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NELC Senior Fellow

Gus Speth

Co-Founder, New Economy Law Center
New Economy Law Center

JD, Yale Law School, 1969

MLitt, Oxford University, 1966

BA, Yale College, 1964


Gus Speth


Gus Speth served on the faculty of the Vermont Law School as Professor of Law from 2010 to 2015. He now serves as a Fellow at the Tellus Institute, the Democracy Collaborative and the Vermont Law School. He is Co-Chair of the Next System Project at the Democracy Collaborative.

In 2009 he completed his decade-long tenure as Dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.  From 1993 to 1999, Gus Speth was Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the UN Development Group.  Prior to his service at the UN, he was founder and president of the World Resources Institute; professor of law at Georgetown University; chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (Carter Administration); and senior attorney and cofounder, Natural Resources Defense Council. Among his awards are the National Wildlife Federation’s Resources Defense Award, the Natural Resources Council of America’s Barbara Swain Award of Honor, a 1997 Special Recognition Award from the Society for International Development, Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Environmental Law Institute and the League of Conservation Voters, the Blue Planet Prize, the Thomas Berry Great Work Award of the Environmental Consortium of Colleges and Universities, and the Thomas Berry Award of the Forum on Religion and Ecology.  He holds honorary degrees from Clark University, the College of the Atlantic, the Vermont Law School, Middlebury College, the University of South Carolina, Green Mountain College, the University of Massachusetts/Boston, and Unity College. He is the author, co-author or editor of seven books including the American Crisis series published by Yale University Press: Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment (2004), The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability (2008), and America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy (2012). In 2014 he published a memoir, Angels by the River (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014).

He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in 1964 with a BA in Political Science, and subsequently earned an MLitt in Economics from Oxford University in 1966 as a Rhodes Scholar and his JD from the Yale Law School in 1969. After law school, he served as law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black. Speth and his wife Cameron split their time between central Vermont and coastal South Carolina.



