Richard Douthwaite 1942-2011
Richard Douthwaite (1942-2011), co-founder of Feasta and much-loved colleague and friend, died on November 14th 2011 after a long illness. We will miss his unique and far-ranging intellect, the clarity of his thought and writing, his warmth and his laughter. Tributes to him are coming in from around the world and you can read them below.
In line with his wishes, we are continuing with our scheduled events and publishing of articles. Tonight’s lecture by Steve Keen will be going ahead as planned.
Below you can read tributes to Richard. Please scroll down to the end to see them all, as some are posted as comments.
If you would like to add a short message about Richard, please add it to the comments section at the end of this page. Please email longer messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[This] is such sad news about a friend who was one of the most courageous and innovative thinkers I knew. Richard and I went on a trip to Montreal in the early nineties to fight the battle for emissions reductions against the establishment, and from that time onwards he remembered me and always gave me his time on many subjects, like what to do in India to manage the expected rise in energy prices due to peak oil, and the need to switch from debt-based currency to normal money to facilitate more local trade and more local economic autonomy.
Some years ago I wrote the India report on the likely impact of cap and share based on his overall strategic insights and his report for Ireland, and more recently he explained that the reason for high debt in Europe was the loss of export markets in oil producing countries, and we discussed whether exports in Annex 1 countries would ever really come back. He thought they could if those countries exported renewable energy systems, and I thought there was no time for such reforms and agriculture and forests were likely to have to be the dominant economic sector from now on. When he and his wife Mary and their son and his family came to visit India and stopped by for some days, we had many interesting dinner time conversations, but after the meals Richard always refused a drink, his son saying he would end up reciting poetry; and so instead we talked all evening long about the emission based currency unit and energy prices. I will miss talking to him a lot, and sending him my ideas for him to tell me whether they basically hung together. He usually said they did but of course why would they not seeing as I put it all together after listening to him carefully.
He will live on in his children and grandchildren, in his wife Mary’s memory, in the memories of his many friends, and his ideas will live on in FEASTA, the Irish think tank on sustainability, which he co-founded, and in his books, and in the work of the many people he influenced.
What a news, I saw him the other day on google chat! Very sad to hear this, though I haven’t meet him in person. My thoughts are with his family.
Ms. Dongying Wang (王冬莹）
Energy & Climate Change Program Coordinator
Global Environmental Institute
He was a very good man in every sense and we are all the poorer without him.
In the last few months and weeks of his life Richard kept working. One of these projects was the jointly authored book for which he has written a chapter and which I am editing. A few days ago he was keen that the very last thing that he had struggled to write go on the Feasta blog, partly as a way of publicising the book. He died the same day that I sent the book off to a publisher.
Richard’s chapter is titled:
“Time for some optimism about the climate crisis”
Speaking for myself I am not terribly optimistic but there is no doubt that his optimism carried things and people along, including me.
You cannot hope to follow or notice all the trends in our current ecological, economic and social crises as an individual – so you do it as part of a network. Unlike many more conventional economists, Richard respected and valued the opinion of non-economists who knew their stuff and whose expertise and knowledge helped him (and through him, us) build up his picture of the world. He knew, perhaps because he was also a journalist, that he needed to build up a network for himself and partly out of that Feasta was created – but his contacts and interests were also world wide. I was immensely privileged for him to include me in that network.
I didn’t always agree with all the details of his picture of the world but I was always aware that what he thought, and the information that he pulled together, had to be taken as a key reference point, an important orientation not just for myself, but for many people. It would be a terrible thing to reduce a description of someone to them being a “resource” – but he was an economist after all and there is no denying that he was a tremendous resource for all that. That said, this was not a resource sold to the highest bidder on the knowledge market – he was generous with what he knew and his knowledge was made available for all of us – because the world is going into crisis and Richard wanted to keep working to the very last to make sure that we are well prepared for what is ahead.
So I am sure that the abiding memory of many people will be of someone working extremely hard, and who was, therefore, incredibly well informed about issues not normally within the province of economics – noticing important trends in new thinking and drawing out their significance. When I switched on my computer in the morning his was already on and there would often be a message there sent from earlier. His computer skype connection would still be on when I went to bed at night.
That must be how he had such a comprehensive grasp of the latest in climate science, including the agricultural and land issues, the trends in energy depletion and other issues outside economics as such – as well as the more economic focused issues like monetary theory, the banking and eurozone crisis, complementary currencies, strategies for local economy and so much more. To follow these issues as they evolved was genuinely his enthusiasm – which you could tell because, when he gave a lecture, there would be those moments when he expressed himself about some point – let’s say about money circulation – and there would be these little outbursts of almost boyish excitement at the intricacies of the topic at hand.
The day before he died we had a conversation on the phone – he was too weak to type, but he was thinking that maybe he could continue writing by getting a dictation recorder that could send audio files.
It sometimes seems a cliche when people say that they will miss someone who has died – but with Richard you know how true it can be.
I can’t remember when I first met Richard. Living in Ireland and being involved in sustainability meant that Richard was somehow always there, whichever event you went to, Richard was invariably there, his commitment to these things was amazing. He was always so helpful and supportive of the young, emergent initiatives I was involved with, and always had time to chat on the phone, to clarify or to very gently help me to completely rearrange some half-baked ‘eureka’ moment I had had that turned out to be nothing of the sort. He had the gift, as a writer, to be able to unpack complex issues and make them understandable, reading ‘Short Circuit’ was a revelation for me. He was also not content for the ideas he promoted to be academic exercises, but he pioneered and supported a number of experimental local currencies and other models. I always found him kind, thoughtful and incisive. We have lost one of our keenest minds, and someone who was able to illuminate complex issues at a time when we most need him. He’ll be much missed.
Rob Hopkins, Transition Network
I’m very sorry to hear this, because it is a loss to so many of us who benefited from Richard’s brilliant work. He understood better than almost anyone else what is wrong with our current economic system and how we might transition to a sustainable economy that supports all of us. We at Post Carbon Institute appreciated so much his contribution to our POST CARBON READER, and his sage counsel on economic issues.