David Thorpe: 2nd December 1954 to 25th April 2024

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David smiling in front of the apple tree in his gardenIt is with great sadness that we announce the death of the author and environmentalist David Thorpe. He died peacefully in his sleep early on Thursday 25th April in Barcelona.

David was a lifelong lover of nature and staunch environmentalist. From birth he suffered from cerebral palsy and fought relentlessly through childhood to be able to walk, then to cycle and to swim. He loved to be out in nature and, aged eleven, won a national essay-writing competition for a piece mourning the loss of his local fields and pastures to rapacious urban development. These experiences sparked a love of writing and campaigning for positive, pragmatic social change which he pursued throughout his life.

David with the activist group "R.A.B.I.E.S." in 1980s London

David campaigning in 1980s London

David was creative and practical, and he had a unique set of skills that made things happen. During the 1980s he was part of the London left-alternative scene and a key member of the Monochrome Collective, an eclectic mix of activists who published a free newspaper.

His first career was in graphic novels, where he worked with Angela Carter and Doris Lessing. He loved comics, and they were how he expressed his politics. In the 1980s, while writing Captain Britain and editing comics for Marvel UK, he created “Earth-616,” the universe in which most of Marvel’s films and stories are now set, spawning the multiverse familiar to fans today. He left Marvel following controversy over the sharply satirical bent of his stories. His final book, published last November, is a memoir about this period of comics’ history called The Secret Origin of Earth 616.

From there he moved to Wales to work at the Centre for Alternative Technology, where for eight years he managed the publishing department, writing and managing the production of books on energy and sustainability. He significantly contributed to the growth of the Centre, which gained a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work.

He went on to be the news editor of DEFRA’s Energy and Environmental Management magazine for thirteen years, and also served as a Special Consultant with the Sustainable Cities Collective.

From 2005 until recently, David wrote books for the Earthscan Expert Series, a highly regarded series of practical guides to low-carbon technologies. These included Sustainable Home RefurbishmentSolar TechnologyEnergy Management in Buildings and Energy Management in Industry.

He also authored The One Planet Life, a manual for living sustainably for individuals, families and communities, and followed it up with the equally impressive ‘One Planet’ Cities: Sustaining Humanity within Planetary Limits.

David smiling behind a stall covered with his books, including graphic novels Captain Britain and Doc Chaos, eco-thrillers Stormteller and Hybrids, and non-fiction titles Solar Technology and Energy Manangement in BuildingsDavid also continued to write fiction, ranging from screenplays to short stories and novels, including acclaimed eco-thrillers Stormteller and Hybrids. One of his later projects was a rap musical called Validation, produced by the New Works Playhouse, and inspired by his experience of coming to terms with his disability.

David was a co-founder and patron of the One Planet Council, a founder and director of the One Planet Centre, and a lecturer in One Planet development and governance at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. Latterly, David and the One Planet Centre developed a holistic pathway for organisations to reduce their environmental impact and increase both sustainability and biodiversity, called the One Planet Standard.

David launching the One Planet Standard onstage at COP26It was only a few weeks after suffering a serious stroke that, against all odds, in his wheelchair, David travelled to Glasgow to launch the One Planet Standard at COP26. Shortly afterwards, Swansea Council led the way as the first organisation to be accredited as a One Planet Standard organisation.

Afterhis stroke, David endured progressive neurological complications with stoicism and humour, whilst becoming increasingly physically disabled. Despite this, with the support of enthusiastic volunteers and whatever technology he could access, he continued writing and teaching about how to live within our planet’s limits up to the very end of his life.

Not all of David’s books are listed here, or the thousands of articles, novels and screenplays that he wrote. He certainly had a life well-lived, and a life of purpose, despite the many obstacles he faced. May his words and his life continue to be an inspiration.

David is survived by his partner, his two sons, and his faithful cat Pancho.

David and his moustachioed cat

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