In this episode of Sense-Making in a Changing World show, it is my delight to welcome Rupert Read – public scholar and climate activist. He is based in England, but I spoke to him in France where he was leading a residency on eco-spirituality and the moderate flank (something you’ll hear more about)
Rupert Read is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, former spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion and co-founder of the Green Activists Network, GreensCAN. He is the author of several books, including This Civilisation is Finished and Parents for a Future. His new book, Why Climate Breakdown Matters, is due to be published in the summer. The book he is working on with Permanent Publications is about Transformative Adaptation. He has also written for The Guardian, The independent, The Ecologist, Permaculture Magazine, Resilience (and many more) and a frequent guest on BBC radio and TV.
He was part of the group that catalysed the British governments declaration of a Climate and Ecological Emergency and a reviewer of the recent IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) report – one he describes as the scariest yet.
In the show we talk about Transformative Adaptation, the Great Turning – and how we can turn faster, taking action vs being an activist, Thrutopia – stories that can help us through the changes and disruptions that are our new normal, the kinds of messages that shine through the fear, despair and overwhelm.
Rupert says, our world needs a positive and radical change – quickly – emergency transformative adaptation. Civilisation as we know it is over, but collapse is not inevitable. We need a new way of thinking, about politics, about philosophy, and about our role in the world – something like a permaculture rebellion of [pr]activism myceliating rapidly everywhere. And for Australian listeners, he offers some encouragement for voters in the coming Federal election.
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I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the unceded lands from which I’m speaking with you, the Gubbi Gubbi, and pay my deep respect to their elders past present and emerging. I’d like to recognise their deep care for this land, the waters, air and biodiversity.
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Full transcript below.
Morag Gamble: Hello and welcome. I’m Morag Gamble and you’re tuning in to the Sense-making in a Changing World podcast. It’s my delight to welcome Rupert Read to the show, public scholar and climate activist. He’s based in England, but I spoke to him in France, where he was leading a residency on eco-spirituality and the moderate flank. Something you’ll hear more about. Rupert is well known as a former spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion. He’s an associate professor of philosophy at the University of East Anglia and the author of over a dozen books, currently working on one with the permaculture magazine about Transformative Adaptation. He’s also written for The Guardian, The Independent, the ecologist, permaculture magazine, and many more and a frequent guest too, on BBC Radio. He was part of the group that catalyze the British government’s declaration of a climate and ecological emergency, and a reviewer of the recent IPCC report – one he describes as the scariest yet. We talked about transformative adaptation, also the great turning and how we can turn faster and taking action versus being an activist and also talked about his concept of Thrutopia – stories that can help us through the changes and disruptions that are our new normal, and the kinds of messages that shine through the fear, despair and overwhelm. Rupert says our world needs positive and radical change quickly, civilization as we know it is over. But collapse is not inevitable. We need a new way of thinking about politics about philosophy about our role in the world. Something like a permaculture rebellion of practivism myceliating rapidly everywhere. And for the Australian listeners, he offers some encouragement for voters in our coming federal election. So this show the Sense-making in a Changing World is hosted and sponsored by my organization, The Permaculture Education Institute, and our globally recognized Permaculture Educator’s Program. Before we begin, though, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land. The unseeded lands from which I’m speaking with you, the Gubbi Gubbi and pay my deep respect to their elders past, present and emerging. And I’d like to recognize their deep care for this land, the waters, air and biodiversity. So let’s dive in. Please make sure to check out the show notes for links to Rupert’s work and all the things that we talked about. And also for more information about our work here at the Permaculture Education Institute. And please make sure to subscribe so you get notifications of all our new podcast episodes, please leave us a lovely review, it does help the bots find a little podcast. And finally, I’d love for you to share this with a friend or a group and to myceliate ideas and open conversations for positive practical change.
Well, thanks so much for joining me on this Sense-making in a Changing World show, Rupert, it’s a real delight to have you here. You’re so well known as a spokesperson for Action On climate. And some of the things that I’d like to explore with you today are really looking about where to from here, you know, you’re one of the reviewers on the latest IPCC report. And, you know, one of the direst reports that we’ve had yet. But just because of everything that’s going on in the world, we’re not really hearing very much about it. You talk about how, the civilization that we’re currently in has, has come to an end. What’s next? I do like what you say, though,you said, we are in a civilizational emergency but collapse is not inevitable. Could you maybe just speak to that a little bit?
