the pioneer’s book keeper 
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This is the transcript of a conversation between Rebel and James Lovelock’s book keeper on a sunny autumn day on the Chesil bank, a 29 km long beach in Dorset, South England. (James Ephraim Lovelock (26 July 1919 – 26 July 2022) was an English independent scientist, environmentalist and futurist. He is best known for proposing the Gaia hypothesis, which postulates that the Earth functions as a self-regulating system.)
the pioneer’s book keeper 

The book keeper -blue raincoat, brown hat- leans forward against the sturdy sea breeze.

RBL (Rebel): Dr. Lovelock, who we admire in many respects, unfortunately passed away this summer on the day he turned 103, still bright in his mind and full of positivity! I am sorry for your loss.

BK (Book Keeper): Well, yes, thank you for your sympathy, but really, it is not so much about me. His death is a loss for the whole earth, for the trees, the animals, us on this coastline. James carried the key to a more inclusive future for life on earth.

RBL: Indeed, when he introduced the Gaia hypothesis 50 years ago, Dr. Lovelock opened the door to a different way of perceiving the world, where humankind is part of the self-regulating system that forms this planet. He revealed the fragile balance in which life exists and how mankind rapidly triggers crucial tipping points.

May I ask you how you became Dr. Lovelock’s book keeper?

BK: Oh that is not a very interesting story. He just found me in the yellow pages at the B of Bookkeeper. I am not that well-read as Dr. Lovelock you know, I just know how to juggle with numbers.

He laughs while kicking a lost ball back to a child on the beach and corrects the hat on his head.

RBL:  I know that Dr. Lovelock was intrigued by numbers. His early research on Gaia was to a large extent statistical. But in his later books he takes a more narrative approach. When he turned a hundred, he wrote a book on how artificial intelligence might be used to save the world. I imagine you also keep these later books?

BK: Urm…Could it be that you maybe, uh, possibly, confuse me with his publisher? I am merely the lad that guards his pension and his shoe box full of receipts…

RBL: uhrr…

He raises his voice with joy now.

BK: But, that was an easy task, you know! James spent very little money. You could say his environmental footprint was as small as that of a farmer in Punjab. He grew his own vegetables and bought his bread on the local market. He walked the 2 miles every day together with his wife. It kept him going. He was modest, you know, and needed very little. Do you know he built his zero-carbon house back in 1977? Yes, almost 50 years ago! That surprises many people. Solar technology has been around even longer. The first solar houses were built before WW2. What we now consider innovative, is over half a century old! We tend to focus too much on technology. But the technology is readily available. We just need to be more kind to each other and to the earth. We need creative people and activists to really make a change!

RBL: I couldn’t agree more! Anyway, being a bookkeeper of such a legendary pioneer must be really rewarding. I mean you are not only guarding his money, but now you also guard his legacy!

BK: In a way yes, you could say that…

RBL: So your role is way more important than that of his publisher, who only prints new editions of books that have already been read by thousands of people! But you, as a bookkeeper, keep the value of Gaia, our living planet with animals, trees, plants, fungi, but also mountains, rocks, rivers and oceans! That is a whole lot of value to keep!

The book keeper, seemingly proud and aware, walks straighter now.

BK: And WE are not the bank you know! I mean people are just one of the account holders. Gaia is the guardian of all that is valuable. Taking lithium for our EV batteries from the salt plains of Bolivia means that we ask Gaia for even more credit. While instead we need to start paying our debts! More is not the answer. We have thought for too long that growth solves all inequality, but it just shifts it to a different corner of the world! The ecological economy is about sharing with all life on earth and returning what we don’t need.

The book keeper throws his hat up in the air.

RBL: You said earlier that we need creative people and activists to really make a change. Could you name any person? And what should they do?

BK: For starters, there is one activist who stands head and shoulders above the rest: Greta Thunberg. A teenager still, she is one of the few who doesn’t mince her mouth. She just published The Climate Book, a practical fact book that invites us all to take action! She is not restricted by any economic or political interest, she doesn't shy away from convention. She says what it stands for. Just like Mick Jagger did in music. When he had his mouth wide open, not just a scream, but a compelling call for change was heard, uniting different cultures, young and old. Greta Thunberg changes the voice of society just like Mick Jagger changed the voice of music. 

We both remain silent for a minute while we listen to the call of change in the sea breeze.

RBL: And who is the creative person? How does a creative person contribute to a better world?

BK: There is never one single creative person who changes the course of time. Making a change as a creative means, working together! Take an architect, like yourself. Without a daring ambitious client, the architect stays unnoticed in the margins of his profession. But once this collaboration between the client, the architect and the advisors lifts off, then the creative process could lead us ahead of time. And architecture is not just about making smart living machines, and it is not just about the looks, it is all encompassing. Your architecture should be your best contribution to Gaia, to culture, to history and to the future of life on earth. And when that looks darn awesome, so be it!

As we walk back to the house of Lovelock's widow for some warm tea and biscuits I have a tune in my head, Bowie’s parodic ode to Mick Jagger: “Rebel rebel, how could they know?”

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