Act: Inspiration

Do You Want to Know the Truth?

November 15, 2022

bookcoverWe are very happy to announce the publication of Rupert Read’s new book, Do You Want to Know the Truth? The Surprising Rewards of Climate Honesty, published by the Simplicity Institute. The e-book is available on a ‘pay what you can’ basis here (edit price as you see fit) and available in print here.

Rupert continues to be radically honest about the dire state of the world while maintaining a determined and practical focus on the opportunities for ‘transformative adaptation’. Following on from his previous books This Civilisation is Finished and Extinction Rebellion: Insights from the Inside, this latest collection of provocative and searching essays arrives just in time to shake up the current climate conference. The ‘preface’ to the new book is posted below. 


Do you want to know the truth?

So my sister was wanting to buy a pet rabbit. She goes to the man selling the rabbits, finds a bunny she really likes, moves to pet it a little, and then asks him: ‘Was this rabbit handled much when it was young?’ As anyone who knows pet rabbits will be aware, she asks this question because, if a rabbit is not handled when young, then it is harder for it to get used to humans later in life. Anyway, she waits for the man to answer, and he stares at her intently and then asks: ‘Do you want to know the truth?’. At this, she pauses for a second, slightly dumbfounded, and then replies: ‘Well, yes!’

Of course. It should go without saying that she wanted to know the truth. Because she wanted to know the answer to her question. What she wanted to know was the truth. That is, she wanted to know the actual answer to her question. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have asked it.

So far, so obvious. What we need to try to understand then is what on earth is going on in the mind of the man who asked: ‘Do you want to know the truth?’ The answer to that must be something along the lines of: that he explicated something that normally remains implicit. For he was aware that sometimes, albeit bizarrely, it seems that people would much rather hear a comforting lie than an uncomfortable, inconvenient truth. The reality was that this rabbit had not been handled when it was young. Maybe, he figured, my sister would rather be told what she wanted – hoped – to hear. Then, however, there would of course have been a big downside: she would have ended up with a rabbit who had not been handled, while labouring under the illusion that it had been. Not a happy situation to be in! (And reminiscent of the problematic contemporary habit of people prefacing certain remarks by saying, ‘To be honest…’, or, worse still, ‘If I’m honest…’, as though they’d rather tell a lie, – or even as though they do routinely lie when not marking their speech otherwise.)

We could apply this humble parable of the rabbit to ‘the climate and ecological emergency’ – only, here, the stakes are vastly higher, and the temptation to shy away from uncomfortable truths concomitantly that much greater. Of course, it means that the stakes of allowing oneself to rest in a condition of untruth are also much greater. Being under the illusion that a serene and smooth green transition is possible, or is even actually happening, might be good for one’s temporary peace of mind. But living in that lie will end up facilitating such an unhappy situation that one can barely even imagine it. For we will then be deprived of the effect of the fire alarm, the warning shot across the bows. We will lose response time we simply can’t afford to lose.

We are now starting to experience the disastrous consequences of most of us having failed thus far to ask the question of what the truth really is, however bitter it be. We are experiencing living in the age of consequences.

This book is about how it ought to go without saying that we want to know what the truth is. But more than that, it’s about why it doesn’t always go without saying: it’s about our resistances of the will, which we must overcome. And more even than that, the following pages are about how, in the kingdom of the lie, and the empire of bullshit, the willingness to allow the truth in can be revolutionary.

This book centrally concerns how letting the truth in already is being revolutionary. How since the advent of Extinction Rebellion (XR) and of Greta Thunberg the world has changed, and, moreover, the call upon us – to tell and hear and live in truth – is an endless taskmaster. As the book goes on, I explore the ‘radical’ and ‘moderate’ movements that are emerging from the wake of XR and Fridays For Future, which surpass them by applying even more strictly the game-changing injunction to tell the whole truth, including the uncomfortable bits. Especially the uncomfortable bits.

Finally, people have started to allow themselves to wake up and look up. This book – compiling and comprising accessible thinking (published and unpublished) of mine on this topic from these last few, revolutionary years – asks you a question. Do you really want to know the truth; are you really willing to let it in, to be changed by it? My hope is to demonstrate that the answer must, simply must, be: Yes.

One might hope that the mere fact of your having chosen to start reading this book already implies such a positive answer. But, as we shall see, the matter is not so simple. Fully facing up to the ecological ‘emergency’ is harder than facing the facts about acquiring a pet bunny rabbit.

But, insofar as your answer is Yes, then we can breathe a cleaner air. We can then turn to each other, and begin to carry out the ‘Great Work’ that we are called to.

Rupert Read’s new book, Do You Want to Know the Truth? The Surprising Rewards of Climate Honesty is published by the Simplicity Institute. The e-book is available on a ‘pay what you can’ basis here (edit price as you see fit) and available in print here.

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Rupert Read

Rupert Read is an Emeritus Professor at the University of East Anglia and Co-Director of the Climate Majority Project. (

Tags: climate change activism, climate change responses, truth