The Great Work Award
in honor of Thomas Berry
Great Work Award Home     /     Awardees

The Great Work

"Our present need is to know just how to move out of this alienation of the human into a more viable mode of presence to the natural world.

Here I propose that the religions are too pious, the corporations too plundering, the government too subservient to provide any adequate remedy. The universities, however, should have the insight and the freedom to provide the guidance needed by the human community.  The universities should also have the critical capacity to influence over the other professions and other activities of society. In a special manner the universities have the contact with the younger generation needed to reorient the human community toward a greater awareness that the human exists, survives, and becomes whole only within the single great community of the planet Earth."

Thomas Berry
The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future

2013 Awardee
Gustave "Gus" Speth
Professor of Law
Vermont Law School
The Environmental Consortium is honored to present The Great Work Award in honor of Thomas Berry to James Gustave Speth for advancing Fr. Thomas Berry's ideal that "The human exists, survives and becomes whole only within the single great community of the planet Earth."

Gus Speth accepted The Great Work Award at the tenth annual Environmental Consortium conference at Pace University, Pleasantville, NY on November 9, 2014.

Gus Speth is one of America’s most influential environmental activists.  He has helped shaped the environmental movement for 40 years through his active advisory role in national and international organizations. As a professor and dean, Gus educated, guided, and helped build a new generation of leaders and people with a deeper understanding of our most pressing issues.

Gus is an entrepreneurial change agent.  His environmental career began in his third year of law school, when he was inspired to create a legal defense fund for the environment.  Upon graduating and with a grant from the Ford Foundation, Gus and a group he pulled together started what was to become the Natural Resources Defense Council.  NRDC is now one of the nation’s largest environmental groups, with a membership of more than 500,000.

Since his days at NRDC, Gus has gone on to provide leadership as Chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) under President Jimmy Carter.  And, he would again serve the presidency, this time an appointment as senior adviser to the Clinton transition team, heading the group that examined the U.S. role in natural resources, energy and the environment.
With a $15 million dollar grant from the MacArthur Foundation, Gus established the World Resources Institute in 1982, with a mission to put long-term issues of sustainability and human well-being on the global agenda. He served as WRI’s president for a decade.

Gus’ global reach became even more influential as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and as chair of the UN Development Group.

In addition to his current role at Vermont Law, Gus has been a professor of law at Georgetown University and he was Professor in the Practice of Environmental Policy at Yale where he also served as Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies from 1999 to 2009.

Throughout his career, Gus has provided leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives to many task forces and committees whose roles have been to combat environmental degradation, including the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment; the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development; and the National Commission on the Environment.