"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.

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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.
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Realists of a larger reality

by Shaun Chamberlin on January 18th, 2019

In 2014 Ursula K. Le Guin accepted the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters with a deliciously powerful speech:

Aware that her time was nearing its end, she declared that her “beautiful reward” was accepted on behalf of, and shared with…

. . . writers of the imagination who, for the last fifty years, watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now. Who can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom—poets, visionaries; the realists of a larger reality.

. . . We live in capitalism; its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.

Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art: the art of words. . . . The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.

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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.

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‘The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?’

by Shaun Chamberlin on July 28th, 2018

This post was originally written by me for the film’s own blog, but I have kindly given myself permission to reproduce it here 😉

As executive producer of The Sequel, I’m proud of what we’ve created, and can’t wait to see the impact it has in the hands of the wonderful Bullfrog Films!

Emerging from a few months of frantic editorial work, we have two exciting pieces of news:

  1. the film is finished! We are absolutely delighted with the final, hour-long creation, and much look forward to hearing what you all think.
  2. …and, happily, it’s not just us who rates it. The ever-impressive Bullfrog Films have had a sneak preview and immediately signed up as our global distributor. Fantastic news!

We are also exploring the possibility of taking on a separate distribution partner for the UK/Europe (contacts welcome!), but utterly thrilled to have such distinguished partners helping bring our work to a wider audience worldwide.

Without doubt this early success owes a huge debt to all of you, both for your input to the finished film and for the enthusiastic sharing that has led to over 4.5 million views for our tasters, like the one above. Thank you.
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“The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation?”: a film about the extraordinary task of inventing a future…

by Shaun Chamberlin on October 13th, 2017

Our film about David Fleming’s potent legacy is starting to take shape. See above for the first taster – a beautiful five minute wander through Deep Time, with a shocking ending..!

I’m so proud of these tasters, and happy to see that they’re currently going viral on Facebook, with over 1.5m 2.5m 4m views already. For more head over to the home of the film:
https://www.flemingpolicycentre.org.uk/the-sequel/

We look forward to hearing your thoughts there, especially on what else should be included when the final film comes out next summer 🙂

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.

Community, Place and Play: A Post-Market Economics

by Shaun Chamberlin on January 26th, 2017

Community, Place and Play

In a couple of weeks (Feb 6-10) I’ll be leading a week-long course at Schumacher College based on David Fleming’s legacy: Community, Place and Play: A Post-Market Economics. It will be an exploration of what ‘life well lived’ looks like in a world of ecocide and collapsing civilisational structures, and a call for those present to ramp up their involvement in the informal economy of relationships and Nature. The key resources for a thriving future.

Myself, Rob Hopkins and Mark Boyle have all been walking variants of this path for at least the past decade or so, and are much looking forward to discussing and debating the most delicious, enlivening ways forward in today’s world. And all of us are deeply inspired by the work of David Fleming, the mentor I first met, along with Rob, when they taught me at Schumacher College ten short years ago. It feels a great honour to follow in his footsteps and continue his work.

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#Brexit, #Gaiexit and the borders of our globe

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 22nd, 2016

World Borders

On the eve of the #Brexit referendum, I have found myself struck by the juxtaposition of two exceptional pieces of writing which run somewhat deeper than the ‘lowest common denominator’ debate running in the mainstream media.

It wasn’t immediately clear to me which way I would vote, but reading these nuanced pieces – which draw out sensible reasons for considering both sides of the argument – helped me to make a decision.

The first is this piece by Giles Fraser in The Guardian. I believe Fraser has declared that he will vote ‘Out’, yet unlike many ‘Brexiteers’ his piece makes a crucial argument in favour of free movement for people: Read more »