Richard Douthwaite was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, in August, 1942. He worked as a journalist in Leeds, Oxford and London before studying economics at the University of Essex and the University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica. He set up and managed a boatyard in Jamaica on behalf of the island's fishing co-ops before spending two years as Government Economist in the British colony of Montserrat. He has lived in Westport, Ireland, since 1974 and he and his wife Mary ran their own manufacturing and mail-order business there with twelve employees for ten years. He then went back to journalism, specialising in business, financial and environmental matters to do with the West of Ireland.
His book, The Growth Illusion: How Economic Growth Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet, was first published in 1992 and was re-issued in an extended and up-dated second edition in 1999. His other major book, Short Circuit (1996) gives dozens of examples of currency, banking, energy and food production systems which communities can use to make themselves less dependent on an increasingly unstable world economy.
He has made a special study of rural sustainability. He is a founder of Feasta, the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability, a registered charity which aims to establish the characteristics that an economic system would have to possess to be truly sustainable. He is co-editor of the Feasta Review, which appears every second year. He has acted as economic adviser to the Global Commons Institute (London) for the past twelve years, during which time GCI has developed the Contraction and Convergence approach to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions which has now been backed by a majority of countries in the world, most recently the UK.
In 2002 he organised a major three-day conference Ireland's Transition to Renewable Energyin conjunction with Feasta, the Tipperary Institute and Sustainable Energy Ireland. He edited the papers from that conference and these were published in late 2003 as the book, Before the Wells Run Dry. He was a founder of the Mayo Community Wind Energy Group, which aims to develop a mechanism by which ordinary people can invest in commercial wind farms. He edited To Catch the Wind, a report on the feasibility of such investments in current conditions in Ireland, which was published in June 2004.
He is now working on a Feasta research project designed to identify how the Irish economy and society might change if it took perhaps ten times as many minutes at work to earn the price of a unit of energy than it does at present. He is also involved in research into the options open to communities which wish to meet their own energy needs rather than relying on the electricity grid and other bought-in fuel sources.