john thackara

john thackara.png

[ganges, cevennes, france]

intro’d to John here:

monday, april 16, 2012

john thackara

reading his in the bubble

thanks Rob

wish i had notes somewhere.. was one of early suggested book reads


adding page this day:


No organism is truly autonomous – including us ; one of the best interviews of the year, by john thackara

the answers we seek will be based on an infinity of local need

ginorm small ness


rev of everyday life

It’s not that our brains lack processing capacity—more, that they’re preoccupied by the wrong inputs.

if output matters input matters.. let’s try.. ie: self-talk as data


The ways we understand the world are shaped by the political and economic system. As Jason Moore explains in his book Capitalism in the Web Of Life, the metabolic rift is not a regrettable side-effect of the modern economy; it’s written into its DNA. Our present economy has to grow in order to survive, and ceaseless growth entails ever-larger inputs of external resources and energy. Our problems started when we first travelled across the world to take other people’s minerals and resources—and that was 500 years ago.

money as os et al.. causing .. science of people ness et al

With the prospect of missing lunch as motivation, I’m finding that the idea of a bioregion is an appealing way for city people to reconnect with living systems, and each other, through the unique places where we live.


A bioregion is about unique geographic, climatic, hydrological and ecological qualities. These can be the basis for meaning and identity, and people get that.


Every bioregion will need its own identity, too—what the bioregion looks like, and feels like, to its citizens and visitors.


it’s not much about high-tech control systems. It’s more about new ways to share resources, and collaborate to get the work done.

mech simple enough to facil us


the Cleveland model, as it’s called, is almost a reincarnation of the new city model from the 1920s.


it doesn’t matter how committed you are to doing less harm. If it is simultaneously committed to grow then they will inevitably leave things worse.


I like the way Silke Helfrich talks about the commons as “all the things that we inherit from past generations that enable our livelihoods.” Seen through that lens, the commons can include land, watersheds, biodiversity, common knowledge, software, skills, or public buildings and spaces. The important thing is that the commons are a form of wealth that a community looks after, through the generations. The idea embodies a commitment to ‘leave things better’ rather than extract value from them as quickly as possible. They are the opposite of the impulse to monetise everything. And because the commons, as an idea, affirms our codependency with living systems and the biosphere, it also represents the new politics we’ve all been looking for to replace the industrial growth economy we have now.


The care economy has always existed, and we now have the pleasant task to reinvent it for these new times.

a nother way

work of the ecologist Jane Memmott. She has explained that species interactions may be much more important. All organisms are linked to at least one other species in a variety of critical ways

interconnectednessone ness

No organism is truly autonomous.

so.. none of us are free if one of us is chained

In Gaia theory, systems thinking, and resilience science, researchers have shown that our planet is a web of interdependent ecosystems. From the study everything from sub-microscopic viruses, yeasts, ants, mosses, lichen, slime moulds and mycorrhizae, to trees, rivers and climate systems, this new story has emerged. All natural phenomena are connected. Their very essence is to be in relationship with other things—including us.


2015 – How to thrive in the next economy? 2 hr (John starts at 3 min – q&a at 1:42) – thinking like a forest..

4 min – book inspire 3 parts: 1\ drivers of transformation 2\ signals of a new story 3\ from small to big

5 min – in what ways can we use the small to change the big in a mindful way..

host-life-bits to facil rev of everyday life

9 min – govt: this is the future.. we are bringing it to you

15 min – on econ separating us.. – metabolic rift.. we trash the planet not because we’re psychotic.. but because we don’t understand the consequences – grounds of book

17 min – p 2 – looked for people doing things differently…

18 min – if only org according to humans.. will get a partial view of story and continue to make things worse.. so transition from extractive.. towards.. leave better than found

part\ial ness

19 min – all narratives are of people reconnecting with places they live.. qualities of now.. as well as imagining what could be different..

20 min – city reconnecting with sources of its nutrients.. rather than searching nutrients from other parts of world..