​"American Passage: Towards a New Economy and a New Politics," Ecological Economics, Vol. 84, December 2012, p. 181.​​
​"Manifesto for a Post-Growth Economy," Yes! Magazine, September 19, 2012.
​"Pursuing Happiness the American Way," Valley News, July 3, 2011, p. F3.
​"Beyond Economic Recovery," (print) 34573, February 11, 2009.​​
​"Silver Linings: Seven Post-Financial Crisis Opportunities for Healthier Economics,", November 2008.
​"Progressive Fusion," The Nation, October 6, 2008, p. 27.
​"Changing the Object of Capitalism", Barron's, June, 2008.
​"The Problem with Capitalism," Yale Alumni Magazine, March/April, 2008, p. 28.
​"The Globe Is Warming - Why Aren't We Marching," New York Times, February 24, 2006.
"A Credo To Serve Us Well for the Future," Financial Times, July 25, 2005.
"Business Must Back Sustainability," Financial Times, October 1, 2004.
​"Carbon Dioxide Won the Elections," International Herald Tribune, January 16, 2003.
​"Perspectives on the Johannesburg Summit," Environment, Vol. 45, No. 1, January/February 2003, p. 24.
​"Dismissing Storm Clouds Not Too Sharp," New Haven Register, September 25, 2002.
​"A New Green Regime: Attacking the Root Causes of Global Environmental Deterioration," Environment, Vol. 44, No. 7, September 2002, p. 16.
"The Global Environment: A Program to Avoid Appalling Deterioration," International Herald Tribune, July 30, 2002.
​"Development Neglected by U.S. Government," Yale Daily News, October 24, 2001.
"Making the World Safer Without Bombs," Yale Daily News, September 18, 2001.
"Bush Sr. Obligated the U.S. To Act on Global Warming," International Herald Tribune, May 9, 2001.
"The Neglect of Growing Poverty Poses a Global Threat," International Herald Tribune, July 17 - 18, 1999.
"Debt Relief, Yes, but Development Aid as Well," International Herald Tribune, May 7, 1999.
​"Development Countries, Too, Are Fighting Global Warming," International Herald Tribune, November 13, 1998.
​"Common Interest, Common Sense," Los Angeles Times, November 10, 1998​.
​"Reform, Restructuring, Re-engineering," The Earth Times, September 16 - 30, 1998.
​"Economic Growth Is an Essential Part of Sustainable Human Development," The Earth Times, February 16 - 28, 1998.
"Keep the Focus on Promoting the People of Asia," International Herald Tribune, January 29, 1998.
​"Listening to the Poor," The Washington Times, November 25, 1997.
​"Good for Ted Turner, and May He Be Imitated," International Herald Tribune, October 9, 1997.
​Keeping Promises Made at Rio...," The Earth Times, October 1 - 15, 1997.
"The Foreign Aid Mirage," The Christian Science Monitor, April 2, 1997.
​"Europe Provides a Guide to Shrinking World's Rich-Poor Gap," International Herald Tribune, February 3, 1997​.
​"Two Worlds in Counterflow, or 358 = 2.3 Billion and Counting," International Herald Tribune, August 23, 1996.
"In Africa, Unattended Poverty Leads to Conflict," International Herald Tribune, March 21, 1996.
​"Foreign Aid for the Price of Cat Food," Washington Post, August 6, 1995.
​"Wake Up, OECD: Concerted Development Assistance Isn't Optional," International Herald Tribune, May 19, 1995.
​"We Need a New, More Comprehensive Framework for Development Cooperation," The Earth Times, April 15 - 29, 1995.
​"A New Age of Equity?," Politiken, March 12, 1995.
​"Double or Nothing: Linking U.S. Economic and Environmental Objectives," World Resource Institute: Issues and Ideas, November 1992.
"Pollution vs. Payrolls: Going for the Gold, A National Strategy for Helping America Clean Up by Cleaning Up," Washington Post, October 4, 1992.
​"We Must Pay Full Price for Energy," Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1990.
​"Six Steps Toward Environmental Security," The Christian Science Monitor, January 22, 1990.
​"For North-South Cooperation To Save the Environment," International Herald Tribune, July 12, 1989.
​"The Greening of the Summit: First-World Money and Third-World Ecology Can Prosper Together," Washington Post, July 9, 1989.
"Dedicate the 90's to the Environment: International Commitment Could Be Our Gift to New Century," Los Angeles Times, February 1989.
​"The Greening of Technology," Washington Post, November 20, 1988.
​"Now, for a Worldwide Phase-Out of CFCs," Los Angeles Times, March 29, 1988.
​"Sweltering in the Greenhouse," Los Angeles Times, August 1, 1986.
​"The Looming Test for Mankind," The Living Wilderness, September 1980.
"Our Environmental Future: Four Choices for the 1980's," National Journal, January 26, 1980.
​"A Civil Servant of the Environment," The Center Magazine, May/June, 1978.
​"Waiting for a Philosopher King: Making Cancer Policy Until Certainty Arrives" Sierra, February/March, 1978.
​"The Hazards of Plutonium," Natural History, January 1975.
​"Plutonium Recycle," Environmental Action, November 23 and December 7, 1974 (with Arthur Tamplin and Thomas Cochran).


"Will Branding Help?," Earth Island Journal, Spring 2013, p. 40.
​"Letter to Liberals: Liberalism, Environmentalism, and Economic Growth," 2010 Schumacher Lecture, published at Vermont Law Review, vol. 35, No. 3, Spring 2011, p. 547; Ethics, Policy and Environment, vol. 14, No. 1 (March 2011), p. 43; and, September 12, 2011.
​"Towards a New Economy and a New Politics," The Solutions Journal, May, 2010.
"Doing Business in a Post-Growth Society," Harvard Business Review, September 2009, p. 18.
​"Toward a New Consciousness," The Leopold Outlook, Winter 2008, p.5-7.
​"Beyond Growth: Against the Tide," New Scientist, 18 October 2008, p. 48.
​"Change Everything Now," Orion, September/October, 2008, p.67.
​"Time for Civic Unreasonableness," Environment: Yale, Spring, 2008, p.2.
​"A Second Attempt at Global Environmental Governance?" The Environmental Forum, September/October, 2007, p. 29 (with Peter Haas).
​"Avoiding the Great Collision," Reflections, Yale Divinity School, Spring, 2007, p. 35.
​"Beyond Reform," Our Planet, UN Environment Programme, February, 2007, p. 16.
​"A Civic Duty of the First Order," Global Agenda 2006 (World Economic Forum, 2006), p.202.
​"The Heart of the Matter," Environment: Yale, Fall 2005, p.2.
​"Why Business Needs Government Action on Climate Change," World Watch, July/August 2005. p. 30.
"​The Single Greatest Threat: The United States and Global Climate Disruption," Harvard International Review, Summer, 2005. p. 18.
​"The Kyoto No-Show Can Still Go Green," YaleGlobal Online, February 16, 2005​.
​"International Environmental Law: Can It Deal with the Big Issues?" Vermont Law Review, Spring 2004, p.779.
"Green Republicans: Quo Vadis?" Environment: Yale, November, 2003, p. 2.
​"Recycling Environmentalism," Foreign Policy, July/August, 2002, p. 74.
"The United Nations and the Developing Countries in a Globalizing World: Reflections on Six Years in the United Nations," International Review of Environmental Strategies, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2001.
"The United States and the Developing Countries in a Globalizing World," International Review of Environmental Strategies, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2000).
​"Poverty and Environment: Moving the Agenda," Choices, UNDP, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1999.

