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Sun Apr 29, 2012, 08:34 AM

Is it time to give up?

from Grist:

‘I withdraw’: A talk with climate defeatist Paul Kingsnorth
By Wen Stephenson

A longer version of this interview appeared at ThoreauFarm.org.

Not everyone is quite ready to hear, or accept, what Paul Kingsnorth has to say.

An English writer and erstwhile green activist, he spent two decades (he’ll turn 40 this year) in the environmental movement, and he’s done with all that. And not only environmentalism — he’s done with “hope.” He’s moved beyond it. He’s not out to “save the planet.” He’s had it with the dream of “sustainability.” He’s looked into the abyss of planetary collapse, and he’s more or less fine with it: Collapse? Sure. Bring it on.

In 2009, he founded, together with collaborator Dougald Hine, something called the Dark Mountain Project. A kind of loose literary collective — with a website, annual Dark Mountain anthology, an arts festival and other gatherings — it’s a cultural response to our global environmental, economic, and political crises. “Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto” appeared that summer and got some attention, mostly in the U.K. Kingsnorth and Hine have summed up their message this way:

These are precarious and unprecedented times … Little that we have taken for granted is likely to come through this century intact.

We don’t believe that anyone — not politicians, not economists, not environmentalists, not writers — is really facing up to the scale of this … Somehow, technology or political agreements or ethical shopping or mass protest are meant to save our civilization from self-destruction.

Well, we don’t buy it. This project starts with our sense that civilization as we have known it is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system and the ongoing mass destruction of the non-human world. But it is driven by our belief that this age of collapse — which is already beginning — could also offer a new start, if we are careful in our choices.

The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop.

Some have called Kingsnorth a catastrophist, or fatalist, with something like a death wish for civilization (see John Gray in The New Statesman and George Monbiot in The Guardian). Others might call him a realist, a truthteller. If nothing else, I’d call him a pretty good provocateur. ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://grist.org/climate-energy/i-withdraw-a-talk-with-climate-defeatist-paul-kingsnorth/

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 10:45 AM

1. That's why there are Survivalists


Unfortunately, there aren't enough of them to save all of humanity. So they are working to save themselves, and as much of the "good stuff" of human accomplishment as possible. (The "good stuff" excludes 99% of modern life, of course. Because 99% of modern life is designed to keep the 1% as kings.)

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 11:33 AM

2. I gave up when America elected Reagan - we had all the info on the table, and we chose evil


Quite knowingly and willingly, I might add. At the time, it was commonly discussed how propagandistic and dishonest his campaign was, so anyone who didn't want to be swayed by it had the opportunity.

If I had money, I'd be stashing knowledge away and weeding the shit out as fast as I could, preparing it to last thousands of years or more. Makes a HELL of a lot more sense than trying to develop alternative AUTOMOBILES.

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Response to saras (Reply #2)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 12:25 PM

3. That was also a turning point for me, when I concluded humans are not much more


than the current edition of dinosaurs, and I would not be having any offspring to suffer through the suicidal destruction of a deeply flawed species.

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Response to hayrow1 (Reply #3)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 03:43 PM

4. Have you read Daniel Quinn yet?


Last edited Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:13 PM - Edit history (1)

Either "Ishmael" or - even better - "The Story of B". He makes a very convincing case that we're not a broken species, but that we have just been telling ourselves a broken story about who we are. His point is that while a genetically flawed species is a dead-end, broken stories can be changed virtually overnight. think of the fall of the Soviet Union, Abolitionism, the US civil rights and feminist movements, even the European Enlightenment - they were all changes in our Story.

I adopted the "flawed species" hypothesis after being convinced by Jay Hansen at www.dieoff.org. It took me several years (and miserable years they were, too) to finally run across Quinn. He cracked the code for me. Then I read Paul Hawken's book "Blessed Unrest". In it Hawken describes how our new story is already being told, down in the grass roots, all over the world.

Movements like Occupy and Via Campesina have added their voices to the chorus. That's what the Kingsnorth's "Dark Mountain Project" is about as well - telling new stories about who we are.

I don't see Kingsnorth as defeatist in any way. To me he's in the vanguard of the change, a change that has the best chance of leading us out of this darkness and into a very different colour of light.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #4)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 07:22 PM

5. No, but I agree in the big picture - just not sure Westerners are going to be part of it...


I think that psychology after Freud was leading somewhere really fruitful - which is why it was suppressed and replaced by behaviorism and Taylorism. I think that humanist psychology was leading somewhere really fruitful - which is why it was infiltrated by the CIA and ultimately replaced by first the new age movement and then pharmaceutical psychiatry. The neurobiologists seem to be making similar discoveries.

