Death of Art Cooley, co-founder of the Environmental Defense Fund

Art Cooley, a longtime activist who co-founded the Environmental Defense Fund more than 50 years ago, has died. Cooley, 87, helped launch the group, now one of the world’s leading environmental organizations, from its living room in Long Island, NY, in 1967.

EDF now has more than 2.5 million members and nearly 1,000 employees from New York to London via Beijing.

Cooley died Sunday in Colorado of natural causes, his son, Jonathan, said.

In the mid-1960s, while a high school teacher, Cooley was one of many local activists who organized to stop the use of the pesticide DDT, a toxin that threatened the survival of birds, including osprey , the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon. The legal battle led to the banning of DDT in the United States and the formation of EDF.

Cooley was involved with the organization’s board of directors, including as president and then secretary, for decades. He grew up on Long Island and was later a lifelong resident of La Jolla, California.

“The art had a warmth and charisma that radiated through EDF board meetings and helped bring people together around a common cause,” said longtime EDF chairman Fred Krupp. “For all of us who carry the torch of EDF… knowing Art will remain as one of the great satisfactions of our lives.”

Cooley and his associates have used science to challenge industry groups in court and helped establish the right of ordinary citizens to sue the government to protect human health and the environment, EDF said in a statement.

Cooley’s death leaves Charles Wurster as the group’s last surviving co-founder. Another co-founder, Dennis Puleston, died in 2001.

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