climate change and future of earth

8. Why Donald Trump is Last Gasp of Fossil Fuel Driven Capitalism and How Local Communities Reshape World | Rob Hopkins of Transition Network

Rob Hopkins TransitionRob Hopkins (@robintransition) is the co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and of the Transition Network – a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world.

Rob is a serial blogger, both on Transition Network and at, and author of The Power of Just Doing Stuff , The Transition Handbook and The Transition Companion. He has been awarded a PhD by the University of Plymouth and an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West of England. In 2012 he was voted one of the Independent’s top 100 environmentalists and one of ‘Britain’s 50 New Radicals’.

He has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Four Thought’ and on ‘A Good Read’, in addition to speaking at TED Global once, and at 3 TEDx events. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a keen gardener and one of the founders of New Lion Brewery in Totnes and a Director of Atmos Totnes, a very ambitious community-led development project.

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Donald Trump is the Last Gasp of Patriarchal, Emperor's New Clothes, Fossil Fuel Driven Capitalism

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In our wide-ranging conversation, we cover many things, including:

  • How local communities are reshaping the world and economy
  • The exciting advances in renewable energies and combatting climate change
  • What happens when communities create their own currencies
  • How and why we need to address climate change
  • Why Donald Trump is the last gasp of fossil fuel driven capitalism
  • How the governments of the future are evolving today
  • Why Rob is optimistic in the face of great challenges
  • Where we are headed with urban farming
  • Is community-owned resources the answer to societies problems


NOTE: This transcript is auto-translated from Youtube. It isn’t 100% perfect. To help us have the resources to put more effort into translations and the podcast, please consider making a tax-deductible donation.


Rob:  Donald Trump has been the last gasp of patriarchal fossil fuel driven Emperor’s New Clothes capitalism or do we look at Donald Trump as being the beginning of the beginning is the end I don’t know I always said to be a really optimistic person and and I used to do a lot of work with people on building projects and working in woods and stuff and I remember a friend of mine saying that when you’re working with a chainsaw and you’re cutting trees that it’s the moment that when you’re working with a chainsaw and it runs out of petrol just before it runs out of petrol it has a final big rev there you have this bigger room this big surge of energy before it runs out of energy and I like to imagine Donald Trump as being that or as a journalist here said the comedian I think of I said Donald Trump is like thee he’s like the noise that the dinosaurs made when they saw the meteorite that the meteor falling towards the asteroid falling towards there Oh


Intro music


Matt: I’ve always been incredibly passionate about climate change but not really sure how to help today we’ve got an incredible expert on Rob Hopkins he’s the founder of transition Network an organization that’s focused on transforming the communities around the world creating local movements that are driven towards sustainability success and economic prosperity for everyone involved they have some incredible success stories with thousands of cities in their network across the world he’s also the author of several books including the power of just doing stuff the transition handbook and the transition companion he was featured on Ted and several TEDx presentations where he talked about the end of Big Oil and today we’re going to talk about how local communities are reshaping the world and the economy the exciting new advances in renewable energies and how we’re combating climate change how and why we need to address those issues and what politicians can do why governments of the future are evolving and why Rob’s optimistic about the future and where we’re headed I give you Rob

I found you through a TED talk and I’ve been diving deep into your work and I’m pretty excited about the the changes happening in the local communities and economy I wanted to dive right into that because that’s what you’ve been focused on it seems like with transition network talk to me about where you see the future headed


Rob:  well I guess the the kind of initial what-if question that started us off on transition was what if the solutions to the big challenges that we face particularly on climate change around economic insecurity around energy insecurity social fragmentation what if the solutions to those came from the bottom up rather than the top down and what if we were able to look at that process of making the places where we live more resilience in terms of energy in terms of food and by resilient I mean able to adapt to and withstand shock what if we were able to look at that process as being a historic opportunity to rethink how we do things at the local level because as an EMA Clym says the beautiful thing about climate change is the only solutions left are the Radical ones so there’s there’s a huge kind of liberation in that and freedom and opening up of the imagination and opening up possibility so transition really started along that lines we always say in a lot of our things and if I try to do this on my own we’ll be too little if we wait for the government’s it’ll be too late but if we get the people around us together and if enough other people are doing the same thing in enough other places then it might just be enough and it might just be in time so fundamental to our our approach is that there’s a huge amount that we can do locally in the places where we live and when we look at a challenge like climate change when you look at the whole thing it’s so massive and existential that it feels that you can’t do anything if you can break it down into the things that you can do locally actually there’s a lot that you can do and it’s communities you can actually move a lot faster than if you try and change policy at the top level so transition has become what we call it’s now a movement of community is reimagining and rebuilding the world and what it looks like on the ground is a different way of thinking about what economic development is because it’s about trying to remodel the economy so as much money as possible stays locally cycles locally and we build that kind of local economy that is more flexible more adaptable is owned by local people is more responsive to their needs than the current kind of globalized model


