David Fleming (writer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people named David Fleming, see David Fleming (disambiguation).
David Fleming
David fleming blackheath.jpg
David Fleming giving a talk in a tent at the 2009 Climate Camp protest in Blackheath, London, UK.
Born 2 January 1940
Chiddingfold, Surrey
Died 29 November 2010
Citizenship British
Alma mater Oxford (Trinity College) and Birkbeck

Dr. David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was an independent thinker and writer on environmental issues, based in London, England. He was one of the whistle blowers on the possibility of peak oil's approach and the inventor of the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change.[1][2][3][4]

He was also a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party,[5] the Transition Towns movement[6] and the New Economics Foundation,[7] as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association.

Family background and early life[edit]

He was born in Chiddingfold, Surrey, to Norman Bell Beatie Fleming, a Harley Street eye surgeon, and Joan Margaret Fleming, an award-winning crime writer. He had three sisters.[8]

He attended Oundle School before reading Modern History at Trinity College, University of Oxford from 1959 to 1962. He then worked in manufacturing (textiles), marketing (detergents), advertising and financial public relations, before earning an MBA from Cranfield University in 1968.[9]


He was the Ecology (Green) Party's economics spokesman and press secretary between 1977 and 1980 (the party office at that time being his flat in Hampstead). From 1977 to 1995 he worked as an independent consultant in environmental policy and business strategy for the financial services industry, and in 1980 began studies in economics at Birkbeck College, University of London, completing an MSc in 1982 and a PhD on the economics of the market for positional goods in 1988.[10][11]

In this time, he also helped to organise the celebrated The Other Economic Summit (TOES), first held in 1984 - a regular counter-summit to the annual G7 summits. TOES is also noted as the birthplace of the New Economics Foundation, an organisation with which Fleming retained close links. Also in 1984, he became Honorary Treasurer of the Soil Association, and then was appointed that organisation's Chairman from 1988 to 1991. In 1995 his manual on the formation and management of investment funds in the Former Soviet Union was published.[12][13][14]

From 1995 until his death he wrote and lectured widely on the environmental and social issues which he expected to have a major impact on the global market economy in the 21st century, including oil depletion and climate change. He was a regular contributor to Country Life magazine, and was published in Prospect and other journals, as well as in academic literature and popular newspapers. He was editor of The Countryside in 2097, published in 1997, and gave the third annual Feasta lecture in 2001.[15][16][17][18]

David Fleming died on 29 November 2010, in Amsterdam.[19]

For over thirty years Fleming worked on a major book, Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It (formerly provisionally titled The Lean Economy). It was completed just before his death and published posthumously on 7 July 2011.[20]

Views and Ideas[edit]

His influential April 1999 article for Prospect magazine, The next oil shock?, interpreted the International Energy Agency’s 1998 report as predicting an impending global oil crisis. He later revealed that Fatih Birol – the future Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency – agreed to meet with him after reading the article, and confessed that “you are right… there are maybe six people in the world who understand this”.[21] Fleming had a long history with peak oil, having been part of the team who wrote the Ecology Party pamphlet The Reckoning in 1977, which discussed the peak oil problem and our need to rethink our use of energy.[22]

He developed the idea of TEQs - the most widely studied model for the implementation of a carbon rationing scheme - and founded The Lean Economy Connection (renamed The Fleming Policy Centre after his death) to work on the application of Lean Thinking to economic theory and society in general.[23] Until his death he remained a strong advocate for TEQs, and an ardent critic of nuclear power.

In his 2007 book The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy: A Life-Cycle in Trouble, Fleming argues:[24]

  • Every stage in the nuclear process, except fission, produces carbon dioxide. As the richest ores are used up, emissions will rise.
  • Shortages of uranium - and the lack of realistic alternatives - leading to interruptions in supply, can be expected to start in the middle years of the decade 2010-2019, and to deepen thereafter.
  • It is essential that radioactive waste should be made safe and placed in permanent storage. High-level wastes, in their temporary storage facilities, have to be managed and kept cool to prevent fire and leaks which would otherwise contaminate large areas.
  • The world's endowment of uranium ore is now so depleted that the nuclear industry will never, from its own resources, be able to generate the energy it needs to clear up its own backlog of waste.

