Dale Vince - Manifesto - book review

This thrilling page-turner will change what you think is possible

Dale Vince with his first windmill

Dale Vince didn't go to university and it shows on every page of his biography. He writes like someone who learned engineering by stripping down engines in a scrap yard and rebuilding them. His sentences are short and effective. He uses words like “gonna”. He doesn't bother with unnecessary flourishes. His short, electrifying book is brilliant to read.

The book is rapid fire. Important moments like moving his family into a house for the first time, attending a critical UN climate conference, securing major investment and big revenue streams, winning court cases, transforming energy and business landscapes are rattled off at speed. He doesn’t mess around.

On the first page Dale dedicates his book to - “eco warriors everywhere - past, present and future.” Thank you Dale! What an incredible story! Buckle up and prepare for a wild ride!

Dale used to live in his van

A different way to live

“I’ve spent my life in pursuit of a different way to live.

This book is about my journey, the discoveries, the experiences and real world application of the very basic ideas that are at the heart of what’s evolved into a plan: my manifesto if you like, road-tested and born of life as I’ve lived it.”

Dale used to be a penniless busker. He has been a scrap thief, traveler and outlaw. His early years living outside of society in the eighties were formative. On the one hand he tasted freedom and adventure and learned true self sufficiency. On the other hand, he was an outcast and harassed by police. A particularly harrowing chapter details The Battle of the Beanfield when police brutally attacked peaceful travellers - “a wake up call to a brutal alternative reality - one in which the state saw you as an enemy”.

Much of the first half of the book details his life living as a traveler. He adored unusual vehicles that could be lived in and worked in scrap yards doing them up. Some of this equipment would help him get started building the tall masts that were a precursor to his beloved windmills.

He raised his children in vans and didn’t have a toilet or bathroom for years - “houseless but not homeless”. He was broke but once threw a handful of change out the window in general disgust at contemporary capitalism and what it is doing to our world. This might seem like a vain act but his deep suspicion of money, markets and the profit motive shaped his life and businesses and improved the lives of many others.

“What’s important is not to chase money, not to let that be your purpose in life. This choice is best illustrated by asking this question, do you live to eat or eat to live? I eat to live.”

He beat the system because he wasn’t enthralled by it.

Out of the wreckage, he built an incredibly tall mast. “I needed a 30 meter mast. I didn’t have the money to buy one but I reckoned I could make one… it was a bit hairy at times but it went up and stayed up.”

From building his first using his truck and crane he created a successful business constructing the first masts in the UK for testing a location's viability for a wind turbine. This became the foundation upon which his clean energy business empire would be built.

He was obsessed with building a windmill on the hill he was living on in a trailer… “The idea of really big windmills was fascinating and exciting at the same time.” It took him five years. Then he built the world's first green energy company. Then many more windmills. Then more companies.

Dale Vince with his electric supercar - The Nemesis

Successful business maverick

From this first work constructing masts, Dale had a seemingly unstoppable run of clean energy business successes. That he pulled this off in a badly mismanaged country run by a series of Tory governments that were actively hostile to renewable energy makes it all the more remarkable. Like so many others in recent history, his life and work has been made much more difficult against a backdrop of relentlessly terrible government policy over a period of decades. Thankfully, he never gave up.

His thrilling adventure story lights the way to a sustainable future against all the odds. As such, it is just the tonic we need for these dank and challenging times when many of us have lost faith in government. His journey from an alternative drop out in the wilderness to business leader, sustainability guru, UN ambassador and football club owner is an astonishing tale of our times.

Dale Vince reveals plans for Forest Green Rovers' new sustainable stadium

Dale seems to have the Midas touch. Almost everything he has worked on has thrived, broken through and changed history and yet none of it was easy. He has battled all the way and his gritty, tenacious personality was the key to his success. He is funny and fascinating and shares not just his story but the mindset that made it happen. He was a stubborn weirdo and outcast. He never held back.

Unique political take

Reading Dale’s critique of Thatcherism, the Conservatives, austerity and the neoliberal ideological worship of so-called “free markets” is excruciating, illuminating and ultimately invigorating. His perspective is unique and his analysis is dynamite. He doesn’t just explain what is wrong with the world. He explains how to put it right.

“The rules of our economy and society and tax system are likewise man made - poverty isn’t a law of nature, it’s a law of man - the by-product of an economic system that prioritizes wealth, its accumulation and retention over the wellbeing of us all.”

Some of the most fascinating stories detail business challenges where he and his team have tried new things, taken on the establishment and come face to face with corporate behemoths. The glossy Tesla marketing won’t have quite the appeal after the chapter on their antics.

If I was to offer some criticism I have two thoughts both relating to things that were left out. The first is that I wish there could have been some photos included. Whether it was his early days in the wild trucker convoys heading to “The Stones” or Glastonbury Festival or later on constructing early prototype wind mills or more recently driving the Nemesis supercar up the electric highway - I really wanted to see photos. Also, often Dale writes - “we did this…” I wanted to know more about the key people around him. I would have been interested to know what types of people were key to the success of his various business ventures complimenting his maverick personality.

Plans for the new Ecopark

Dale for Prime Minister!

Dale's social and political analysis is similarly like someone examining a broken down old engine… and it works. Without intellectual fanfare - or baggage - he takes it apart mercilessly and shows how diseased, corrupt and inept so many politicians and corporations are.

“We can’t solve a crisis caused by fossil fuels with more fossil fuels.”

His take on the bankers bonuses, privatisation, failing energy markets and the cost of living crisis are brilliant, devastating and a blast of fresh air. He doesn’t just point out the failings. The book is called Manifesto because he has seen a very clear way forward. His plan is simple, obvious, vital and urgent.

“That’s what renewable energy can actually give us - energy made here, from our own natural resources, supporting jobs here, keeping billions in our economy. We can end our dependence on foreign energy companies… on global energy markets… and on price fixing cartels. Freedom from all of that and from oil wars. We get freedom, jobs and a bigger stronger economy. It’s like Brexit but true. If they can sell us that we can sell this.”

The last section of the book, like Dale and his life’s work, are literally and metaphorically electrifying. He strips it down and lays it bare in clear and simple language. The writing is pithy and punchy. You can't help feeling not only that he is right but that he could fix the country and make Britain green in about 18 months if he was put in charge. Here’s hoping Dale steps just as boldly into politics as he did into business.

_“It’s all waiting to be done; dump the fossils, save the animals, save the climate and save ourselves. Build a sustainable economy, end food and fuel poverty and global conflict - mostly. _

Ecotopia awaits.”

Dale Vince is a living legend. His ideas are dynamite. His book is brilliant. Read it and buy some copies for your friends.

Buy Manifesto