Matt: that triggers a million different questions interactions


Rob:  but it usually does usually does


Matt: but uh how did you get into this so what’s the story why did you become passionate about climate change there’s got to be some type of long rabbit hole here


Rob:  well I guess I got for me I was trace it back to Punk actually in that for me when I was about 14 Punk was there was a huge influence and particularly that whole kind of do-it-yourself culture if you don’t like the music make your own band if you don’t like the music press make your own fanzines and it was a lovely thing at the time that was a diagram of how to play three chords and it said here are three chords now form a band and I think that kind of approach to to politics and to change making is always really kind of inspired me and when I was about 22 I did a I studied permaculture which was which kind of rewired my brain really as a sort of a sustainable toolkit for sustainable design so it’s a brilliant sort of a thing which really gets you looking at possibilities in different places and so then for many years I was a teacher of permaculture a teacher of natural building strawberry building earth building that kind of stuff I set up a two-year course that was teaching that so I’m I’m very kind of rooted in that in that world of practical positive solutions focused responses that aren’t about waiting for anyone’s permission but that are just about okay these are the resources that we have this is what we’ve got what are we going to do with it let’s bring some smart thinking to that let’s bring a really clear invitation let’s bring a sense that what we do here together has the potential to change history that what we’re doing here isn’t a kind of top-down tick list of things but it’s an organic sort of a like a culture change process where you’re inoculating the place with with change and then just seeing where it goes so for me I guess that’s that’s where I always come from is I love to see things that self-organized things that offer a different story and things that make a real difference


Matt: self-organized that’s what we do here at fringe fm we get the world’s smartest thought leaders and creators on so that we can talk about and create a better future together if you know someone who should be included Matt at fringe FM or you can hit me on twitter at it’s Matt Ward would love to have incredible people on and if you want to contribute in other ways that’s always great reach out and if you love the show you can help us create great new things now let’s jump back to it it sounds like all of the exact antithesis of big government so are we going into an era where we change that and we change how communities society and humanity structure


Rob:  I think it’s I think it’s already happening I mean you know I mean I’m in a position where I look at all that stuff all the time so you know if you’re me yeah that’s absolutely what’s happening and it’s changing and the pace is really accelerating if you just stay inside and watch Fox News all day then it doesn’t really look like very much is happening but actually there’s for me there’s a phenomenal you know there are lots of places that I look to for for hope around this you know I’m one of the people who started a craft brewery here in my town because I’m for me the whole craft beer explosion has been one of the really interesting examples of this actually you know that that idea that you’ve had this flourishing of enterprises that are based in a place that are exploring local ingredients that are owned by local people that are rooted in that place and are really driving the economic regeneration of that place we assume the same thing with food now in a massive explosion of really good food and an increasing sort of focus on local food we had a big story here I’m sure you’ve heard of Jamie Oliver the the kind of TV chef guy over here he did all the campaigning around school dinners and things and he has a big sort of chain of restaurants around the world which is he’s having to which is in terrible trouble a lot of those big restaurant chains are unraveling because we’re seeing this big explosion of local independent places that are telling a better story that are serving their community better so I think when you go looking for the signs you know we see it in some countries now where there’s a big push big push for renewable energy and a lot of that energy is increasingly owned by communities either by the people who benefit from it we’re seeing regional banks starting to make a return we’re seeing an explosion of local currencies across Europe money that is designed specifically to remain within that local community but local economy and and tell a story of that local economy you know for me I was think I think this is really what the economic story of the 21st century is going to be is going to be how can we how can we make our local economies like there’s an analogy that the New Economics foundation use where they say think of the economy of the place where you live as being like a leaky bucket a bucket full of holes and at the moment money comes into that from wages grants government pensions whatever comes into the bucket and most of it leaves straightaway it goes out through the supermarket holes the shopping on Amazon holes the buying calls beer holes all of those sorts of things but when you change your way of looking at that every hole in that bucket is a potential new business you livelihood a new training opportunity for young people new investment opportunity for local people to move their money out of the banks and move it into something which is going to transform the economy of that place I’ll just share a little a little story because you might think well this all sounds very sort of theoretical and nice and but it’s not never actually going to happen I was in Belgium a few weeks ago and bail transition is just on fire across Belgium and there’s a city called early which is a former industrial city and I went there about four years ago when Liege on transition had just started and I went and did some talks and met with the group and things and and I went to an event where they launched a project that was called sin to elementaire which means food belt and it was all designed around a what-if question and the what-if question was what if in a generations time the majority of food consumed in this city was grown around the edge of this city and so they invited everybody who had any kind of interest in food so academics chefs and farmers shop owners everybody academics researchers whatever and and they had this big event anyway four years later I go back to liege in that time they started 14 new cooperatives they have a farm they have two vineyards a brewery a pedal-powered cycle delivery business two retail shops in the city they’ve raised five million euros in investment from local people and I met the mayor of the city who said yeah eight years ago we wanted to be a smart city now we want to be a transition city and we own a whole load of land around the city and we’re making it all available to central government air to rent at low rents to young people who want to get into farming and and grow food they have a local currency that runs through the whole thing and kind of weaves the whole thing together and I talked to the guy Pascal who is the manager of one of these shops so they have these two big they took over a big unit painted it white very simple put the food out in boxes telling the story of the farmer where it comes from they would pay the farmer what they want and their prices are 15% less than the supermarket I said them I said you know what’s your ambition with this he said we’re at the moment we have two shops we started with one already within three months it was outperforming our best case scenario now we’ve opened two by the time we’ve opened ten he said and he said and then using a word that it’s a French word that doesn’t translate into English perfectly but it really works he said when we open ten shops the supermarket’s will start to fragile eyes and then they had that kind of vision to stay you know this is going to be in 10 15 20 years time this is gonna be the new economy in this city and they were doing it you know so this is something I know you can tell story by that all day from all around the world this is this is under way nap