​ "The Plight of the Poor," Foreign Affairs, Volume 78, No. 3, May/June 1999

"Poverty: A Denial of Human Rights," Journal of International Affairs, 52, No. 1, Fall 1998.
"A New Deal - Development Assistance in a Global Economy," Harvard International Review, Winter 1998/1999.
​"UNDP 2001 - Reform for Results," Development Today, July 23, 1997, Vol. VII, No. 11 - 12.
"A Leaner and More Efficient UNDP Aims To Fight Global Poverty," Journal of the Group of 77 at the United Nations Headquarters, Vol. 10, No. 3 & 4, March/April 1997.
​"The United Nations: From Crisis to Development," Global Aid, January 1997.
​"UNDP's Mandate Could be Hampered by Declining Resources," Journal of the Group of 77, Vol. 9 No. 6/7(Special Edition), September 1996.
​"Development and Security," The Challenge of Peace, UNRIST, Vol. 3, June 1996.
"The UN, the US, and Development Cooperation: Time for Reunion," United Nations Chronicle, Vol. XXXIII, No. 4, 1996.
"Climate Change & Development: A Challenge of Commitment," United Nations Climate Change Bulletin, Issue 8, 3rd Quarter 1995.
​"Development Cooperation in Peril: Building New Capacities, Preventing Crises," United Nations Chronicle, June 1995.
​"Defining the Challenge," United Nations Chronicle, March 22, 1995.
​"Upheaval in Development," World Development Aid & Joint Venture Finance, 1995/1996.
"A Post-Rio Compact," Foreign Policy, No. 88, Fall 1992.
"A New U.S. Program for International Development and the Global Environment," World Resources Institute, Issues and Ideas, March 1992.
​"The Transition to a Sustainable Society," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 89, February 1992​.
"On the Road to Rio and to Sustainability," Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 26, No. 6, 1992.

​"A New U.S. Program for International Development and the Global Environment," The American Oxonian, Vol. LXXIX, No. 1, 1992

​"EPA Must Help Lead an Environmental Revolution in Technology," Environmental Law, Vol. 21, 1991.
"An Environmental Revolution in Technology," Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 24, No. 4, 1990.
​"Coming to Terms: Toward a North-South Bargain for the Environment," Environment, Vol 32, No. 5, June 1990.
"Environmental Security for the 1990s... In Six Not-So-Easy Steps," World Resources Institute: Issues and Ideas, January 1990.
"The Global Environmental Agenda," Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 23, No. 7, July 1989.
​"EPA and the World Clean-up Puzzle," EPA Journal, July/August 1989.
​"The Greening of Technology," The Bridge, National Academy of Engineering, Summer 1989.
​"Turning Point for the Earth," GAO Journal, No. 6, Summer 1989.
"'Can the World Be Saved?'," Ecological Economics, Vol. 1, No. 4, 1989.
​"The Global Environmental Challenge," International Agriculture, Vol. 4, No 3, 1989.
​"A New Environmental Agenda," Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, Summer, 1986.
​"Questions for a Critical Decade," Columbia Journal of World Business, Vol. XIX, No. 1, Spring, 1984.
"A New Institute for World Resources," in American Oxonian Vol. LXX, No. 1, 1983.
​"Resources and Security: Perspectives from the Global 2000 Report," World Future Society Bulletin, September/October 1981.
​"What To Expect in the Year 2000," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1981.
​"The Need for Federal Involvement," Environmental Protection Agency Journal, September 1980.
​"Simplifying Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act," Sloan Management Review, Summer 1980 (with Nicholas Yost).
​"The Sisyphus Syndrome: Acid Rain and Public Responsibility," National Parks and Conservation Magazine, February, 1980.
​"Our Nation's Water: A Threatened Resource," Catalyst, Vol. VII, No. 2, 1980.
"A Small Price To Pay: Inflation and Environmental Controls," Environment, October, 1978.
​"The Nuclear Recession," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 1978.
​"The Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor: A Poor Buy," Environment, May/June 1975 (with Thomas Cochran and Arthur Tamplin).
"Plutonium Recycle: The Fateful Step," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1974 (with Thomas Cochran and Arthur Tamplin).
​"The 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act: Problems and Prospects After One Year," Natural Resources Lawyer, Spring, 1974.
​"Judicial Review of Displacee Relocation in Urban Renewal," 77 Yale Law Journal 966, 1968.
​"A Model Negative Income Tax Statute," 78 Yale Law Journal 269, 1968 (with others).


