Surviving the Future

Naivety is a small word to describe my belief that I could write the Art of Climbing Trees in three months. In June of 2014 I started my crowd fund and planned to deliver the book by December. It was just going to be a case of editing my tree climbing diaries and interviews. Easy. I’ve been at it for nearly two years now, plus the year of collecting all the material. People are tenacious all the time, and it’s true that maintaining belief is a curious journey. I’m in a kind of purgatory of my own design and it’s very strange.

Surviving the Future

The kind of concerns you might expect in writing a book that other people might actually read, (and the cabin fever induced madness) have often been made a little lighter when I remember Dr David Fleming (who I interviewed for my book in an oak tree on Hampstead Heath), who spent decades writing Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive it. He was literally just finishing the enormous work when I met him. He was amusingly self effacing about it, and I’m relating to what he said more by the day. Here’s an edited section of our conversation. Beth Barton was also with us, who was working with David as researcher and editor:

Henrik: So you are a holistic economist?
David: Yes, yes.
Beth: Well there is a lot of anthropological stuff actually isn’t there, in Lean Logic, which is interesting.
David: Yeah, and it could be taken to the cleaners.. I keep getting constant flack from friends and people, people pointing me in the street, ‘see how that poor fellow over there ..he’s been writing this book for the last 20 years. He will never finish it’, but then they say ‘he is a nice fellow, just don’t mention the book’, (laughing) ..I am in real trouble.
Henrik: I really want to read it.
David: I am very glad you said that, I am very glad.

I feel lucky to have met David before his untimely death just a few weeks after our meeting. Is that what’s called tragic irony for him, as a writer? Certainly grief for those who knew him, and a great loss to the world without anyone realising it. Rob Hopkins wrote:

“I would unreservedly go as far as to say that David Fleming was one of the most original, brilliant, urgently needed, under rated, and ahead of his time thinkers of the last 50 years”. 

I had no idea really who I was in a tree with, and that is further credit to David. He was clearly brilliant and equally modest. His masterpiece lives on however. The 600 page dictionary is newly republished (and really should be on every book shelf of every home in every land), and there’s also an ‘abridged’ version (pictured above), edited and reorganised by David’s friend and colleague Shaun Chamberlin.

Here’s the review I wrote for Surviving the Future on Amazon:

Never a more appropriate title for a book right at the very moment it is needed. And the contents hit the spot too… We’re living in strange, unsettling illusory times at the end of the market economy bubble. When that bubble bursts we’re going to need solid grounded ideas for how to collaborate as a society; as communities without money being the central pivot. For me the exciting question is what could the future be like? How could we function in a healthier way without the mechanics of corporate infrastructure and fossil fuel? How do we make it go round, and with more personal autonomy, joy and contentment thrown in too? (What! Not joy!? Surely not!) This book summarises the practical and philosophical challenges ahead and offers solutions with clarity and humanity. Alright! Tempted?

Chapter and subheadings include:
– A framework for community
– Rediscovering a life of place and play
– The path from here to there
– Manners
– Slack
– Post market-economics
– Eroticism
– Needs and wants
– Growth
– Population and food
– The wheel of life

Surviving the Future - David Fleming
I’m honoured to have made a small contribution to this story, – a photo I took of David on that blustery afternoon in 2010 was chosen for the book by publisher Chelsea Green.

I’m saying two things with this post:
To myself, ‘keep running / writing and drink lots of water’, and the same goes for you in your world saving endeavours. And secondly, it should be obvious, while you’re ‘waiting’ for the Art of Climbing Trees, get yourself a copy of Surviving the Future, and if you really want to survive the future get the dictionary as well.

A little more from:

David: ..After the shock we will be thinking of building a new world.. We won’t have capitalism, it won’t exist, and therefore we all will be extremely poor ..We may not even have a government but they won’t have any income, they won’t be able to raise any taxes because we won’t have any jobs and ..they won’t be able to pay for education or police service or defence or hospitals or social security or any other thing you can think about. Under these circumstances how do we organise our communities without all these things being provided by government? ..With great difficulty is the first answer to that.. And then I develop lots and lots of ideas about how to do it, and some of the ideas are more successful than others. For example Lean Defence is very difficult..
The Great Dr David Fleming, (1940-2010). Humour, intellect, humility, kindness. A man with his head screwed on and heart warm.


  1. Beautiful Henrik. Like you, I feel deeply blessed to have spent the time with David that I did. Keep drinking the water and let’s make sure you get to witness the fruits of your own labours!! As for myself, I was reading Lean Logic last night, and I think I am making a decent effort at taking enough pleasure in it on David’s behalf!

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