Rupert Read: Yeah, well, thanks Morag, yeah, great to talk with you about these literally vital topics. So the way I see it, and I lay this out in my little book This Civilisation Is Finished where I collaborated with the Australasian degrowth expert, Samuel Alexander. The way I see it is that this civilization is without doubt coming to an end. But there remains an open question as to how. It doesn’t have to end in collapse. If we’re determined enough and bold enough and fortunate enough, then there is still a possibility of a change by way of transformation, rather than merely by collapse. And that’s at the heart of the way that I’ve been pushing the concept of transformative adaptation in recent years. And I’m sure we’ll talk about that in a minute. Basically, if we’re going to avert collapse, we do have to do something extraordinary and rapid. And we have to be rigorously honest about where we are because if we’re not rigorously honest, then we’re not going to actually be serious enough and determined enough. So in terms of the IPCC reports, the very latest report says we need deep and immediate cuts, if we are to stay within the 1.5 safe zone. By immediate they mean starting now, I mean, this year that they’re explicit about that, that is not going to happen, that’s not going to happen on a worldwide basis, it’s not going to happen in places like Australia, it’s not gonna happen in Russia or Saudi Arabia, Brazil, it’s not even going to happen in the USA and the UK, which have both said, and in the wake of the Ukraine conflict, they both absolutely stupidly said, they’re gonna go for more fossil fuels, which is crazy. It’s exactly what Putin wants. He wants us to be dependent on the international fossil fuel Nexus, what he doesn’t want is for us to start start being serious about energy efficiency, or he doesn’t want this for us to have local accessible community, wind and solar, and so forth. So anyway, that’s all by way of saying that the political system is continuing to fail us really, really badly. And as a result, tragically, we have to let go of the idea of staying within 1.5 degrees staying within the safe zone. Now, this should be a cause for for outrage and much greater action. And that’s what I’m seeking to, to leverage. So the possibility of civilizational transformation without collapse is dependent on a lot more people stepping up and stepping up soon, in order to take such action, and such action needs to occur on all levels. So it means political action, we’ll probably have a word about your imminent election in a moment. It means non-violent, direct action, definitely, it means conventional activism, we need to have a lot more activism. But and I’m sure we’ll be talking about this as well – It means more than just conventional activism and the so called Radical flank. It means millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people ultimately stepping up and engaging in action in the spheres where they have other kinds of power. So I’m talking about action by businesses, I’m talking about people taking action in workplaces, and talking to people taking action in their geographic communities. And of course, that’s where permaculture becomes most crucial. And this kind of action, this new agenda for mass action on climate and ecology, which is what we need in the wake of terrible, terrible political failure. This is what I call the moderate flank. This is the need for and it’s starting to happen. And emergence at scale of people stepping up to take positive action, as well as protest where the powers that be have failed us.
Morag Gamble: You know, you also talk about the great turning, and this is something that I’ve you know, that I feel the permaculture movement has been working on for a long time. Now eco villages and regenerative farming and cooperatives and like from the social permaculture to the landscape, permaculture to all the different scales. But there’s something about this great turning, that is not turning fast enough. So what are the kinds of things I mean, you’ve been working from academia to politics to activism? What are the kinds of messages that you see shine through the kind of the despair, shine through the rage, shine through the apathy to actually catalyze this mass action that you’re talking about? And because this is something that I struggle with on a daily basis, trying to work out what, how is it that we communicate or demonstrate or myceliate this at a scale that is what we need?
Rupert Read: Well, what a great question. Thank you for that question. So let me start off by saying you’re absolutely of course, one of the reasons we’re having this conversation is that permaculture has been leading in this space for a long time. And that’s why I chose to work with the Permaculture Magazine with Maddy Harland and others to have this series which we’ve been having of articles on transformative adaptation. So I think I should say a little bit more about what transformative adaptation is at this moment. Because really transformative adaptation is an attempt to frame where we’re at and where we need to be in terms of this historic, unprecedented crisis that we’re in. If we think about it in terms of the climate movement and efforts to make progress on climate, that movement and when I say movement, I mean activism, but also I mean, the kinds of stuff that governments have been trying to do. In so far as they’ve been trying to do anything. That movement has tended to focus until very recently, on what’s called mitigation, which is the technical term for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. And why is that been? Well, that’s a long conversation. But in my view, that the single biggest reason why that has been is because people have not been willing to face up to the fact that, for example, we are going to miss the 1.5. target, we are not going to, we already are not in a safe world, climate wise, but it’s going to become progressively unsafe for quite a long time to come. And when you talk about adaptation, when you get serious on adaptation, and not just the kind of defensive adaptation that the Australian government, for example, has majored on, not just you know, building higher sea walls and higher flood defenses, and so on, which is just an attempt to keep the existing failed system staggering on a little bit longer, and actually is therefore harmful and fragillysing. When you start talking about real adaptation, strategic adaptation, transformative adaptation, adaptation, that is willing to seek to transform our system and wants to try to create flourishing ways for us to be together, rather than the same old failed civilization. When you get serious about talking about and doing transformative adaptation, then you can no longer deny that we’re in serious trouble, right? As long as we carry on talking only mitigation and keep saying things like, well, it’s about Net Zero 2050, or even, it’s about Net Zero 2035. Or even, it’s about Net Zero 2030. As long as you have those conversations, basically what people continue to think is, oh, well, we still got quite a bit of time, then. Adaptation is about our vulnerability in the here and now. Our vulnerability already to, well, if you think about the Australian context, because of course, Australia, I mean, one of the terrible ironies of Australia’s inaction on climate is, Australia stands to be royally fucked by the – am I allowed to use that word on your podcast?
