"To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing." - Raymond Williams

A post-doom conversation, with Michael Dowd

by Shaun Chamberlin on August 22nd, 2019

When the bestselling theologian Reverend Michael Dowd invited me to open his ‘Post-Doom’ series of interviews on dealing with the widespread foreboding about climate chaos, societal collapse, and ecological ‘doom’, I didn’t imagine how beautifully warm and touching a conversation it would be!

We forged a real connection and it was an absolute pleasure to get to know such an authentic man.

Just click play above, or for a list of topics covered and links to jump straight to them, head through to Youtube and click “Show More” under the video.

Humanity – not just a virus with shoes

by Shaun Chamberlin on August 6th, 2019

As awareness spreads of the ecocidal consequences of our civilisation, I increasingly hear opinions to the effect that humanity is nothing but a plague, a parasite. A virus with shoes…

Disgust at what is unfolding on our planet – yes, clearly driven by human beings – is completely understandable and justified. Yet, speaking as a human being, the ‘virus with shoes hypothesis’ is a depressing viewpoint.

It can even lead to the opinion (frequently expressed by those in favour of burying our heads in the sand) that people concerned about humanity’s impacts should do the world a favour and kill themselves. Indeed, as this hypothesis continues to spread, I don’t doubt that it has contributed to actual suicides.

So it seems worth highlighting that it isn’t true.

Read more »

Deep solidarity

by Shaun Chamberlin on April 5th, 2019

Sometimes, like Kant, I’m moved to write by reading something I so profoundly disagree with. Tonight, curiously, I’m moved by a wish for a little less disagreement.

Reading Jeremy Lent’s excellent post What Will You Say To Your Grandchildren? and seeing it so passionately take issue with Jem Bendell’s “dangerously flawed” calls for Deep Adaptation, I just felt deep solidarity with both.

I left a comment on Jeremy’s piece, then thought I’d expand it a little and post it here too, because, in truth, vigorously debating the question of whether it’s all too late is not where I want to see these two outstanding gentlemen spend their potency.

The more critical question – I believe they would both agree – is what to do in these times. And, counter-intuitively and doubtless controversially, I’ve come to believe that the answer to the first question isn’t necessarily central to that. Wendell Berry’s words bear repeating:
“Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success, namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence.”

For me, standing in resistance to the system driving mass extinction is not dependent on knowing – or even believing – we might succeed.
Read more »

Why I’m Rebelling against Extinction (wait, should that really need explaining..?)

by Shaun Chamberlin on November 18th, 2018

Shaun Chamberlin - Dark Optimism - Extinction Rebellion - Blackfriars bridge

I got arrested for the first time in my life this week. And I’m proud of it.

As long-time followers of this blog know, over the past 13 years I’ve tried everything I know to get our society to change its omnicidal course. I’ve written books, co-founded organisations, taught courses, worked in my community, lobbied governments, given talks, participated in grassroots discussion and action…

I’ve failed. We’ve all failed. As a global society we are accelerating towards oblivion, and taking everyone else with us.

And last week, someone said something that stuck with me. That if everyone around you is carrying on like everything’s fine, then no matter how much one reads or understands intellectually about a situation, it’s so difficult not to go along with that. Equally, if you’re somewhere and everyone else starts screaming and running for the exit, then you probably start running for the exit, even if you have no idea what’s going on.

Read more »

Dark Optimism – The Album

by Shaun Chamberlin on February 18th, 2017

Because why not?

I have a passion for tracking down that elusive rarity – eco-songs that don’t suck! And thanks to several Dark Optimism readers, my collection’s growing, from a wide range of genres.

Back in 2011, I published the first ‘Dark Optimism album’, but sadly it was lost due to my using an external MP3 player which later disappeared.

Just hit play below for the 2017 edition, with a few more recent favourites added to the mix:


Honourable mentions also to these pieces from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Akala and RapNews, each brilliant in their own way, but not quite hitting the spot for this collection. Enjoy!

And any more songs (or other creative responses) that you’d like to share greatly welcomed in the comments below.

Fee and Dividend or TEQs? In the aftermath of Paris COP21, what *should* effective climate policy look like?

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 21st, 2015

We Saved The World

We just sent out our Fleming Policy Centre newsletter, with reflections on the Paris climate summit. Bottom line: it’s not good. In the words of the author Naomi Klein, “Our leaders have shown themselves willing to set our world on fire.”

Meanwhile, the mainstream media seem to be doing their best to put the world to sleep again. One excitable front-page headline I noticed in The Observer proclaimed:

“World leaders hail Paris climate deal as ‘major leap for mankind’: Almost 200 countries sign historic pledge to hold global temperatures to a maximum rise of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels”.

The same article concluded on p9, with a quiet mention that: “there will be no legal obligation for countries to cut emissions”.

In truth, the good news is found elsewhere, with the ever-swelling numbers of ordinary people realising that our future is being destroyed in our name. In the print edition of the paper though, one tiny voice of sanity did sneak in to a sidebox, as climate scientist James Hansen commented on the agreement: “It’s a fraud really, a fake”.

But if we are so dismissive of what global politics is producing, then it is perhaps fair to ask what we wish to see instead. Read more »

The Dangers of Carbon Pricing, and the Canny Way Forward

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 29th, 2015

CO2 roadsign

Lately we’ve seen the president of the World Bank and ‘business leaders from the very carbon-intensive industries’ pushing for carbon pricing (taxes or ‘carbon trading’ schemes). This is intended to demonstrate their deep change of heart and determination to start seriously addressing climate change, but to my eyes it is a deeply cynical, pernicious attempt to channel the passion of those deeply-committed to action on climate change into mechanisms that will only maintain the suicidal status quo.

Which is why I poured all my experience of ten years’ work on the topic into this peer-reviewed academic paper, which I believe demolishes the case for carbon taxes or carbon trading schemes as the way forward, and shows a clear, well-researched alternative (though it took almost as much effort as writing my book!).
Read more »

Interview on grief, Dark Optimism, aliveness and activism

by Shaun Chamberlin on December 21st, 2014

Kosmos Dark Optimism image

This is an excerpt from a longer video interview Rhonda Fabian conducted with Shaun Chamberlin at the opening of the New Story Summit in Findhorn, Scotland. Part of a Findhorn Foundation documentary initiative.

Transcript 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.
Read more »

August wanderings…

by Shaun Chamberlin on September 1st, 2014

A couple of nice videos from my wanderings in August. I started with a few days at the ever-wonderful Transition Heathrow, to support them through their threatened eviction. You can see how that went in the short video above.

And then a coach was arranged from Grow Heathrow up to the Reclaim The Power anti-fracking camp in Blackpool, where I gave a couple of workshops, on TEQs and the Grow Heathrow eviction resistance, as well as doing my first Legal Observer training. The video below tells the story of that camp, and I certainly learned a lot there, as well as having a great time.

It reminded me in many ways of the Climate Camps – it’s amazing what a group of committed people can build and achieve when nobody’s telling them what to do… Read more »

The secret truth behind environmentalists’ favourite argument

by Shaun Chamberlin on January 20th, 2013

The Secret Truth Behind Environmentalists' Favourite Argument

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.
Read more »