“Let’s talk about optimism”

Back in November, on the eve of the US book release launch for How to Thrive in the Next Economy, I sat  down with Core77’s Allan Chochinov to talk about the project.

AC: When did the book project first begin? Is it something that you’ve been working on for a while, or did it have a definite starting point?

JT: OMG, it must be five years.That’s when I did the first formal treatment, at least. I’ve re-written big chunks of it twice since then – and have added in new a stories along the way as I’ve  learned about them.

The whole thing stabilised during 2014 when I had a fixed deadline to meet – and it’s been in production for most of this year so I couldn’t  change it any more. I hope it’s a good sign that I’m still proud of the book a whole year after I stopped writing it!

AC: This is a very different book than In the Bubble—which was a tremendous work, but a pretty “thick” read:) Can you tell us about the transition from one to another from your point of view?

JT: I had five years of feedback to In The Bubble to learn from when I started this project  – and Read More »

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What keeps you awake at night?

I was asked, in an interview for Resilience, what it is that inspires my work, and what keeps me going.

1. Who/what has been your greatest inspiration? And why?

A:  Rocks. And stones. I’ve always loved stones and rocky places – but it was only when I moved to south west France (where I live now) that I realised just how many other people are as inspired by rocks as I am – and have been for a long time. Some of the stone megaliths around here date back to well before the Druids. This connection with stones and stoniness is not whimsical at all; people around here volunteer to rebuild stone terraces – there are thousands of miles of them all over the Cevennes, dating back centuries. It’s incredibly hard – but meaningful – work. There’s a connectedness when stones are involved that goes beyond words.

2. Knowing what you know now about sustainability and resilience building, what piece of advice would you give your younger self if you were starting out?

A: That it’s mainly about connection between people and places – and not much about concepts or plans. It’s taken me a long time to learn respect for Read More »

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Manifesto For Utopias Are Over: Cities Are Living Systems

I was asked to write a provocation for DAMN magazine in Italy.

1         Change and innovation are no longer about finely crafted ‘visions’ of some future place and time. Positive change happens when people reconnect – with each other, and with the biosphere – in rich, real-world, contexts. Rather than ask about utopias, I challenge city leaders to answer two questions: “Do you know where your next lunch will come from?” and, “Do you know if that place is healthy or not?”

This approach expands the design focus beyond hard infrastructure towards a whole-system concern with the health of places that keep the city fed and watered. Within this frame of the city as a living system, the health of farm communities, their land, watersheds and biodiversity, become integral aspects of the city’s future prosperity, too. This focus acknowledges that we live among watersheds, food sheds, fibersheds and food systems – not just in cities, towns or “the countryside”.

2         The presence of good bread is a reliable indicator that a city’s food system is healthy. Good bread denotes microbial vitality. In dozens of major cities, real bread pioneers are creating shorter grain chains by connecting together a multitude of local actors in ways that reduce the distance Read More »

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The 72 most cheering things I learned on my book tour

SEPTEMBER 2016 Newsletter

Since my book How To Thrive In the Next Economy was published – a year ago this week – I’ve had conversations about it at forty talks and workshops. With thanks to my diverse but always generous hosts, this email is to share the 72 most interesting and cheering things that I learned along the way. …

VALUE

1    My talks proposed a simple theory of value: the health of living systems, including human ones, is paramount. Money and GDP are secondary indicators of progress, at best. Nobody disagreed. So that’s that sorted.

2    For the theologian Ina Praetorius, what’s emerging is a care-centered economy.

3    Dougald Hine says we’re in a shift from a transactional to a relational economy.

4    The Pope’s encyclical Laudato Si – with a target readership of 1.2 billion people – includes a whole chapter on ‘integral ecology’. Fritjof Capra celebrated Read More »

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Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It

Five years ago I obtained an extraordinary 736 page book called Lean Logic: A Dictionary For The Future and How To Survive It. Written over a thirty year period by the English ecologist David Fleming, the book had been published in a limited edition after the author’s untimely death. Now, thanks to an heroic, expert and loving effort by editor Shaun Chamberlin and publisher Chelsea Green, Lean Logic has now been published in a slightly (628 pages) shorter form.
The text below is my original review.

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The publisher describes it as a “community of essays”. In my words it’s half encyclopedia, half commonplace book, half a secular bible, half survival guide, half … yes, that’s a lot of halves, but I hope you get the picture. I have never encountered a book that is so hard to characacterise yet so hard, despite its weight, to Read More »

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Biennials and system change

I was invited to give a keynote in Milan to the general assembly of the International Biennials Association. My talk was called Life’s Work: Biennials and Regeneration. Here below is a summary:

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The sad-looking structure above was the Dutch Pavilion not long after the Hannover World Expo ended in 2000.

Having helped to write the brief, I know first-hand that the Expo team hoped for a different outcome. The very essence of the Dutch pavilion was supposed to be sustainability, innovation, and long-term progress.

So what went wrong? Why do so many expos, festivals and biennials promise to change the world for the better – only to end up as trash?

A short answer: Many big-ticket events are thinly disguised real-estate plays in a world that is over-built. Pavilions, stadia and museums are too often conceived as ‘antenna buildings’ whose task is to attract attention to hitherto cheap land – and raise its price.

Looking forward, biennials have a more transformative role to play as Read More »

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Back to work or college? Need an uplift? #ThackaraThrive ebook special

If you could do with an uplift on your way back to work, or college, please consider my book How To Thrive In The Next Economy; as an incentive, my publisher has just slashed the price of the ebook to £3.17 ($4) If paying me $1 for each year I spent writing the book is not enticing on its own, here’s Read More »

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A beehive is not a factory: Rethinking the modular

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I was invited to write the Preface to Rethinking The Modular: Adaptable Systems in Architecture and Design edited by Burkhard Meltzer and Tido von Oppeln. As the book has just been published, here follows my text:

Back to the Present

Trumpeted as ‘the most significant innovation in beekeeping since 1852’, the Flow Hive  was pitched to a crowd-funding site in 2015 as the bee keeper’s dream product.

‘Turn the tap and watch as pure, fresh, clean honey flows right out of the hive and into your jar’ gushed the website; ‘No mess, no fuss, no expensive equipment – and all without disturbing the bees’.

Helped by glowing reviews in Forbes, Wired, and Fast Company, Flow Hive’s pitch on Indiegogo worked like a dream; having sought $70,000 to launch the product, more than $6 million had been committed on Indiegogo at the time of writing.

Too good to be true? Sadly, yes.

As news of Flow Hive spread, natural beekeepers described Flow Hive’s approach as ‘battery farming for bees’. Read More »

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And my killer project of all is…. (interview with @tbonini)

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My  interview with @tbonini has ben  published in Italian at Che Fara.Here is the English version:

Q  Among the many case histories that you brilliantly discovered and reported in your book, is there someone that you believe is extremely central in planning the “tomorrow’s world”?

The sheer variety of projects and initiatives out there is,  for me, the main story. No single project is the magic acorn that will grow into a mighty oak tree. We need to think more like a forest than a single tree! If you look at healthy forests, they are extremely diverse—and we’re seeing a healthy level of diversity in social innovation all over the world.  These edge projects and networks, when you add them together, replace the fear that has so hampered the environmental movement.  Read More »

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