Morag Gamble: You just did. So that’s fine.
Rupert Read: Yeah, royally fucked by the climate. And it’s deeply tragic and deeply ironic. I mean, you just look at the, you know, utterly horrendous wildfires that you had a little while back. And there are so many other things which I don’t need to bore your listeners with, which show that Australia is on the front line here. These things are happening now. And they are going to get worse for a long time to come. We need to seek to mitigate, to prevent them to reduce there be more of them in future, of course, we do. But we also need to adapt because they’re here now. And they’re going to get worse really soon. So adaptation brings it home. Adaptation means facing up to psychological reality. And most people, most of the time still don’t want to do that. And that’s my verdict, my judgment as to why it’s taken so long to get the adaptation agenda upfront. So it’s now painfully starting to move upfront, and permaculture magazine have been helping that process by hosting our series of articles on transformative adaptation. And we’re producing, we’re going to be producing a book based on those articles, which is really exciting, they’ll probably be coming out next year. Transformative adaptation basically takes the kind of agenda that is present in permaculture and in the Transition Network, that transition towns movement, and says, this agenda needs to be mainstreamed more, this agenda needs to be fed into and aligned with climate action, climate activism, government action on climate. And something else that it adds in here were sort of learning from and drawing on extinction rebellion, which of course I helped to launch in which has been such a crucial part in changing the scene, you know, for permanently, really in the last few years. And what transformative adaptation adds to the party is a little bit of a stronger sense of ‘you know, what, if they get in the way, they the powers that be and stop us from doing this? We’re gonna have to do it anyway.’ So in other words, transformative adaptation is saying, let’s be ready, if and when necessary to use the kind of tools of civil disobedience, not in the kind of wonderful way that [inaudible] so on have done in terms of proactively blocking stuff and protesting and demanding stuff from the government. But more by way of saying we’re gonna, where necessary, defend the positive stuff that we are doing, so we’re gonna get on and do that stuff. And if there are things that get in the way of us doing it, then we’re not necessarily going to say oh, right, then well, we’ll just go and try something else. That’s really the sort of bold part of the Transformative Adaptation Agenda. Now just one more word in terms of your invocation of despair. So I’m actually right now talking to you from France, I’m here leading a residency on making eco-spirituality accessible. And on the moderate flank as a way of doing that. And I’m drawing a lot on the on the great work, literally great work of my teacher, Joanna Macy. And she is, and her work is a crucial resource in these very difficult times. This work, the work that we connect, it’s called, is a way of as you put it, shining through the despair. And it’s not just about because even that phrase might give the wrong impression to some people. It’s not about sort of overcoming or sidelining our despair, it’s about being fully present in our despair being fully present in our grief, being fully present in anger. And using that energy to take us in the direction we need to be taken in of spreading the permaculture gospel, on getting serious about transformative adaptation, and so much more. It’s about as Joanna herself used to put it, despair and empowerment. I had a lovely little revelation about this, Morag. A few years ago, when I was leading a course on philosophy presence in relation to the climate crisis. I was painting a realistic picture, as I always do. And one of the one of the students, one of the colleagues on the course stand up, “but you know, when I hear that, I feel there’s a part of me that wants to despair, because it’s so this situation is so overwhelming.” And one of my other students piped up with a big smile said to the group, “what’s wrong with despair?” And I think that’s just such a wonderfully provocative question. You know, we spend so much time and energy, running away from our climate anxiety, or trying to keep our eco-depression or eco-grief at bay, or hoping that we don’t get stuck in despair. And of course, you don’t want to get stuck in despair. But the question what’s wrong with despair invites the thought, maybe there’s nothing wrong with it as something which we have to encounter, as something that is honest, and is something which can energize us. What I believe about these so called negative emotions, these difficult emotions that we’re unable to avoid at this time, if we’re alive and open, what I believe is that they are the source of the greatest energy that we have at this time. And that’s been the secret of success of Greta Thunberg, has been the secret of the success of extinction rebellion, we’ve tried to channel that, look at some of you know what we did in the media in 2019,2020. That’s very, very clear. And that will be the secret of success of the moderate flank, as I call it, of the growing potentiality of transformative adaptation, if it succeeds, it will be because people are willing to face these difficult emotions, and willing to go with them and turn them to maximum effect, to do together with determination,jj without any willingness to be prevented, willing to do the things that needs to be done, and to defend them where they need to be defended.
