Paul Harrison
Nature and environment writer and photographer

Brief Biography                                                                               


   Individual Images
   Layouts with text


          For most of my life, I have been a writer on environment and Third-World development and travelled to many Third-World countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. My best known books are Inside the Third World (1979) and The Third Revolution (1993) (on population and environment). Inside the Third World was an international best seller and sold over 200,000 copies in 13 reprints. My books have been translated into nine languages -  including pirate editions in Chinese, Turkish and Persian about which I knew nothing till decades later.)
          I also wrote The Greening of Africa (1987) about sustainable development for Africa, and Inside the Inner City (1983) about inner city poverty in East London.
          In 1984 I was awarded an honorary fellowship in the Institute of Community Studies (now the Young Foundation). In 1988 I received a UN Environment Programme Global 500 award for my writings on environment and in 1992 a Population Institute Global Media Award for population reporting.
          Since 1980 I have been the editor of top-level reports of UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Population Fund and the UN Environment Programme. I was editor-in-chief for the Independent Commission on Population and Quality of Life's report Caring for the Future (1996). In 2001 I was the lead author of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Atlas of Population and Environment. From 2004 to 2008 I edited the United Nations Environment Programme's flagship annual report on the global environment Geo Yearbook (now titled UNEP Yearbook).
          I was born in Oldham, Lancashire, United Kingdom, and schooled at Manchester Grammar School. After a gap year working first with delinquent youths in northern Germany, then with handicapped children in southern Germany, I studied European languages and literature at Cambridge University. Then came a year at the University of Pisa, Italy, on a Council of Europe scholarship, reading mostly philosophy and politics, and a Masters in political sociology at the London School of Economics. In between academic years I worked as a dough maker in a cake factory, a doorman in a Swiss hotel, and a tour guide on a Grand Tour of Western Europe.
          My first job was lecturing in French language and literature at the University of Ife in Nigeria, during the civil war with Biafra. Somewhat later in life, I got my Ph. D. from Cambridge in Earth Sciences and Geography.
          I trained as a journalist on the Western Mail in Wales, and worked for three years with the social issues magazine New Society in London, writing about poverty, mental health, crime and race issues. In 1975 I went freelance, specializing in writing and photography about poverty and environment in developing countries. After a couple of years of short-term assignments I realized that I could build up a broad picture of the Third World both geographically and thematically, and started planning my trips to complete the picture.
          I lived for most of my adult life in Hampstead, London, close to Hampstead Heath. Since 2002 I have lived in the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains in California. I have two sons, Alex and Sam.

Testing out the weight of women's
firewood burdens in Yatenga province,
Burkina Faso, 1989.



Since around the age of 12  or so, I have always been writing. I started with long esays on theology - about how God must be if he was a good God. 
I focus primarily on non-fiction, because of my love affair with reality. For me, reality is so rich and deep, and the problems we face so vast and challenging, that I am fully satisfied writing about the actuality around me.
          My earliest non-fiction was journalism, first news, then features. My focus was always on poverty, injustice and marginalization: I specialized in talking to the poorest and most oppressed people, first in Britain, then in the developing world. I covered urban problems, but always preferred to be out in the villages where most poor people lived.
          Closer focus on environment began in 1980 when I first started editing and writing for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, starting with their series "Agriculture Towards 2000" and later editions. In 1986 the International Institute for Environment and Development invited me to write The Greening of Africa about solutions to Africa's environmental and agricultural problems. After that I came to specialize in population and environment linkages, I researched and wrote a couple of State of the World Population reports for the UN Population Fund, leading on to my book The Third Revolution.
        More recently I shifted to writing about nature and spirituality. I feel that, side by side with the all-important struggle to save our planet, it is also important to contribute towards the shift in human thinking about nature.



My Books
The following links lead to Amazon sellers of my books.
If they are not available at, or if you live in the UK, try
Inside the Third World (Penguin 1993)
   Overview of the major problems of poverty in developing countries
The Third World Tomorrow (Penguin 1980)
   Overview of the most promising solutions to poverty in developing countries
Inside the Inner City (Penguin 1983)
   The realities of poverty and marginalization in East London
The Greening of Africa (Paladin 1987)
    Low-cost environmentally-friendly solutions to Africa's food and energy crisis
The Third Revolution (Penguin 1992)
    Overview of major environmental problems and their links to population issues.
AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment (2001)
    Online version



I have been taking professional photographs for 32 years now, alongside my writing. It has always been another channel through which to explore reality. Photography explores reality directly and sensually, without the intervention of words which can so often obscure reality rather than illuminate. Photography is a part of my religious practice: it allows me to focus intensely on the beauty that surrounds us, enables me to see things that are too fleeting for the human eye to perceive, and when I am back home permits me to study the finer details and forms.
         I started with social documentary photos of poverty in Britain. Then I moved on to Third World countries, especially rural areas where people had a closer connection to nature. As I took shots of people in their natural environment, I began adding straight pictures of their environment.
         As the years passed I gradually became more and more sensitive to people's feelings about being photographed, and gradually felt less entitled to just charge in and shoot regardless.
         Nowadays I mostly focus on nature photography, wherever I happen to be.  I am fascinated by natural form, especially abstract, dynamic and chaotic forms such as volcanic rocks, ocean waves, tree bark, the play of light on creeks. I am also fascinated by the diversity of plants and animals. I go on a nature hike almost every morning, and love to watch and record animals' intelligent and responsive behavior from day to day.
          I never cease to be amazed how impressively animals and plants are adapted to their environment, and how amazingly beautiful and skilled they are.


Individual Images
My Nature galleries at Zenfolio
  These are hi-res photos that are most suitable for photo prints, at sizes up to 24" x 36"
  They are also available as photo gifts: T-shirts, mugs, mouse mats and so on.