Andrew Revkin

In 2007, Revkin, The New York Times environment correspondent, launched his DotEarth blog. He uses this platform to examine, among other issues, humans’ impact on the environment and climate, and vice versa. In the first seven months, his 247 posts prompted 18,998 comments; monthly page views now average 400,000. Revkin is particularly concerned for the poor, who will be hardest hit by climate change and the expanding global population.

Vinod Khosla

When Vinod Khosla so much as glances at an emerging tech company, venture capitalists follow. Lately, he’s turned his attention to green-tech, focusing on cellulosic fuels, distributed and utility-scale solar, and bioplastics. The 52-year-old, whose net worth is $1.5 billion, made his money cofounding computer and network giant Sun Mi­crosystems and later betting on tech start-ups like Excite and Corvis.

Kevin Wall

Wall’s an old hand at producing major concerts, but last year’s Live Earth was his biggest effort yet. Eight concerts across the globe featured more than 150 top musical acts, including Madonna and Metallica, playing for 24 hours to some 2 billion people—all to raise awareness about global warming. For this year’s Live Earth, Wall has planned regional events around the world to tackle specific cultural and political challenges related to climate change. 

Kathleen Sebelius

In May, Kansas Governor Sebelius vetoed a bill for the third time to allow two new 700-megawatt coal-fired power plants to be built, citing their CO2 emissions as detrimental in the face of climate change. While Kansas gets 76 percent of its electricity from coal, Sebelius espouses conversion to wind power and has signed on to the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, which commits Midwestern governors to establish a regional cap-and-trade system to lower carbon emissions. 

William McDonough & Michael Braungart

Before a widespread concept of sustainability existed, McDonough and Braungart were working on a model for responsible living and intelligent design. The architect-chemist duo behind the Cradle to Cradle certification values eco-effectiveness (“good,” regenerative, closed-loop processes) over eco-efficiency (“less bad” cost-cutting measures). And if last year’s client roster is any indication—the US Postal Service and Seventh Generation were among those who sought their help—the Next Industrial Revolution they advocate might finally be underway.  

Fred Krupp

The president of the renowned nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Krupp greatly influenced the public and legal realms this past year. His New York Times bestseller, Earth: The Sequel: The Race to Reinvent Energy and Stop Global Warming is a useful guide for tomorrow’s tycoons and is an optimistic take on how private-sector innovation can save our planet. EDF also spearheaded a legal and media campaign that stopped energy titan TXU Corporation from building eight coal-fired plants in Texas. 

Joe Lovett

Lovett is a character straight out of a John Grisham novel: Ten years ago, he launched a successful legal career fighting environmental destruction in Big Coal country. Since cofounding the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment in 2001, Lovett has led efforts to nationalize mountaintop-removal mining (for easier monitoring) and has advanced precedent-setting litigation, taking the government and coal industry to task. This year, Lovett helped force a West Virginia mining company to stop exceeding discharge limits for a byproduct of mountaintop removal called selenium, a pollutant that causes fish deformities. The court order could have broad implications for the entire mining industry.

James Hansen

As head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, Hansen ranks as king of the climate scientists. For more than 20 years, he’s emphasized the disastrous consequences of continuing to spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Finally, officials and the general public are starting to listen. This year, Hansen and colleagues reported that the safe limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 parts per million—a level the world passed 20 years ago. 

Frederick Kirschenmann

Kirschenmann is a driving force in sustainable, mindful agriculture. A farmer, philosopher, and third-party organic certifier, he helped set the standards for the US Certified Organic label launched in 2002. His latest undertaking is a label identifying family-farm products grown with environmental and fair labor standards, with full transparency at every step—from farmers to retailers, chefs, and consumers. The slogan: Food you can trust, from people who trust each other. 
Story by Anuj Desai, Dan Fost, Liz Galst, Tobin Hack, Jessica A. Knoblauch, Alisa Opar, Sarah Parsons, Mindy Pennybacker, Victoria Schlesinger, and Jessica Tzerman. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in September 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Part 1: Plenty 20: Green people

Part 2: Plenty 20: Green people, cont'd.

Part 3: Plenty 20: Green businesses

Part 4: Plenty 20: Green ideas