Morag Gamble: I really like how you said that, doing it together. You know, it is, it is a together thing, isn’t it? It’s not something that we’re doing individually in our ow. I mean, yes, we do that action at home. But it’s, it’s in that together action where the shift can can really happen. And also it was listening to a conversation that we’re having with Jeremy Lent recently about deep adaptation and deep transformation. And I remember him saying something like this about the despair that he feels and that that, again, is his energy, but he finds that he’s, he’s kind of sitting on this almost like a fence or something he was describing, he keep dipping into it. And that is the fuel like he feels the despair and I and I often feel that as well. Like it is a fuel and it’s that turning of that energy. And I wonder, in terms of Would would you describe it as a permaculture rebellion? Or would you describe it some other way? How could we how can we frame up this mass action of permaculture and how to rollout in that way?
Rupert Read: Yeah, brilliant. So I’m glad you heard the conversation with Jeremy. People seem to have found that a very useful conversation and yeah, I agree with the way he put that about. Its you don’t want to get stuck permanently in, in climate anxiety, climate depression and climate despair. But you do wants to allow it to be present and to dip into it just as much as it is. And just as much as you need. The phrase permaculture rebellion. That’s a brilliant phrase. I mean, that would be another way of describing the agenda that we’re trying to set out in the transformative adaptation collective. So yeah, I’m totally I’m totally with that. Let’s keep looking for these kinds of smart and energizing framings. I think that’s one.
Morag Gamble: Great, fantastic. We’re trying to activate that now. And I would love to talk to you more about that. So, just before we move out of the kinds of conversation around despair, and anxiety, I wonder if someone like yourself, you are fully aware of all the reports, you spend your life exploring these things? How how do you personally stay in a position to be not disabled by that full level of anxiety that that you know what’s going on? You see it around you all the time?
Rupert Read: Yeah, it’s a fair question. So I spoke about this with Jim Bendell. before in one of his videos, I spoke spoken about it in The Poetry of Predicament podcast. And people may want to look those up. But briefly, sometimes, it’s very challenging. And that’s why I’m talking about it in those podcasts. Sometimes it’s very challenging, sometimes I really suffer. Something that definitely helps me is the work that reconnects is doing that with other people is leading. Well, so I’ll just give you an example of some of the exercises and rituals we’ve been doing here in France. One of the really powerful ones is called The Truth Mandala where you, together explore the sense of the truth that you have in relation to our ecological predicament and allow those negative emotions so called to surface. It’s unbelievably powerful, and ultimately, very energizing and creative of community. Just last night, I led the group in the 7th generation exercise, which is a way of imagining and well really more than imagining, actually kind of inhabiting a kind of conversation with people living separate generations from now, really getting a sense of the reality of the coming future, the form that that future takes, is not yet determined, but there will be people and beings alive in the future. And they depend on decisions and actions that we take now. And we need to feel them as a kind of, as a kind of presence in potential. And that’s what that practice is designed to do. I’ve led people here on the more than once on the mirror walk, which is a very beautiful practice of going around and eco-psychological practice of going around and looking at nature and seeing it as a mirror of an a mirror to ourselves. And on Friday night, when the residency ends, I’ll be leading people in a practice which I got from Roman Krznaric’s book, The Good Ancestor, which is also, it’s loosely based on a Joanna Macy style practice. And it basically imagines your children or your nieces and nephews, reflecting upon your life, from the vantage point of their life, after you’re dead. And it’s a very kind of powerful way of kind of bringing home a sense of, Yeah, it’s really about posterity. It’s about legacy. It’s about what did we do while there was still time? So these kinds of practices, leading them and taking part in them is something that I find very, very supportive. There’s many more things I could say in answer to your question. But perhaps that’s helpful as a set of kind of guidances for people, if there are people out there who’ve been kind of listening to this who’ve been, you know, getting stuck in despair or whatever not knowing what to do about it. One set of powerful things you can do about it is these work that reconnects practices. The other thing, of course, is to take action. This is one of the reasons why so many people got involved in extinction rebellion, because they found it the best therapy possible. And I’m hoping that the emerging moderate flank, the permacultur, rebellion, transformative adaptation, the growth of organizations like climate emergency centres, people trying to organise in their businesses and workplaces. An example would be lawyers for Net Zero. I’m hoping that these emerging moderate flank developments especially when people start to see and to feel that they all kind of join up and all kind of point in the same direction. That this will give people an energizing sense of On the one hand, the situation is dire. We’re gonna miss 1.5. Governments are way off the pace in some ways, we’re continuing to hurdle in the wrong direction. On the other hand, there are genuine positive things which are starting to happen and they’re happening at that scale. And it’s very simple. The more that you happen, the less bad and potentially the better the future is going to be. It’s really very, very simple.
