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Great Scientists

Maurice Strong

1929 - 2015

Maurice Strong, 1929 - 2015, environmentalist and policy-maker

Maurice Strong was a man of extraordinary achievement and a dedicated environmentalist, despite his early life's achievement of rags-to-riches, making his fortune from the oil industry.

  • Nationality
  • Canadian

  • Subject
  • environment, policy leader

  • Fields
  • development, sustainability, climate change

  • Distinctions
  • Four Freedom Award, 2010, for Freedom from Want.

    The IUCN International Union for Conservation of Nature recognised him as a leader in the international environmental movement.

  • Posts
  • Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

    Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, with the Stockhom Convention in 1972.

    Commissioner of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1986

    President of the Power corporation of Canada, till 1966

    Chief Executive Officer of Petro-Canada from 1976 to 1978

    Director of Ontario Hydro, one of North America's largest power utilities

    First executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme

    National president and chairman of the Extension Committee of the World Alliance of YMCAs

    Head of American Water Development Incorporated

    He was President of the Council of the University for Peace from 1998 to 2006.

    Honorary professor and honorary chairman of the Environmental Foundation, Peking University

    Chairman of the advisory board for the Institute for Research on Security and Sustainability for Northeast Asia

  • Publications
  • Only One Earth: The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet, 1971, co-authored by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos. this report summarized the findings of 152 experts from 58 countries, and was used as the basis for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, Sweden from June 5–16 1972

  • Theories
  • Strong believed that NGOs had to a fundamental part of any high-level international meeting for environmental and development policy determination. He was instrumental in promoting governmental funding for NGOs to participate.

Maurice Strong had very little formal education, being born to a poverty-stricken family during the depression. He had many business interests, and founded a number of companies, including oil extraction, water extraction, and a failed company attempting to use a molten metal technique to recycle hazardous metal waste. There has been some controversy about his business tactics.

Despite his involvement in fossil fuels, water rights and environmental damage disputes, he was an early leader in environmental movements which were instrumental in developing the UN institutions which today attempt to regulate environmental and developmental matters.

He is perhaps best known for his leadership and chairmanship of international conventions and commissions, among which the 1972 Stockholm Convention, the 1983-7 WCED (Brundtland Commission), and the 1992 RIO Earth Summit.