The Legacy of Maurice Strong, the Head of the First Earth Summit

Maurice Strong (shown), the highly influential voice and force behind the global environmental agenda, passed away on November 27, just three days before the start of one of his ideological children: the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris. That summit is of course a major milestone in the UN’s long road to building a global green regime that can be traced back to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro that Strong headed. And it can be traced back even further to the first UN environmental conference in 1972 in Stockholm that was also headed by Strong.


Born in 1929, Strong was a child of the Great Depression, which, he said, turned him into “a socialist in ideology, a capitalist in methodology.” Following World War II he clerked at the United Nations and befriended David Rockefeller, who helped his career both at the UN and in the Canadian oil industry. In 1970, following his rise to the Presidency of the Power Corporation of Canada, he returned to New York to become the Secretary General of the UN’s Conference on the Human Environment and then the first executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). In 1971 he commissioned a report on the state of the planet, Only One Earth, which prepared the way for him to head up the Stockholm Conference the following year.


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