Morag Gamble: Yes, something that I’ve learned a lot by working with the youth. So I helped to mentor the permayouth that’s been myceliating across the world and they talk about practivism. So it’s the positive practical activism in permaculture as a frame to do everyday activism in the community that’s helping to shift and change. And I felt that that’s a really positive, maybe that’s a kind of the taking action versus activism type of differentiation that you do. Yes, I find that if..
Rupert Read: Could I just comment on that briefly. Because I think that’s so helpful. I think it’s a great frame. That is exactly what I’m talking about. And the action in geographic communities to deal with our growing vulnerability to to take adaptation seriously, where we live, and the more of us doing that at scale in more and more places, the more it starts to join up and pointing the same direction. That is a crucial set of examples, that practivism is a crucial set of examples of what I’m calling the moderate flank. And to go back to what we said at the start this conversation, there is no doubt but that there will be a rise in standard forms of activism during the 2020s. But my claim is that that alone is not enough. What we need also is a much larger number of people willing to engage in practivism willing to engage in forms of taking action on climate and ecology, where they live in their workplaces, etc. We need that much larger cohort to stand, if you will, in the wake of the radical flank. Because now that Greta and XR have raised consciousness in the way that they have, that opportunity needs to be fully exploited. And you know, there are many, many millions of people who are wanting to get involved now who are wanting to do stuff, only some of those people will be willing to step up and join something like XR or the school collect strikes for climate or whatever. Many of them will not be willing or not able to do that. It’s those people. And there are so many of them. I’m certain of that. Now, I know and opinion polls say So it’s those people that we need to get involved in various forms of practivism and of taking action.
Morag Gamble: Yeah. And I feel like there’s something that that’s where the the power is, in terms of where the change lies. And there’s a word that we use, I think I’ve mentioned it before, is myceliation and sort of thought, Oh, well, I have to speak up to those in power in order to get the change. And then I keep having this flip of thinking and realizing that actually when we connect up, and myceliate the communities of change that are happening everywhere, from the refugee settlements in East Africa, to the indigenous communities in Australia, to the youth in New York, when we start to connect and feel the power of this change and the possibilities that that presents, something happens inside, something happens in our communities, and there’s a real power there. And so that’s kind of where I’ve been paying attention to and tending to, and then applying compost to kind of that world and I know that you know, and trying to connect to with those who are reaching to positions of power and and I think it’s not an either or it’s an end it’s like..
