by Shaun Chamberlin on December 21st, 2014
This is an excerpt from a longer video interview Rhonda Fabian conducted with Shaun Chamberlin at the New Story Summit in Findhorn, Scotland as part of a Findhorn Foundation documentary initiative.
Originally published in the Kosmos Journal.
Rhonda Fabian: Shaun, please tell me what Dark Optimism means to you.
Dark Optimism is a widely misunderstood term. I get a lot of people coming up to me saying, “Are you feeling dark today, or optimistic?” That’s not quite what I mean. Dark Optimism means being unashamedly positive about the kind of world we could create, but unashamedly realistic about how far we are from doing that right now.
So it’s not that sort of bright shiny optimism, which I can find quite frustrating. It’s more like, “Well everything isn’t fine actually, you know?” It’s an ability to look at the more difficult aspects of where we are and what we’re doing, whilst also retaining a sort of deep faith in human potential. And also drawing on the deeper questions of why we’re really here. And does the state of the world in any way challenge our purpose in being here, or make that impossible? I don’t think it does.
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by Shaun Chamberlin on January 20th, 2013
When environmentalists argue amongst themselves, whether at some formal debate or late at night over a few drinks, I confidently predict that the argument will go like this.
One will say (in one form or another):
“There’s no time to wait for radical change or revolution; the crisis is overwhelmingly urgent, we simply have to act within the frameworks we have now”.
The other will argue (in one form or another):
“But there’s no point in acting without radical change or revolution; without that we are only addressing symptoms and not the real problems”.
We’ve all participated in those kinds of arguments, and we’ve all heard them a hundred times. They become a little tiresome. But I believe that they point towards a truth that remains unspoken.
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by Shaun Chamberlin on December 21st, 2012
Let me tell you a story.
It’s a story about our land – our home – and our ability to live peaceful, harmonious, respectful lives upon it and in partnership with it.
And it’s a story about the big bad political structures and corporate institutions that conspire to stop us doing so, using the unspeakable, impenetrable black magic of bureaucracy and backhanders to bind our best efforts with frustration and fatigue.
Oh, you already know that one?
Ok, then maybe you’re ready for the next chapter, about what comes after?
Fine. Sit down, make yourselves comfortable.
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by Shaun Chamberlin on November 20th, 2012
The right to access land matters, in a fundamental way. It is a place to live, a source for food, for water, for fuel, and for sustenance of almost every kind. And land management also has profound impacts on our ecosystems and environment, and thus on our well-being and our collective future. So it matters deeply that while UK supermarkets and housing estates find permission to build easy to come by, those who wish to use land to explore truly sustainable living are blocked and frustrated at every turn.
It is this sorry state of affairs that has given birth to the “Reclaim the Fields” movement and activist groups like Grow Heathrow and the Diggers 2012. Inspired by the example of Gerrard Winstanley’s 17th Century Diggers, these peaceful, practical radicals have moved onto disused UK land in order to cultivate it, build dwellings and live in common “by the sweat of our brow”.
In other words, they have asserted their right to simply exist on nature’s bounty, seeking neither permission from anyone nor dominion over anyone; a right that they believe people should still share with the other animals. A right, indeed, that was enshrined in UK law in the 1217 Charter of the Forest. More recently, however, the strange young notion of owning exclusive rights to land has pushed back hard (as this excellent article documents). Thus, as they fully expected – and as happened to their forebears – the Diggers 2012’s crops have been torn up and they themselves have been hassled, moved on and in some cases arrested.
It might seem, then, that the efforts of these determined folk are being successfully repelled by ‘the system’, were it not for two crucial considerations – that they have history on their side, and that there is an enormous army surging at their backs.
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by Shaun Chamberlin on May 17th, 2012
Last month I was one of forty or so attendees of the Transition ‘Peak Money’ day. It was a fascinating collection of people, from theorists to activists, and a potent opportunity to reflect on the challenges facing us all as the glaring errors at the heart of mainstream economics take their toll. This post is far more personal reflection than report, as Rob Hopkins has already done a great job on that front.
The key theme that seemed to run throughout the day, then, was ‘collapse’. Sadly, I was an hour late to the event, but the first sessions I witnessed were reports from Transitioners in Portugal, Ireland and Greece on the ‘front line’ impacts of the economic crunch. The talk was of collapse having already happened for many families and communities there, with statistics quoted including an 89% increase in Greek unemployment in three years, and Irish suicides having doubled since 2007.
They pulled no punches. Most of us were left grey and shaken as the harsh realities of the crisis were relayed. For me, a defining memory of the day was watching the alternative economists listening to this – people who have spent decades warning of these outcomes and trying to head them off – their heads shaking sadly with lips pursed, hands involuntarily coming to their faces in dismay as their Cassandra curse unfolds. Of course, the statistics were not new to them, but hearing these stories in person somehow always brings a heavier human impact. Watching that impact reflected in their expressions felt almost inappropriate, yet doubly powerful.
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by Shaun Chamberlin on March 3rd, 2012
Untitled piece by Maria Elvorith
(from the cover of TheFWD)
The Future We Deserve, a collaborative book project edited by Vinay Gupta, Cat Lupton and Noah Raford, is available today. It can be read in full, downloaded or bought in hard copy here.
I contributed one of the one hundred short essays that make up the book as well as the below foreword (the same length as each essay!), which explores the unique nature of the project :
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by Shaun Chamberlin on November 5th, 2011
This post was written for the Transition Network‘s Social Reporting project, and published there on Sunday 13th November.
Having been invited to be this week’s Social Reporting guest editor and introduce the theme of economics, the burgeoning ‘Occupy’ movement seemed the obvious place to start.
Over the last couple of months I have been fascinated as the occupations started with OccupyWallStreet on Sept 17th, followed by others joining in solidarity around the world, including OccupyLondon, which has been the London Stock Exchange’s new neighbour since Oct 15th.
I’ve not been well lately, so haven’t been able to be there as much as I’d like, but I have been following events closely online and visiting when I can. It has been interesting to note that most of those I have met at OccupyLondon hadn’t previously heard of Transition, and that got me thinking about the parallels and differences between the two movements…
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by Shaun Chamberlin on July 25th, 2011
I recently heard an interviewer ask someone who their heroes are, and was struck by the lack of names that came up when I asked myself the same question (although Dr. James Hansen now springs to mind…)
But now I think I have one, having discovered the brave story of Robin Bank (AKA Enric Duran). He is a Catalan activist who spent the two years to 2008 taking out loans totalling nearly half a million euros, and then donated all of the money to various social movements working to build alternatives to our unequal and suicidal economic-political system. His video message revealing what he had done and explaining his motives is posted above. I consider it one of the most inspiring stories of insight and resultant action that I have yet heard.
Edit – Dec 2011 – A new video has been posted in which Duran speaks about the ‘Catalan Integrated Cooperative’ project – this complements his ‘financial civil disobedience’ with the hard work of practically demonstrating his thoughts on viable alternatives.
And another new hero of mine is revealed below the cut.
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by Shaun Chamberlin on June 15th, 2011
Last night I went to the première screening of an excellent new film called Just Do It. It’s a record of the direct action climate movement – Climate Camp, Plane Stupid et al. – made with the full cooperation of the activists, and it’s worth checking out, especially if you’ve never been directly involved yourself.
It is a story of people responding to the threat to their future with courage, determination, humour and camaraderie. It’s also a film that I remember existing only as a flyer, asking whether we would like to see a truly independent film developed outside mainstream production models and distributed for free. Hundreds of us donated, and I was keen to see the result.
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by Shaun Chamberlin on March 30th, 2011