Vinay Gupta is one of those characters around whom stories collect and opinions divide. He has a bulldozer of a brain and a huge sense of mischief, he is often absurd and sometimes indefensible – and between 2009 and 2012, when we both lived in London, he was one of my closest collaborators.
In this piece for the first Dark Mountain book, originally published in May 2010, we talk about how growing up half-Indian shaped his thinking about disaster management and sustainability, what it takes to become an ‘old culture’, and the origins of the Institute for Collapsonomics.
Before I know who he is, Vinay Gupta has started telling me about his plan to start a small African country. The drug factory is the important part, apparently – that and the Gurkha mercenaries.
We’re sitting on the bare floorboards of a townhouse in Mayfair: five storeys of gilded mirrors, marble hallways, handpainted Chinese wallpaper and furniture that looks like it just came out of a skip. In one corner, a large bracket fungus is growing out of the wall, about two feet below the ceiling. It’s the kind of scene that makes you think the world as we know it already ended, you just weren’t paying attention.
It is January 2009. For months now, the world economy has been visibly in chaos, and even the politicians are starting to acknowledge that the consequences of this won’t be confined to the financial markets. Gupta seems like a man who relishes chaos.
Image: Vinay Gupta by Mark Charmer