Rupert Read: It’s a whole joined up ecosystem, right? So this is one of the reasons why I use this term, moderate flank. So extinction rebellion was self consciously set up as a radical flank. And at the exact same moment, amazingly, the school strikes for climate emerged under the model and leadership of Greta. And the radical flank, to some extent worked. I mean, this is very rare, you know that activist movements really work. There was a real greater effect, there was a real XR effect. It had different elements and different compositions and different strengths in different parts of the world. But it’s been felt in most parts of the world and in some parts of the world, certainly in Australasia, and in the UK. It’s been felt very, very strongly. Now, what we need to do is to maximally take advantage of that. I should exploit that new space that’s been opened up right? And we need to do so in a way that complements it. So you’ve got the radical flank, and then you’ve running along behind it as it were in its wake. You’ve got the moderate flank. It’s all part of one thing, in a certain sense, but in another sense, there are many people who are taking moderate flank style action or engaging in practivism, community action, engaging in action in their workplaces, who wouldn’t want to be too closely associated with extinction rebels or whatever, and that’s fine too. So we can be in sort of separate places, but still moving in the same direction. And as you say, something which is really exciting about the moderate flank agenda. And the kind of myceliation that you’re talking about, is there is a certain sense and I talked about this in my recent essay in perspectiva, on the moderate flank, there is a certain sense in which the moderate flank approach is actually more radical than the radical flank. And that sense is that rather than central to what we’re doing, being asking those in power to make a change, we are simply starting to enact and model that change ourselves. And I think there’s a lot of people that are hungry for that. People who have kind of given up on the existing system, or who was just tired, or who just wanted to do something positive themselves, that’s where their energy is. There’s an awful lot of people who are really up now for that kind of ground up positive way of moving forward. So sometimes when I use the term, moderate flank, people in the radical flank, say to me, Well, I don’t want to be a moderate, I want to be radical. And I say to them, okay, well, that’s fine. You maybe you carry on doing what you’re doing. Or maybe you consider the possibility that there really are ways in which this agenda for a truly mass, truly joined up, distributed, ground up positive movement. Maybe there’s a certain sense in which that’s even more radical still.
Morag Gamble: Hmm. That’s very exciting. I love the, I’m really excited to share that and really take that out into the permaculture rebellion conversations. The conversation that I’d like to, to share something with from here today is about our Australian federal election, considering how poorly behaved our politicians are and how poorly ranked we are globally with our climate action. We have an opportunity to do something now, politically. Would you have a message to share with Australian voters? Do you think youhave something to share with them?
Rupert Read: I don’t know if they’ll want to listen, and I don’t want to kind of you know, be too, prying in the affairs of another country. But on the other hand, this is a global crisis. And what starts in Australia doesn’t end in Australia. I mean, Australia is a climate pariah. There’s there’s no other way of putting it. Australia’s right at the at the at the bottom. It’s been absolutely disastrous for the world for the future, for nature, and not just in Australia, but all over the planet. So yeah, the whole world needs and deserves, frankly, to take an interest in this election. I just really hope that because there was great hope that this last time and it didn’t happen, I really hope that this time, this is the one this is the climate election, because we’re not going to get many more opportunities, folks, we’re really not, we are so out of time, we are busting through 1.5 degrees, we are highly vulnerable. We’re in the age of consequences. It’s about adaptation. Now at least as much as it’s about mitigation. As I say they’re real transformative adaptation. So if I were an Australian right now, I would be thinking about the closest that we have to a worldwide political party, I’d be thinking about the Green Party. In other words. And of course, you have Green Party representation in both your houses of parliament, there should be so much more, and you have the Alternative Vote in Australia. So there isn’t really any excuse for not giving your vote to the people you want to give it to. And you can always put labour or whoever further down the ticket for if the Green Party candidate gets knocked out. So I hope there’ll be a huge upsurge in green voters this election. I’m also quite encouraged by the rise of the climate independence in Australia, I think that’s a really exciting encouraging phenomenon, quite savvy. And there’s a number of places again, where it’s clear that people should be giving them their first or at least their second preference, but really, you know, give your first preference to who you believe in, for goodness sake, give your first preference to the Greens give your first preference to the climate independence and put whoever is your sort of fallback, lower down a second, third or fourth, on your preferences. One other thing I would say is the juice media I’m sure that many viewers and listeners are aware of the juice media who were based in, in Australia of course, and their their honest government ads are absolutely devastating and I love the world over. I’m a patron of theirs. Greta has been on the show. I think now is a brilliant time to flog them for all their work. In other words, it’s Share, share, share them through your social media. And if anyone watches one of those honest government ads, there is just no way they can carry on giving their vote Scott Morrison and they need to be thinking instead of giving their their first preference preference, as I say, to someone who really do enough, because, you know, at this point, we need so much more than just labor, you know. We need politicians, you actually get it. So which is what I come back to the greens and the climate, independents. And lastly of all I would say whatever happens in the election, bear in mind that that is not going to be enough, you know, even if you got loads more greens and prime independence, and they had a sort of coalition government with labor or something, they’re still not going to be enough, it’s not gonna actually be where we need to be. So politics is crucial. Politics is really important, huge electoral opportunity right now in Australia, it’s of interest to the whole world, which is why I don’t make too many apologies about answer your question. So yeah, as a non-Australian, he is the kind of thing I would urge you to think about. But there’s so much more than electoral politics. After Election Day, people need to be carrying on with the permaculture. And carrying on with the activism, the moderate flank work, etc. Because we are in if it’s an emergency, it’s like no other emergency has been before. It’s essentially a permanent emergency. It’s a new normal. And it’s abnormal in the sense that it’s not stable. We’re not entering into a new kind of stable state of normality or abnormality. The situation is going to carry on changing indefinitely. That, again, is why we need transformative adaptation. I hope that’s a helpful answer to your question.
