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Book tells of the life and work of an environmental pioneer

Lynton Keith Caldwell is probably best known at IU Bloomington as a key figure in the founding of the university’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, which in four decades has grown to be one of the largest and best public affairs and policy institutions in the country.

But his legacy is much bigger. Caldwell, who died in 2006 at age 92, was a principal architect of the National Environmental Policy Act and is widely credited with its key requirement that plans for government projects must include environmental impact statements.

Caldwell_book_coverA new book from Indiana University Press tells the story of Caldwell’s life and work. By Wendy Read Wertz, “Lynton Keith Caldwell: An Environmental Visionary and the National Environmental Policy Act” is based on the author’s interviews with Caldwell and access to his memorabilia, photos and records.

From the IU Press news release:

This is the story of a visionary leader … who in the early 1960s introduced the study of the environment and environmental policy at a time when such areas of expertise did not exist. Caldwell was a principal architect of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and is recognized as the “inventor” of the act’s important environmental impact statement provisions, now emulated around the world.

For the next three decades, Caldwell played a leading role in establishing ethics-based environmental policy and administration as major areas of inquiry in the United States and around the world. Through his tireless global travels, writing, and lectures, and his work with the US Senate, the IUCN, UN, and UNESCO, Caldwell became recognized for his contributions to environmental ethics and the development of strong environmental planning and policy.

In a 2002 interview for the Bloomington Herald-Times, Caldwell told me the idea of studying people’s relationship with their environment struck him as a revelation 40 years earlier. At the time, there was no environmental movement. The word “environment” hadn’t yet taken on its current meaning.

But that changed in a hurry. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring” touched off alarm about the hidden effects of chemicals. Concern about conservation expanded to encompass issues of pollution, overpopulation and wilderness protection. In less than a decade, 20 million people took part in the first Earth Day celebration and President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency.

Caldwell launched the academic field of environmental policy studies with an influential 1962 article, “Environment: A New Focus for Public Policy?” in Public Administration Review. In the 1960s, he worked for Sen. Henry Jackson, chairman of the Senate Interior Committee, and helped draft and advocate for the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act. (Wertz tells the story on the IU Press Blog).

Later, Caldwell returned to Bloomington and his teaching position at IU. The eastside home that he and his wife, Helen, built and shared is now the headquarters of the Sycamore Land Trust.

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