Matt: so let me ask you as we seem to be moving towards an increasingly international and an increasingly local world that creates some dynamic tension so we have a lot of isolationist groups around the u.s. Europe we had Greg’s it a lot of these things I personally think farming closer to where you live is a dead obvious use case but it does create some of those also us and them mentality how do you how do you deal with that and how do you see Humanity evolving and potentially thriving in the next century hey if we didn’t have your attention already we will now this is ridiculous what Rob’s about to say I can’t believe that this is happening and this is something that we all need to think about and try to solve


Rob:  I love the home and Daily The Economist had a saying that I used to really laugh he said you know we because at the moment Britain exports as many potatoes to Germany as it imports from Germany and we send the same amount of butter to the Netherlands as we import from the Netherlands and the same amount of scarves to Canada as we import from Canada and Holman daily is to say well why don’t we just email each other the recipes you know for me there is something where you could imagine a version of something like transition or localization which is rooted in that idea of putting up borders putting up fences closing out you know there are some terrible at North Korea or something you know but actually I think what you’re seeing in transition is is completely the opposite but in the in turn actually if we are to successfully manage the transition to a world that manages to stay below one and a half degrees in terms of climate change then it makes absolutely no sense to be importing potatoes from Germany when we can perfectly well grow potatoes that doesn’t mean that we put up there’s a difference between kind of economic globalization I think and and a cultural globalization economic globalization only makes sense when you have an enormous amount of a surplus cheap energy in order to make that happen and that’s something that we don’t really have anymore we no longer have the carbon budget to really make it as sensible to be transporting things all over the place because actually that process of bringing that production closer to the place where we live has such possibility for unlocking creativity you know when I go to Fran I don’t want to walk around the city and see all the same shops and cafes that I have a home I want to go to walk around markets where there are wines and beers and cheeses and breads that are off that place that you that actually I can’t get anywhere else and this kind of globalize sort of everywhere the same mentality leads to a Blanding out of diversity a huge loss of diversity and I think as sort of the narrowing down of our imagination but that’s a very different thing I think from saying we don’t want cultural globalization so for me one of the things about transition that is most powerful is if I was if it was just us here in my little town in Devon doing transition and no one else was then we really might as well not bother the beauty of it now is that there are thousands of communities in 50 countries around the world who are share who are doing this and sharing their stories with each other their successes their failures they have like a network of those national Lord we call the national hubs national transition organizations who are sharing all of their learnings – then I think you have a you have a cultural exchange an international network of communities and economies that are going through that process of making themselves more resilient but then sharing and you mentioned brexit I’m actually for me it’s very much the opposite of brexit because brexit tried to portray itself as being sort of a take back control and giving power back to local communities in reality it’s nothing of the sort it’s a kind of neoliberal issed dream of shutting out worker protection basically kind of prostituting our economy to the rest of the world so whoever wants to buy it throwing away worker protection Environmental Protection and handing power to the wealthiest most powerful elites making this country one of the most attractive tax havens in the world which is totally not what we want to do in transition it used that language of take back control and actually in reality what it meant was it was gave the very wealthy elites in this country the power to take back control from the people who were actually putting in place legislation to protect workers and ordinary people in this country so for me it’s a completely different thing than what we’re talking about in transition in transition is it’s very counter it’s very revolutionary to how the world’s running today have you seen challenges with local government so this is sort of going back to an era where we had stronger feudal lords and self-sufficient villages townships etc where people didn’t have to rely as much on external sources and the governments were weaker have you seen challenges and what are your thoughts on that and then the implications


