Richard Douthwaite, now represented by Caroline Whyte
Richard read economics at Essex and studied for an MA in development economics at the University of the West Indies, in Kingston, Jamaica. He worked for a year in the Jamaican Government’s Central Planning Unit, later setting up and managing a yard building fishing boats for the Jamaica Co-operative Union.
In 1972 he was appointed Government Economist on the West Indian island of Montserrat. Later he moved to Ireland and from the mid ‘80s focussed on journalism, specialising in business, financial and environmental topics, joining the Irish Green Party and helping to develop its economic policies.
Richard lectured regularly at several Irish universities and wrote about the characteristics a society would have to possess to be truly sustainable and how such a society could be reached from our present unsustainable state.
After reading about his thinking in 1996 in an article on ‘downshifting’ in the Independent on Sunday’, I sent a copy of a survey of alternative practice in this country which had been written for my Indian colleagues. He was very encouraging and said that we should work together whenever possible. I later found by chance that he had stayed at the Centre for Holistic Studies in Mumbai as a young ‘unconverted’ economist. After reading Short Circuit and – later – The Growth Illusion, the founder, Winin Pereira, was amazed and very pleased to see how Richard’s thinking had changed during that Indian tour.
Highlights were forming a local group to comment on the draft of the Ecology of Money’ and arranging for my Indian colleagues to help with information for a chapter in the second edition of the Growth Illusion, The Mahatma’s Message. These books are all closely relevant to today’s concerns.
In 1998 he co-founded the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability (FEASTA) which is based in Ireland – a ‘home’ for those who see localisation as a counterbalance to globalisation. His books include The Growth Illusion, the Ecology of Money & Short Circuit: strengthening local economies for security in an unstable world.
When I pointed out that much alternative thinking presumed a rural setting and asked if anyone was working on urban potential, he warmly recommended the ‘Lean Economy’ work of the late David Fleming and put me in touch with him – another valuable service.
He last wrote in June 2011, valuing this website’s post on the refocussing of the work of the Feasta Climate Group, but I assumed that he was busy and thought no more of it.
He is greatly missed and his legacy deeply valued. Caroline Whyte continues to send news of FEASTA on his behalf.
Caroline collaborated with Richard Douthwaite on an online update of his book Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies in an Unstable World in 2002-3 and went on to study ecological economics at Mälardalen University in Sweden in 2005-6, writing a masters thesis on the relationship between central banking and sustainability.
She compiled the conclusion for Feasta’s 2011 book Fleeing Vesuvius and was a contributor to the Feasta Climate Group’s book Sharing for Survival in 2012. She lives in central France, from where she edits the Feasta website.