Morag Gamble: Thank you. That’s very, very powerful answer. And I hope anyone who’s listening to this will follow that advice. There was one last thing I want yeah. There’s one last thing I want to ask you. Because when the last election was happening, I was actually in the UK. And I was I happened to be in Westminster, at the very moment that the Climate Declaration was being discussed and agreed upon. And you were part of that. I understand. So since and I came back to Australia, Britain’s done this, Australia’s got to do it. And then everything just kind of fell apart over here. What has happened in the UK since then? Is that Climate Declaration movement, something that has has worked, do you think that’s something that we need to be continuing to push in and ask our governments to be doing?
Rupert Read: It’s a great question. I’m afraid my answer is not as encouraging as it might be. So let’s start off by going back to 2018-2019. What you’re talking about, it was a really exciting Gambit when the Green Party and then extinction rebellion, launched this idea of climate environment emergency declarations. And yeah, I was part of the XR team that met with government in the UK at the end of the incredible April 2019 extinction rebellion. And that was instrumental in getting our government to go along with a parliamentary declaration of climate environmental emergency. This declaration was purely symbolic, right. And that’s the first thing to be aware of. And in that sense, it didn’t amount to what extinction rebellion was asking for, which were emergency declarations, which would actually have teeth, like the emergency declarations that we’ve seen in some places around COVID, for example, which have had various kinds of teeth in terms of allowing government to do stuff on the back of them. So that’s the first point. More generally, as I was implying, a minute ago, there’s something very weird about this as an emergency. It’s essentially permanent. It doesn’t kind of feel like an emergency, which makes it very difficult. So I’ve actually been arguing recently in a piece that’s appeared in what is emerging website, that there’s something misleading about this push for emergency declarations, and it hasn’t kind of worked out in the way that we’d hoped it would. And that that’s actually not too surprising. What we actually need wait for it, it’s even a bigger transformation than declaring a state of emergency. Because of course, what we actually need is a whole new paradigm, right? What we actually need is a kind of full spectrum, economic, social, political, philosophical, spiritual shift in how we live, in what we regard as being important. There’s a way in which the idea of emergency sort of undersells it because when you think of an emergency, you think of well, we tackle this emergency and then after that, we go back to something like normal. And as I was saying a minute ago, that just isn’t how it’s going to be. This is a permanent shift, and a permanent state of adaptation and of of kind of nimbleness and responsiveness which we’re in or need to be in. So on the one hand, I think that these emergency declarations achieved a lot at the time in consciousness raising. On the other hand, I don’t think they’re really particularly where it’s at going forward. I mean, yes, we need to get people to understand that the unprecedented nature of our situation demands unprecedented responses, of course, including from politicians who wouldn’t normally go along with those responses. So, forward thinking or deep-thinking conservative politicians, for example, ought to be thinking, well, you know, this is a bit like a war situation, especially now with the oil-fed Putin actually having initiated at war. This is a bit like a war situation, we need to be going beyond the politics as usual, to think about how we undertake policy changes, which really rise to the spirit of the time and the same kind of way as, for example, we have food rationing in the Second World War, and a food rationing, hugely egalitarian sort of socialist policy, basically, but as brought in by by governments, such as the UK Government were led by conservatives, because they understood the nature of the crisis, and that it was in that sense, as sort of, well, emergency. In this situation, whether the term emergency works or not, yes, we need that kind of really radical outside the box, thinking people need to step outside their comfort zones, we need to move beyond as XR puts it, we need to move beyond normal party politics, we need to move beyond conventional ideologies. But really, in the final analysis, the shift that we need, and I think permaculturist will understand this well, is a deeper shift, a shift that has spiritual dimensions, it’s about what kind of people on planet we want to be, willing to be and whether we’re actually really serious about survival. So I come back to the permaculture rebellion to practivism to the to the growing huge upsurge, which I’m calling the moderate flank, and the thought that actually, we need to be pushing politicians to do the right thing in all sorts of ways and to step outside their comfort zones. But ultimately, we need to understand that it’s unlikely that more than a very small minority of politicians are going to get it enough at least for quite a while to come. And that means actually, we need to step to a frame, ultimately, which is even bigger than the emergency frame, we need to shift to a whole new paradigm, a whole new civilization. And to come back to the very start of our conversation. The real question facing us is, are we going to do that deliberately and intentionally and collectively? Or is it going to be forced upon us? Because this shift is going to happen? This civilization is coming to an end. The question is whether it ends by way of us transforming it or by way of nature of viciously biting us back.
