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Barry Commoner

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Barry Commoner
BornMay 28, 1917 (age 92)
BrooklynNew YorkUnited States
EducationColumbia University
Harvard University
Religious beliefsJudaism
ParentsRussian Immigrants

Barry Commoner (born May 281917) is an American biologist, college professor, and eco-socialist. He ran for president of the United States in the 1980 U.S. presidential election on the Citizens Party ticket.




Commoner was born in Brooklyn. He received his bachelor's degree in zoology from Columbia University (1937) and his master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University (1938, 1941)."[1] After serving as a lieutenant in the United States Navy duringWorld War II, Commoner moved to St. Louis and became a professor of plant physiology at Washington University, where he taught for 34 years. In 1966 he founded the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems to study the science of the total environment.

During the late 1950s, Commoner became a well-known protester against nuclear testing. He went on to write several books about the negative ecological effects of above-ground nuclear testing. In 1970 he received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. His 1971 book, The Closing Circle, suggested a left-wing, eco-socialist response to the limits to growth thesis, postulating that capitalist technologies were chiefly responsible for environmental degradation, as opposed to population pressures. In 1980, he founded the Citizens Party to serve as a vehicle for his ecological message, and his candidacy for President on the Citizens Party ticket won 233,052 votes (0.27% of the total) [1]. His official running mate was La Donna Harris, although she was replaced on the ballot in Ohio by Wretha Hanson.[2][3](PDF)

After his unsuccessful bid for President, Commoner returned to New York City, and moved the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems to Queens College. He stepped down from that post in 2000, and is now a senior scientist at Queens. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Commoner criticized Ronald Reagan and George Bush for regulating pollution and not preventing it.

[edit]Four Laws of Ecology

One of Commoner's lasting legacies is his four laws of ecology, as written in The Closing Circle in 1971. The four laws are:

1. Everything is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.

2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no "waste" in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.

3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system.”

4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Everything comes from something. There's no such thing as spontaneous existence.


  • Science and Survival. New York : Viking, 1966.
  • The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology. New York : Knopf, 1971.
  • The Poverty of Power: Energy and the Economic Crisis. New York : Random House, 1976.
  • The Politics of Energy. New York : Knopf, 1979.
  • Making Peace With the Planet. New York : Pantheon, 1990.

[edit]See also

Search WikiquoteWikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Barry Commoner


  • Contemporary Authors. Detroit : Gale, 2000.
  • Who's Who in America. Chicago : Marquis, 2004.

[edit]External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Citizens Party Presidential candidate
1980 (lost)
Succeeded by
Sonia Johnson