Of the 15 people President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday, former President George H.W. Bush got the most attention in the press. But one lifelong environmentalist was also given the nation’s highest civilian honor: John Adams, founding director of environmental nonprofit National Resources Defense Council.

“Receiving the Medal of Freedom today is not only an honor for me, it is presidential recognition of the vital importance of all American citizens’ environmental rights,” said Adams in a statement. The NRDC was founded back in 1970 — the same year the U.S. EPA was founded — by a group of lawyers who wanted to use legal means to protect the environment.

And Adams’ award from the president comes at an interesting time. Obama’s budget proposal, released earlier this week, urges a shift away from fossil fuels towards clean energy — but also cuts U.S. EPA funding by 12.6 percent.

Want to know how serious an environmentalist you need to be to win a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Read “A Force For Nature,” Adams’ memoir of his work with the NRDC since its founding, to get a sense of his personal commitment to environmental causes — and an entertaining history of the modern environmental movement.