Last month I gave a talk at UC Berkeley School of Public Health, as part of the Dean’s Lecture Series, with the title, From Biomedicine to Bioregion: The Geographies of a Care-Based Economy. The video of that talk is here. My interview with Peter Jarrett, for their online journal Berkeley Wellness, is republished below.
The philosopher and writer John Thackara, a senior fellow at the Royal College of Art, in London, scours the world for examples of the ways social innovation can improve the health of communities, which he explores in his blog, doorsofperception.com. He recently spoke at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health about his new book, How to Thrive in the Next Economy. He explores the ways sometimes small steps can make a tremendous difference in solving some of the most intractable challenges in delivering health care.
What are the most serious challenges facing health care?
It’s a multi-dimensional crisis in which trillions of dollars are spent treating the symptoms of illness rather than its causes. Read More »
An interview with Jonny Gordon-Farleigh, the editor and publisher of STIR magazine. Current and back issues of the magazine are available in the online shop
Jonny Gordon-Farleigh: Your new book, How to Thrive in the Next Economy, explores practical innovations in sustainability across the world. What stories would you pick out as the most instructive for the scale of change we need to see?
John Thackara: 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. Many people say we need to focus on solutions that scale, but to me that’s globalisation-thinking wearing a green coat. Every social and ecological context is unique, and the answers we seek will be based on an infinity of local needs. Read More »
I write these words outside the portakabin control room of Shambala, a summer festival in England. On the wall is the street plan of what looks like a mid-sized town. Fifteen thousand people have indeed filled a vast field with tents, yurts, sound stages, composting toilets, drinking water tanks, hot tubs, food vans, cellphone charging stations, yoga enclosures, a barber shop, a meadow filled with aromatherapists, cash vending machines in a caravan, and pagan circles around wood-burning stoves.
Surrounding Shambala’s downtown core is a densely-packed suburbia Read More »
“The world is in dire need of a narrative adjustment; that’s why we write”(Hamid Dabashi)
Since How To Thrive In the Next Economy was published in the autumn, my 29 conversations about the book have prompted all kinds of feedback. One question has cropped up repeatedly: In a world filled with melting ice caps, war, species extinctions, and economic peril, how can I possibly argue that the small-scale actions I write about can transform the bigger picture for the better?
My answer: It depends how you frame the picture. Read More »
In myriad projects around the world, a new economy is emerging whose core value is stewardship, not extraction. Growth, in this new story, means soils, biodiversity and watersheds getting healthier, and communities more resilient.
These seedlings are cheering – but something more is needed for the whole to be more than the sum of its parts. A compelling story, and a shared purpose, are needed that people can relate to, and support, whatever their other differences.
A strong candidate for that connective idea is the bioregion. A bioregion re-connects us with living systems, and each other, through the unique places where we live. It acknowledges that we live among Read More »
Should transport systems be designed to save time – or calories? Who should own mobility sharing platforms: private companies? cities? us? What kind of ecosystem is needed to support the sharing platforms we want? These three questions are the focus of a workshop in London on 25 November.I’ve asked a three friends to join me on a panel: Tessy Britton, Co-founder of Civic Systems Lab and Participatory City; they just published their research report Designed to Scale; Blaine Cook, formerly lead developer of Twitter, now a founder of collaborative text editing startup Poetica; and (by Skype) Trebor Sholz, co-curator of last week’s already-celebrated conference on platform cooperativism. This post frames three questions we will discuss – hopefully, with you, too.
Today, Plymouth University very generously awarded me an honorary doctorate. Here is my short statement to this year’s graduating class in Design, Architecture and Environment.
I nearly failed to get here yesterday, and I want to tell you why.
The road from my house to the city passes through a spectacular gorge. Several weeks ago, after some especially violent rainstorms, stones and debris started falling onto the road.
Soon, an impressive crew arrived to stabilise the rock face.
One team of engineers made holes in the rock face with a huge robotic drill. Four yards long, it was mounted on the arm of a digger. They put large pegs in the holes, and made them secure with exotic polymer composites.
Higher up the rock face was a team of climbing engineers. Clad in bright red rubber suits for protection, they draped Read More »
John, why do you think so much attention is being paid to the ideas around the notion of ’the commons’ right now?
The commons is an idea, and a practice, that generates meaning and hope. Millions of people are busy in projects to meet practical needs in these precarious times – but a lot of this work feels fragmented. We’ve been lacking an umbrella concept, a coordinating idea, to make sense o the work we do as individuals in the swarm. The Commons is that umbrella idea. Commoning gives shared meaning to the emerging ‘leave things better’ politics that otherwise lacks a name. It’s the opposite of the drive to turn everything into money,
Do you have your own favourite definition of ‘common wealth’?
I’m nervous of definitions; they cause endless disputes and also tend to freeze an idea in time. But I like the way Silke Helfrich talks about the commons as “all the things that we inherit from past generations that enable our livelihoods’. Seen through that lens, the commons can include Read More »