Andrew ‘Wilf’ Wilford of Brisbane, Australia, was a friend, mentor and big supporter of the Post Growth Institute.
Sadly, he died on 13 August 2012, aged 48.
Wilf was an aviator, an engineer (ex Boeing), a military man (ex Royal Australian Air Force), a spiritual seeker, a professor, a poet, a musician, a larrikin, a change agent, a man of great heart, humility, warmth, generosity and humour.
He involved himself in a wide variety of professional, academic and community activities, and has a bio as long as your arm.
He was deeply concerned with the wellbeing of humanity and the Earth; with being a good man. He had the kind of voice in which you could hear his smile.
He delighted in, as he put it, ‘perturbing the growth monster’, which made him a natural ally of Post Growth.
He was a man of conviction, speaking often (particularly as a facilitator for the Awakening the Dreamer symposium) of the need to acknowledge the shadows of our growth addiction before our liberation can truly evolve.
It was very easy to love him, to exchange big ideas, to hatch plots, to be energised by his enthusiasm.
He gleefully took up the challenge to give away his own money, for free, in the middle of Brisbane on the inaugural Free Money Day, 15 September 2011. He was genuinely enthused by all forms of ‘signal interruption’ to what we value and the cult of ‘more’.
As a systems thinker, Wilf understood sustainability in its deepest, truest sense. He was a global pioneer in bringing together people from the military, private sector, and community activism, to collectively seek sustainable responses to the challenges we face.
In recent years, he had made steady progress towards the steering of Australian military and scientific capabilities into a national ‘simulator’ to integrate the challenges of climate change, energy security and resource depletion.
His power and influence with a wide range of people came from both his deep understanding of sustainability AND his ability to communicate it in highly articulate ways.
Here he is at TEDx Brisbane, in October 2011:
No, we can’t explain the hat — it’s Wilf!
He brought his background to bear in his sustainability thinking and practice, as penned in this piece for Transition Voice on why humanity needs a ‘mission critical’ system for planetary risk management. Wilf’s experience in the aviation industry led him to realise that the same approaches used to ensure an aircraft was flying within safe parameters needed to be applied to the Earth:
We don’t think twice about jumping onto a Boeing 737 and flying to Sydney at the drop of a hat…Yet what sort of risk management decisions ensure such systems can reliably support the modern life we’ve come to expect? How much safety margin and redundancy is built in? How do we measure and monitor the critical parameters of these systems to ensure that we are not moving into dangerous territory?
With all living and evolving systems there’s a mysterious relationship between cause and effect that is only ever retrospectively understood. It’s extremely difficult to make sense of the evidence, feedbacks, and diverse drivers of a system as complex as the interrelationship between humanity and bio-geo-chemical planetary dynamics. But at the same time, we know the sort of future conditions we don’t want to have to deal with. In such situations we must deploy “fail safe” probes or “experiments” to determine whether a particular intervention will shift the dynamics to a better picture. With global climate, if we consider the possibility of a sudden shift to dangerous temperatures and extreme weather events then the responsible action is to put the brakes on…swiftly and firmly!
The loss of Wilf’s wisdom and vision is incalculable. He was a teacher to more than his university students, he taught everyone he encountered.
We were shattered to hear of his passing — it is still beyond belief that we will never again hear his laugh or have one of those conversations where our words are falling over each other, because we can’t get our ideas across fast enough.
Wilf, we adored you and will miss you terribly.
Our deepest sympathies to Wilf’s family, friends and colleagues.
Sharon and Donnie, on behalf of the Post Growth team, past and present
Originally published in August 2012. To Find out more about the Post Growth Institute, visit our website.