Confessions of a recovering environmentalist and other essays

Paul Kingsnorth, 1972-

Book - 2017

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Minneapolis, Minnesota : Graywolf Press 2017.
Physical Description
x, 284 pages ; 21 cm
Main Author
Paul Kingsnorth, 1972- (-)
  • Introduction: Finding the river
  • I. Collapse. A crisis of bigness ; Upon the mathematics of the falling away ; The drowned world ; The space race is over ; The quants and the poets ; A short history of loss
  • II. Withdrawal. Confessions of a recovering environmentalist ; The poet and the machine ; Learning what to make of it ; the barcode moment ; Dark ecology
  • III. Connection. In the black chamber ; The old yoke ; The bay ; Rescuing the English ; The witness ; Singing to the forest ; Planting trees in the Anthropocene
  • Epilogue: Uncivilisation / with Dougald Hine ; The eight principles of uncivilisation.
Review by Booklist Review

In the introduction to his first compilation of essays, poet and novelist Kingsnorth admits that during his late teens and twenties, joining the British Road protest movement and serving as a Greenpeace editor, he firmly believed grass roots activism could turn the tide against ecological disaster. With the publication in 2009 of Uncivilization, coauthored with Dougald Hine and included as this volume's epilogue, Kingsnorth signaled his break from the environmental movement, arguing that the inexorable forces of civilization itself represent the gravest dangers to our planet. Together, Kingsnorth and Hine formed The Dark Mountain Project, an artists and writers collective committed to crafting a new narrative about civilization that includes a more primal connection to nature than the one sustainability organizations currently promote. Most of the pieces here came out of this project, from the title essay describing his disillusionment with green energy schemes to The Witness, dissecting the evidence for a looming mass extinction. A brilliant and sobering collection recommended for anyone, liberal or conservative, concerned about the runaway train of climate change.--Hays, Carl Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this eclectic but uneven essay collection, Kingsnorth (Beast), an English novelist and cofounder of the Dark Mountain Project, tries to reconcile his past with the present, highlighting his growing disillusion with the environmental movement. These 18 essays, most of which were originally published between 2010 and 2016, deal broadly with feelings of frustration, disconnection, and loss. In his youth Kingsnorth fancied himself a conservationist, "preventing the destruction of beauty and brilliance, speaking up for the small and the overlooked and the things that could not speak for themselves." Now, however, Kingsnorth admits to disenchantment with the environmental movement's shift toward sustainability and questions its effectiveness. In "Rescuing the English," he ruminates on ways in which Britain has been changed by global capitalism. "The small and the local, the traditional and the distinctive, were being stamped out by the powerful," he writes. Kingsnorth bemoans the erosion of England's national identity and cautions against an influx of newcomers, sentiments that have an analogue in certain aspects of the Brexit movement. Some selections, including one on his frustrations with the quantification of environmental issues and another on the "difference between action and activism," prove difficult to dive into or to decipher. Kingsnorth offers an idiosyncratic perspective as well as an occasional test of the reader's patience. Agent: Jessica Woollard, David Higham Associates. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

A former environmentalist and the creator of the Dark Mountain Project, an online global network of artists and authors, Kingsnorth (Beast; The Wake) states in the introduction to this intriguing title that by 2008 he had stopped believing that the planet could be saved through activism. By then, he was certain that human beings, obsessed with growth and progress and convinced that the universe revolves around them, are unwilling to effect real change. Kingsnorth's disenchantment with the environmental movement is evident; he describes it as "a human-centered piece of politicking disguised as concern for 'the planet.'" The author cites wind farms as an example of an environmentalist half measure: while they don't pollute the atmosphere like fossil fuels, they do destroy otherwise untouched land. At the end of the book, Kingsnorth offers an alternative solution from his website's manifesto Uncivilisation, a challenge to artists and writers to transform the human narrative. VERDICT Kingsnorth's essays are sobering and thought provoking. Recommended for those worried about the planet yet frustrated with the modern environmental movement.-Dave Pugl, Ela Area P.L., Lake Zurich, IL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A fervent plea to respond creatively and personally to environmental destruction.In these urgent essays, all but one previously published, British novelist and essayist Kingsnorth (Beast, 2016, etc.), co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project, a global network of "writers, artists, thinkers and doers" responding to "the age of ecocide," explains why he rejects environmentalism in favor of ecocentrism. Environmentalists, he believes, focus obsessively on climate change, "spend their time arguing about whether they prefer windfarms to wave machines or nuclear power to carbon sequestration" but fail to question "the Western model of progress" that relies on humans' manipulation and pillaging of nature. Environmentalism, Kingsnorth argues, "is not about reforging a connection between over-civilised people and the world outside their windows. It is not about living close to the land or valuing the world for the sake of the world." Once an environmental activist, the author has rejected "the urban consumer machine" by moving to rural Ireland, where he and his wife grow their own food, home-school their children, and use a composting toilet that he constructed himself. "I will fertilise my own ground with my own manure," he writes, "and in doing so I will control an important part of my life in this world." A Thoreau-vian spirit infuses these essays: "I feel a personal duty," Kingsnorth writes, "to live as simply and with as little impact on the rest of nature as I possibly can." Denying that he is a Luddite, romantic, or untenably nostalgic, Kingsnorth nevertheless suggests actions that underscore those designations: "withdrawing from the fray"; "preserving non-human life," for example, by buying some land and rewilding it; "getting your hands dirty"; "insisting that nature has a value beyond utility. And telling everyone." Through the Dark Mountain Project, he calls for "Uncivilised writing" to question the "myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from nature.' " On the whole, a hard-hitting collection that shows why we need new stories to revise our perceptions of civilization, progress, and nature. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.