Rob:  you know when we when we started doing transition there was a whole and in the first book we did I put in a thing that was called the seven butts which were the seven things that people would say oh yes well transition and that transition sounds like a very nice idea but you know so they were things like but we have not any money or but no one else cares or things like that and one of them was but they will try and stop it you know this is sort of kind of powerful organizations and people would would recognize transition as being a profound challenge to what they were doing and would somehow try and interfere with it and stop it you know I can honestly say after twelve years that really hasn’t happened and I think that that is partly because we have designed it in such a way that it’s not confrontational transition you could think of transition as being like a a piece of social technology that is designed to to work at the local scale so a lot of it is about how do you how do you communicate in such a way that it is it’s not aligned with any particular part political party it’s it tries to remain open and accessible to as many people as possible with the minimum of barriers for people getting involved so you know for example when here in Thomas we started Thomas Pound as a local currency just kind of as an experiment really to see what would happen and it inspired the the city of Bristol and a few other places did it but they were quite small and they were a bit below the radar and when when the city of Bristol which is like half a million people announced that it was going to launch the Bristol pound the Bank of England rang them up and said I think you need to come in and have a little chat so they went up and talked to him about three hours I’m Ashley the Bank of England then published a position paper of their understanding of the legality of local currencies and then they’ve just sort of carried on really I know it’s hard to think of anything that we’ve tried to do there has been a kind of a very clear kick back against you know that that there seems to be actually quite the opposite in in many cases what chance brings to what exciting about transition for local governments for mayors for people like that is that it is a what it is it shows that it is possible to bring people together to want to do good things and to change things and that people will get involved and people will make that happen and for many people in government in local government they’re really excited about I was kind of why they came into it in the first place so they get very excited about it and you know I needed mayor’s who’ll say you know I love transition but we don’t have any transition groups in my city how do we get them start so for me that that idea that somehow transition will trailer lots of people’s toes people will try and shut it down at its best like when I was talking about the age in the city of the edge and the mayor was so excited about it it was like this this is this is our story now and and it’s so wonderful this has brought people together the citizens have come together and have created this and it’s becoming the new story of this city and he was so excited about it rather than thinking how do i shut this – helen virtually it was really excited about what it then made possible through city


Matt: I’d love to hear your thoughts on cryptocurrencies unblocked in because the decentralized organization structure is very similar to what I’m hearing with transition


Rob:  yeah well I I have to I have to kind of preface answering this by saying I don’t really understand blockchain that well it feels to me like you know I’m very troubled about the kind of energy implicated the amount of energy that cryptocurrencies use I read a study the other day that said that by next year the equivalent of all the electricity being generated by all the solar energy that has been installed around the world will be needed to drive cryptocurrencies and I just don’t really see the point of it it seems like pretty kind of making something I don’t really see it it feels like I mean quick I’m increasingly sort of drawn to the to the tangible and the analog and the real and cryptocurrencies feel like something where a bit of a pyramid scheme the people who got in first are going to make a lot of money out of it I mean I’m sure they were uses for for blockchain I know a lot of people in terms of renewable energy are getting quite interested in some of the implications of it but it feels to me like actually the the drive should be how do we bring this stuff closer to home and closer to being to tangible stuff rather than making them all more esoteric and abstract and if–and I think the before the energy implications of blockchain and really of cryptocurrencies are really troubling


Matt: so for the energy that’s specifically Bitcoin mining there are a lot of different attempts to essentially the idea is to secure the network there are a lot of different systems designed for securing the network that don’t require the energy the reason why I brought it up and asked is it’s very interesting because you do see these projects internationally of people self-organizing to try to create something whether that’s a decentralized version of uber that’s a Facebook that’s not spying on you then they have decentralized autonomous organizations at least that’s what they’re working on creating and it sounds very similar to very similar to transition where you have a group of people working towards a collective goal in benefiting


Rob:  yeah sure I mean they and there are many many great things like that I mean it’s interesting I I I do some and I rested down with particularly young people but but it seems to be increasingly across the board now and usually start thinking about you know what what might be the inventions or the things that we’re going to need to successfully get through the next 10 20 30 years you know and and it always tends to resort to apps and digital new platforms and you know and I’m sure there are there are many of those things that are very useful will be a part of that but actually I’m I’m just as interested in the kind of social things that we’re going to need and the the models that we’re going to need for how we organize the ways in which we are able to kind of provoke the communities where we live with sort of actions or projects that are able to start shifting people’s thinking and most of what we do in transition is is very real it’s creating new markets it’s looking at bringing land into community ownership so that the community can become its own developer and build housing that meets community needs it’s about installing renewable energy in such a way that local people can invest in it finding other models whereby people can invest their money into projects that are happening at the local scale it’s bringing it’s opening the first new mill in the town for over 100 years and then finding markets for that flower among local businesses you know those sort of things I think are as important as looking for new sort of apps and technological breakthroughs but actually we can live in a time culture where those digital ones are always the sexier one and tend to get the more energy and focus put into them and we then get distracted I think often from doing that very real work of saying okay that old factory is closed what are we going to do with that how can we as the community become the the body that owns that place runs it on behalf of this community and but often I think we get sort of we we drift off into kind of digital dreams and we and our feet lift off the off the ground of the very real work that needs to be done right now. I think that the way that we always try and do transition is not to set out to organize the community we set out to try and inspire the community with with story and possibilities and then we put in place the infrastructure the support that they will need to then to then go off and do it so so when we started doing transition here for example we started transition to the idea of transition town Totnes was here was a charity which could apply for grants which had a bank account which had an email list and a website so if you had an idea for a project that you wanted to do you didn’t need to start all that stuff you could affiliate with the project and we would give you support and enable you to do that so about 50 different projects now have come through transition town Totnes and they get support with fundraising they get space on the website they feel part of that kind of an umbrella and so that’s kind of worked better for us you know we don’t go in transition doesn’t work like a coca-cola franchise set of things you have to do we really trust a lot to that idea of a self-organization and and it really works for


