Three Luminaries: Hopkins, Hemenway, Heinberg

While in northern California I had the chance to meet three powerful voices in the movement for positive change. Call them the Three H’s, or Tres Hermanos.

Hermano One, Richard Heinberg of the Post-Carbon Institute, schooled me about the inevitability of a global economic crash. This eventuality is currently held at bay in part by the dubious practice of quantitative easing. (No, I don’t really know how that works, but apparently governments and banks are creating money out of thin air to prop up our ailing economic system.)

When asked how he stayed grounded, immersed as he is in researching the unraveling of life as we know it, he spoke of living with gratitude. He spends time in precious company and places. He plays the violin a couple hours a day, and tends his garden and chickens.

Richard Heinberg in his garden, photographed by Nicolas Boullosa, via Flickr Commons

Richard Heinberg in his garden, photographed by Nicolas Boullosa, via Flickr Commons

Heinberg has been the bearer of bad news for years now, absorbing and presenting material that would leave me immobilized if I were in his shoes. He takes a balanced perspective, noting, “We need to talk about the potential benefits of reorganizing our material economy and doing more with less, and having more cooperation, and sharing and voluntarism—all of those things are good and make life better, more interesting, more fun.”

“And yet, at the end of the day it’s going to be a materially less opulent way of life, bottom line.”

In light of that trajectory, Hermano Two, Toby Hemenway, reined me in from fear mode by sharing the robustness of permaculture-based solutions. He echoed Heinberg on the most basic, square one action, no matter what happens next: Get to know your neighbors.

That means now, not in some perfect future living situation. He told me, “People say, “Someday I’m going to move to a community where I’m going to do that’ (live sustainably). And you’re already in a community right here, with your neighbors.”

Permaculture instructor Toby Hemenway, with Buddha, in his garden.

Permaculture instructor Toby Hemenway, with Buddha, in his garden.

Far better than a theoretical “someday” eco-topia is identifying and building that community right here, where we are. It can start as simply as: “Who will walk my dog when I’m gone? Who will help me water my garden when I’m sick?”

Taking the concept of community even further was Hermano Three, Rob Hopkins.  He spoke of hearing Heinberg speak about the end of growth a few years ago and feeling galvanized to take action. He wanted his fellow permaculturists to join him, but instead “found that lots of permaculture people are very happy living up little misty lanes making chairs out of sticks.”

He wanted more. He wanted to get moving, spread the word. Out of this urgency was born the Transition Town movement.

Rob Hopkins. Photo by Tulane Publications, via Flickr Commons.

Rob Hopkins. Photo by Tulane Publications, via Flickr Commons.

These are groups that aren’t waiting for permission, but instead starting where they are to build a new, localized economy (the REconomy). There’s tremendous energy in this movement. It may not always be called Transition. It may not get much press. But it’s rolling like a wave across the globe.

For more info, check out Hopkins’ book The Power of Just Doing Stuff,  Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden, and Heinberg’s eye-opening End of Growth.

2 thoughts on “Three Luminaries: Hopkins, Hemenway, Heinberg

  1. Great post, these fellas really are leading the way forward! I met Toby this summer during a PDC and learned tons from him. The day that he taught us was lovingly called “Toby Day”

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