"If the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and
then see if the story is true." - Rabbinical teaching

The Sequel: Life After Economic Growth

By Shaun Chamberlin

Originally published in the Fall 2018 edition of Tikkun.

The online version of the article can be found here.

As Simon Mont wrote in Tikkun’s recent issue on the New Economy, “capitalism is collapsing under the weight of itself, and it’s not pretty.”[i]

Our globalised world finds itself caught on the horns of a seemingly impossible dilemma – either cease growing, and so collapse the economy on which we all depend, or continue to grow until we overwhelm and destroy the ecosystems on which we all depend.

As my late mentor, the historian and economist David Fleming, put it,

It is certain that there are no simple answers to this—none that could be proposed without proposing at the same time a transformation in the whole of the way we think, work and order our lives.[ii]

And yet, faced with this fundamental systemic conundrum, our leaders hold tight to their simple answer – growth. Having worked supporting people with drug addiction for several years, it is hard to escape the parallels to the more tragic cases. The dire consequences of our choices are piling ever higher around us, threatening the very continuation of our lives and those around us. And the response is to double down on the current path and turn a blind eye – to sink deeper into denial. It is just too difficult, too brave, to undergo that dark night of the soul – to admit the problem, to seek a new paradigm.

So we hear it over and over – we must keep growth high, keep unemployment low. Donald Trump’s recent Twitter boast that U.S. GDP growth (4.2%) was higher than unemployment (3.9%) for the first time in over a century was both inaccurate and bizarre, but it betrays his allegiance to these numbers.

And of course, he is far from alone. All his peers are junkies too. Most people – even most economists – never question the desirability of these measures, as if mastery of them could somehow heal an economy so violently contrary to our human instincts and desires that it leaves epidemics of depression, loneliness and suicide everywhere it goes. That sparks not only economic and environmental devastation, but cultural and spiritual annihilation.

As if there were not something deeper, something larger, going on here.

Confessions of a Hypocrite: Utopia in the Age of Ecocide

By Shaun Chamberlin

Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2016 edition of the Kosmos journal.

The online version of the article can be found here.

I confess - I love Magnum ice creams!

Yet surely as a good, responsible eco-citizen, I must be aware that these relatively cheap, beautifully packaged nuggets of deliciousness are inescapably products of the industrial system that is destroying all that I hold dear?

That Magnums are produced by Unilever, not only the world's biggest ice cream manufacturer but the world's third largest multinational consumer goods company, associated with deforestation for palm oil, exploitation of workers, the promotion of unsustainable agriculture, factory farming, the use of tax havens, lobbying against GM labelling and so on...

I don't mean to imply that they're the worst offenders. It's just that I happen to particularly enjoy their product (despite being aware that there's no actual cream in it). For me, it's what Unilever's marketing team would doubtless term a 'wicked indulgence.'

So I should stop eating them, right? I should overcome my baser urges and live a lifestyle that accords with my values and beliefs?

For Hallowe'en This Year, I'm Dressing as the Economy

By Shaun Chamberlin

Originally published on openDemocracy on 26 October 2016.

The original article can be found here.

Economics shapes the bulk of our waking hours, so how do we reclaim control of our lives from such a dismal science?


As my friend David Fleming once wrote, conventional economics 'puts the grim into reality'.

Something of a radical, back in the 1970s Fleming was involved in the early days of what is now the Green Party of England and Wales. Frustrated by the mainstream's limited engagement with ecological thinking, he urged his peers to learn the language and concepts of economics in order to confound the arguments of their opponents.

By the time I met Fleming in 2006, he had practised what he preached and earned himself a PhD in Economics. But he never lost his aversion for the 'economism' that presumes that matters of public policy, employment, ecology and culture can be interpreted mainly in terms of mathematical abstractions.

Worse, he noted that even the word 'economics' has the power to make these life-defining topics seem impenetrable, none-of-our-business and, of all things, boring. Fleming's work was all about returning them to their rightful owners—those whose lives are shaped by them: all of us.

Beyond Carbon Pricing

By Shaun Chamberlin, Larch Maxey and Victoria Hurth

Originally published by Taylor & Francis in the Carbon Management peer-reviewed journal on 16th April 2015. The formal version of record can be found here.

This is the Abstract, Executive Summary and Introduction of the paper. Full text available here.


Reconciling scientific reality with realpolitik: moving beyond carbon pricing to TEQs – an integrated, economy-wide emissions cap


This article considers why price-based frameworks may be inherently unsuitable for delivering unprecedented global emissions reductions while retaining the necessary public and political support, and argues that it is time to instead draw on quantity-based mechanisms such as TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas).

TEQs is a climate policy framework combining a hard cap on emissions with the use of market mechanisms to distribute quotas beneath that cap.