Matt: self organization it’s very interesting as we move towards the future of increasing autonomy and decreasing AI taking away potentially jobs what do you see is the rule for local communities in terms of support structures and how we can best cope and prepare for what’s coming


Rob:  well I mean I you know there are certainly things in the bigger picture I think they are the whole idea of universal basic income is very interesting in terms of in terms of enabling that you know I I do find myself really troubled around a lot of the AI stuff and this this kind of the power that resides in Silicon Valley to decide basically what happens next and yeah we all gonna have driverless cars well I don’t remember anybody ever saying let’s have drive-ins cars and all of a sudden we’re being told we’re gonna have driverless cars and you know I’m researching a book at the moment about imagination and reading a lot of the a lot of the research around the impact that you know if you look at the last 20 years since everything went online and social media and so on and so on and the impact that a lot of those technologies are having particularly on our attention spans on our ability to concentrate on increasing levels of depression mental health and so on you know I think there is a real risk associated with a lot of AI stuff that it’s it’s not the kind of vision of it’s certainly not my vision of things you know but if if we accept that actually well that’s what’s happening and there’s not much we can do about it then we’re going to have a lot of people with time on their hands and we have a lot of communities where there is an enormous amount to do I think in the 1930s in the US with a depression there was the land core which was set up to give people things to do who actually planted my crop members let me like millions and millions of trees and prevented soil erosion and did incredible kind of work well if we have this tiny tiny window of opportunity to for the world to stay below one and a half degrees which already in climate terms is really not great and we’re already seeing the impacts of being at about one one point two degrees now all over the world if we’re going to stay below one and a half degrees that is a phenomenal collective push so if it’s true that AI is coming in then maybe we should be looking at saying well therefore we’ve got a lot of people with some time that needs to be the focus what would it look like what would a land core for the 2020s look like with that as its kind of as its mission


Matt: how would you inspire leaders to think about that so I know with transition you’re very much focused on local communities but to be able to have something where if we have a worldwide challenge of 1.5 degrees Celsius how do we get more people on board with that especially when Trump is claiming it’s all a joke


Rob:  yeah the irony of that of course though is it actually Trump knows it’s not a joke and that all of trumps Golf Course is all around the world have climate mitigation plans based on a full understanding of what’s going on I think that we know so so what we’re seeing after 12 years of this kind of transition experiment is there are places where people in community come together and run to become their local government you know you see a whole movement there of people gathering together as independence so they don’t run under a party political banner they run as themselves around a very clear platform of what they want to do for the community and they then become the local government you know we see in some places where we have particularly in France and Belgium where you have mayors who are being elected who are very inspired by transition and that’s a very kind of clear part of of what it is they want to do I think a lot of what we try to do is to tell stories and to try and tell those stories in a way that they really intrigue and inspire people politically there’s the wonderful thing in Cleveland in Ohio the other green color there were huge inspiration which is in Cleveland where they where the hospital decided that rather than letting its energy food and laundry services just be run by some faceless corporation they were going to set up a cooperative to do each of those things and the benefits to the community into the local economy have been huge and it’s been a real inspiration so you’re now in the UK starting to see cities like Preston for example who have done a whole mapping thing for the city to say where does all of our money go well they bought together the seven main public organizations who spend taxpayers money so the university is the the fiber gave the police the municipality whatever and said together we spend seven hundred fifty million pounds a year where did it go and no one knew and when they found out that only four percent of that money was actually spent into the economy of Preston they were really horrified and that’s now led to them changing how they how they do their economics so that it’s all about how do we make money stay locally let’s bring our pension funds back to this city use it to build affordable housing let’s change how we do tendering for public contracts so that it’s not just big corporations who can apply but it’s also we break it down into bits so a lot more local companies can apply that model what they’re doing in Preston is now inspiring political parties here to change their policies around making that and what they want to do so for me there’s a whole thing about well we can lobby we can put pressure but actually what I see as being just as effective is we tell the stories we tell the stories of what’s already happening we try and get those stories more so the more people hear them we try and take any sort of party political thing out of it because actually a story like what’s happening in Preston really should appeal just as much to people on the left as to people on the right so so that’s that’s kind of it for me that there is nothing there is no substitute for not waiting for permission and just getting on with it and just getting started I always say to groups when I go to visit you we’re doing transition you have no idea when you start this stuff whether to and you will start a project and even if it’s a small you’ve built a garden in your street for example and you might be thinking well that’s not gonna change anything you really have no idea where it’s gonna go who’s gonna see it who’s gonna be inspired by it


