Tom Lovejoy

Thomas E. Lovejoy is a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation and Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. Lovejoy, a tropical biologist and conservation biologist, has worked in the Amazon of Brazil since 1965. He received his B.S. and Ph.D. in biology from Yale University.

From 1973 to 1987 he directed the conservation program at World Wildlife Fund-U.S., and from 1987 to 1998 he served as Assistant Secretary for Environmental and External Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and in 1994 became Counselor to the Secretary for Biodiversity and Environmental Affairs. From 1999 to 2002, he served as chief biodiversity adviser to the President of the World Bank. In 2010 and 2011, he served as Chair of the Independent Advisory Group on Sustainability for the Inter-American Development Bank. He is Senior Adviser to the President of the United Nations Foundation, chair of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, and is past president of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, past chairman of the United States Man and Biosphere Program, and past president of the Society for Conservation Biology.

Thomas Lovejoy developed the debt-for-nature swaps, in which environmental groups purchase shaky foreign debt on the secondary market at the market rate, which is considerably discounted, and then convert this debt at its face value into the local currency to purchase biologically sensitive tracts of land in the debtor nation for purposes of environmental protection. Critics of the ‘debt-for-nature’ schemes, such as National Center for Public Policy Research, which distributes a wide variety of materials consistently justifying corporate freedom and environmental deregulation, aver that plans deprive developing nations of the extractable raw resources that are currently essential to further economic development. Economic stagnation and local resentment of “Yankee imperialism” can result, they warn. In reality, no debt-for-nature swap occurs without the approval of the country in question.

Thomas Lovejoy has also supported the Forests Now Declaration, which calls for new market-based mechanisms to protect tropical forests. Lovejoy played a central role in the establishment of conservation biology, by initiating the idea and planning with B. A. Wilcox in June 1978 for The First International Conference on Research in Conservation Biology, that was held in La Jolla, in September 1978. The proceedings, introduced conservation biology to the scientific community. Lovejoy serves on many scientific and conservation boards and advisory groups, is the author of numerous articles and books. As often mis-associated, he is not the founder but served as an advisor in the early days of the public television series NATURE, which he’s no longer part of the creative team.

He has served in an official capacity in the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations.

Lovejoy predicted in 1980 (see quote below), that 10–20 percent of all species on earth would have gone extinct by the year 2020. In 2001, Lovejoy was the recipient of the University of Southern California’s Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement. Thomas Lovejoy has been granted the 2008 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Ecology and Conservation Biology category (ex aequo with William F. Laurance). In 2004, a new wasp species that acts as a parasite on butterfly larvae was discovered on the Pacific slope of the Talamanca mountain range in Costa Rica by Ronald Zúñiga, a specialist in bees, wasps and ants at the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio). INBio named the species polycyrtus lovejoyi in honor of Thomas Lovejoy for his contributions in the world of biodiversity and support for INBio.

On October 31, 2012, Dr. Thomas Lovejoy was awarded the Blue Planet Prize for being “the first scientist to academically clarify how humans are causing habitat fragmentation and pushing biological diversity towards crisis.” He has served on the Board of Directors since 2009 for the Amazon Conservation Association, whose mission is to conserve the biological diversity of the Amazon. He is also on the Board of Directors for Population Action International.