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August 14, 2011

Longtime Champion of the Commons

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Andrew Kimbrell—a D.C. public interest lawyer, environmental activist, and author—championed the commons as a breakthrough that could change how our society views the environment and social justice.

Many people at the time had no idea of what he was talking about, or if they did, considered it an arcane detail plucked from the pages of history. But Kimbrell persisted in raising the issue, pointing out that environmental destruction and economic inequity is simply the modern version of medieval lords seizing resources that rightfully belonged to everyone.

He is the founder of the D.C.-based International Center for Technology Assessment and the Center for Food Safety, as well as the author of The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Your Life and Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture. He has filed numerous lawsuits and organized political campaigns addressing global warming, biological warfare, food irradiation, factory farming, genetic engineering, and preserving the integrity of organic food standards.

He recently founded Nanoaction to draw attention to the significant environmental risks involved with the unchecked growth of nanotechnology, which is large-scale engineering at the molecular level.

“The commons is a promising model to help us think about the kind of world we want for the next generations,” Kimbrell suggests. “It helps us think beyond the commodification of everything in the world as a sign of progress, which in the short term creates wealth, but in the long term creates catastrophe.”
—Jay Walljasper