Richard Douthwaite 1942-2011

November 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A great man died last Monday. His name was Richard Douthwaite. Not many in Ireland may have heard of him. He rarely appeared in television and radio studios. He was not an economic celebrity interviewed on chat shows or panel discussions. He was not an academic with the status and position to claim expertise and demand attention. Yet Richard Douthwaite was a great man. He was a great man because he went about armed only with the strength of his ideas and with the conviction and passion that these ideas really mattered. He wrote books, he wrote articles, he talked to people. He spoke in rooms often filled with less than a dozen people. He presented his ideas because he knew that what he was talking about was what the most important thing of all – how do we human beings live together in our world sustainably, justly and with happiness. He was a great man because he gave his wonderful mind to thinking about answering this question. In dedicating himself to this he accepted isolation and marginalization within an Ireland enraptured by economic growth and the prospects of endless unsustainable consumerism.

I remember interviewing Richard in his home in Westport for academic work I was doing in April 2001. As always he was a gentleman – patient, passionate and precise. He explained exactly why the economic system would shortly crash, why the financial system couldn’t continue in its present mode. In the face of few others recognizing this he laughed his bemused laugh. Yet there was no despair from Richard. He could see what was coming and he wanted to think about how we would respond.

So, like many deep thinkers, Richard was years ahead of his time. While his voice was largely unheard in the centres of decision-making and media in this country, history is already showing how right he was. The only meaningful tribute we can now pay to Richard is to listen to the rest of his ideas and forge together the human ecological society he and many others have thought and dreamed about. I do not doubt that in years to come, from the perspective of another time, Richard Douthwaite will finally be accorded the status and respect his immense achievement deserves.

My deepest sympathy to his family, his many friends and to all who were touched by his presence.

 

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