In memory of Robert Goodland
Yesterday I received the sad news that Robert Goodland has passed away. We interviewed Robert in May of 2012 in Washington D.C. for Live and Let Live.
Robert became a professor in 1974 at the University of Brasilia, where he established a program to teach tropical ecology and environmental assessment. Then he moved to the Instituto Nacional de Pesquiasas da Amazonia in Manaus, where he designed Brazil’s first graduate course in applied tropical ecology. That led Robert to co-author the book Amazon Jungle: Green Hell to Red Desert. It attracted much favorable review, and became viewed as a seminal work in the birth of the international environmental movement.
In 1978, Robert became the first full-time ecologist at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. As Lead Environmental Advisor for the World Bank Group, Robert bolstered his policy work with sectoral work. This included stopping the World Bank Group from financing projects involving tobacco and asbestos. It also included avoiding the worst types of agricultural and forestry projects, such as those featuring land colonization, transmigration, and logging and ranching in tropical forests.
After Robert’s official retirement from the World Bank in 2001, he was recruited to play a key role on the independent Extractive Industries Review at the World Bank Group. The review concluded with recommendations for various ways to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. He also served as a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, where he co-authored a report on human rights.
To his last days, Robert continued to build on his work with Jeff Anhang on a 2009 article entitled “Livestock and Climate Change,” which assessed how replacing some livestock products — and reforesting land thereby freed from livestock and feed production — could be the only pragmatic way to stop climate change before it might be too late. This work became widely cited, including by Bill Gates and by Paul McCartney’s Meat Free Monday campaign. Robert was invited by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to speak about this work in Rome and in Berlin, and by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to deliver a keynote speech in Beijing. To develop further awareness, Robert worked to launch a website called “Chomping Climate Change.”