I’ve been traveling for almost four weeks but even on this last day in London I’ve made another wonderful contact, with Isabel Hilton, a journalist, radio presenter, and China specialist who runs both openDemocracy.net and the new chinadialogue.net. The offices of these organizations is a pleasant 15-minute walk from Mecklenburgh Square, and I was thrilled that Isabel was in London and had time to meet. We found many areas of common interest, as will be obvious to anyone who knows our work at Berkshire Publishing and also takes a look at Isabel’s projects, and what amazes me is that I didn’t know about them before. That’s my ignorance, I know, but there’s a surprising level of disconnect between the U.S. and U.K., and it seems to have got worse over the past six years–as many Europeans have distanced themselves from the United States. Lots more to say about both of these projects, and the ways we might work together, and the story of how I learned about chinadialogue is also something I should explain.
In a piece of remarkable serendipity, I arrived in London on Saturday, the day that a 40th birthday party was being held in Oxford for Resurgence, Britain’s green magazine. Although I’ve written for the magazine–a feature entitled “Don’t Call Me a Green Consumer”–and have had connections for many years with the editor, Satish Kumar, I’m not really part of the Resurgence crowd, which is considerably more interested in spirituality than I am. But the speakers on Saturday included people like Jonathon Porritt (who’s written forewords to two of my books) and Sara Parkin (former leader of the Green Party), Anita Roddick (founder of the Body Shop), and Crispin Tickell (an ambassador to the UN and now active with environmental planning in China). Sara had told me about the event, which was really a conference, and I went along for a few hours. It was hippy spiritual, as expected, and Deepak Chopra was quite the attraction–and the salesman. I went to the China workshop and was glad to meet Herbie Giradet again, and also Sir Crispin. Maryann Bird, a journalist from chinadialogue, was there; we exchanged cards, and that’s how I learned about that fascinating project, and openDemocracy, too.
From 1989 to 1991, when I left the UK, I was quite active in green circles here, and it’s been wonderful to catch up with old friends, and amazing to find that so many of them, too, are working on China. Sara Parkin is planning to develop a leadership program there connected with Forum for the Future (here’s an article she wrote for Resurgence on leadership), and Jonathon was off to China in his government role as Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission.