Cut short

I was so sorry to hear of the death in the last few days of Richard Douthwaite, the great analyst and advocate for renewing the local economy.

I remember when I met Richard for the first time in the 1990s when I was at the New Economics Foundation. He told me that the global economy was going to crash and that he wanted my help to write a handbook on what we could do to prepare for this.

The result was the book Short Circuit, now a classic of localisation. It was a remarkable work, and innovative because Richard was able to look round the corners of orthodox mind sets and thinking. He had originally moved to where he lived in Ireland, buying land because he had thought before that the global economy was at risk of collapse. So he had lived out and thought out economic survival tactics.

To this, he added not just charm and gentility but his brilliant touch as an economics journalist and writer. For example, he looked at the question as to whether in a world with oil scarcity, the horse would make a come-back as key to local economies – for transport and power. Well, he did the numbers on energy and prices and concluded that no, on balance, the mass use of horses would remain a feature of the past and not the future. It is an entirely reasonable question and only someone who had the courage and imagination to think through how the world would change around him could have answered it with rigour and insight.

His ideas around energy, money and climate change, his work with Feasta in Ireland will live on.

The global, oil-dependent growth economy has outlived Richard, but it may not be for long and if so, his contribution will endure far longer.


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