Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dark Ecology

"Earth Spirit" by Janine Donnellan

Currently, I don't think there is anyone who better expresses how I feel about the world and the predicaments facing us than Paul Kingsnorth.

I read this essay of his today, entitled Dark Ecology, and I think it is quite profound. In it, Paul expresses the sense of hopelessness he feels with an environmental momement that has gone awry - decrying the 'neo environmentalists' who cheerlead a cornucopian dream of a brave new world that is measuarble, quantifiable and profitable for business. Where, he asks, has the sense of the intrinsic value of nature disappeared to?

He talks about the technological traps of our own making that we fall into - with each new solution creating a new, larger and deadlier trap. And he talks about humankind's inability to do anything but accelerate towards destruction, and the machine we have made for doing just that.

It's not easy reading, but neither is it a doomer essay. Paul Kingsnorth doesn't offer 'hopium', which is one reason the things he says make most sense right now. More importantly, towards the end (and it's quite a long piece) Paul offers his some practical advice for the burned out.

At the very least, it may make you want to get hold of a scythe and start mowing a meadow.


  1. Thanks for posting the link. I just finished the essay, and it's certainly thought provoking -particularly the praise, or at least straightforward analysis of Theodore Kazynski's writings.

    It seems that a lot of people in the Climate change/Peak oil/ Appropriate technology sphere are asking, all at the same time "So- what now?"

    1. Hi Jeff - yes, I suppose that before about three years ago, it did really seem like the green movement might acheive something. The fact that much of it has been coopted by business for an excuse as BAU is sad, but predictable.

      Still, I'm not as pessimistic as Paul Kingsnorth. Sure, there are former environmentalists like Mark Lynas who are crusading to fill the world with GMO, nanotech and nuclear - saying this is the 'realistic' solution to our woes - but is anyone really listening to them?

      Instead, I see a stealth army of greens who are basically under the radar now and have turned their backs on 'big idea solutions, instead choosing to exercise control over the little bit of the biosphere they can influence i.e. their own lives.

  2. Thanks for the link, Jason - 'twas quite a read and demonstrates a realization I share. I've felt/believed that the 'game is up' for a long, long time now. But even given that, I've also come to realize that it's important to enjoy the moment, whatever is going down.

    By the way, my Dad (who'd be 119 if he was still on the planet) mowed our 1/2-acre yard with a scythe when I was a kid. He taught me to use it when I turned 12 or so, though I was a bit too runty to be real effective with it at the time. He said that's how old he was when his Dad taught him prior to their emigration from Ukraine.

    1. Hi Martin. PK may well be right, but that doesn't make life not worth living. In fact it may ironically make it more so.

      As for scythes ... I'm interested, but I'd rather get a goat. After all, you can't milk a scythe.

    2. I have found the irony to be true. And, goats are good, as are sheep, but at least a scythe burns no oil - only calories ... (heh)

      May you enjoy the day!

  3. I'm finding it impossible to open up the link, from here, google, or even to go to the Orion Mag main site. Perhaps some Command/Control Top Down Big Gov Techie GMO NUCLEAR NANO enviros hacked the site, out of indignation? LOL

    1. Hi William - no idea why that should be.

      I can't find the essay anywhere else but no doubt it will appear on his website before too long:

  4. Jason: I have enjoyed reading your blog, and am once again reminded that even with radically different journeys, we often end up in the same place. I saw your post over at ADR about biochar, and thought I'd tell you what I found out a couple years ago when I dug into it :)

    The guys doing the hard science do not yet understand what is going on with biochar, nor are they certain what the implications and path forward are for us in temperate climates and soil that is already fair to decent. Just a lot of research needs to be done. If you really want to go to that depth, Johanness Lehman at Cornell has created lots of action in that area. Having said that, there are also scads of enthusiastic, hopeful greenies diving into biochar,making it, using it, and growing stuff, and making observations which are really just anecdotal. Here are two links that I think are good for a primer on where things stand. There is of course, the IBI.
    This is biochar central, with tons of resources, info from scientists and to us amateurs, and even trial test methodology templates so we can pretend to be scientists. You've probably already found this one. The other is a good summarized explanation of the current uncertainty on whether biochar is a silver bullet or not, and dives into the tech a bit, but not too deep. The main thing I got from my reading, was that biochar still needs to be thought through a bit, and may even hurt your soil, as all biochar is not the same. There are people out there trying to make a buck off of it, as you would expect, so caveat emptor.

    So... I have a 55 gallon drum of biochar in my garage, but I've decided to hold off a bit and do some controlled testing to make sure it's going to make things better before I go crazy with it.

    Oh, and while my music tastes have ossified a bit since the kids grew up and moved out, (just don't get exposed to new stuff like I used to) I really liked Muse, and will need to add a Pandora station I think.

    1. Hi Steve. Thanks for dropping by and sharing that. To be honest, my main concern is with coppicing and making charcoal (to sell and burn), but I thought I might experiment a bit with biochar as well.

      I haven't done much research into it yet (and I have quite a lot of research to do in other areas) but I'm definitely up for the amateur scientist thing. I'd never heard of it actually hurting soil, and I'm starting off with pretty healthy soil in the first place, so I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

      Thanks for the book recommendation below. It is very up my street as I plan to start growing a food forest on the pasture land at the centre of my wood.

      Glad you like Muse!

  5. Mmmmm- One more thing since I am in unsolicited advice mode, here is some more. You must be champing at the bit with the upcoming move to Penzance. I am recommending a book that just came out which is all about the pragmatic approach to permaculture and restorative agriculture.

    full disclosure, I know the author, but after reading some of your blog, it sounded like a book you would want as you try to decide what to do on your new plot.


I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.