Matt: and that guys is the butterfly effect the entire purpose of Fringe FM to put out those stories of people changing the world and inspire others to do the same now let’s come back to it


Rob:  and it’s the stories that become really kind of sticky there’s a there’s an amazing place in France could unger time whenever mayor called jean claude mink who who was very inspired by transition and who started who they’re they’re kind of a transition village and they started 21 really phenomenal amazing projects that story is now someone’s made a film about it as being shown all over France you know just get on with it and the stories will have a life of their own that you really can’t predict


Matt: I really think you should do some more research into block D and I think you could find a lot of advocates who will be very supportive of what you’re doing


Rob:  ya know sure I’m just yeah I need someone to sit down and explain


Matt: I’ll see if I can find some good podcast episodes to shoot over to you but this is essentially the vision and it’s it’s more Millennials doing it in a millennial way but these same vision of taking back taking back control and power what’s um what’s the state of the industry looks like in terms of climate change solar energy renewables where are we at right now where are we headed


Rob:  we are way ahead I think of what anybody of what people predicted but we’re nowhere near where we need to be you know we’re now solar in the UK is now at the stage where we we’re now having days where where there is no coal burnt and that we’re having sort of fossil fuel free days here in the UK now and because of wind because of solar and in Germany there are days when they’ve got so much energy they’re just sort of giving it away because of renewables you know for me one of the things that’s really important though is that when we look at renewable energy that where possible we we make sure that as much of it as possible can is in community ownership because you know we had up until about five years ago here we had a really strong emerging community renewables movement which was aided by really good feed-in tariffs so communities all over the country were setting up these great models where people could not invest in a bank but investing in solar at the community scale wind at the community scale which helped them go into design some sort of financial resilience into what they’re doing as communities and then the government changed it and sort of took all the wind out of that there are some much bigger community projects that are happening but that yeah so there’s a lot more that could be done but we’re still way off where we need to be we’re still kind of largely at a sort of aim ahead in for a three three-and-a-half degree world rather than one and a half degree world partly because we we seem to be averse to having the conversation about energy conservation on any kind of realistic scale and we also have to start to grasp the really thorny question of economic growth because there are many many advances being made in terms of energy conservation and renewables installed but that keeps being overtaken all the time by economic growth and we have to be talking about economic growth and looking beyond that to saying well let’s have some new measures of how we value what progress is because economic growth is going to be the thing that finishes ourselves


Matt: are we entering a post capitalistic world


Rob:  that’s a kind of glass half-full glass half-empty question I think you know dude do we do we look at Donald Trump and seeing the last gasp of patriarchal fossil fuel driven Emperor’s New Clothes capitalism or do we look at Donald Trump as being the beginning of the beginning and I don’t know I always said to be a really optimistic person and and I used to do a lot of work with people on building projects and working in woods and stuff and I remember a friend of mine saying that when you’re working with a chainsaw and you’re cutting trees that it’s the moment that when you’re working with a chainsaw and it runs out of petrol just before it runs out of petrol it has a final big rev there you have this bigger on this big surge of energy before it runs out of energy and I like to imagine Donald Trump as being that or as a journalist here said the comedian I think of I said Donald Trump is like the he’s like the noise that the dinosaurs made when they saw the meteorite that the meteor falling towards the asteroid falling towards the hare oh you know that’s kind of what we’re seeing there really because no coal is dead fossil fuels are on their way out climate litigation is is taking off all around the world you can’t cling on to coal we can’t cling on to fossil fuels you can’t cling on to patriarchy and all that sort of stuff now it’s all that stuff is just sort of fading away so yeah I think of it I think that we are we’re seeing the last gasp of the dinosaurs before we move in Evatt ibly into what comes next but beautilities you know always the thing I hate being told the most is oh you’re utopian and actually when you talk about transition what you’re talking about is utopia and it’s so not because actually you know when we’re surrounded by dystopias all the time the futures gonna be terrible it’s gonna be awful the future is going to be this is going to be that actually for me when I think about the future it’s not a utopia it’s really a in a William Gibson the science fiction writer used to say the future is already here it’s just unevenly distributed and you know I could take you now to go and see a four bet a four story straw bale apartment block in Geneva 100 percent composting toilets harvesting rainwater beautiful beautiful place surrounded by food gardens I could take you to food gardens in the middle of Berlin growing masses of food right in the center of the city rooftop gardens in New York to incredible renewable energy places two cities where there’s barely any cars you know all of that stuff already exists this is not some utopian fantasy the and we know that it works the question is how do we scale it up and and that’s you know so when I’m trying to when I dream about the future I’m just piecing that stuff together that’s already here I’m not dreaming about something that is some kind of a fantasy


