“Modern man is rapidly destroying the natural world on which he depends for his survival.”
The opening words to Edward’s Goldsmith’s magnum opus The Way: An Ecological World-View, first published in 1992. A critique of what Goldsmith describes as Modernism, the book seeks to navigate readers - and the rest of us - to an ecological world-view that abandons the precepts of economic growth, ‘progress’, and reductionist science. Goldsmith’s brand of Modernism seems to be the ideological strain that has tainted the ‘environmental movement’, which, prominent writer and critic Paul Kingsnorth has identified as the ‘neo-environmentalist’ - cousin to the neo-liberal, both are enamoured by economic measurements, markets and unquestionably embrace new technologies.
The Dark Mountain Project was founded in 2009 by Paul Kingsnorth and fellow writer/thinker, Dougald Hine. Described as a “a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself,” the reception to the selfpublished manifesto over five years ago brought about consternation, condemnation, and confusion. Truths are often uncomfortable. The stories that we live by - free market rules, nuclear power, economic growth as good, to name a few - are looked at nakedly by the Dark Mountain Project.
Seeking to address (perhaps redress) the chasm between reality and the official script we’re fed, Dark Mountain also opened up a space for many of us. Modern man has brought upon the Anthropocene; the Earth, ploughed by our greed, is living through Ecocide. The Dark Mountain Project held a space where stories and cultural responses to this madness could be met without stigma or judgement. This, for me, and perhaps others, was hugely attractive - and consoling. It sounds glib paraphrasing what, in their own words, is described as creating “new stories for dark times,” but the call has resonated with many.
So what, if anything, has changed in the intervening years between the birthing of ‘UNCIVILISATION The Dark Mountain Manifesto’ and its reprint with a new introduction by Hine?
The material and cultural worlds are experiencing an ongoing rupture - crisis is the new normal. As Hine so wonderfully articulates, “The lines of thinking that run through this manifesto are also the contours of a dark shape, an inkblot shape of our puzzlements, doubts and fears…[.]”
The convergence (and confluence) of economic, ecological and social upheaval was predicted by some, ignored by others. The new introduction is wise to address the question of what it is we should ‘do’ - a reaction commonly held after trying to describe what the Dark Mountain Project is about. But such prescriptivism runs counter to the timbre of the project. I often think of it as the literary wing to Ecology. Not a campaign to be defended, but an exploration of how we speak to these times, which, like any collection of words has a life and direction which can never be contained, but might, just might, help illuminate the cultural narratives we all course through.
‘UNCIVILISATION The Dark Mountain Manifesto’ is a vital contribution to the environmental movement. Both a call and a refuge from false hopes, its strength lies in being able to utter what we perhaps dare not say. With this I have found a strange, and more honest, sense of optimism.
First published 2009 in pamphlet form, four editions.
This first paperback edition 2014.
Introduction to the 2014 Edition - Dougald Hine
Phil Moore is one half of Permaculture People