Eco Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers, and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet

Edward Humes, Author . Ecco $24.99 (367p) ISBN 978-0-06-135029-0

Pulitzer Prize–winner Humes (Mississippi Mud ) profiles a band of idealistic environmentalists devoting their lives and fortunes to protecting nature, including such tycoons as Doug Thompson, the founder of fashion house Esprit, who now spends his millions buying up thousands of acres of land to create nature preserves, and Roxanne Quimby, creator of the cosmetics giant Burt's Bees, who is purchasing huge tracts of forests in Maine woods to “trump the real estate investor's visions of resorts, golf courses and suburban homes on clear-cut lands.” But other “barons” are more David than Goliath. The Center for Biological Diversity, a cash-strapped nonprofit founded by an “owl expert, scientist and mystic” and a “former engineering student turned philosopher,” is responsible for the recent campaign to fight climate change by protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act. Engineering professor Andy Frank has spent 20 years “battling a recalcitrant [auto] industry and confused policy makers” to produce an affordable, plug-in hybrid car. Readers concerned with conservation will appreciate this optimistic if starry-eyed introduction to these little-known giants of the environmental movement. (Mar.)