Journalist Wilkinson (Science Under Siege: The Politicians’ War on Nature and Truth, 1998) explores the back story of Ted Turner’s evolution from media mogul and devotee of Ayn Rand to the most successful and influential green capitalist in the world.
The author unravels Turner’s motives behind his involvement with the United Nations, his anti-nuclear stance, and his love of buffalos and prairie dogs, and he probes Turner’s troubled family history through his early years as a striving businessman and media tycoon, revealing little-known facets of Turner’s complex life. Wilkinson constructs his narrative around interviews with Turner, his family and the multitude of individuals who have dealt with Turner. But the heart of the story chronicles Turner’s evolving environmental consciousness, spurred on by his purchase of Hope Plantation in South Carolina in 1976. In 1987, he purchased his first ranch in Montana. Today, his “portfolio of land covers fifteen ranches, five plantations in the Deep South, a coastal barrier island, a trio of estancias in Argentina’s Patagonia, a scattering of residential retreats, and an office building…in Atlanta.” Turner’s famed buffalo herd now stands at around 56,000 animals, making it the largest ever maintained by one person. Under the auspices of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, a wide variety of at risk-species have gained protection on Turner’s private holdings, and he has lent support for wildlife research around the globe. “[His] lands function as fountainheads of life,” Wilkinson writes. Turner’s burgeoning social and environmental ventures are based on his belief in the “triple bottom line,” a combination of “financial balance sheets, protection of the environment, and benefits to local and larger communities.”
A well-wrought portrait of a visionary side of Ted Turner that may be unfamiliar to many readers.