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

Interview on David Fleming, music and hippos!

by Shaun Chamberlin on August 21st, 2016

Lean Logic and Surviving the Future

Last week the wonderful Brianne Goodspeed of Chelsea Green Publishing interviewed me on my late mentor David Fleming and the astonishing gift he left to the world.

His sudden death in 2010 left behind his great unpublished work—Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It—a masterpiece more than thirty years in the making.

In it, Fleming examines the consequences of an economy that destroys the very foundations—ecological, economic, and cultural—upon which it is built. But his core focus is on what could follow its inevitable demise: his compelling, grounded vision for a cohesive society that provides a satisfying, culturally-rich context for lives well lived, in an economy not reliant on the impossible promise of eternal economic growth. A society worth living in. Worth fighting for. Worth contributing to.

And since his death, I have edited out a paperback version—Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy—to concisely present his rare insights and uniquely enjoyable writing style in a more conventional read-it-front-to-back format. Chelsea Green are simultaneously launching both on September 8th, but since I have just received my first copies, I believe some bookshops may have them already…

For more about the man, the books, and the hippo, read on!

Read more »

Land, and the army marching to claim it, in the UK and around the world

by Shaun Chamberlin on November 20th, 2012

Greenham Reach

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.

Read more »

Transition Money

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 17th, 2012

The Joy of Not Being Sold Anything

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.

Read more »

Transition Heathrow next week – see you there?

by Shaun Chamberlin on May 2nd, 2012

Straw bale construction

I’ll be heading down to Transition Heathrow from this Monday 7th May – Sunday 13th May to help them in the building of a new community longhouse from reclaimed materials. It should be great fun, a real education, and a chance to contribute to a Transition initiative that has been a real inspiration for me (see below video for a taste).

If any of you are in the area, feel free to come down and join in. All details are given here, including a request for you to email if you are planning to come, in order to help them plan. Ideally, each person would bring a tent, tape measure and hammer! Maybe see you there?

Read more »

OccupyTransition, or ‘this Halloween I dressed as the economy’

by Shaun Chamberlin on November 5th, 2011

Just woke up - Occupy Wall St

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…

Read more »

The Intergalactic Health & Safety Inspectorate

by Shaun Chamberlin on February 11th, 2011

Marc Roberts 01-GortKlaatu

The brilliant cartoonist Marc Roberts (whose work will be familiar to regular Dark Optimism readers) got in touch with the Transition Network last year offering to produce a strip exploring the Transition concept. The time has come for the results to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public!

In Marc’s own words, “they will be loosely exploring some of the Holmgren and Chamberlin scenarios through my usual combination of toilet humour and sarcasm”.

He does himself a disservice – for me, it’s a real honour to see my work used by someone whose talents I have long admired and enjoyed.

Two cartoons will be released each week. This post will be updated with the new cartoons as they are released, and they will also go out on Rob Hopkins’ Transition Culture site and on a Transition Network blog.

The first four (+ a special message from the Inspectorate) are below. Hope you enjoy them!

Read more »

LSE Complexity Seminar – audio and slides

by Shaun Chamberlin on July 7th, 2010

Shaun Chamberlin speaking at LSE Complexity Seminar

The slides and audio are now available from the seminar David Fleming and I gave at the London School of Economics last week.

The topic was “Transition Towns and Tradable Energy Quotas: Frameworks to support a diversity of small-scale solutions to the large-scale problems of peak oil and climate change”.

Note that the slides are mis-numbered on the LSE site, so my opening section is Audio Part 1 (which begins with introductions from those present) and Slides Part 2, and David’s is Audio Part 2 and Slides Part 1!

My section was a half-hour run-through of climate change, peak energy, finance and the Transition response, much of which will be familiar to regular readers, but delivered to an interesting (and interested) new audience.

Stoneleigh’s peak oil/finance talk at the Transition Conference

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 15th, 2010

Goodbye cruel world

This post was originally written by me as a guest post for Rob Hopkins’ Transition Culture blog, but I have kindly given myself permission to reproduce it here 😉

So here I am. I fully intended to be giving the England match my full attention right now, but I’ve been left distinctly restive by this afternoon’s long session by Stoneleigh of The Automatic Earth, and feel the need to put some thoughts down.

Including the extensive Q&A session her talk lasted virtually three hours and covered a lot of ground, starting from a good runthrough of the ‘peak energy’ situation, but quickly focusing in on finance, as she believes that this is the factor that will most dramatically shape our immediate future. Notably, the talk attracted almost half the attendees of the Transition Conference, despite the numerous other Open Space sessions taking place at the same time.

Read more »

Transcript of Radio Ecoshock interview

by Shaun Chamberlin on June 9th, 2010

a-Infos Radio Project

Christopher Fraser of London Transition has kindly transcribed the popular interview with Canada’s Radio Ecoshock that I posted a couple of months back. I’ve also added links at a few pertinent points.

Alex Smith, Radio Ecoshock: [addressing audience] You know we’re going to run out of civilisation’s lifeblood, fossil fuels. And if we burn what’s left, the climate may tip into a mass extinction event. Meanwhile barking madness seems to be the only growth industry in some places. Is it time for more pills, booze or Endtime religion?

Our next guest says there may be some hope left. Shaun Chamberlin’s blog is called Dark Optimism, and that may be as good as it gets. Shaun is part of the Transition Movement in Britain; he’s the author of the new book The Transition Timeline for a local, resilient future, and co-author of an upcoming report for the British Parliament on a scheme to give everyone an energy quota. Shaun, welcome to Radio Ecoshock.

Read more »

TTK’s Great Unleashing / Big Launch Party

by Shaun Chamberlin on April 20th, 2010


So the big day finally came and went, and glorious it was too. I’m still smiling from the wonderful energy of it all. Pause a moment to take in the brilliance of the TTK cake (TT Kake?) before clicking through to a peek at the many-splendoured event itself, including a chance to see the accomplished and inspired short movie of TTK‘s story to date that premièred on the night.

Read more »