We at CI honor the memory of Michel Batisse, a visionary force for conservation who was active up to his death at 81.
Michel is best remembered for his pioneering work founding UNESCO’s international “Man & Biosphere” Program, the original model for global multiuse protected areas throughout the world, in which he defined the philosophy that conservation must be coordinated with the human communities
it affects and be rooted in scientific research.
This is a philosophy he brought to CI in 1989 when he joined our first Board of Directors, and one that he often debated with his friend and foil, the late Chuck Hedlund. In many ways Michel and Chuck helped form CI’s vision of conservation: Chuck, formerly with Exxon and The Nature Conservancy, exemplified the common American view that partnering
with the private sector and buying wilderness was the best way to save it. Michel, the consummate European, advocated his holistic Biosphere philosophy and urged greater alliance with government. From Chuck’s thesis
and Michel’s antithesis
, CI’s synthesis
Michel’s wisdom was derived from over 40 years of service at UNESCO, spearheading environmental and natural resource programs like “Biosphere Reserves” and one that addressed the growing threat of desertification. Many believe that those groundbreaking programs, and the focus on environmental issues they generated at UNESCO, would never have happened if not for Michel. His was a mind that was always inquiring and innovating.
When he retired at age 62, Michel continued to be active, establishing a dynamic relationship with CI, UNESCO, and the conservation community. Even in the days before his death, Michel was hard at work putting the finishing touches on a forthcoming book on the history of UNESCO's water programs. For his untiring commitment to the environment and human welfare, he received many honors, including the coveted Sasakawa Prize and the Legion D’Honneur, France’s equivalent to Knighthood. Michel Batisse leaves a continuing legacy that is testament to his tireless intellect and love of life in all its forms.