Richard Douthwaite

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Richard Douthwaite, (died in 2011) "In 1998, he co-founded the thinktank Feasta (the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability) to promote sustainability by designing better systems, on the basis that many global problems are "caused not by bad people but by dysfunctional systems". Some were sceptical of his optimism, but it was a product of his exceptional energy, generosity, enthusiasm, curiosity and a bent for lateral thinking. He inspired many to see hope and possibilities that had escaped them.

"Richard had a talent for explaining complicated issues and was writing and campaigning until a couple of days before he died. He wrote three books – The Growth Illusion: How Economic Growth Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet (1992), Short Circuit (1996) and The Ecology of Money (1999) – and edited several others, the last of which (with Gillian Fallon) was Fleeing Vesuvius: Overcoming the Risks of Economic and Environmental Collapse (2011).

"Born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Richard was brought up in Dover, Kent, where his father, a mining engineer, managed the Kent coalfield. He studied civil engineering for a year at Leeds University before dropping out, impatient to become a journalist and activist. He returned to Dover and, in 1962, founded a campaigning magazine, Channel, at a time when vigorous media attention to local issues, especially conservation and the environment, was rare.

"In 1963, he married his childhood sweetheart, Mary McGrath, an occupational therapist, and they rode off from their wedding on a tandem. They moved to Oxford, where Richard was a subeditor on the Oxford Mail, and lived on a houseboat on the Thames. After Richard got a BSc in economics at Essex University, they went to Jamaica in 1969 for Richard to take an MSc at the University of the West Indies. They built their own house, and grew coffee, pineapples and ackee in the Blue Mountains above Kingston and then another house above Port Antonio, where Richard founded a co-operative building concrete boats.

"From 1972 to 1974, he was government economist in the British colony of Montserrat, notably introducing a fuel rationing system during the 1973 oil crisis, and representing the island at Caribbean regional conferences. This spurred his interest in island economies and other small economic units. He drew on the experience to help them become more self-reliant and thus shield them from the damage caused by capitalist orthodoxy.

"He and Mary moved to Westport, in Co Mayo, in 1974, built a third mountaintop home (where they lived by choice without electricity for several years) and Richard set up a leathercrafts factory to put his grassroots economics into practice.

"In 1985, he sold the business and turned to energy, climate change, the creation of money and other then relatively neglected economic issues. For the next 26 years, he was a combative presence in the Irish media and an influential voice in the Irish Green movement. He stood unsuccessfully for the European Parliament in 1994.

"He also travelled the world investigating innovative economic structures, notably in India, and lectured widely. He advised governments, including that of the Czech Republic, and promoted local exchange trading systems (Lets) that use their own currency, setting one up in Westport in the early 1990s. [1]


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  1. Richard Douthwaite obituary, theguardian, accessed January 14, 2015.