Peter Taylor (environmentalist)

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Peter Taylor
Peter Taylor Environmentalist 2008.jpg
Born (1948-01-24) 24 January 1948 (age 71)

Peter Taylor (born 24 January 1948) is a UK environmentalist with a long track record of public activism and scholarship on issues ranging from nuclear safety,[1][2] ocean pollution,[3] biodiversity strategies,[4] renewable energy and climate change.[5] His recent work on global warming has been questioned by environmentalists.[6] His 2009 book Chill: a reassessment of global warming theory argued that most of the recent documented warming is caused by peaking natural cycles, that there is also a potential for global cooling and that adaptation not mitigation should be a priority. His views received widespread coverage in the media – with front page on the Daily Express, and articles in the online versions of The Mail, The Times and an Al Jazeera video.[7]


Born in January 1948, Taylor was educated at Cowbridge Grammar School in Glamorgan, Wales from where he won an Open Scholarship to St Catherine's College, Oxford University. He graduated with honours in Natural Sciences from the School of Zoology in 1970. As a student he led a successful inter-university biological expedition to East Africa;[8] After six years of what he describes in his autobiography Shiva's Rainbow as an adventurer and explorer, including a solo vehicle-crossing of the Sahara and climbing the Eiger, he returned to Oxford to study Social Anthropology under the linguistic anthropologist Edwin Ardener. Taylor has been a member of the Institute of Biology and is a Certified Biologist, a former member of the International Union of Radioecologists, the International Society for Radiation Protection and the British Ecological Society. He is currently a member of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Political Ecology Research Group[edit]

Taylor left his academic studies in anthropology order to develop the Political Ecology Research Group (PERG) which he founded in 1976. Eschewing the academic elements of political ecology and the need for theory in favour of political involvement, the group pioneered scientific and legal support for environmental policy initiatives [1][2] and worked closely with Greenpeace International, Trade Unions and at times government agencies. The group held copyright on all its work and published over 20 research reports between 1978 and 1992. Taylor published an account of the anti-nuclear movement in The Ecologist - a text used by the Open University for its Control of Technology Course, an on assessments of nuclear risk in the science journal Nature.[8][9]

Taylor became a public figure following the 1977 Windscale Inquiry into nuclear fuel reprocessing during which he exposed the risks of nuclear waste storage and mounted a successful campaign against radioactive discharges to the marine environment – his work was widely reported in the national press, New Scientist, The Ecologist and the New Internationalist.[10] Between 1980 and 1992 he became an advisor to a wide spectrum of organisations, ranging from government agencies to environmental NGOs, appearing on TV and radio on issues of nuclear risk and pollution. His work uncovered the health impact of the Windscale Fire in 1957 - in the PERG report RR-7, and in association with Yorkshire TV, the excess of childhood cancers around Sellafield.[10] He served on the government commission into nuclear waste dumping at sea (chaired by Sir Fred Holliday) which recommended the practice be banned. He also sat on a research advisory group on nuclear waste management set up by the Department of Environment – resigning when he felt government were not allowing time for detailed comparative assessment of the options.[11]

The work of PERG played a role in limiting the development of nuclear fuel reprocessing and the 'plutonium economy', particularly in Germany,[12] cleaning up discharges to the Irish Sea,[13] altering perceptions of the risks of ionising radiation and the consequences of reactor meltdowns.[14] The group also produced the first study in renewable energy strategies in a report for the European Parliament in 1980; the first comparative study of organic and conventional agriculture, and the first UK study of forestry as carbon sequestration.

Taylor involved both of his brothers during the 1980s campaigns, with Ron infiltrating the US Nevada weapons test site and leading the Greenpeace climb of Big Ben [15] and Robert heading the Greenpeace international strategy on chemical wastes.[16]

In 1992, PERG evolved into an international network of independent experts on terrestrial and marine ecosystems – Terramarès – to carry out critical science policy analysis.[13][14][17] This group worked collectively and individually behind the scenes in several important developments – with Professor Jackson Davis helping to lay the foundation for the Framework Climate Convention,[18] and in Clean Production Strategies and the Precautionary Principle [19] with Tim Jackson (now Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey); and further work on energy strategies with Gordon Thompson who now leads the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts (ref IRSS). Taylor's work on ocean pollution culminated in 1993 with a critique of the UN's ocean protection system in the peer-reviewed journal Bulletin of Marine Pollution.[13]

Beyond Conservation[edit]

