The book ‘Dark Mountain’ written by Editors, Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, published by the Dark Mountain Project 2010, in Great Britain.
Kingsnorth co-founded the Dark Mountain Project, ‘a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself.’ Since 2009, it has run a series of summer festivals and smaller events, produced bi-annual anthologies of ‘uncivilised’ writing and art and built up a network of writers and artists across the globe who aim to ‘offer up a challenge to the foundations of our civilisation.’ He is currently the Project’s Editorial Director.
The main thesis of the Dark Mountain book and the Manifesto is, a new cultural movement for an age of global disruption and to convey to the primed reader a sense of excitement and the awareness that the kick-start of an oppositional cultural movement. This project began life as a response to a sense of disillusion with what environmentalism has become.
The Dark Mountain Project arose out of a collapse in belief, and a search for what comes after. It arose out of a sense that the writer no longer believed in the stories he had been telling himself about the world and how it worked and what he could do about it.
The Author, Paul Kingsnorth, campaigned against climate change, deforestation, overfishing, landscape destruction, extinction and all, and he wrote about how the global economic system was trashing the global ecosystem. He did all the things that environmentalists do. But after a while, he stopped believing it because none of his campaigns were succeeding, except on a very local level and it seemed to him that the environmentalists were not being honest with themselves.
It was increasingly obvious that climate change could not be stopped, that modern life was not consistent with the needs of the global ecosystem, that economic growth was part of the problem, and that the future was not going to be bright, green, comfortable and ‘sustainable’ for ten billion people but was more likely to offer decline, depletion, chaos and hardship for all people. Yet, according to the author, all kept pretending that if they just carried on campaigning as usual, the impossible would happen.
When Paul Kingsnorth met Dougald Hine, a former journalist, he found someone equally skeptical about the rose-tinted vision of the future that permeates society and has even taken hold of those who ought to know better. It wasn’t just environmentalism that they believed was peddling false hope: they saw the same refusal to face reality permeating the world of culture. Both writers, they wondered where the writing, the art, the music was, that tried to move beyond the self-satisfied stories they tell themselves about their ability to manage the future.
The Authors purpose is to promote and curate writing, storytelling, art and music rooted in place, time and nature. The stories which any culture tells itself about its origins and values determine its direction and destination. The dominant stories of the culture tells that humanity is separate from all other life and destined to control it; that the ecological and economic crises faced are mere technical glitches; that anything which cannot be measured, cannot matter. But these stories are losing their power. New stories are needed for dark times. Older ones need to be rediscovered. Their aim is to shake up the cultural establishment and provide a home for writers and artists who are looking with honest eyes at the real state of the world. The Dark Mountain Project was created to help this happen.
It might also be useful to explain what Dark Mountain is not. It is not a campaign. It is not an activist project. It does not seek to use writing or art to ‘save the planet’ or stop climate change. Rather, it is a creative space in which people can come to terms with the unraveling of much of the world have taken for granted, and engage in a conversation about what the future is likely to hold, without any need for pretence or denial.
Kingsnorth and Hine seem to present uncivilisation as chiefly a project for writers and artists. They do not appear to be fixed on tackling environmental crisis with new policies or any kind of political action. A change of sensibility is what they are after, and it is interesting to note the writers they pick out as exemplars of this new view of things. These legends, they continue, have “led the planet into the age of ecocide”. The spread of civilisation and the destruction of the biosphere have gone together. The human future, it seems to the authors, must lie in “uncivilisation”.
An international network, the Dark Mountain Project, is one attempt to jolt collective thinking by corralling writers, artists, thinkers and doers into addressing, halting and reversing ecocide, primarily through the sharing of new narratives. It began, as so many movements have before it, with a manifesto, Uncivilisation, which was published in 2009.
The Authors chose to write for writers, artists, thinkers and doers because from their point of view, the Dark Mountain Project is an invitation to face the converging crises of the century as a cultural challenge – rather than only a technical or political one. They don’t dismiss technical or political responses to their multiple crises, although they may question the assumptions behind them, and the extent to which they rely on wishful thinking. The Authors don’t, either, dismiss activism or campaigning. But they do question acting for acting’s sake, and they think that they need to be honest about what historical forces are at work, and what can and cannot be achieved at this point.
According to Kingsnorth, The Dark Mountaineers are important because they give a very public focus, with a lot of new buzz, to this fundamental oppositional tendency to industrial capitalism. In 2010, there was a meeting in North Wales with about 400 people debating Dark Mountain ideas, including with critics like George Monbiot who, although somewhat sympathetic, wants to retain industrial society.
The term “Uncivilisation” is frequently used to characterize the Dark Mountain Project. In the editorial for the Dark Mountain book, Kingsnorth and Hine define this as “the inevitable crumbling of our current way of our life.” They go on to say that “because a civilization is built on stories: when its self-belief falters and its myths are no longer believed in, its end is probably inevitable.” So Uncivilisation sets out to discover what the new stories or myths will be, if the future society is to be ecologically sustainable for all species – “The totality of biological life on Earth must be better off with us than without us” and socially just for the human species.
The term “Dark Mountain” comes from a reference in a poem, “Rearmament” by the American nature poet Robinson Jeffers. This poet, who is much revered by Dark Mountain followers, speaks of leading the “masses down the dark mountain.” An overall theme seems to be that it is in the hinterlands, where people are still rooted in place, and not in the centers of urbanism, that they needed new Earth-friendly belief systems, repudiating economic growth, “progress”, and the ever increasing domination and distancing of humans from the natural world, have their best chance of emerging. The nonhuman-centered writing and art forms which the Dark Mountain Project seeks to stimulate, “comes not, as most writing still does, from the self-absorbed and self-congratulatory metropolitan centers of civilisation but from somewhere on its wilder fringes.” (Manifesto, p. 13)
The outstanding essay in Dark Mountain was “Confessions of a recovering environmentalist” by Paul Kingsnorth. It outlined the impact of his family background and his environmental involvements on his own thinking, along with showing the dominance of anthropocentrism in the movement and the consequences which flow from this: “the mass destruction of the world’s remaining wild places in order to feed the human economy.” He further notes, “today’s environmentalism is about people. It is a consolation prize 4 for a gaggle of washed-up Trots…” (p. 58). The whole article is written with passion and anger, and is highly analytical and radical.