Thirty years ago today, Kit Pedler, the man who created Doomwatch, died from a heart attack outside his home in Sittingbourne, Kent. In the past ten years, he had transformed himself from a research scientist investigating the retina and a part time science fiction writer into an active campaigner on environmental issues, on alternative technology, on the horrific and pointless abuses in scientific research (especially on animal experimentation).
Kit Pedler did not just campaign, he was still that researcher who 'didn't like not knowing!' Whilst others of his kind ran off to their isolated communes in various parts of the country to experiment with a non-industrial way of life, Kit worked on his own from his home in Clapham, London, in making his life what we would now call environmentally friendly and carbon neutral.
The results of (probably more than) five years of lecturing, thinking and experimenting, away from the strictures of academia, lead to the 1977 book The Quest For Gaia, a deeply personal and very accessible book on the problems of industrial and technological society. It was a largely positive work, but he took no prisoners in what he thought was a total waste of resources. His dislike of coca-cola did not go unnoticed by one later reviewer, who missed the point of that reference by miles... Kit Pedler did not advocate a return to the stone age, and certainly offered no rosey view of a golden age. There haven't been any of those. But he could see what we were losing as human beings on a spiritual level, although that did not equate to any religious superstition. He was starting to view the universe as a more interesting entity than the reductionist values of science allowed for. After all, Kit Pedler had an imagination.
By setting up Earthlife, he tried to put in a model development which was ground-breaking. He did indeed go into the country - but only as far as Kent. He did not reject the world around him and carried on writing and working for television documentaries, most notably Mind Over Matter, where he explored how the 'new physics' could explain some of the phenomena that most scientists would rather go away, rather than risk professional ridicule to explore.
How he would have seen the 1980s is anyone's guess. Would he have been iconoclastic during the Miner's strike to suggest that the closing of the pits was, in the long run, a good thing? Would he have seen the collapse of industry in this country a chance to take another path? Probably not, for the amazing growth of production in China and other so called developing natures would have alarmed him. They were doing our dirty work for us so that we could... sit in call centres. In his speculative article Duex ex Machina, he poured scorn on the idea of intelligent robots 'bionims' being the slave class, freeing us from nasty, dirty, boring chores. What would it turn us into? A redundant tool? He wondered if we were already that... He certainly would have been a Euro-sceptic. He campaigned against the 1975 referendum about staying in the Common Market on the grounds that it was just another individual crushing bureaucracy.
We feel that it is about time Kit Pedler's life (and we have only touched upon his last ten years in this memorial) was given the proper re-evaluation it deserves, and so that this man is remembered not just for the Cybermen, Doomwatch and a documentary on spoon bending, which Wikipedia has reduced his life to.
Watch this space...
Watch this space...
With thanks to Michael Seely