^ "Who we are & What we do". United Nations Development Programme. 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-24. 
  3. ^ "F&ES unearths new dean". Yale Daily News. 
  4. ^ "Sir Peter Crane Appointed Dean of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies". Yale daily News. 2009-03-04. Retrieved 2011-08-24. [dead link]
  5. ^ "About the Author". Retrieved 8 February 2015. 

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Charles Warren
Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality
Succeeded by
Alan Hill
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
William Henry Draper III
Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme
Succeeded by
Mark Malloch Brown

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Gustave_Speth — Please support Wikipedia.
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79 news items


Thu, 07 May 2015 11:19:30 -0700

Led by Gar Alperovitz, a political economist and historian, and James Gustave Speth, a leading environmental activist and former presidential advisor, The Next System Project has already gained support from a variety of influential deep thinkers, heavy ...
Publishers Weekly
Fri, 14 Nov 2014 06:48:45 -0800

James Gustave Speth, author of Angels by the River (Chelsea Green Publishing, 9781603585859), will appear on NPR's Science Friday on Friday, November 14. Daniel P. Bolger, author of Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan ...

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Wed, 01 Apr 2015 13:20:48 -0700

Gar Alperovitz and James Gustave Speth are Co-Chairs of The Next System Project, an initiative launched this week aimed at catalyzing bold new systemic thinking about systemic challenges. You can endorse their call for a serious national conversation ...
Seeking Alpha
Tue, 23 Oct 2012 08:42:20 -0700

Author James Gustave Speth is one of the most prominent, knowledgeable, global environmentalists of our time. A quintessential insider, Speth began as an anti-nuclear activist in the 1970s and later chaired President Jimmy Carter's Council on ...

Pacific Standard

Pacific Standard
Fri, 09 Jan 2015 14:11:41 -0800

Environmental pioneer James Gustave Speth says the fights for democracy and nature should join forces. Avatar: Author: Brian Palmer; Publish date: Jan 9, 2015; Social count: 16. Environmental pioneer James Gustave Speth says the fights for democracy ...
Yale Environment 360
Tue, 31 May 2011 05:41:50 -0700

The idea of economic growth as an unquestioned force for good is ingrained in the American psyche. But a longtime environmental leader argues it's time for the U.S. to reinvent its economy into one that focuses on sustaining communities, family life ...

The Nation.

The Nation.
Thu, 29 Jan 2015 06:40:54 -0800

We can no longer hope to address the climate crisis, or our deep social ills, by working strictly within the system. We must change the system itself. James Gustave Speth. January 27, 2015 | This article appeared in the February 16, 2015 edition of The ...
Fri, 02 Mar 2012 00:01:55 -0800

James Gustave Speth teaches at Vermont Law School. He is an American environmental lawyer, advocate, and author. His article in this issue, the first of a two-part series, is based on his forthcoming book from Yale University Press, America the ...

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