Rob Hopkins’ Two-Factor Map of Eco-Change Thinkers

Transition Movement founder Rob Hopkins provides points to a chart by A. Bates, providing two axes to array the writers who interest him most. The axes are transformation vs revolution, and collapse vs ecotopia. I guess in my terms that would be whether the author advocates gradual or abrupt transition of society, and whether the author expects that strategy to be workable.

It’s an interesting model. I have great respect for Hopkins, though I wonder if he’d return it. That is, like Lomborg or Tol, he may consider me off the map entirely, since I pretty much am sympathetic to technofixes delaying the day of reckoning. On the other hand, I think that gives us more time to get to the sort of world Hopkins envisions.

From our point of view, other than McPherson (who gets an implicit dismissal in the diagram and the text) the main people he thinks about are unfamiliar in climatology circles. Hansen is, I think, misconstrued as revolutionary, but I guess there is no Iowa in the British Isles. McKibben is there. Anderson is probably the English Kevin Anderson (not the Austin one).

Other than that, the only people who’ve ever even crossed my awareness are Greer and Orlov, who are articulate pessimists… and (Derrick) Jensen, who is a very angry person. An interesting selection.

What’s more interesting is who is missing. Okay, I understand that this is not an academic list. nor an American one. But if Stewart Brand or Alex Steffen or David Roberts are not on there, am I missing some British equivalents?

I don’t see anyone here I’d really qualify as a whole systems thinker who is grappling with the fact that the planet is now in need of management at the whole system level, like a patient in a sickbed.

Nobody on this map seems to contemplate the huge social hurdles involved before we can get to managing the earth system in any holistic way in the way environmental science is starting to think about it. This is retail environmentalism from corner to corner, and it misses the mark.

We have our work cut out.


  1. I think you're underestimating the potential of the larger Transition concept if you are inclined to dismiss it as retail environmentalism - if that's what you're doing. The end-game involves bigger changes than the ones currently in vogue, but the idea is that we make small steps towards bigger changes, rather than throw the whole thing over at once. Hence the argument for divestment, which not only reduces corporate control/influence, but also political interference.

    As I understand it, Transition is about learning to live without the 'system' - money, politics, global brands, etc., which in turn results in the environmental benefits that can only come from such wholesale (if slow) change. As such, I actually think this could be a road map for what is likely in the future in developed nations for a significant minority - a choice not to be 'inside', but to take the chance and be 'outside', with like-minded others.

    From an environmental perspective, Transition is probably a bit too slow, considering the whole package. Whilst most active transitioners are also eco-friendlies, the type and scale of movement away from destruction of the planetary natural systems towards at the minimum, an uneasy balance, I probably agree with you if you wish to claim that some things simply cannot wait any longer.

  2. Well, my point is that I, speaking only for myself, can't imagine us getting through this without fixing the system. Abandoning the system is impossible under present conditions. Someone who puts Derrick Jensen and McPherson on the same page as Hansen simply doesn't understand the complexity of the issues.

    Hopkins is admirable, but he arrives on the scene a century too late. It simply won't work even if everybody is on board with it. Even prior to climate disruption we have exceeded our carrying capacity for a low technology

    Climate disruption makes it worse. I imagine that Totnes Town is struggling this very day. Imagine if these floods had come during the growing season.

  3. Pingback: Another Week of Anthropocene Antics, February 16, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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