Discuss: Dark Ecology
Mr. Kingsworth, you have quite the ability to give me goosebumps and make me question everything I do. As a college student studying forestry, while engaging myself in environmental and sustainability “movements,” your essays have often sent me into crises of faith, causing me to completely reevaluate what I’m doing. Thank you for this essay - it has restored some degree of faith that there are things that can be done. This semester I think I entered what you describe as a “withdrawal” stage - turning more to introspection and engaging myself directly with the natural world and not with “solutions” and “progress.” I am relieved to read that you find merit in this sort of “inaction,” as I was beginning to question whether this withdrawal was a sign that I had lost all hope in the world.
I am constantly investigating words like “wild” and “nature,” looking into what it means to be both human and animal. Coming back into my own body, and learning to interact on a direct and visceral level with the world around me, has proven to be the most comforting and satisfying thing I can do.
Thank you again for your words. Even when you think you might sound cynical and not relatable to the younger generation, know that there are people like me who find guidance in your experience and contemplations.
It’s not an unbrave thing to do to make common cause with the wiser side of Theodore Kaczynski, the unibomber. Bill Joy, the chief scientist of Sun Microsystems and creator of Java also found Kaczynski a source of insight, particularly with regard to recognizing the machine as becoming more and more the active agent of control or at least influence.
I think Kingsworth has written a terrifically thoughtful and provocative piece. If I have one criticism it is that he simply writes off all within-the-system solutions. I think public parks are worthy efforts defending Kingsworth’s ability to drop out into wilderness. Like most environmentalists he takes a pass on overpopulation and efforts to address it, something that activist groups and nations from time to time have attempted to deal with. I’m sure Mr. Kingsworth is happy that the treated water he drinks is cholera free. Is it really that hard to say that the society we live in that will probably take us off the cliff has at least concentrated some of the surpluses it has gouged out of nature into knowledge that we can hopefully walk back to a simpler, more sustainable life?
I appreciate the attempt to offer active alternatives, rather than simply leaving us high and dry with a lot of thoughtful negatives. One alternative which is implied in 5 but not really focused on is building self-sustaining alternative communities. When things break down it would be nice to have waiting some model communities with all the “appropriate technologies” like your scythe and the teachable skill sets that go with them. From my background one interest I would have would be in sailing craft. Like Orlov, I think it is bound to make a comeback as the main vehicle of ocean transportation.
Mr. Kingsworth you come across as a work in progress. I hope you will keep updating and refining your thinking here as long as the world allows it. Your dark ecology meditations certainly stimulate my thinking.
I am writing a book called Dark Ecology, strangely enough. I too am distressed by the neo-environmentalists though many people thought my first book Ecology without Nature was just that (no, it wasn’t). Because of some talks I did recently, John Zerzan started writing to me, out of the blue.
This is an amazing piece. Thank you, thank you. You express much of what goes on inside my tangled mind and sad heart. I too read the Ted K book and sat nodding and muttering “yes” to myself in the process.
I lived a much more intimate and reverent lifestyle before the computer invaded my life. I have spent over 2 decades in technology as an artist and designer and for the past several years I have been experiencing a deep existential anxiety. I desperately desire to “withdraw” but it is a monumental challenge once technology has its hooks in you.
One of my favorite reads is this interview with Norman Mailer shortly before he passed. http://nymag.com/news/features/38961/
I look forward to your next post.
Another great essay. I enjoy your writing so much Mr. Kingsworth—its like having my innermost feelings, thoughts and ideas given voice in a profoundly eloquent, erudite and insighful way. It is truly comforting to know there is another human being out there who sees the mess in the same way and has arrived at many of the same conclusions and course of action.
I hope you will consider putting out a collection of your brilliant and insightful essays. They really do deserve such treatment.
The risk for all published writers is that they keep issuing the same ideas, without much in the way of back-and-forth, or any of the sparks of illumination.
Kingsowrth has said much of this before, but his particualr retreatism is not going to remake the green posture.
Banish the telly, scythe your life away - but social reality is all that will be set upon the earth by our species, and there is no way to wish away the trappings of modern civilization - the figures of energy use and environmental collapse are too stark for any of this advice.
Even as bright a figure as Craig Dilworth, in his monumental “Too Smart for Our Good,” posits some sort of “paradigm shift” as possible for us, but his own vicious circle principle refuts this. We, as humans, responds to large, devastating, mounting social forces, and no amount of “voluntary simplicity” advice is going to deter the trajectory of more people, more energy, more inequality, more ecological devastation.
No matter much Orion and McKibben and Kingsnorth and any of the merry brand of green spiritual gurus try, this is a global corporate suspersysem we all are subject to, in whole or in part or just the majority of our neighbors, and that absorbs any of this as it heads, over the larger scale beyond our own lives, to its logical destination.
This is all offered in the spirit of generosity - Kingsnorth and a few others here are trying to make sense of this disconnection they feel, here amidst the spiritualists, but he is flailing jsut like the rest of us.
In my limited english I’ve enjoyed Kingsworth writing, with a little google translator help. It is a pity that we, non native english speakers, have such limited access to these bright thinkins and, worse, that we can’t share with you ours. Nevertheless is great hearing armonic foreign words from the distance
Very glad to have read some of your work, again, Paul.
I was given Ellul, yesterday, by someone, and it prompted me to remember where I’d been recommended it before - so ‘here’ I am.
The writers that really doom me, though, from what I’ve been reading over the last few years are McLuhan, Baudrillard and Virilio - the masters of implosion.
And that’s because I reacted badly to the internet and media when it got too much, when it left me a little freaked. These guys seem so right it worries me deeply. Your article has made me again think that your solutions may well be the only way to live a somewhat ‘normal’ life, rather then this lightning-war we expose ourselves to so willingly.