This Changes Everything

“In short, dropping out and planting vegetables is not an option for this generation.” – p405

Review: This Changes Everything. Capitalism vs. the Climate, by Naomi Klein. Simon & Schuster, 2014

This Changes Everything investigates the climate change crisis—what has caused it, what it means and how it should be addressed—from a decidedly political standpoint. As the author states, she is less interested in “the mechanics of the transition” (i.e. the nitty-gritty technological shift) we need to accomplish than in “the power and ideological roadblocks” that stand in the way. It is a stimulating and invigorating approach.

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Les défricheurs

Recensé : Les défricheurs. Voyage dans la France qui innove vraiment. – Éric Dupin, La Découverte, 2014

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Cet ouvrage est le fruit d’une enquête de terrain de près d’un an et demi (entre 2012 et 2014) dans toute la France, pendant laquelle l’auteur est parti à la rencontre de ceux qu’il nomme les « défricheurs » – c’est-à-dire des gens vivant en rupture avec les valeurs dominantes de la société, et qui « s’emploient à innover, à expérimenter de nouvelles façons de vivre, de consommer ou de produire. »

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Dark Mountain – First Issue (7)

Simon Fairlie’s essay “The tragedy of the Tragedy of the Commons” was written as part of a series aimed at debunking the “myths of civilisation,” in other words “propagandist narratives innocently posing as Facts, which help underpin our civilisation’s view of the world and itself.”

The particular text he addresses here is of course Garret Hardin’s 1968 article “The Tragedy of the Commons,” which has become one of the most cited academic papers ever published, and whose thesis has “framed the debate about common property for the last 30 years.”

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Dark Mountain – First Issue (6)

In “Beyond Civilised & Primitive,” Ran Prieur explores a dichotomy that has long been part of the debates raised by the environmentalist movement since its inception; a set of standardised images relative to our concepts of mankind and society, which tends to give rise to many a pipe dream on either side.

According to “primitivism,” in order to escape from the many ills of modern-day society, mankind should return to the Golden Age of pre-civilisation — as exemplified by the so-called “primitive” nations we know today, or following our fantasies concerning the lives of prehistorical humans:

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Dark Mountain – First Issue (5)

Another conversation from this Issue #1 which I found rather thought-provoking is one that took place between Anthony McCann and Derrick Jensen — titled “A Gentle Ferocity.” This is how the former introduces the latter:

[Jensen] has a hardcore reputation. Books such as Endgame (2006) have made him arguably the most prominent contemporary ‘critic of civilisation’, if we can talk about such a category. But Jensen does not only offer critique, he advocates actively bringing down the systems on which we currently depend. He reports conspiratorial conversations with ex-military personnel and hackers who discuss ways of bringing global trade to its knees. He champions direct action against an industrial system which destroys the natural world – perhaps most famously in his calls for people to blow up dams to save salmon rivers. His anger is directed, too, at those who say there is no room for violence in activism: he enjoys ‘deconstructing pacifist arguments that don’t make any sense anyway.’

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Dark Mountain – First Issue (4)

In “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist,” Dark Mountain co-founder Paul Kingsnorth reminisces on formative experiences that made him develop deep feelings for the natural world, along with the consciousness that man is not at the center of the universe — in other words, the “ecocentrism” described earlier in this issue by J. M. Greer. According to Kingsnorth, while this ecocentrism was present with great purity at the heart of the early green movement, it started to disappear with the mutation of this movement into “environmentalism” (where the “environment” is considered as something “out there,” separate from people), and its passage into mainstream society:

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Dark Mountain – First Issue (3)

Black Elephants and Skull Jackets” documents Dougald Hine’s no-holds-barred conversation with Vinay Gupta. The two met in a Mayfair squat, as faculty members of the Temporary School of Thought, “a free university where anyone can pitch up and offer classes,” which was about to be held in said squat for three weeks (among the lectures they presented: “Deschooling Everything,” “Economic Chemotherapy,” “Infrastructure for Anarchists,” and “Avoiding Capitalism for the Next Four Billion” — audio and notes here). Hine and Gupta later went on to co-found the Institute for Collapsonomics.

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Dark Mountain – First Issue (2)

The first essay of Issue 1 is one in praise of Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), an American poet whose works have seen something of a rediscovery over the past two decades, half a century after his death. According to the author of this essay, J. M. Greer, the reason for Jeffers’s fall into relative obscurity is due to the “troubling nature” of many of his poems. Indeed, this iconoclastic figure rejected modernism early on (around the time of WWI) and developed an aesthetic theory he called “inhumanism”:

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Dark Mountain – First Issue (1)

This will be a rough and slapdash review of the first book published by the Dark Mountain Project (which I introduced in my previous post).

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Issue 1 was released in the summer of 2010, about a year after Dark Mountain co-founders Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth published their much-discussed Uncivilisation manifesto. Over the course of that year, they garnered the help of 35 other writers and visual artists to produce this impressive first issue, almost 250 pages long. While the largest part of it is devoted to essays and poetry, it also includes short stories, visual art, and conversations.

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On Uncivilisation and Catastrophe

This first article probably deals with stuff well-known to most English speakers interested in issues of climate change and global collapse. But well, I had to start somewhere, and besides I like nothing more than waxing lyrical about the smell of burning civilisation in the morning.

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I first heard of the Dark Mountain Project a few years ago, probably around the time the manifesto was published; and I still vividly remember the strange, ambiguous feelings this text aroused in me. Melancholy agreement, to be sure, but most of all a strangely guilty form of excitement.

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