Sara Parkin

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Sara Parkin (born 9 April 1946) is a former Green Party of England and Wales activist and politician. She rose to prominence during and after the 1989 European elections, in which the Green Party received 15% of the vote. She left the Greens as the result of internal feuds in the wake of constitutional changes she introduced, and went on to found the Forum for the Future with Jonathon Porritt. She lives in Hackney, east London.

Early life[edit]

Sara Parkin was born in Aberdeen. She was educated in Coventry at Green Lane Primary School and Barr's Hill Grammar School. She then trained as a nurse at The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (1970–74) where she met her husband Max, worked there as a ward sister, and her children Colin and Douglas were born.[1] She tutored undergraduates in nursing at the University of Edinburgh (1972-3) and worked elsewhere in the health sector in the 1970s and 80s before turning to politics.

Political career[edit]

Parkin joined the Ecology Party in the 1970s, partly as the result of the influence of public lectures by Conrad Hal Waddington. In 1979 she stood unsuccessfully as an Ecology candidate against Keith Joseph.[1] Parkin also contributed to the development of Green Parties worldwide through her writing and administrative positions.[2] After 1989, she emerged as the most articulate and telegenic Green party spokesperson, alongside David Icke.

She was credited with both being personally close to Green Party policy views, and practical in terms of political tactics.[1]

She was considered a highly dynamic figure within the party during the 1989 elections: “Quite often we'd be exhausted in the office and she'd burst through the door and bring with her new thoughts and ideas,” said Caroline Lucas at the time.[1]

Walter Schwartz wrote after the 1989 results that “she could be the party’s best all-rounder, the easiest of the Greens to imagine as a cabinet minister. She is a highly organised political animal. Most Greens are not.”.[1]

However, during the 1989 conference, internal disputes began to arise. Parkin was defeated in her attempt to initiate negotiations with other parties to establish a pro-proportional representation alliance against the Conservative Party.[3]

She also at this stage supported ideas to slim down the number of official external spokespeople, Principal Speakers, but rejected the idea of a single leader.[4]

Later, she became associated with the group Green 2000, which advocated wholesale constitutional changes to the Green Party, including creating an executive with a single chair and only two principal speakers. Although successful in getting these changes agreed to and winning almost all the positions on the Executive, she staked everything on the 1992 general election which brought a complete lack of success. The fallout resulted in Parkin and others becoming the target of a 'recall' campaign which, although unsuccessful, was thought to be a factor in Parkin's withdrawal from the re-election competition as Chair of the Green Party. She subsequently left the party and active politics.[5]

Life after politics[edit]

In 1996 Parkin moved on to create the Forum for the Future with two other past Green party activists, Porritt and Paul Ekins.

Still working with the Forum today, she designed the pioneering Leadership for Sustainable Development Masters course, which is still taught to 12 students a year in association with Middlesex University. As a Founder Director and Trustee, she focuses on integrating sustainability into post-school education, engineering and other professions.

She currently sits on the boards of the Higher Education Academy,[6] Natural Environment Research Council, the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and Head Teachers into Industry, and from 2000-2006 was a board member of the Environment Agency for England and Wales. She is a Trustee of the St. Andrews Prize, Advisor to the Population and Sustainability Network [2] and a patron of population concern charity Population Matters (formerly the Optimum Population Trust).[7]

Parkin has written and edited several works on Green politics. Most notable was her biography of Green activist Petra Kelly, published to mixed reviews in 1994.[8] Her latest book on sustainable leadership was published in 2010.


  • Companion of the Institution of Civil Engineering and the Institute of Energy.[2]
  • Awarded an OBE for her contribution to education and sustainability in 2001.
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Bath, 2003.
  • Honorary Doctor of Science, University of the West of England, November, 2010, in recognition of her achievements and national contribution to education and sustainable issues, notably integration of 'sustainable literacy' into education and professional training.

Major publications[edit]

  • Parkin, S. 1989. Green Parties: an international guide. London: Heretic Books
  • Parkin, S. (ed.) 1991. Green Light on Europe. London: Heretic Books.
  • Parkin, S. 1991. Green Futures: agenda for the 21st century. Zondervan. ISBN 0-00-627606-7
  • Parkin, S. 1994. The Life and Death of Petra Kelly. Pandora.
  • Parkin, S. 2010. The Positive Deviant: Sustainability Leadership in a Perverse World. London: Earthscan.
  • Articles in Green Futures magazine


  1. ^ a b c d e Why Parkin sups with political devils, The Guardian, 18 September 1989
  2. ^ a b c Forum for the Future
  3. ^ Parkin is Defeated over pre-election pact to achieve PR, The Independent, 25 September 1989
  4. ^ Greens pin their hopes on power of ideas, The Independent, 23 September 1989
  5. ^ Article by John Morrisey
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Population Matters Patrons". 
  8. ^ The Independent, 9 October 1994