21 min – on food.. and thinking about where it comes from

23 min – how many people worry about the state of the soils.. most complex/dynamic living system on planet.. 

natures internet.. biodiversity

24 min – de paving; water keeping; social farming;

27 min – social farming.. why do we regard it as normal that someone else take care of all food.. not normal.. community

28 min – vitality monitoring.. quantified self.. maybe better used.. with us monitoring planet.. two worlds should tops being quite so separated..

caleb ness – language of plants

30 min – upcycling

33 min – on maker movement making ie: commons web rather than ie: 3d printing chairs

34 min – unmonastery ness

35 min – next economy.. alt’s to money based econ  bne2015.. i learned..

37 min – tribes.. commoning.. p2p

38 min – local currency.. coming up w better econ

let’s go.. no money.. no? no measuring/validating of transactions/people..

40 min – p 3 –

42 min – eye candy diagram – how does that help us

44 min – cars are a passing phase.. the future is about..networked ecosystems

44 min – on vehicles.. 2 trill dollars in debt on cars

53 min – fibershed.. lots of small –  not just being on own – but interconnecting

54 min – q: do all these small add up to something as alternative… a: no.. but have potential w capacity .. we have to learn ways.. how do we connect bits together that respects cultural practical values..

perhaps.. via hosted-life-bits

55 min – q: on how to learn.. children to be selves.. and connect with water/food/soil.. etc… how come no ch on learning  a: last ch is called knowing..  sort of.. learned lesson not to tell educators what to do.. and not to burn ed institutions.. so i experiment around edges… on website: wild learning.. how we learn is at center of all of it..

so.. a nother way.. in the city.. as the day.. all of us..

58 min – 98% of life on planet.. more commons ish..

59 min – q: view on politics.. a: mainstream doesn’t speak to me.. i think politics are made where people are org ing selves to connect with system.. i don’t know how that connects with mainstream..  my thing is looking and writing.. someone else to constructing..

1:01 min – John’s part ends..

1:42 – q & a starts

1:46 – q: young people not being encouraged to come up w other models.. wouldn’t that be most important.. and how institutions et al stuck in old ways.. a:  arguing against them is not going to change their understanding of the world.. reality will change their understanding of the world.. when point comes that perpetual growth is not perpetual..

graeber model law.. let’s try this: a nother way

1:49 – poor guy.. couldn’t understand putting parent in home when old.. instead of looking after himself.. but he’s poor .. we’re rich..

retirement ness.. and rp ness

1:50 – when heard living 20x above our means.. that’s when i started this trek

1:52 – on circular econ.. and how.. things leak.. circular is going to wast 80%.. but great on step in the journey..

1:54 – i don’t think choosing politicians is a very productive thing..

redefine decision making.. disengage from consensus and binary ness of politics..

be\cause public consensus always oppresses someone (s)

1:56 – policy guys and numbers guys.. and change happening somewhere else..

inspectors of inspectors et al

1:57 – on title.. next econ.. because publisher said needed a practical title that people other than your 10 friends would read..

so.. because of that.. we keep washing ourselves out.. ie: word econ

1:58 – next econ.. all the things we can do.. and leave world healthier than we found it

2:02 – if has to grow to be healthy.. not sure it is of benefit.. (on sharing orgs)


find/follow John:

link twitter

his site

wikipedia small

John Thackara (born 6 August 1951, Newcastle upon Tyne) is a British-born writer, advisor and public speaker who lives in South West France. He is a Senior Fellow at the Royal College of Art in London. Thackara writes about live examples of what a sustainable future can be like with a special focus on social and ecological design. He has published online since 1993 at and in books; his most recent title is How To Thrive In the Next Economy (Thames & Hudson 2015).

Thackara studied philosophy, and trained as a journalist, before working for ten years as a book publisher and magazine editor. He was the first director (1993—1999) of the Netherlands Design Institute, in Amsterdam, and curated the celebrated Doors of Perception conference from 2000-2016. He has been program director of Designs of the Time (Dott), the social innovation biennial in England, and curated City Eco Lab – the world’s first bioregional innovation festival for the French design biennial. Thackara has curated place-based professional workshops – called xskools – in 11 countries; he has given keynote talks, and chaired international conferences, in 41 countries; he has chaired or served on professional awards juries in the USA, India, and Europe.

