Hi Shaun
Norman Pagett
61

Dear Norman,

My thanks for this, and apologies for the much-delayed response. I was busy preparing for and leading a course at Schumacher College on the very questions at hand (https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/courses/short-courses/community-place-and-play). I’m happy to report that it proved a most worthwhile use of the time. Indeed, a real landmark in my life, with twenty of us grappling meaningfully with the issues you raise.

I started the week with a presentation on the most powerful graph I have seen, one you know well — that of human population over the past few thousand years. And the climate and energy imperatives which led me to quit my mainstream job (running a learning centre for marginalised groups) in 2005. At this point there were many tears in the group, and I wondered briefly whether we had the capacity in the group to hold the grieving that many were going through for the future they had believed was coming.

I need not have worried. With mutual support and love people were soon ready to grasp hold of new stories, more grounded in truth.

Like you, my father is more concerned for my wellbeing than his own. It was in 2000 when he first alerted me to the cliff society is headed off, and it took me five years to fully integrate the understanding and step off the train. Personally, I currently feel no desire for children of my own. At present I struggle to see how to guard the well-being of most of the children already here, let alone additional little souls.

But with regard to answers, I think it depends where we look, and for what we seek. As you say, if we look for a way to preserve 7.4bn people in some notional techno-utopia, then we will never find it. But, as I wrote in perhaps my favourite short piece (http://www.darkoptimism.org/2013/01/20/the-secret-truth-behind-environmentalists/), if we look for a meaningful life well lived, with eyes wide open to the realities of these times, it is not beyond us. And I think that is all anyone could ever ask.

If you haven’t yet looked up the late Dr. Fleming’s ‘Surviving the Future’ I would again recommend it. I suspect you will find it as much a breath of fresh air as I did (reviews here: http://www.flemingpolicycentre.org.uk/david-flemings-posthumous-books/). And you may take that as a heartfelt recommendation — since finding the manuscript after his death, I devoted around three years of unpaid work to the publication.

Regarding Transition Town Kingston, I am no longer involved, having left Kingston several years ago, but I am proud to have helped kicked off what is still a thriving project, where people are still grappling with the exact questions you raise. Rest assured that within Transition groups you will find little belief that ‘they’ will fix things — that is indeed why most people are there in the first place.

All best to you Norman, and may you keep telling the truth as you find it, and finding ways to act accordingly. That path has led to the best decade of my life, and I will keep walking it, wherever it lead.

In solidarity,

Shaun