A plodding transformation

Daphne Pleace / 6 min read / Inspiring Activist
29 June 2023

Les, was one of the first characters Sophia met in April 2019 in her hometown after the first big XR Rebellion when she started experimenting with what “useful” looks like in a climate and ecological emergency. Whether its Les’ distinguished facial hair or his effervescent laugh, Les’s energy has been a constant support for With Many Roots over the years. Now let’s find out more about him.

Les Flack, a former IT consultant then wooden boat builder and now a climate activist working with Extinction Rebellion (XR) and elsewhere. Before we began with the questions, Les reminded me of Desmond Tutu’s quotation that resonates with his view of humanity

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in”

Demond Tutu

What concerns you about the world today?

For Les this was initially a simple four word answer: environmental and societal collapse. He went on to explain that he feels our politics are broken and he is deeply concerned about corporate greed and ecocide, linked, he feels, to government inaction and a misleading main stream media.

His next concern – this is so much a pattern among our Inspiring Activists – was about lost connection: “with ourselves, each other, with nature and the bigger picture, the all, the unexplained, the unworldly, the sacred…”.

What positive contributions are you making?  

Les spoke about feeling “a fake” here because he perceives others as doing more, for longer, than he has, describing himself as “a chaotic eco activist hypocrite in late transition”. He spoke about his active support of XR in striving for positive systemic change, and of being on the streets with them since 2018.

Les during a protest against a high stree

He loves the non-violent and regenerative culture of XR and also practises Buddhism. Les tries to encourage increasing self awareness and greater understanding and acceptance of our differences. He spoke about “metaphorically planting seeds of trees I’ll never sit under… I love the indigenous thinking of planning for the next seven generations”. He also said that his meditation and mindful movement practices are slowly helping him become less reactive.

Have you had to make any sacrifices?

“Is it sacrifice or is it making space for something new? Something happened to me and I started to change about 7 years ago – I realised I was in crisis, total despair… but looking back I guess as well as my own history catching up, the outside world was disturbing me, because we humans are obviously living outside of what’s normal. So I started to meditate and practise mindfulness, and through that I met some incredibly kind people which was transformative. Things started dropping away from me such as drinking alcohol, eating meat and dairy. My own wish to be kinder grew; my concerns for the world became much clearer and bigger. This later became a problem though and unsettled me until I grieved for what we have and will lose in the world. This gave me more clarity and coherence.”   

How do you stay motivated?

Les labelled himself as a “plodder”, but sees that as at least better than inaction or apathy.    

What gives you hope?

The Permaculture movement got a big thumbs-up here from Les, but his hope mostly comes from a strong belief in the conscious evolution that’s underway for many. Les joked about gaining hope from himself: seeing the changes he’d made from “a wreck… to a glorious mess”. But adding that on a more serious level, he loves seeing so many people doing what they are doing, “building a new world in the shadow of the old failing one”. He also wanted to include Joanna Macey’s (and others) Active Hope work: recommending both book (affiliate link) and free online course as great for building resilience.  

What if…we make the changes needed, what will your world in 2030 look like?

Les had much to say here so opted to focus on a rural view, but with Glocal (think globally, act locally) firmly in mind with hope that “reparations will be under way by 2030 to repair some of the harm of Colonialism.”

He had many practical answers within his rural view: here are some of them, in his own words: “I imagine rural networks of village to village, to towns, to cities, direct car free routes for active low carbon travel, growing from  pushbikes, trikes, eBikes, Velomobiles to Cargobikes delivering local healthy produce, plastic free. These routes perhaps negotiated with farmers for a rewilding subsidy as they are lined with native planting for biodiversity, a pollinator corridor, so as well as facilitating local low carbon active commuting they serve as wellbeing routes, helping both physical and mental health. Farmers will have their produce shops on the routes. Rural Kids will cycle to school again. Transport hubs will have secure bike storage, rural buses will have bike racks as standard. Some Cargobikes will offer local taxi service.   Localisation of services and some jobs will further enable rural communities, community energy projects such as local wind turbines, shared battery banks and pooled rooftop solar, such as on community buildings, and community Ground source arrays will enable rural homes to transition to low carbon. Also, more things like local repair shops, library of things and community cafes”.

A book that has helped you grow

Les said he met the author once “ a lovely man, very inspiring. Funny and engaging too, which comes across in his writing”.

A song that keeps you going

There are so many,  but ‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles seems to fit with my current thinking around Humans.

A quote that lifts you up

“Don’t plant your bad days. They grow into weeks. The weeks grow into months. Before you know it, you got yourself a bad year. Take it from me – choke those little bad days. Choke ’em down to nothing”

Tom Waits

Your message to the world: imagine we gave you a microphone and every person on the planet can hear you, what would you say?

Pause, sit still and listen. Walk in nature and really notice things. Look at the sky, the clouds, the stars etc with a sense of wonder. Do these things often. Be kind and grateful. Build bridges not walls. Do one or all of, meditate, yoga, dance, sing, drum, chant, act, play.  

Avatar photo Daphne Pleace Yorkshire, UK Daphne is our well-being director and in-house writer. She has over 50 years’ experience of ‘people’ work in a range of contexts. She has been, or still is, an English and drama teacher, a counsellor in educational and relational settings, a psychotherapist, and a facilitator and mentor in both personal and professional developmental contexts. She chooses now to devote her time and skills to individuals and organisations working with the climate crisis. View all posts
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