Appointed a senior fellow at the RCA in 2011, Thackara is currently visiting professor at School of Visual Arts in New York, and an advisor to: Chora Connection (Denmark); Konstfack (Sweden); Dartia Bioregional Learning Centre (South Devon),; Cateran’s Common Wealth (Scotland); The Nubian Vault Association (France); Unbox Festival (India); Upstarter (London); Participatory City (London).

Thackara once drove a London bus (routes 73 and 134). .


World Economic Forum (@wef) tweeted at 4:30 AM – 19 Nov 2016 :

This could help unlock #Africa’s true potential

this sounds.. not good.. am i missing something cc @johnthackara @cblack__ @drvandanashiva


@monk51295 @cblack__ @drvandanashiva “unlock potential” WEF-style cd. mean “to apply extractive tech & and send the value somewhere else”


@johnthackara @monk51295 @drvandanashiva This model of claiming to save the poor by profiting the rich is what has gotten us where we are.



Here’s my chapter (From Oil Age to Soil Age ) in this new book

modern citizens today use more energy and physical resources in a month than our great-grandparents used during their whole lifetime.


Two simple examples: We were exhorted to take our shopping home in a reused plastic bag, and to feel good about doing so – only to be told later that the bag is responsible for about one-thousandth of the environmental footprint of the food it contains.

In the same spirit of every little helps, we were urged to turn off our phone chargers at night – and then it emerged that the energy thus saved was equivalent to driving a car for one second.

..our design focus on messages and things distracted attention from the system behind the thing – the societal values, and economic structures, that shaped our behaviour in the first place. We committed to “do less harm” within a system that, because it must grow in order to survive, unavoidably does more harm as it does so.


Few of these groups are fighting directly for political power, or standing for election. They cluster, instead, under names like Transition Towns, Shareable, Peer to Peer, Open Source, Degrowth, Slow Food, Seed Freedom, or Buen Vivir.

These edge projects and networks, when you add them together, replace the fear that has so hampered the environmental movement with a story of love – a joyful new story about our place in the world.


A single teaspoon of garden soil, it;’s been shown,  may contain thousands of species, a billion individuals, and one hundred metres of fungal networks – …..

..As in the soil, so too in our stomachs, bacteria break down organic matter into absorbable nutrients.

For Patrick Holden, the healthy topsoil, thriving with microorganisms, which covers much of the land’s surface, is in effect the “collective stomach of all plants”.

..the health of the soil, and our own heath, are part of a single story, too.


Systems thinking, it seems, becomes truly transformational when combined with systems feeling – which is something we all crave.’  ..

.. we always start with two questions: “Do you know where your next lunch will come from?” and, “Do you know if that place is healthy – or not?”


The presence of good bread – and the microbial vitality bread making invokes – is an especially reliable indicator that a city’s food system is healthy.


A focus on food systems leads to a new design agenda for cities. New kinds of enterprise are needed: food co-ops, community kitchens, neighbourhood dining, edible gardens, food distribution platforms.

New sites of social creativity are needed: craft breweries, bake houses, productive gardens, cargo bike hubs, maker spaces, recycling centres, and the like.

city sketch up ness


‘Growth’ is measured in terms of land, soil, and water getting healthier, and communities more resilient.


If the regeneration of social and ecological assets cannot be practised remotely, our design focus needs to shift from things, to connections – especially the connections between people and natural systems in places which have a shared meaning and importance – such as the bioregion.

A bioregion maps the abstract concepts of sustainability, or a ‘living economy’, to the real world. ‘The economy’ becomes a place, and the urban landscape is re-imagined as an ecology with the potential to support us: the soils, trees, animals, landscapes, energy systems, water and energy sources on which all life depends.


The reconnection of cities to their bioregion – their ‘re-wilding’ – is not much about the creation of wide open spaces and new parks; it’s more about patchworks, mosaics, and archipelagos.


There are cemeteries, watercourses, avenues, gardens, and yards to adapt. There are roadside verges, green roofs, and facades to plant. Sports fields, vacant lots, abandoned sites, and landfills can be repurposed.

Abandoned buildings and ruins, empty malls, and disused airports need to be adapted – not to mention the abandoned aircraft that, before too long, will be parked there.

city sketch up ness.. rebel architectureiwan baan ness


In the new economy that’s now emerging care – for the wellbeing of social and ecological systems – replaces money as the ultimate measure of value.


