John Vidal: environmental journalist 5 January 1949- 19 October 2023
Leigh Day international partners Oliver Holland, Martyn Day and Carol Day pay tribute to John Vidal, environmental journalist who has died aged 74.
Posted on 25 October 2023
It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of the renowned and esteemed environmental journalist, and friend of the firm, John Vidal on Thursday 19 October 2023.
John’s career as a hugely dedicated environmental journalist was long and illustrious during which he worked for several esteemed publications, most notably The Guardian, where he served as environmental editor and contributed to the paper’s reputation as a leading voice in domestic and global environmental reporting. His investigative pieces, commentary, and features resonated with readers, shedding light on the pressing environmental challenges facing our planet.
John’s work took him to the far corners of the globe, from the rainforests of the Amazon to the icy expanses of the Arctic, where he reported on the profound impact of climate change and the fragile state of the world’s ecosystems. His commitment to truth and justice was clear in the compelling stories he told and the conversations he stimulated. John’s unwavering dedication and enthusiasm for the environment influenced policy makers, activists and individuals around the world to take action.
John’s championing of the causes of conservation, sustainability and social justice was very much aligned with Leigh Day’s ethos and he became a great friend of the firm. John regularly reported on the firm’s cases and did so with such vigour and investigatory prowess that he really brought alive our clients’ stories and contributed greatly to shedding light on the injustices sustained at the heart of those actions. From copper mining pollution in Zambia to Shell’s oil spills in the Niger Delta, John worked tirelessly to report the stories of those in the global south being exploited by powerful multinational companies.
We well remember John touring around with us in Chingola, Zambia in 2018 to see for himself the pollution around the mine at the heart of the claim we were bringing. Fearless, John wandered around the areas, totally ignoring the Notices saying ‘Keep Out’, chatting to clients and workers wherever he went. His engaging and disarming manner ensured no one challenged him.
John’s legacy will live on through the countless articles and reports that continue to inspire and inform readers about the challenges and opportunities our planet faces. Indeed, his last significant contribution to this world, Fevered Planet, his first book for many years, focuses on the correlation between the health of the planet, people and animals arguing that there is a link between humankind’s damage to the planet and the world’s diseases. An important and timely final contribution to this world.
As well as being a fearless journalist, John was also an incredibly kind, warm-hearted and caring person with an infectious enthusiasm for life. It was always an absolute joy and privilege to spend time in his company. The world is a lesser place without John in it, but his contribution to the planet during his time was greater than most could achieve in many lifetimes. He will be sorely missed.
Oliver specialises in international cases involving multinational corporations where environmental harm or human rights abuses have been alleged