Back To The Land 2.0
 – A Design Agenda For Bioregions

Today’s ‘post-truth’ politics are better described as pre-truth politics. Populists have picked up on our justified anxiety about the state of the world  – only to divert our attention from the root but invisible causes of our predicament. It’s easier to blame a Muslim, than entropy. The answer? Bring a new story tangibly to life.
For the past three years, therefore, in a series of xskool workshops called Back To The Land 2.0, we brought local actors together, in diverse locations, to develop a new story based on the value of place: What are the key social-ecological systems in this place? What are the opportunities for this city-region? How night one design in them?
The text below (it’s about 4,000 words, a 20 minute read) summarises the lessons we have  learned so far. It builds  on the course we helped run at Schumacher College a year ago; we are running a similar course in June. This text also lays the ground for future xskools.(Illustration above: Terre de Liens)

1. A story that reconnects

We are cognitively impaired by a metabolic rift between our culture and the earth. Paved surfaces, and pervasive media, shield us from direct experience of the damage our actions inflict on soils, oceans, air, and forests. A unique epoch of energy and resource abundance added zest to a story of growth, and progress and development, that put the interests of ‘the economy’ above all other concerns

The comforting narrative of perpetual growth has now hit biophysical and financial constraints – and we all feel it. Only 15% of the global population feel that the system is working and ecoanxiety—the feeling of impending environmental doom—afflicts populations on a global scale.

This is why post-truth’ politics should be described as pre-truth politics. In this time between stories, populists have picked up on our justified anxiety – but divert our attention from the root but invisible causes of our predicament. It’s easier to blame a Muslim, than entropy.

But a new picture is now emerging in myriad projects around the world. Read More »

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of Druids, Biorefineries, Adventure Sport, Ecomuseums, Code Clubs…

I’ve been invited by Pontio Innovation to make a return visit to North West Wales and continue our exploration of Innovation In Small Nation. I’m doing a public talk, too: here is the announcement.

Pic Bruce Adams

BACK TO THE LAND 2.0
Tuesday 6 June, 1800-1900 Main Lecture Theatre, Level 5, Pontio, Bangor, Gwynedd.

Are innovations in adventure sport a signal of transformation in the global health and wellness industry? If the health of people, and the places where we live, are connected, what kinds of business can help them thrive together?

With its own unique assets, North West Wales has the potential to lead the world as a living laboratory for innovation where adventure sport, tourism, and wellness meet. To realise this potential, and turn ideas into new livelihoods and enterprise, the region’s assets need to be combined and connected in new ways.

But how? For John Thackara, hybrid approaches to innovation are needed that are centred on people and place,  tech enabled, and design-led. Opportunities include include food system platforms; fibersheds and grainsheds; biodiversity and river recovery; social and High Nature Value farming; land-based learning and ecomuseums; code clubs and the maker movement; ecological restoration; civic ecology; biorefining.

 

 

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Earth Repair In Your Bioregion: Short Course at @SchumacherColl

Ecological Restoration by Design  26-30 June @SchumacherColl

In the leave things better economy now emerging, ecological restoration can add new kinds of value to planning and design. But how?

This short course, which I am leading together with Lisa Maria Enzenhofer, will introduce you to a constellation of real-world ecological restoration projects, framed by their bioregion, in urban, peri-urban and rural contexts: regenerative agriculture; civic ecology; green infrastructure; river recovery; wetlands restoration; blue-green corridors; pollinator pathways; urban forests; and the use of plants to restore polluted soil and to create micro climates.

We will explore ecological restoration at multiple scales of geography and time – from micro-environments in former factories, to Ecological Restoration Camps at the scale of the bioregion.

The week includes encounters with project pioneers in South Devon involved in sustainable horticulture, the creation of a Bioregional Learning Centre, and the Deep Time Walk. 

Participants will also complete a design exercise in which lessons learned during the week are applied to a context of their own.

We want this course to be multi-disciplinary. We invite not only designers, architects and planners, but also geographers, ecologists, economists, and others. 

The course is for you if you want  to understand the principles of ecological restoration; read a territory through an ecosystem lens; and engage, on however small a scale, in your own context.

 

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Interview: Signals of Transformation and How to Read Them

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I was interviewed about How To Thrive by Sarah Dorkenwald for a new book, Visionen Gestalten, which will be published next week. The original English transcript is below. The German text is HERE.

SD: What is your vision of the next economy about?

JT: My book is for people who fear that there no escape from an economy that devours nature in the name of endless growth. I argue that another world is not just possible – it is already happening: a world in we value all of life, not just human life; a word in which progress is measured by Read More »

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Making as Reconnecting: Crafts In The Next Economy

The following is an edited version of my keynote talk, delivered by video to the Craft Reveals conference at the Chiang Mai Vocational School in December 2016. The conference was hosted (and my talk commissioned) by the British Council Thailand.

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Around the world, a new economy is being shaped by a “leave things better” story about the meaning of progress and development. In a million projects, people are growing food, restoring soils and rivers, designing homes, generating energy,  journeying, caring for each other, and learning, in new ways.

These activities are incredibly diverse, but a green thread connects them: Read More »

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Book launch in India

Amid the spectacular setting created by my hosts at (above) my talk was miraculously summarised on a single page by the talented @ragasy

There followed a #ThackaraThrive book launch in Mumbai at the Indian School of Design & Innovation / Parsons Mumbai  With many thanks to @isdimumbai @RoliBooks and @thamesandhudson

 

 

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Interview with Experimenta (Spain)

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On the occasion of the publication of  #ThackaraThrive in Spanish, I did an interview for Experimenta with Dr. Eugenio Vega Pindado. Here below is the English version.


Q1: This is one of the first interviews with John Thackara in a Spanish magazine. What do you tell to our readers about the main motivation for your approach of the problems discussed in this book? 



A: To people who fear that there no escape from an economy that devours nature in the name of endless growth, I argue that another world is not just possible – it is already happening. I know this to be true because Read More »

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Entrevista a Experimenta (in Spanish)

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Con motivo de la publicación en lengua castellana de su último libro, John Thackara ha concedido una entrevista a Experimenta. En ella repasa las principales ideas de su pensamiento y los motivos que le han llevado a profundizar en las relaciones entre diseño e innovación social con la mirada puesta en un mundo más sostenible.

Experimenta ha publicado Cómo prosperar en la economía sostenible, diseñar hoy el mundo del mañana la versión española de Read More »

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From Oil Age to Soil Age

The Design Museum in London opens at its new home this week with, as its centrepiece, an exhibition called Fear and Love curated by Justin McGuirk. I contributed the following text to the book.

Schumacher Debra Solomon Tree copy

(Above: Debra Solomon examines nature’s internet at Schumacher College in England)

Why we need a new story

In 1971 a geologist called Earl Cook evaluated the amount of energy ‘captured from the environment’ in different economic systems. Cook discovered then that a modern city dweller needed about 230,000 kilocalories per day to keep body and soul together. This compared starkly to a hunter-gatherer, 10,000 years earlier, who needed about 5,000 kcal per day to get by.

That gap, between simple and complex lives, has widened at an accelerating rate since Cook’s pioneering work. Once all the systems, networks and equipment of modern life are factored in – the cars, planes, factories, buildings, infrastructure, heating, cooling, lighting, food, water, hospitals, the internet of things, cloud computing – well, a New Yorker or Londoner today ‘needs’ about sixty times more energy and resources per person than a hunter-gatherer – Read More »

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