I am saddened by the untimely death of my colleague and friend Professor John Urry. I have worked alongside John for 17 years at Lancaster. He was my mentor when I was appointed as a lecturer in 1998 and he has been the warmest, kindest and most encouraging colleague. His death will leave a gaping hole in the Sociology Department; it is impossible to imagine our staff meetings, postgraduate conferences and research events without his smiling presence. John told me that he never intended to retire as he had too much to do. A champion of civic freedom, environmental and social justice issues, John was an anti-elitist in an age increasingly dominated by global elites (the ‘offshore class’ as he called them). He was a public sociologist, he loved twitter and he used this and other platforms to express criticism of the corrosion of democratic accountability and the erosion of the welfare state. These concerns were reflected in his recent work on inequalities, such as the global wealth gap, the concealment of wealth in tax havens (Offshoring), the inequality effects of climate change and ‘mobility-generated inequalities’. He understood that in order to confront climate change, rich societies urgently need to ‘power down’, but deepening economic inequalities make this almost impossible – therefore more equal societies are a fundamental requirement of post-oil, degrowth human futures. However, John was never a pessimist and one of his many legacies will be his enduring belief in the ability of technology, when harnessed to a sociological imagination, to tackle the most pressing social problems and bring about democratising forms of social change. I am going to miss his optimism most of all.
John and I at our joint Societies Beyond Oil and Revolting Subjects book launch in Lancaster, 2013.