He was also one of the key inspirations behind the Transition Towns movement. He was a regular speaker at initiatives around the UK and at the early Transition Conferences, and a close friend of Transition movement founder Rob Hopkins, who described his own work as "simply taking Heinberg's insights into peak oil, Holmgren on permaculture and Fleming on community resilience, rolling them together and making the whole thing comprehensible".[25]

Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It[edit]

Often described as his life's work, Fleming worked on the non-fiction book for over thirty years.[26][27] It was completed just before his death and published posthumously on 7 July 2011. Many reviewers have found it hard to categorise, with one describing it as "half encyclopedia, half commonplace book, half a secular bible, half survival guide, half ... yes, that’s a lot of halves, but ... I have never encountered a book that is so hard to characterise yet so hard, despite its weight, to put down ... It’s an incredibly nourishing cultural and scientific treasure trove."[28]

Lean Logic explores themes including ethics, science, relationships, culture, policy, art and history, but unconventionally for a book of such varied themes, it is structured in dictionary format, with each entry followed by a list of other related entries. This allows Fleming to highlight connections that might otherwise be overlooked without detracting from his in-depth exploration of each theme, and also has the effect of allowing the reader to follow the narrative of their choice as they explore Fleming's thoughts and research on strategies for the future.

His vision of the future is challenging, as he sees in the present "an economy that is destroying the very foundations on which it depends" (ecologically, economically and culturally), but many reviewers have commented on the positive spirit and humour that suffuse its pages as Fleming describes strategies and principles for a satisfying, culturally rich future in such difficult circumstances.[29][30] [31]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ UK Energy Research Centre biographies
  2. ^ "How The Global Oil Watchdog Failed Its Mission", Lionel Badal
  3. ^ "Decoding a message about the market for oil", Fleming article in the European Environment journal, 1999
  4. ^ All Party Parliamentary report into TEQs
  5. ^ Green Party Archives
  6. ^ David Fleming obituary in The Ecologist
  7. ^ David Fleming obituary from the New Economics Foundation, by David Boyle
  8. ^ David Fleming obituary in The Times
  9. ^ David Fleming obituary in The Ecologist
  10. ^ David Fleming obituary from the New Economics Foundation, by David Boyle
  11. ^ Bio: David Fleming
  12. ^ David Fleming obituary in The Ecologist
  13. ^ Profile: David Fleming
  14. ^ Lecturer Profile: David Fleming
  15. ^ Recording of Fleming on the BBC's Today programme, 21 May 2005
  16. ^ "The Spectre of OPEC", article in The Sunday Telegraph, 21 March 1999
  17. ^ "Qualitative growth and complementary technology: Beyond the technical fix", in Business Strategy and the Environment journal, Winter 1992
  18. ^ "Towards the Low-Output Economy: the future that the Delors White Paprer does not dare to face", Fleming article in the European Environment journal, 1994
  19. ^ Memorial post on Dark Optimism
  20. ^ Post on Rob Hopkins' Transition Culture blog
  21. ^ David Fleming obituary in The Ecologist
  22. ^ David Fleming lecture: "The Lean Economy: A Vision of Civility for a World in Trouble"
  23. ^ Homepage of The Lean Economy Connection
  24. ^ The Lean Guide to Nuclear Energy: A Life-Cycle in Trouble ISBN 978-0-9550849-2-8
  25. ^ David Fleming obituary in The Ecologist
  26. ^ Post on Rob Hopkins' Transition Culture blog
  27. ^ David Fleming obituary in The Ecologist
  28. ^ Lean Logic review by John Thackara, The Design Observer Group
  29. ^ Lean Logic review by John Thackara, The Design Observer Group
  30. ^ Lean Logic review by Chris Dixon, The Mid Wales Permaculture Network
  31. ^ Lean Logic review by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, Foods Matter