Economist and ecologist correctly predicted the global meltdown, writes Tom Shiel BRAVE: Richard Douthwaite
Published 20/11/2011 | 05:00
Richard Douthwaite, an economist, ecologist and writer who predicted as far back as the early 1990s the turmoil in which the global economy would eventually be engulfed, has died at his home near Westport, Co Mayo. He was 69.
Douthwaite was exceedingly intellectual as can be guessed by the title of his first and probably best-known book, The Growth Illusion: How Economic Growth Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet (1992).
Although not everybody in financial and governmental circles initially took the writer's grim predictions too seriously, he has been proven to have been startlingly accurate.
Other books from Douthwaite's prolific pen followed, all focusing on the theme of global economic instability. The writer not alone signposted problems but proffered solutions. For instance, Short Circuit (1996) outlined how communities could make themselves more independent of a shaky global economy. Another tome, The Ecology of Money (1999), recommended different currencies for different purposes.
Douthwaite's advocacy of local currencies led to him playing a founding role in the setting up in the Nineties in Westport of the Local Exchange Trading System (LETS) in which goods and services were traded without the need for printed money.
Given his thinking on such issues as global warming and the plundering of the Earth's resources, it is hardly surprising that he ended up joining the Green Party. In the 1990s, he stood unsuccessfully for election in the European Parliament for the old Connacht-Ulster constituency.
Courageous and innovative, Douthwaite applied his considerable intellect to such matters as climate change, global emissions and 'the ecology of money'. He lectured widely on the issues.
Douthwaite was a co-founder of the Irish economic, social and environmental think tank Feasta (the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability). In a statement, the organisation said it would miss his "unique and far-ranging intellect, the clarity of his thought and writing, his warmth and his laughter".
Around his adopted Westport home, Douthwaite will be missed for his warm-hearted and affable personality.
British-born Douthwaite, who studied engineering and subsequently economics, was a government statistician in Montserrat before settling in Cloona, near the foot of Croagh Patrick.
He is survived by his wife Mary, daughter Lucy and sons Joss and Mark. A cremation service was held at Mount Jerome in Dublin yesterday.