Gilbert Fowler White

Publicado en In Oxford Bibliographies in Environmental Science

Merideth, R. and Varady, R.G.

Año de publicación 2016




Proyecto CRN3056


As the biographies and memoirs presented in this section illustrate, Gilbert White was a visionary and an influential scholar with a range of interests: (i) floods, flooding, and flood management (ii) natural and environmental hazards (in addition to floods), including reduction of or adaptation to the impacts of hazards (iii) public water supplies, sanitation, and human health, both in the United States and globally (iv) river basins, integrated water use and management, impacts of large reservoirs on the environment and on humans (v) arid lands (vi) global environmental change, including the effects of human activity on the condition and trends of the planet's environment (vii) public attitudes and behavior as related to the environment (viii) the role of scientific information decision-making (ix) the profession of geography and (x) world peace and humanitarianism, particularly as informed through his participation in the Society of Friends and the American Friends Service Committee. In all of these areas, one sees the salient characteristics about White and how he approached his work. He was constrained neither by political nor traditional disciplinary boundaries. His ideas, typically based on local situations in the United States, applied also to the broader, global context. White had strong views about the role of science in service to the public good and in the role of institutional changes-and the need for shifting paradigms to recognize problems and to make needed adjustments. He saw knowledge from an integrated, interconnected, and interdisciplinary perspective. Through his sense of ethics and morality and his notions of service to humanity, he aspired to achieve global peace and a sustainable environment to promote human well-being. While his work began by looking at the social and environmental dimensions of land and water-resources issues in the United States, his influence burgeoned as he moved onto the international stage. This was particularly manifest through his involvement as a participant and leading force behind such institutions as the Mekong River Basin Commission, the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU), and the work of its Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), and the United Nations and UNESCO. This essay pays special attention to White's influence in the international domain. As the sources in this section also show, White had a significant impact in the discipline of geography and across the environmental sciences. He accomplished this through the force of his creativity and thinking-with more than four hundred publications (some sixty-five of which we selected to present in this review, along with another dozen or so items written by others about White)-and via the training and mentoring of a cadre of academics, practitioners, and decision makers who implemented, developed, and expanded on his ideas and recommendations.