Last November, I received a note from an old friend, John Hopkins, advising of the availability of his new book, (reviewed elsewhere in this edition), and I was quick to jump online and order a copy because John had shown me around the London Olympics site in 2010 – and I knew it was a very special project.
While digesting the book, I heard the shocking news of John’s premature death on 21 January, through a Guardian obituary published in The Age.
This article is a personal recollection of a friend of 30 plus years, (who some of you may have known from his time working in Sydney in the 1980s) and his professional achievements, many of which I only learnt about by browsing the many tributes to his life online. He was only 59, and full of ideas about how to make the world a better place.
John was keen for people to read his new book on the London Olympics site, so they could learn about the rigorous application of One Planet principles and criteria through the extended project. He saw this as an important message for our professions.
Just before John’s death, we exchanged ideas on a new book he was beginning called ‘The Global Garden – ecological economics, planning and design for people and planet’. He was very animated about his move to the US and this is an extract from his last email to me. It is still current and encapsulates his passion.
*‘It seems to me that the US has to take a lead on climate change and the environment. Sandy may have rustled up some political activity, but the political system here it seems to me is broken – I’m not sure they can work this one through.
The inequity and consequent poverty allied with the rabid right-wing agenda pushed by Fox (yes, Rupert still rules amazingly) and other populist radio and newsprint is just staggering. Americans are largely ignorant of the real issues. It was a relief to see Obama re-elected, but the current ‘fiscal cliff’ debacle illustrates how polarised and fractured the US is.
My view is that those nations, cities and communities that ignore conventional economics and make the paradigm shift to a steady-state ecological economy are the ones that will prosper in the long-term – not easy in a globalised economy where ‘growth’ is the mantra of all economists and politicians, and ‘growth’ means growth in consumption (and pollution) of the planet.
In the words of Herman Daly who is one of my mentors: ‘I think the answer is distressingly simple. Without growth the only way to cure poverty is by sharing. But redistribution is anathema. Without growth to push the hoped-for demographic transition, the only way to cure overpopulation is by population control. A second anathema. Without growth the only way to increase funds to invest in environmental repair is by reducing consumption. Anathema number three. Three anathemas and you are out!’*
I found this analysis to be a realistic and depressing insight. It is a great pity John didn’t get the chance to expand on these ideas in his planned new book. I hope others take up the challenge of trying to save the world by putting fabric on his outline.
John Hopkins was a committed landscape architect who had vision beyond his professional boundaries. He also demonstrated through his role with the London Olympic Delivery Authority over six years that he could deal with the breadth and minutia of a massive project and organisation while keeping the world in perspective.