I thought that if we simply document what shows up in the brain as abusive and accept that that's abusive, cultural strictures to the contrary, that we might get somewhere - not saying what TO do, merely what is harmful, leaving exploration as to best practices open.

I've also contemplated the ugly possibility that we might find a gene, or more than one, for "amoral shithead" and then have to decide how to deal with it. Is it a disease that potential parents should be warned about before conceiving? Is it a human right?

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Response to saras (Reply #5)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:25 PM

6. The human brain seems to have been developed with a propensity for irrational superstition


A belief in an all powerful "God". With that belief it is a short step to predestination and the idea that the believing individual can do no wrong. This is one of the many problems that, in my opinion, dooms the species.

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Response to hayrow1 (Reply #6)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 09:08 AM

8. The true glory of the human brain is its flexibility.


As social animals we are capable of operating from many mental models of reality both rational and irrational, and there is no single direction that is "genetically preordained".

In fact, if you're looking for a single factor that "dooms" the species, you might look to this very flexibility. It gives us the ability to overcome enormous obstacles and thrive in the face of immense adversity - most often by externalizing the cost of our survival onto the rest of the biosphere...

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Sun Apr 29, 2012, 09:57 PM

7. We do live in exciting times


The world she is a'changing. And we humans are forcing at least some of the changes. Can we stop our activities that are forcing the changes? I see not how.

Humans are more willing to shoot the messenger than to hear the message. Too few of us have heard, and know the message, and so the mass of humanity will just continue to blunder along.

I actually have recently felt the greatest amount of hope than I have had in years. Hell if I know why, but it is there. Cheerios.

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Response to marmar (Original post)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 12:16 PM

9. What I think Paul Kingsnorth is actually saying


Last edited Mon Apr 30, 2012, 12:53 PM - Edit history (1)

I don’t see Paul's position as one of Defeatism™ or an abdication of hope. Instead I see it as a process of redefining Hope™ – both what he hopes for and how he is expressing his hope at the moment. In the process of that redefinition he is abandoning a path he was previously committed to - one that much of today’s environmental movement is still very strongly attached to.

This attachment causes many people in the movement (like Wen, John Gray and George Monbiot) to misinterpret him. Sometimes their misinterpretation is couched in such strong terms that it becomes obvious that they see his shift as personal affront - though they always try to spin it into an affront against The One Right Way™ of environmentalism. That’s where words like “Defeatist™” come from.

Yes, he is rejecting the idea that Global Industrial Civilization (GIC™) in its current form can or even should be “saved”. Instead, he seems to be saying, if we can’t preserve it what should we turn it into, and how should we promote that transformation? He thinks modern environmentalism is at its core devoted to the preservation of (at least some of) the core values of GIC™ rather than its transformation into something radically new - with all the expanded risk and opportunity that such a transformation implies.

He believes that the transformation required is so fundamental that we need to replace the foundational Story™ from which we are currently operating. The Story™ is really the operating system of civilization, and he is proposing not just an OS upgrade incorporating a few bug fixes, but something as radical as the shift from DOS to Linux (or pick your own favourite top of the line modern multitasking OS).

He is suggesting that we write a brand new open source operating system for human presence on this planet. I agree with him, and I strongly maintain that undertaking such an endeavour isn’t defeatist at all, but rather its polar opposite. It’s an expression of overwhelming faith in the abilities of humanity. It’s a statement that “We are better than this,” and an invitation to put ourselves on the line and prove it. Movements like Occupy, Via Campesina and Paul Hawken's "Blessed Unrest" meta-movement have already taken up the challenge.

He’s in the vanguard on this, and of course he's pissing off some of the old guard in the process, but that’s what happens at times like these, isn’t it?

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #9)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 03:12 PM

10. Yes. A reboot from new OS


Local sources. Keep your impact local and resist outside influences and efforts to strip you and your neighbors. Accept only those global things which are a benefit to everyone, rejecting all others.

Protect your local environment. Find water and protect it from pollution and wasting. Raise food that you can oversee the quality of.


These are nothing new. Before the advent of the global corporation these are things that sustained humans for thousands of years.

We need to preserve humans. "Save the Humans™" can only be accomplished on a local level.

What's in it for me, you may ask? I believe in reincarnation and if there is no human population for me to be reincarnated into, then there is no future. I have hope there will be a future.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #9)

Mon Apr 30, 2012, 03:17 PM

11. I was worried that I might be putting words in Kingsnorth's mouth


So I sent him this reply for his comments. He wrote back and said this is indeed how he thinks of the situation.

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