Morag Gamble: So this idea of of not focusing on heading towards dystopia and not painting a utopia, there’s this – I think it’s a term that you came up with, or someone came up with a inspired by you, but Thrutopia, we need to be thinking about what does that look like? I mean, is there a name for this new civilization? If we can start to name it, maybe we can start to imagine our way into it? And live into it? I mean, have you Is there a name that you’ve been…
Rupert Read: People are talking about regeneration, which I think is helpful, and obviously goes along very nicely with the permaculture mindset, and also, of course, fits very beautifully with the sense in which one of the reasons why extinction rebellion was such a success, in as far as insofar as it was a success is because its actions were perceived as so hugely regenerative and prefigurative. And, you know, anyone who’s taken part in an XR action will probably tell you, if you haven’t the listener, that it’s the kind of sense of kind of community and excitement and potentiality and energization that will people have been getting from those kinds of actions is extraordinary. So regeneration, for a number of reasons, is a helpful term, I think, but you know, I think the true answer is no, we don’t actually have a concept yet for this new civilization that we’re that we are heading towards. And we don’t actually know yet whether we’re heading towards a utopia, or some kind of really, genuinely desirable future. But yeah, my view is very strongly that it It’s implausible that we’re heading to a utopia in the conventional sense, the future isn’t going to be all kind of brilliant and beautiful with with bells on. The future is either going to be terrible, or it’s going to be kind of okay slash good, by way of us kind of facing up to the terribleness and getting determined to to become as good and as flourishing as possible. And that is why I coined this term actually, I did coin thrutopia, that is, I think, what we need now, we really need to have a sense of, where are we trying to head? What’s the process? What’s the process, it’s not so much about destination, it’s about the process. We don’t know what the destination is. And we can’t know that we don’t have power over that. But we do have some power over how we’re trying to get there over the process, over the here and now over getting through what’s coming, and in the process creating as beautiful a future as we can. So I actually think that that’s all that we need really put aside the question of whether we’re going to end up in an ounce of now dystopia. Put aside the fantasies of Utopia, put aside the desire to know where we’re heading, and focus on doing as being as strong apart and effort as you can be your hands getting through what’s coming in as positive away as we can. That’s what thrutopia means I think we need, we badly need more artistic visions of that more popular culture, visions of that. And what we badly need is people starting to co-create on the ground. And of course, that is happening, we need much more of that we need it at scale. The hope the aspiration for thrutopia is something which is achievable, if we are willing to throw ourselves into it and make this thing happen at scale.
Morag Gamble: Thank you, Rupert, thank you so much for being with me today. Sharing, I think, ending on that conversation around thrutopia, I think is really powerful place to to wrap up and send people off with them. And I think, is there anything that you can refer people to find out more about thrutopia and and other works that you’re currently focusing on?
Rupert Read Oh, sure. So on Thrutopia, you might look at the Thrutopia a website from the Writers Project, which is, which has taken off under this heading, which is really, really positive. Manda Scott has organized that, if you want to read the original thrutopia piece, you can find it easily. It’s on the Huffington Post, in 2017, by myself, and if people are interested in following up on more of the things I’ve been naming during this conversation, then most of them you can find in one way or another on my website, which is rupertread.net
Morag Gamble: Okay, great. I’ll put them all down in the show notes for the listeners to follow through on. So thank you, again, so much for spending this time out of your retreat in France to talk with me today. Are you there for much longer in France or..
Not much longer now. We’ve been here for nearly a month. So it’s been quite a wonderful, deep Dive. And yeah, we’re ready to go forth now and take these ideas for an eco-spiritual future and growing the moderate flank concern to take them into the world. So watch this space more.
Morag Gamble: Yes, indeed. Well, thank you again. Thank you so much.
Rupert Read: Thank you, Morag. It’s been great.
Morag Gamble: So thanks, everyone for tuning into this episode of Sense-making in a Changing World, I’m delighted to be able to share my conversation here with Rupert Read with you. Remember, check out the show notes below for more links. Leave us a lovely review and subscribe so you receive notification of our weekly podcast episodes. Thanks again to our organization, the Permaculture Education Institute for supporting the show, and I wish you all the very best.