The significant international research into TEQs is summarised, including a 2008 UK government feasibility study, which concluded that the scheme was “ahead of its time”. TEQs would cover all sectors within a national economy, including households, and findings suggest it could act as a catalyst for the socio-technical transitions required to maximise wellbeing under a tightening cap, while generating national common purpose towards innovative energy demand reductions.

Finally, there are reflections on the role that the carbon management community can play in further developing TEQs and reducing the rift between what climate science calls for and what politics is delivering.

Music and Movement

By Shaun Chamberlin

Originally published as the editorial of the Fall/Winter 2014 edition of the
Kosmos journal.

The online version of the editorial can be found here.

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. And if you want to transform…?


Sometimes we meet a young person who continues to hold a deep place in our minds and hearts long afterwards. I met Shaun briefly at the New Story Summit. It felt as though I had known him forever. The future of humanity and the hope of the world is with such talented and dedicated youth. I want to honor his work by sharing one of his essays.
~ Nancy Roof, editor, Kosmos journal

The Ecological Land Co-operative

By Shaun Chamberlin

Published in the January 2013 issue of Country Smallholding magazine.

A PDF of the full illustrated feature (including comment pieces from others) can be found here. The magazine's editorial also concerned itself with the topics raised.

A shorter version of the article was previously published in the Winter 2012 issue of Permaculture magazine. A PDF of that illustrated article can be found here.

And the Spring 2015 issue of STIR magazine featured an updated version, taking a different slant, which can be found here.

Ecological Land Co-operative

An imaginative and exciting scheme was launched to provide would-be smallholders with affordable land and low-impact dwellings. But then it was blocked by a local council, and has now gone to appeal. The story highlights how our planning process can frustrate so many 'good life' dreams. Shaun Chamberlin, who helped launch the scheme, explains


Nearly half of the UK's land is owned by just 40,000 people (0.06% of the population).1 For those Country Smallholding readers only too familiar with the difficulties in securing affordable access to land, this will not be a comforting statistic.

Such land ownership 'by the few' tends to favour uniform, large-scale, mechanised agriculture, yet with the UK population having swelled by 4 million over the past decade, it becomes ever more pertinent that such farms have long been known to produce far less food per acre than smaller holdings (let's not even mention the relative productivity of grouse moors or golf courses!).2

This may seem counter-intuitive - we all know that many smaller farms have been forced out of business due to being economically uncompetitive - but in fact it is not a lack of productivity that causes small farms to suffer in our modern economy. Their first problem is that although they can produce substantially more food per acre, the big farms can produce more of a given monoculture crop per acre, which suits the large-scale centralised buyers (the supermarkets, who, incidentally, reportedly receive planning permission for a new UK store every working day of the year). The greater challenge facing smallholders, however, is that their higher productivity per acre relies on higher employment. Just as the most productive parts of large farms famously tend to be the farmers' gardens, where more time and attention is lavished on each plant among a diverse crop, smallholdings rely on careful human attention, which can be a major expense. Large-scale mechanised farms, on the other hand, have echoed other industries in taking advantage of fuel prices over recent decades to replace human care with cheap fossil energy, standardisation and monoculture. Yet with finite fossil fuel supplies depleting and oil prices having tripled over the past decade, the balance is shifting.

Smallholdings and horticulture, then, offer a crucial contribution towards higher employment, a reliable, home-grown food supply for the UK (rising energy prices are also a threat to cheap imports) and a diverse and thus more ecologically healthy countryside.

Dark Optimism interview

By Charlotte Du Cann

Originally published in the June 2012 issue of Transition Free Press.

The full edition of the paper can be read here. This interview appears on pages 8-9.

Shaun Chamberlin

In the first in our series of conversations with key thinkers and activists within the Transition movement, Charlotte Du Cann talks with Shaun Chamberlin about cultural stories, collaboration and the future.


In 2000 Shaun Chamberlin, a student of philosophy, received an email from his father out of the blue. By the way that future you were expecting is not going to happen. Here's a link showing how the next decade is going to be all about resource wars and energy depletion. Just thought you ought to know, hope you are well...

It was, he said, his 'peak oil moment'. The moment he started to immerse himself in what was then an obscure subject and that led him six years later to a course at Schumacher College called Life After Oil. Here he met the environmental and alternative economics thinker, David Fleming, whom he would work alongside until Fleming's death in 2010. He also met Rob Hopkins, who soon commissioned him to write a report on the UK climate/energy crisis that became the book, The Transition Timeline.

Tradable Energy Quotas: A Policy Framework for Peak Oil and Climate Change

By Shaun Chamberlin

The Oil Drum

Originally published at The Oil Drum on Jan 24, 2011.