Matt: and that’s the purpose of this podcast to get people like you that can share those glimpses of the future with people who don’t even realize it’s happening I was listening to a podcast yesterday and apparently there are hotels in Japan where literally they are staffed by robots there are not humans and that you see this dichotomy between the world as some people see it in the world that we’re seeing it’s incredibly important to have these type of conversations so that people can people can better understand what’s happening and how they can change I want to get your thoughts on Tesla what Elon is doing and how other entrepreneurs can compile on


Rob:  yeah III think that there’s a lot of what Elon Musk does I think is wonderful and his kind of his imagination his his sense that anything is possible here’s the the idea of making solar roof tiles that are cheaper than anything else I do you know III can see why electric vehicles are really important I do have a strong part of me that actually feels that we need to be moving away from the dialogue about alternative cars to saying we need alternatives to cars and if cars are electric or driverless or whatever it still means we end up with cities that have gridlocked full of cars so you know so how can we how can we move beyond that I think all of this stuff about let’s go to Mars I kind of start to despair a bit when I heard that he was the amount of money he is demanding in bonuses from Tesla I cannot get a little I do despair a little bit but I think fundamentally either he’s a very imaginative person for whom there is no sense of yeah we can’t do that and I think that’s a really powerful spirit that we need that we need right now


Matt: the guerrilla lock should be at least a bit better with driverless cars but if you have one car for every eight cars today then you’re able to cut a lot of the traffic out ideally that’s a that’s where we’re headed I’m hoping of course that’s all subject to debate regulation and all of that fun stuff which is the deaths


Rob:  yeah I guess I guess some there’s something that that actually for me there’s really interesting research about London taxi drivers who when they become taxi drivers they have to learn and memorize the street layout of London it’s called the knowledge and it takes them quite a while to have it but then they have the whole map of London in their heads and then when they do brain scans on the never particular part of their brain which is much larger and I do have concerns about when we no longer need to look at maps we no need when we do everything with sat-nav and we don’t have to think about where we are in relation to anything when we are increasingly sort of passive we don’t need to remember and remember anything anymore because Google remembers it all for us I fear that we lose something we really can’t even put it there and then actually when you drive you have to give your attention to doing that and that at a time when our attention spans are getting less and less


Matt: hey Matt here a quick note study out of Canada with 2,000 participants has shown the human attention span has gone from around 12 seconds in 2000 to around 8 seconds in 2015 now one second less than a goldfish


Rob:  I think that if we throw away the idea of actually driving something and having to focus and concentrate while we do it I think there’s something there that we lose as well as something that we that we might gain actually it license


Matt: I would agree if that time is replaced with only Netflix I think there’s other ways that we can we can fix things where when people have more time they can do more meaningful pursuits we can have more


Rob:  so what do you think people are going to be doing while they’re sitting in their driverless cars being variable


Matt: I think it really depends I think 80% of people are boring and we’ll just watch Netflix I think 20% will focus on improving themselves that’s usually what the breakdowns always 8024 just about everything in life


Rob:  so there’ll be so there’ll be some people meditating as they travel through just to go oh


Matt: yeah I sure hope not but that’s what it looks like if you go through public transit yeah we will see I know we’ve been running a bit and you’ve got quite a bit to go quite a bit that you still need to do I would like some future predictions for you 10 15 years out what are some of the big changes you see that you don’t think others are noticing where are you a contrarian


Rob:  who am i contrarian I think that we will see a much more meaningful movement of young people opting out of social media which i think is already starting and moving towards more kind of real interaction a real collection of people


Matt: Rob is very right on this one studies are showing that as of the recording three billion people per month are dropping off the Facebook turns out the Cambridge analytic and Donald Trump are not that popular


Rob:  I think we will see a lot more organizations and individuals starting to move away from air travel now this idea of everybody flowing around the world to go to conferences know that the discussion around around air travel is just so vital i I gave up flying in 2006 and I know many other people who who are living without flying and finding other ways of doing things it’s such an important conversation I think in 10 or 15 years we will start to see like like I talked about in Li Aires you know I think we will start to see the fragmentation of supermarkets and a real kind of emergence of really strong local alternatives to that I think wills will see the the divestment movement which is currently gaining a lot of energy which is around organizations taking their money out of fossil fuels I think the next step of that is going to be and then what so we’ll see this whole thing of regional banks local energy companies new models for people to move their money out of the banks and to move it into organizations who are changing the place where they live I think that will become pretty standard pretty commonplace pretty normal and I think the idea that when we look at cities we look at them as being potential intensive edible spaces you know whether we’re growing food up the walls of buildings on the roofs of buildings in buildings any green you know a lot of green space in the city will be put down to that I think that we will see them being an urban farmer an intensive urban market gardener will actually be the hippest career choice among young people and yeah I could go on and on this view


