Air pollution, the usefulness of trees, ideas for a green belt are not concerns we associate with the 1600s. But John Evelyn, writer, diarist and gardener, was unusual. His thinking in Fumifugium (1661) about air quality, and Sylva (1664) about trees, seems astonishingly close to our own today.
Evelyn’s preoccupation with apparently contemporary environmental problems, and his suggested solutions, are a remarkable legacy and one to be celebrated in 2020.
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Gillian is a writer, speaker and broadcaster. She is the author of the most recent biography, John Evelyn; Living for Ingenuity (Yale University Press, 2006), shortlisted for the James Tait Black Biography prize. She has published several papers on Evelyn and aspects of his interests, including the Norwich waterside gardens of the Dukes of Norfolk and his work for the sick and injured seamen housed at the Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich.
Gillian is currently President of the Twentieth Century Society, which is a British charity that campaigns for the preservation of architectural heritage from 1914 onwards.
Photograph taken by Bill Knight