Reaction and comments on the article can be found here.


On the 18th January 2011, the UK's All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil (APPGOPO) launched their report into the TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas) system of energy rationing.

Speakers included two Members of Parliament - John Hemming MP, Chair of APPGOPO and Caroline Lucas MP, author of the 2006 peak oil report Fuelling a Fuel Crisis. Also speaking were Jeremy Leggett, convenor of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security and Shaun Chamberlin, co-author of the new report. Copies of the report, answers to Frequently Asked Questions, video footage of the launch event and links to the media coverage can be found at: http://www.teqs.net/

John Hemming MP, Chair of APPGOPO: "I believe TEQs provide the fairest and most productive way to deal with the oil crisis and to simultaneously guarantee reductions in fossil fuel use to meet climate change targets" (the UK Climate Change Act mandates 80% emissions cuts by 2050).

Political progress

APPGOPO's endorsement of TEQs comes at an interesting time in the rationing scheme's progress towards political acceptability. The inventor of TEQs, Dr. David Fleming (who passed away in November 2010), was a close friend of ASPO's Colin Campbell and one of the early whistleblowers on peak oil, and designed TEQs explicitly to address peak oil as well as climate change. He first published on the scheme in 1996, but its profile has grown in tandem with that of the challenges it was designed to address.

Obituary for David Fleming

By Shaun Chamberlin

Originally published in The Ecologist on the 21st December 2010.

The online version of the article can be found here.

David Fleming, by Sarah Nicholl


Dr. David Fleming, a visionary Green thinker and one of the key whistleblowers on peak oil, has died aged 70. He was a significant figure in the genesis of the UK Green Party, the New Economics Foundation and the Transition Towns movement. His legacy also includes TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas), the energy rationing scheme currently under consideration by the UK Government, his influential book Lean Logic and the real delight and inspiration he gave so freely to all who met him.

Applied Philosophy

By Shaun Chamberlin

Originally published in the March/April 2010 issue of Resurgence magazine.

The online version of the article can be found here.


Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.


For me, there was a definite moment when my environmental awakening began in earnest. I was studying philosophy at the University of York a decade ago when, out of the blue, I received an email from my father alerting me that “a long-term survey of oil and gas resources shows that demand for oil will exceed the maximum possible supply by 2010 and the oil price will sky-rocket”. This was followed by his (enduringly plausible) outline of the likely consequences – economic collapse, mass starvation and war.

I took a deep breath.

Transition Timeline interview

By Blanche Cameron

Originally published in the Summer 2009 issue of Clean Slate - The Practical Journal of Sustainable Living.

A PDF of the full illustrated article can be found here.

The Transition Timeline and author pic


Blanche Cameron: What caused this book, The Transition Timeline, to come about?

Shaun Chamberlin: Primarily that Transition communities were asking for support. They were trying to form positive visions of the future for their communities, but were finding it a little foggy looking twenty years ahead, particularly with regard to the bigger trends and policy decisions around climate change, peak oil, food supply and the like. There was also a need to really make Transition's vision of a resilient, satisfying future as tangible and fleshed out as possible.

BC: You talk in the book about four stories of the future: Denial, Hitting the Wall, The Impossible Dream and The Transition Vision. Where do we find those narratives in the UK at the moment?

Carbon Budget

By Shaun Chamberlin

Originally published in the March/April 2009 issue of Resurgence magazine.

A PDF of the full illustrated article can be found here.

Carbon Footprint

Ensuring essential entitlements to energy for all whilst guaranteeing that the UK meets
its target of 80% emissions reduction by 2050.


In these times of climate emergency, peak oil, economic turmoil and biodiversity devastation we are told again and again that large-scale problems require large-scale solutions - that we must channel our efforts into bigger, better global agreements to address these challenges.

As a young man searching for my calling in life I was being led in this direction until I attended the 'Life After Oil' course at Schumacher College and heard David Fleming utter a sentence that brought me up short:

"Large scale problems do not require large-scale solutions - they require small-scale solutions within a large-scale framework."

Peak Coal - Coming Soon?

By Shaun Chamberlin

The Oil Drum: Europe

Originally published at The Oil Drum: Europe on Apr 05, 2007.

Reaction and comments on the article can be found here.


The general consensus view on coal supplies has long been that we have hundreds of years of the stuff left, and that oil and gas depletion are the pressing concerns. However, dissenting voices are emerging. Canadian geologist David Hughes recently claimed that "peak coal looks like it's occurred in the Lower 48 (US states)", and the consensus position on coal is also called into serious question by the Coal: Resources and Future Production report just released by the Energy Watch Group in Germany. I present a summary of its findings here.