Matt: those are some pretty solid ones I can agree with most of those and the farming will be much easier once we start to get rid of all of this parking in cities it’s a ridiculous amount of space thing it’s a get see a parking


Rob:  it’s like you know how many acres of do we put do we put down sir two cars and even the roads you know there’s that lovely photograph someone took the one ago where you have a street and you you have the number of people if they’re all in cars and then the number of street you need if they’re in buses the number of street if they were on bicycles as we move more stuff to public transport to bicycles you start to free up you know less let’s take up some of the roads as well and grow stuff on laser I lives it for a while and Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam and that’s what you know when it’s efficient it’s motorbikes everywhere this as fossil fuels burning like crazy but you can see how many more people fit on the road I completely I completely agree it’ll be out it’ll be a very interesting future I have one last critically important question for you I want to challenge for listeners what do you want people to look into to think about or take action on


Rob:  so I would I would say that if you go to so if you’re in the u.s. have a look at the transition us website transition us org I’ll have a look and see if there are transition groups that are already happening there where you live and there are transition groups in hundreds of places now across the US so if there are just go along and say hello and see what they’re doing and see if they’re doing anything the interest you if there isn’t transition happening then on the transition Network website transition network to org we have a really great free guide called the essential guide to doing transition and another one called 21 stories of transition so the 21 stories is a thing we did for cop21 in Paris the climate talks where we went to the whole network and said tell us your stories you want us to share at cop21 and it has some brilliant stories in there and then the essential guide is just a really clear how to get started where you live just do something put on a put on a meal in your street or invite people to see a film or do something that is about taking a step into interacting with the community around you in a different way and then just you know just see what the response is and see how it moves you and where you might want to go with it I think I think in many ways you know we we have this idea very often that there are people who know nothing about climate change for example and don’t do anything and then at the other end of the spectrum you have people who know a lot about it and who are doing loads and loads of things and that somehow for years there was this belief in the environmental movement that all we needed to do was to give to give somebody a sufficiently terrifying DVD and they would magically leap from one end to the other and it doesn’t work like that steps and what I see again and again is you know those small projects whether it’s a garden on the street or you know starting you know a an exchange repair cafe or something know that those things are a step in and then once people are in they go mmmm actually this feels really great and I know more people and I’m having more fun life here more connected let’s take another step and then you take steps in like that so my suggestion would be just take a first step and see what huh


Matt: absolutely it has to be manageable you put one foot in front of the other you’re trying to lose a hundred pounds and you think about losing a hundred pounds it’s probably harder than thinking about losing one completely agree what so what’s one topic you would like to see us cover on the show and who would you like to hear speak about it


Rob:  so I’m currently researching a book about imagination and as part of that research the way that I like to work is that I I like to sort of make all my source material available as I go I believe commercially fairly rectoress it’s just kind of how I work so all the interviews that I’ve done are all available on the blogger and in called Rob Hopkins net and one of the best people I interviewed on there is a guy called Sven Burkitt’s who is a I think he lives in Boston and he he’s a kind of literary he writes it’s a book reviewer and he publishes a literary journal he wrote a book called changing the subject all about attention and the the the kind of state of health of attention in our society and and what happens to a culture when it stops being able to focus and it loses its ability it loses its attention and it was for me were the most fascinating interviews that I did during the whole kind of research for the book I’d suggest him


Matt: it’s incredibly irrelevant it’s incredibly relevant in today’s attention economy thanks thanks so much for coming today this has been a lot of fun Rob we’ll have links and everything in the show notes will include the TED talk and all the incredible stuff you’ve done but what do you want to leave people with where’s the best place for them to connect with you on the interwebs


Rob:  so either or is the blog I’m doing which is about the the research for this book on imagination


Matt: awesome this has been fun and imagination inspiring I think we’re moving towards an interesting world


Rob:  yeah I certainly hope so


Matt: I certainly hope so as well cut boring would suck


Rob:  there’s a beautiful I just gonna grab something and then and then go for it just a little quote but also there was yours there was the question you were gonna ask me about the party or what I’d say at the party which would say


Matt: I don’t remember anymore


Rob:  okay because you said you said what was the one story that you would want to tell


Matt: oh what’s your best


Rob:  yeah what’s your best story yeah so you didn’t ask me that one yeah so so I’d yeah I would just one of my favorite quotes about the future is from Don Van Vleet or Captain be far as he was known so he once said 50 years from now you’ll wish you’d gone Wow which I really


Matt: like I like it I like it thanks for coming on today Rob Cheers thanks for tuning in guys cheers and until next time go make something happen if you want more of Fringe fm you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or go to fringe.FM where you’ll find tons of audio and video interviews with leaders in the fields of genetics cryptocurrency longevity AI space VR and much much more and you can follow me on twitter at itsmatward if you enjoyed the show please leave a quick review in iTunes to help more people discover fringe Fm

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