"Conversation," in Visions of a Living Earth, A Joint Book Project of Shumei and Navdanya (Koka City Japan: Shumei International Press, 2012), p. 71.
​"The Limits of Growth," in Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson eds., Moral Ground (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2010), p. 3.
"From Crisis to Sustainability," in Laurie Mazur ed., A Pivotal Moment (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2010), p. 329.

​"Environmental Pollution: High and Rising," in Peter Borrelli ed., Crossroads: Environmental Priorities for the Future (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2008), pg. 171

"The Global 2000 Report and Its Aftermath," in Larry L. Rockwood et al. eds., Foundations of Environmental Sustainability, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), pg. 47.
​"Groundswell" in Jonathan Isham and Sissel Waage, Ignition (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2007).
"Foreword" to Daniel R. Abbasi, Americans and Climate Change: Closing the Gap Between Science and Action (New Haven, CT: Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 2006).
​"Foreword" to Robert Repetto, ed., Punctuated Equilibrium and the Dynamics of U.S. Environmental Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006).
​"Creating a Sustainable Future: Are We Running Out of Time?" in Robert Olson and David Rejeski Environmentalism and the Technologies of Tomorrow (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2005).
​"Foreword" to James Rasband et al., Natural Resources Law and Policy (New York: Foundation Press, 2004).
"Global Environmental Agenda: Origins and Prospects," in D. Esty and M. Ivanova, eds., Global Environmental Governance: Options and Opportunities (Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 2002).
"Development Assistance and Poverty," in J. Dernbach, ed., Stumbling Toward Sustainability (Environmental Law Institute, 2002).
"Foreword" to Ralph Schmidt, et al., eds., Forests to Fight Poverty: Creating National Strategies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999).
"Unequal Human Impacts of Environmental Damage," in Ahmad K. Hegazy, ed., Environment 2000 and Beyond (Cairo, Egypt: Horus, 1999), pg. 85.
​"Foreword" to Susan Holcombe, Managing to Empower: Grameen Bank's Experience of Poverty Alleviation (Zed Books, 1995).
​"Transitions to a Sustainable Society," in Human Impact on the Environment: Ancient Roots, Current Challenges (Judith E. Jacobsen & John Firor eds.), 1992​.
"Meeting the North-South Challenge," Changing America: Blueprints for the New Administration, (M.Green ed.), 1992.
"Can the World Be Saved?" in Anthony B. Wolbarst ed., Environment in Peril (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Press, 1991), pg. 64.
​"Steps Toward Sustainability," The Earth in Transition, (G. Woodwell Ed.) 1990.
​"Introduction," in Deserts on the March (Paul B. Sears), Island Press, 1988.
​"Environmental Pollution: A Long-Term Perspective," Earth '88: Changing Geographic Perspectives, 1988.
"The Environmental Dimension to the Debt Crisis: The Problem and Five Proposals," in Latin America's Debt Crisis: Adjusting to the Past or Planning for the Future? (Robert A. Pastor, ed.), 1987.
​"A Gus Speth Reader," in Huge Nash, ed., Progress As If Survival Mattered (San Francisco: Friends of the Earth, 1981).
​"Environmental Regulation: The ImMOBILization of Truth," in Business and the Environment: Toward Common Ground. (Kent Gilbreath, ed.), 1980.
"Corporate Responsibility and Toxic Chemicals," in Life After: Environmental Choices We Can Live With (K. Courrier, ed.) 1980.
​"The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972," in Elaine Moss ed., Land Use Controls in the United States (New York: Natural Resources Defense Council and Dial Press, 1​977), pg. 68.
​"The Federal Role in Technology Assessment and Control," Federal Environmental Law, (E. Dolgin and T. Guilbert, ed.), 1974.