He then moved from Oxford to North Wales to follow up his long standing interests in wildlife conservation and shamanism. As a member of the British Association of Nature Conservationists he organised the conference 'Wilderness Britain' in 1995 and organised a National Trust seminar on wilderness and wildland values at its Centennial Conference. He was a keynote speaker at the BANC/National Trust 1999 'Nature in Transition' conference in July 1999 and co-authored the National Trust's document 'Call for the Wild'. His many articles in BANC's journal ECOS contributed to the new wave of consciousness in conservation known as 'rewilding' [20] culminating in 2005 with the publication of Beyond Conservation and the founding of the Wildland Network. In this work Taylor argues that conservation is too preservation oriented and needs to be more creative and focussed upon wilder and larger scale land management.[21] Professor Chris Baines one of Britain's leading conservation experts described Taylor's book as important and brilliantly capturing the changing mood of conservation [22] and Peter Marren gave it a whole page spread in the Independent.[23] Alan Watson Featherstone, of Trees For Life endorsed the cover with 'this book offers a beacon of hope to all those who draw spiritual sustenance from wild Nature' and Professor Bill Adams, at Cambridge University, also endorsing the cover said 'Peter Taylor builds bridges between ecology, countryside policy and spirituality'. In networking ecological practitioners and land managers, Taylor worked to construct a political strategy for rewilding conservation through regional seminars, national conferences and in 2008, his colleague in the network Steve Carver founded the Wildland Research Institute at Leeds University.[24]

Energy and climate change[edit]

In the lead up to his work on climate change, Taylor had been engaged at government level to develop strategies for the integration of renewable energy into countryside policy on community and biodiversity. Between 2000 and 2003, he was appointed to the UK National Advisory Group of the Community Renewables Initiative – a joint Countryside Agency and Department of Trade and Industry task-force on community scale renewable energy. To aid this work he set up the design consultancy Ethos, which combined science expertise from Terramarès with graphic design and the use of computer virtual reality for visualising change and integrating development in the countryside.[25]

His controversial reassessment of global warming theory in 2009 outlined his concern that the remedies for climate change might prove more damaging to the environment than the ailment itself. Taylor argued that his work with the CRI had given him a deeper insight into the impacts associated with powering a modern economy from renewable sources. Despite an endorsement by the drafting author of the Kyoto Protocol – Professor Jackson Davis, with whom he worked at the UN and who had played a role in setting up the Framework Climate Convention, the book received little publicity at first – but in the lead up to the Copenhagen summit, his views were widely publicized.[7] However, Taylor is critical of how the environmental movement and left-liberal press have ignored the book - it was not reviewed in The Guardian, The Independent, The Observer, nor in New Scientist, all of which had previously covered his work. He has become a target of ad hominem attacks focussed either on whether he is adequately qualified to review climate science or on his embrace of mystical philosophy and shamanism.[24] His detractors have focussed upon his statements in Shiva's Rainbow of how science in public policy is mostly theatre and how he was more of an actor than a scientist. Taylor admits freely that most of his work was as a lawyer - 'the ultimate actor', but argues that his record as a skilled and experienced policy analyst has been glossed over by those who are averse to his message on climate change.[6]

Yoga and healing work[edit]

In his autobiography, Taylor gives an account of studying with the yogic master Babaji, training with the founder of rebirthing Leonard Orr, and practising as a breathing therapist and teacher of meditation – in which he now has an international reputation,[26] whilst at the same time being heavily involved in environmental activism. In recent years he has also trained with western shamanic practitioners and brings this perspective into his ecological conservation work [27] and is often invited to speak at 'alternative' conventions where he has outlined his understanding of the connections between science and consciousness.[28] Taylor featured in Karen Sawyer's The Dangerous Man as someone who challenges the fixed paradigms of science and social control.[29]

He warns in his recent presentations and in his autobiography, that humanity faces a crisis of consciousness and that much of the enthusiasm and caring for the Earth especially among young people, is being channelled into collusion with undemocratic corporate power structures in the banking world.[30] In this vein, he argues in Chill that mitigation of climate change is a delusion and that resources need to be channelled into adaptation and the creation of resilient human communities and a robust biodiversity.


  • The Nuclear Controversy: a guide to the Windcsale Inquiry, Martin Stott and Peter Taylor, TCPA, London, 1980.
  • Beyond Conservation: a wildland strategy, Peter Taylor, Earthscan, London, 2005. ISBN 1-84407-197-9
  • Shiva's Rainbow: an autobiography, Peter Taylor, Ethos, Oxford. ISBN 978-0-954706401
  • Chill: a reassessment of global warming theory, Peter Taylor, Clairview, Forest Row, 2009. ISBN 978-1-905570-19-5
  • Questions of Resilience: development aid in a changing climate, Ethos, Oxford, 2010. ISBN 978-0-9547064-1-8
  • Rewilding: ECOS writings on wildland and conservation values, Ethos, Oxford, 2011. ISBN 978-0-954706425
  • (1993) The Precautionary Principle (with Jackson and Dethlefsen) in Clean Production Strategies. ed. Jackson, Stockholm Environment Institute.
  • (1992) Non-governmental organisations and the legal protection of the oceans (with Kevin Stairs) in International Politics and the Environment ed. Hurrell & Kingsbury, Clarendon, Oxford.
  • (1980) The assessment and assumptions of risk in The Fast Breeder Reactor, ed. Sweet, Macmillan, London.
Research reports & Scientific papers
  • The State of the Marine Environment 'A critique of the work and the role of the Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution (GESAMP). Marine Pollution Bulletin 26, 3: 120-127

A complete list of eighteen PERG, Terramarès and Ethos reports and nine peer-reviewed scientific papers can be found at by consulting Peter Taylor's detailed CV.


