Learned and leisurely hospitality is the only antidote to the stance of deadly cleverness that is acquired in the professional pursuit of objectively secured knowledge. I remain certain that the quest for truth cannot thrive outside the nourishment of mutual trust flowering into a commitment to friendship.
What?! you say. But, but, there are animals, plants, coral reefs, forests, lakes dying out there! Oh yes, and I cry over them. I feel their loss so deep in my very marrow that, honestly, I am seldom able to stand the feeling or hold the thought for very long. But the crux is that animals, forests, coral reefs are used to dying. They have been doing that for millions and millions of years. It is quite natural to them. It is the way of their world. If the cause of death is a lightning strike, or an ice age, or a bulldozer, or climate change — so what? They do not protest. Never have. Never will. They are very, very patient, in the original etymological meaning of the word. We are not, so God help us. The loss of forests, animals and lakes is a thoroughly human loss. We should ask ourselves why we cry over it, or why we don’t. Then we will have a real conversation, the very conversation that it seems to me that The Dark Mountain Project has started to foster.
So why don’t I want to ‘doom you out’? Because we’re all going to die, anyway — not in some grand apocalyptic finale, but one by one, mostly uneventfully, and unless we’ve faced that reality, then I don’t think we’ve a chance of thinking clearly about any of the rest of our situation. Because it’s so easy to turn people to stone with facts about the mess we’re in — and when we do that, it doesn’t lead to the realisation you’re hoping for, it leads to various flavours of numbness and denial. The harder thing is to walk people through the dark passages of despair, without something inside them turning to stone, and to see how much beauty we can make together before we die. I’m not making any promises, here — this isn’t a deal which says, if we do this list of things, we …
What is at stake is not the planet, as such, but a way of living within it that we have created as a species, parts of which go back tens of thousands of years, while other parts are barely a generation deep, though we already struggle to imagine living without them. Our sense of loss at all the shadowed beauty being driven out of existence, our guilt, our still-re…
… of sharply rising food prices. The brutal war in Syria came on the heels of five years of drought. This is how climate change arrives, not as a clean case of cause and effect, but tangled up with the cruelties of dictators and the profits made from commodity market speculation, washing up in boats on package holiday coastlines.
…k hard at where we find ourselves and get a sense of what may be at stake. That last bit is tricky: one moment, we’re urged to ‘Save the Planet’ — like the stars of a superhero movie — and the next, we’re looking at a poster behind the Marks & Spencer’s checkout that says, ‘Plan A: Because there is no Plan B.’ And the more times you look at that poster, the more you have to ask, ‘No Plan B for who?’ For M&S and Tesco and strawberries in December and holidays in the Greek islands — or for liveable human existence? Or is that not a distinction we’re willing to consider?
…ticket away. We see strawberries in Tesco in December and the strangeness of this hardly registers. Our liberation from the constraints of the seasons is assumed to be progress, but it might be wiser to call it an illusion. All that food in the supermarket is coming from places where the seasons still count. We still live off soil and sun and rain. There is no question of going ‘back to the land’, because we never left: we just stretched the chains that link us to it so far, we lost sense of what lies at the other end.