America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012; paperback, 2013). Translated: German​.
The Coming Transformation: Values To Sustain Human and Natural Communities (Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 2009) (Ed. with Stephen Kellert).
Climate Change Law: Mitigation and Adaptation (St. Paul: Thomson Reuters, 2009) (with others).
The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008; paperback, 2009). Translated: Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Korean.
Global Environmental Governance (Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2006) (with Peter Haas).
Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004). Translated: German, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Turkish. Paperback with new "Afterword" (2005).
Worlds Apart: Globalization and the Environment (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2003) (Ed).


​"Beyond the Growth Paradigm: Creating a Unified Progressive Politics," Great Transition Initiative Perspectives, Tellus Institute, March 2011.

​"The United Nations and International Development: Forging a New Post Cold War Role," Foundation Day Lecture, Tata Energy Research Institute, Feb. 3, 1994

​"Partnership for Sustainable Development: A New U.S. Agenda for International Development and Environmental Security," Report of an Environmental and Energy Study Institute Task Force (chair), 1991.
​"Compact for a New World," Report of the New World Dialogue on Environment and Development in the Western Hemisphere, 1991 (principal author).
"Environment, Economy, Security: The Emerging Agenda," Protecting Our Environment, Center for National Policy, 1985.
"Overview," A Long-Range Environmental Outlook, National Research Council, 1980.

Awards & Accomplishments

Awards, Honors or Grants

​Thomas Berry Great Work Award. Environmental Consortium of Colleges and Universities, 2013​.​
​Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, 2013. ​
​Honorary Doctor of Sustainability Science, Unity College, Unity, ME, 2013.
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Green Mountain College, Poultney, VT,​ 2012.
​Yale Law School Association Award of Merit, 2010.​
​Straus Innovator Award, 2008.​

​A "Best Book" of the Year, Washington Post Book World, 2008 (for The Bridge at the Edge of the World)

​Hutchinson Medal, The Horticultural Society of Chicago, 2008.​
​Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC,​ 2008.
​Lifetime Achievement Award, League of Conservation Voters, 2008.​
​Honorary Doctor of Science, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT,​ 2007.

​DeVane Lecturer, Yale University, 2007.

Yale Anglers' Journal Hall of Fame, 2006.​
​Connecticut Book Award, Best Nonfiction Book, 2005 (for Red Sky at Morning).​
​Honorary Doctor of Laws, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT, 2005. ​

​Global Environmental Award, International Association for Impact Assessment, 2005.

​Blue Planet Prize, 2002

​Honorary Master of Philosophy. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME, 2001.​

​Grand Cordon du Wissam Alaouite of Morocco. 1999

​Lifetime Achievement Award, Environmental Law Institute, 1999. ​
​Ordre National du Lion of Senegal, ​1998​.
​Special Leadership Award, Alliance for United Nations Sustainable Development Programs, 1998.​
​Special Recognition Award, Society for International Development,​ 1997.
Honorary Doctor of Laws, Clark University, Worcester, MA. ​1995.​
​Keystone Center Creative Environmental Leadership Award, 1994.​

​Barbara Swain Award. National Resources Council of America. 1992

​National Leadership Award, ​Keystone Center, 1991.​

​Global 500 Roll of Honour, UN Environment Programme, 1988.

​Resource Defense Award, National Wildlife Federation, 1975.
Honorary Director, World Resources Institute.​

Service Work

​First plaintiffs' antitrust lawyer to obtain release of criminal grand jury testimony in RKO Theaters v. Globe Ticket Co.​, 1971.


​Director, Climate Reality Project

​Honorary Trustee, Natural Resources Defense Council

​Director, Institute for Sustainable Communities

​Advisory board member:
  • Vermont Natural Resources Council
  • Southern Environmental Law Center
  • EcoAmerica,
  • Labor Network for Sustainability
  • Heinz Center
  • Vermont Institute for Natural Science
  • United Republic/RepresentUS
  • Democracy Collaborative Next System Project

​Director, Center for a New American Dream

​Director, New Economics Institute