  1. ^ a b Profile in the Guardian newspaper, 5 March 1983, page 9.
  2. ^ a b Oxford Times, Portrait of Peter Taylor by Maggie Hartford, 20 June 1986.
  3. ^ Observer, 20 February 1983 Windscale Dumping; Guardian 6 October 1983 Nuclear Waste discharges into sea to be reduced; featured in 'El Pais' Spanish daily, Resurge la polemica sobre los vertidos radioactivos 12 July 1985; Greenpeace seeking government support The Irish Times, 14 June 1983
  4. ^ Review of Beyond Conservation by Chris Baines in Resurgence no237, page 65, July 2006; and by Peter Marren in the Independent, 27 August 2005, p36-37.
  5. ^ Review of Chill: a reassessment of global warming theory in The Holocene and Nexus, August 2009 p69
  6. ^ a b See for example the lengthy debate between Professor Alistair MacIntosh on the website of the British Association of Nature Conservationists (BANC).
  7. ^ a b Daily Express, 31 August 2010; Mail Online, Science & Tech, 11 December 2009;
  8. ^ a b Report of the expedition to the Cherangani Hills, Kenya, 1969. Bull.Oxford University Exploration Club, no18, 55-86.
  9. ^ Nuclear Power in Central Europe, The Ecologist Vol 7 No 6 pp216-222. (1977)
  10. ^ a b Taylor's nuclear work is described in the Nuclear Controversy (ibid) and was referenced regularly in New Scientist: 14 July 1977 p73;28 July 1977, p215; 27 October 1977, p207; 10 November 1977 p337; 20 August 1981, p449; 27 August 1981; 31 March 1983, p874; The Ecologist 13,6, 1983 p201; New Internationalist 119 (January 1983) and in the Guardian, 13 April 1985 and front page of the Irish Sunday World 'Nuke blast would hit us', 13 May 1984.
  11. ^ reported in The Guardian, 20 June 1985 'nuclear specialist quits over dumping report'.
  12. ^ see Sweet, 1980 (ibid)
  13. ^ a b c outlined in 'The Interpretation of Monitoring Results' in Radiation & Health, ed.Southwood & Russell-Jones, Wiley. pp19-45. 1987; with Tim Jackson in The Precautionary Principle and the Prevention of Marine Pollution Chemistry & Ecology, 7: (1-4), pp123-134; and in The State of the Marine Environment 'A critique of the work and the role of the Joint Group of Experts on Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution (GESAMP). Marine Pollution Bulletin 26, 3: 120-127. See also: Radionuclides in Cumbria: the international context. in Pollution In Cumbria. Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Merlewood. HMSO.
  14. ^ a b Environmental Issues in Nuclear Risk Assessment. Nuclear Technology International, 1988, pp219-223; 1988, Large Consequence Low Probability Accidents Standing Conference on Health & Safety in the Nuclear Age, CEC, Radiation Protection, Report EUR 11608 EN; 1988 Land-use implications of radioactive contamination. Land Use Policy, Vol.5 No1 pp62-70.
  15. ^ Briton seized on nuclear test site after peace invasion' Daily Mail, 23 April 1983; 'Sky high peace protest' front page of the Standard, 11 June 1984; 'Greenpeace pair make Big Ben protest' front page of The Guardian, 12 June 1984.
  16. ^ 'Tide turns against Greenpeace protest' The Guardian, 29 March 1983.
  17. ^ Terramares reports are listed in Taylor's CV.
  18. ^ See Environmental Studies Institute and the work of W. Jackson Davis.
  19. ^ see: The Precautionary Principle (with Jackson and Dethlefsen) in Clean Production Strategies. ed. Jackson, Stockholm Environment Institute. 1993. and Non-governmental organisations and the legal protection of the oceans (with Kevin Stairs) in International Politics and the Environment ed. Hurrell & Kingsbury, Clarendon, Oxford.(1992).
  20. ^ Taylor has contributed over 20 articles to ECOS on wildland and conservation issues – and edited the special volume on rewilding in 2004, see the editorial Toward a Wildland Strategy (ECOS 25 vol 3/4).
  21. ^ The Wildland Network
  22. ^ 'A new tack' Review of Beyond Conservation by Chris Baines, Resurgence no 237 August 2006, page 65.
  23. ^ 'The wolf at your door' Peter Marren, The Independent, 22 August 2005 p36-37.
  24. ^ a b A history of the work of the Wildland Network, entitled 'Rewilding' will be published in 2011 jointly by BANC and Ethos ).
  25. ^ See Ethos and Renewable Energy in the Landscape of 2050
  26. ^ Taylor spoke recently on science and its cultural impacts at the 17th International Conference of Parapsychology and Bioenergetics, Rimini, Italy
  27. ^ See the chapter 'The Healing Forest' in Taylor's Beyond Conservation that attempts to build a bridge between scientific and shamanic perspectives in ecology.
  28. ^ See Alternative Research Convention and Alternative View.
  29. ^ The Dangerous Man, Karen Sawyer, O Books, Winchester, UK. ISBN 978-1-84694-345-4. And videos at the Alternative Research Convention
  30. ^ 'Climate Change in an Age of Deception' Alternative View and on Amazon.

External links[edit]