Foreword
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xiii Foreword Looking today at the many organizations dedicated to the preservation of open space, the stewardship of landscapes, and the conservation of nature, it is a field of human endeavor that perhaps seems overly crowded. It was not always this way. Within the lifetimes of many who are still active in the environmental movement, these kinds of organizations have proliferated. The ways in which they operate have diversified and their missions have also become more nuanced . It is easy to conclude, with some justification, that the current complexity is less than efficient, and bedeviled not only by insufficient coordination and cooperation but also in some cases by outright competition. This wonderful book by Arthur Pearson shows us how, and also points to why, we have arrived at this point. And of course, our current complexity can all be traced back to people, and the different ways in which they react to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Pearson details the life and accomplishments of George Fell, an influential iconoclast who dedicated his life to the cause of nature conservation. Fell was the right person, in the right place, at the right time, but through his tenacity and resilience he also made the most of his moment. As the title of this book makes clear, he was a true force of nature. He had a deep-seated dedication to the natural world, and in the two decades after World War II he left an indelible mark on land conservation in North America. Through the part he played in the creation of The Nature Conservancy and the Natural Land Institute, Fell also helped democratize nature conservation in North America and set it on a new course. As the postwar economy boomed, nature needed assistance. Fell stepped up. And the organizations that he advanced in the United States influenced conservation action around the world. Fell’s efforts provided impetus for new levels of environmental awareness that began to coalesce through the late 1960s. He was one of the great early visionaries of the environmental movement but never sought the limelight. Pearson’s book brings Fell out of the shadows and provides richly deserved and long overdue recognition. xiv Foreword George Fell was one of a kind. He was introverted and soft-spoken, even awkward, but once he found his purpose in life his dedication was unrelenting. Fell’s cause was caring for nature and “striving for beauty,” and he is a shining example of how individuals can make a difference. Fell’s background was far from privileged; quite the contrary, he was a quintessential outsider, but he made good things happen through strength of will, force of effort, and personal sacrifice . George Fell was, as they say, a “doer” with a special kind of entrepreneurial flair for building organizations. George Fell was also driven. His passion for nature was his life, and with his devoted partner Barbara, his commitment never wavered. He was a leader. But leaders come in many different flavors, and Fell, for all his strengths, was also complicated, uncompromising, and single-minded to a fault. As Pearson demonstrates by recounting the twists and turns in a remarkable life, Fell illustrates the general rule that an individual’s greatest strength is so often also his greatest weakness. For George Fell, as with many who are driven by deep commitment and strong sense of purpose, compromise did not come easily. On more than one occasion, this led Fell to a parting of the ways with the very organizations he did so much to build. George Fell, however, was nothing if not irrepressible. It was discord within the Ecological Society of America that led to the creation of the Ecologist’s Union, which then evolved, with Fell at the helm, into The Nature Conservancy. Then, with his departure from The Nature Conservancy, Fell founded the Natural Land Institute. When that institution also reached a crisis point, Fell helped birth the Natural Areas Association. Pearson’s insights into George Fell and his role in the genesis of The Nature Conservancy, the Natural Land Institute, and the Natural Areas Association are a case study of the creativity that can flow from individual passion but also how that can translate into organizational fission. This same process, played out with particular intensity over the past seventy-five years, is part of the reason why we have such a patchwork of environmental organizations today, all working broadly toward the same ends. So should we be concerned...



Subject Headings

  • Fell, George B.
  • Nature Conservancy (U.S.) -- History.
  • Natural Areas Association (U.S.) -- History.
  • Illinois Nature Preserves Commission -- History.
  • Natural Land Institute (Rockford, Ill.) -- History.
  • Natural areas -- Illinois -- History.
  • Nature conservation -- Illinois -- History.
  • Conservationists -- Illinois -- Biography.
  • Natural areas -- United States -- History.
  • Nature conservation -- United States -- History.
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