Citizen Action Monitor

We appear to be committed to collapse, because we’re already in it – Paul Kingsnorth, Dark Mountain

At the moment we’re in this momentum which we are powerless to stop — and we don’t know how.”

No 2017 Posted by fw, July 27, 2017

Paul Kingsnorth

“And I was also seeing the mass extinction underway that we all know about as well. And all of the general ecological horrors that have been unleashed. And I was seeing that the momentum of civilization was going in the wrong direction. And after many years of campaigning, writing, and activism, I didn’t feel that I could actually change that. And I didn’t think that collectively we had much hope of changing that in the short term either. So we were committed to something very dangerous and serious. We were committed to collapse, because we’re already in it. We’re committed to a sense that the climate is going to do something extremely radical and we don’t know what: That there’s all sorts of spirally ecocide underway and we’re having to live through it.”Paul Kingsnorth, co-founder of Dark Mountain

The above passage is from a 47:37-minute video of Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine in a stimulating July, 2014 public conversation about the Dark Mountain Project, an international network of writers and thinkers, artists and musicians, organizing festivals, events and exhibitions, centred on the Dark Mountain journal.

In 2009, Kingsnorth and Hine published Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto, a challenge to face the deep cultural roots of today’s crises and a call for new stories for an age of climate change and ecocide. Today, the Dark Mountain Project has grown into an international network of writers and thinkers, artists and musicians, organizing festivals, events and exhibitions, centred on the Dark Mountain journal.

In the following conversation, before a small gathering, Dougald and Paul talk about some of the lessons they have learned from this journey and the questions it has thrown up: Where are the new stories that could help us make sense of our situation? How do we live with ecological grief? What is the role of art and culture in a time of unravelling? What happens when we create a space in which we can talk about the darkness and doubt that we feel in the light of ecological crisis? And what does it mean to find “the hope beyond hope” which the manifesto speaks of?

This post is intended as an introduction to Kingsnorth and Hines, what led to the creation of the Dark Mountain Project and to the publication of the Dark Mountain Manifesto – and related topics.

The video, embedded below, is followed by my transcript of a small segment of the discussion, starting at the 6:00-minute mark, ending at the 9:16-minute mark.

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Earth Talk: Five years on a mountain – Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine by DartingtonTV, July 4, 2014

TRANSCRIPT

[Starting 06:00] People who found this [Manifesto] threatening found it threatening because they felt that it undermined their sense of necessary hope. They felt that they needed a sense of necessary hope and that we were arguing against it, which wasn’t actually what we were doing.

But let me answer your question and tell you why it’s called Dark Mountain. And I’ll do it by reading out the poem that starts the Manifesto. This is a poem that was written by the Californian poet Robinson Jeffers in 1935. It called Rearmament. It’s written during the time of the run-up to the Second World War. Jeffers could see the war about to begin in Europe and he can also see America being whipped up to enter the war and he didn’t think America should do so.

But he also knew there was nothing he could do about it. So he found himself living in his house on a cliff in California watching these great wheels turning and knowing that they had gone past a certain point and he could see the war was coming, and he could see how destructive it would be, and he could see that he couldn’t do anything to stop it. This is the poem.

*

Rearmament by Robinson Jeffers

These grand and fatal movements toward death: the grandeur
of the mass
Makes pity a fool, the tearing pity
For the atoms of the mass, the persons, the victims, makes it
seem monstrous
To admire the tragic beauty they build.
It is beautiful as a river flowing or a slowly gathering
Glacier on a high mountain rock-face,
Bound to plow down a forest, or as frost in November,
The gold and flaming death-dance for leaves,
Or a girl in the night of her spent maidenhood, bleeding and
kissing.
I would burn my right hand in a slow fire
To change the future … I should do foolishly. The beauty
of modern
Man is not in the persons but in the
Disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the
Dream-led masses down the dark mountain. 

*

I read that poem at a time when I was looking at climate change and feeling the same way that he was feeling when he looked at the Second World War. I was seeing this enormous thing, which isn’t approaching – it’s already here.

And I was seeing how much of this stuff was already up in the atmosphere. How many changes we were clearly already committed to. And all the things the scientists were saying, and the crumbling ice caps and all the terrible stories that we all know about so we don’t need to go over them.

And I was also seeing the mass extinction underway that we all know about as well. And all of the general ecological horrors that have been unleashed. And I was seeing that the momentum of civilization was going in the wrong direction.

And after many years of campaigning, writing, and activism, I didn’t feel that I could actually change that. And I didn’t think that collectively we had much hope of changing that in the short term either.

So we were committed to something very dangerous and serious. We were committed to collapse, because we’re already in it. We’re committed to a sense that the climate is going to do something extremely radical and we don’t know what: That there’s all sorts of spirally ecocide underway and we’re having to live through it.

Now that doesn’t mean nothing can be done. But it does mean that at the moment we’re in this momentum which we are powerless to stop — and we don’t know how. And many, many people seem to feel like this. I certainly felt like this.

I was at this point that I met Dougald and we went to the pub – you should never go to the pub and have a couple of pints and write a manifesto because I’m still dealing with the consequences five years later.

END OF TRANSCRIPT

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