*Money will not disappear as this new economy unfolds – but it will only part of the picture. in the care-based economy that’s existed throughout human history, relatively few of the ways we’ve looked after each other,  and the land, involved paid-for work; trust between people, commoning, and shared ownership, and networked models of care, were just as important – and will be again.

*or maybe it will.. maybe it has to.. measuring of transactions to validate people.. cancer/killing us..

Another world is not just possible. It is happening, now.


john thackara (@johnthackara) tweeted at 3:51 AM – 3 Jun 2017 :

Next week I’m meeting ppl to learn abt. Wales’ “Well-being of Future Generations Act” (


john thackara (@johnthackara) tweeted at 5:49 AM – 10 Jun 2017 :

Let’s replace vote counting swingometers with a slime-mold-spreadometer to visualise the spread of change (

It is ironic that 45 percent of farmworkers in Fresno County – the ‘country’s most productive agricultural region’ – is food insecure.

As a thinker of design, we’re reminded to curiously peer into the corners of our everyday lives, and once in a while zoom out to observe our complex, interconnected system that is our Spaceship Earth. But for those aspiringactors of system practices amongst us, the question that hangs in the air is: Where? Where do we intervene? Where would our work make the necessary impact to set us on a path of sustainability? It’s an open-ended query that, perhaps, we can only solve when we stop thinking and start acting.

a nother way.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]


via Michel fb share.. interview for new book – How To Thrive in the Next Economy

I’d spent half my life trying to figure out why even decent people who love animals and children persist in organising the world in such an obviously damaging way. An answer that makes sense is that we don’t experience the result of the damage that we do as visceral, embodied feedback. We don’t feel the pain felt by the earth because it happens somewhere else—out of sight and therefore out of mind.

Writers like Hazel Henderson have been trying to refocus our attention on the care economy, writing 30 to 40 years ago. More recently, an important German writer called Ina Pratetorius has argued for a care-centered economy.


@AutodeskFdn @MarianaAmatullo yay! the refugees are saved! *another* shelter design competition!

Original Tweet:


Intentional Money (@GrahamJBarnes) tweeted at 4:05 AM – 22 Jun 2019 :
Agree. Maybe my concept of Quality in both exchange and non- monetary transactions is equivalent to your ‘leave things better’. Love ‘islands of coherence’ (

I am not ‘against’ a circular economy. I am against the claims being made by large companies that it already exists, and that they are doing it.

My other problem with this circular thing: production is not the purpose of life. The frantic search for new forms of production – whether ‘clean’, ‘green’ or ‘circular’ – is not where our future lies. []

value from relationships not things (post on p2p site)

I’ve come to an inconvenient conclusion: production is not the purpose of life..t I say inconvenient because many of us depend on industrial production, and its many support services, to earn the money we need to pay for daily life needs

norton productivity law et al

This conflict between a perpetual growth economy, and the biophysical limits of a living planet, is why the perpetual search for new forms of production – whether ‘clean’, ‘green’ or ‘circular’ – is not where our future lies.

Our future lies in a care-based economy that embodies a commitment to leave things better rather than extract value from the world as quickly as possible.

In the new economy that’s now emerging, care for life replaces our a *preoccupation with money..t

*and with measuring.. money (any form of measuring/accounting)

*Value is measured in terms of the health of living systems, and the land, air, and oceans that surround us..t

*rather.. value is/becomes.. can value be measured? .. ie: graeber values law.. bateson measuring as managing law

The next step is to foster ecological literacy emotionally, and not just rationally. When we truly care about living systems, things will really begin to change..t

2 convers as infra toward (back to) indigenous us

Where our future *does* lie is in care for place. Care for place includes producing things, of course – but the production we do has to leave place healthier. That probably means circular production – but production as means, not as purpose. )


my pitch at 6pm: service design needs to create a social infrastructure that is local, relational, and phenomenal
Original Tweet:

ie: cure ios city

2 convers as infra


So now we can add Big Care to Big Food, Big Pharma etc:  large private care providers in the UK can expect profit margins of 21%; one CEO makes £800,000 a year
Original Tweet:

caring labor.. sicko.. et al