Dark Mountain Bulverises

Paul Kingsnorth of the doomer ‘Dark Mountain’ project seems busy psychoanalysing everyone that disagrees with him. Apparently he knows the near future, and it is Dark, with a capital ‘D’ for Doom. However when we dig just a little deeper into this article we just find inconsistency, logical fallacies, political assumptions, denial, and the sheer danger involved in Dark Mountain’s Doomerism. So lets start at the beginning.

1. Inconsistency

Paul spends 9 paragraphs detailing how ‘labels’ are used to ridicule and dismiss the opposition. Nine paragraphs! Surely anyone that has ever lived through an election campaign does not really need this spelt out in such agonising detail?

But of course this time the labels have been directed at him, and so he has to come up with something ‘deeper’ than the mere term label. Paul uses “Terms of Dismissal” to try and insinuate that more is going on here than mere labelling.

“It’s dog-whistle politics: calling someone a socialist signals to millions of other people that they are not to be listened to. They are on the Dark Side. They are not One Of Us.”

By paragraph 10 Paul gets down to business. After all the waffling about labels (or Terms of Dismissal) we discover that insults have been directed at the Dark Mountain project. This hurts. This is why Paul is writing. He is trying to explain the startling phenomenon that some greenies would rather react to doomerism than automatically lie down with a paper-bag over their head to wait for the end of the world, just because we are facing a number of rather urgent problems!

Anyone who writes or speaks about the likelihood of a depleted future, and the false hope peddled by those whose various schemes for avoiding it are looking more ragged by the day, will be showered in TODs.

That’s right folks, because Paul knows the future, and because it is a message people do not like, he’s going to get picked on. Poor Paul.

Solitaire Townsend says Get down off your Dark Mountain. George Monbiot has said I share their despair, but I am not quite ready to climb the Dark Mountain. Apparently Dark Mountain has been making some noise and drawing some flak.

But no sooner has Paul finished describing what labelling is, and how it hurts, than he suddenly throws it back at us ‘optimists’.  After spending 9 paragraphs explaining why we are so prone to labelling others, Paul then returns the favour!

He carefully explains that any one that disagrees with him basically needs counselling! Us poor optimists are not only deceiving others with false hope, but “the false hope peddled by those whose various schemes for avoiding it are looking more ragged by the day”.

We are just reacting to our “inherent psychological assumptions”. We are “addicted to the status quo”. (Paragraph 11).

Paul, all you’ve done is prove what an effective tool labelling is! After decrying how prone we are to it, rather than positing an argument full of logically related points, you just call us deluded optimists. Nice one!

2. Wonky logic

This labelling is then twisted into one of the oldest logical fallacies in the book. He’s using ‘Denial’ the way the Freudians do. According to the Freudians, all your problems are related to the way your mother rejected you when you were in love with her as a toddler. If you deny this and ask for proof, it’s just labelled as Denial. It’s just further proof of their assertion!

CS Lewis calls this “Bulverism”.

Lewis wrote about this in a 1941 essay of the same name, later included in the anthology God in the Dock. He explains the origin of this term:
You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it “Bulverism”. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — “Oh you say that because you are a man.” “At that moment”, E. Bulver assures us, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.” That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bulverism

It’s a dirty and dishonest tactic that avoids actually engaging with the substance of the debate.

3. Denial

Dark Mountain just assumes they are right and that there is no hope of civilisation prospering a few decades from now. It’s either going to violently collapse or gradually decay. No optimistic scenarios are allowed! Now anyone that has read my blog even briefly knows that I take our combined challenges very seriously. Peak oil, climate change, population growth, species destruction, suburban sprawl, topsoil degradation, toxic load in ecosystems, the ocean being overfished and over-polluted, all of these things are very serious indeed!

But where is Dark Mountain’s debunking of the speed at which Rezoning could retrofit our cities to become oil free? What about the fact that because the car fleet turns over every 16 years it effectively means 6% of the car fleet is replaced each year? Governments could mandate that all new cars had to be electric. This means that if we break down oil dependency into the various energy market segments (such as agriculture, heavy transport, construction and airlines) then we can see that the natural rate of electric car substitution could about keep up with oil decline for that market segment! (Other segments may require other solutions).

What is going to charge all these cars? Existing ‘off peak’ overnight electricity could run 70% of American cars! But not only that, existing technologies for Gen3 nuclear reactors could be cheaply built out to both keep up with new demand for electricity AND gradually replace coal. When GenIV reactors are fully commercialised they will burn nuclear waste and run the world for 500 years just on the waste we have already mined today!

There are many more positive technologies and social trends that experts I respect talk about, and that I have catalogued under my “Radical Rules” (Rezone, Refuel, etc). Many positive technical and societal transformations are possible. Where does Dark Mountain dismiss these? Where have they comprehensively debunked the technical writing of scientists like Barry Brook? They haven’t. We are just left with their own TOD’s to us optimists. We are hit with cheap Bulverisms not rational response.

Both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ trends are accelerating and interacting in exponential ways, so I defy anyone to predict the next 20 years! I recommend a little humility before the exponential changes occurring around us, both good and bad. I am honest enough to admit that I don’t know how peak oil and global warming will unfold.

4. Political assumptions

I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the end of the American republic in any meaningful sense in my lifetime, and I wouldn’t be surprised either to see its slide to the hard right continue until it becomes something very nasty indeed.

I have found over the years that if Doomers don’t have a concrete, bullet-proof technical objection to a positive technology, they just fall back onto a political objection. “Oh, they’ll never do that because….” (insert pessimistic scenario here). They’ll just assume something as massive as us never adopting nuclear power because people would rather starve to death in the cold!

Debating doomers is like grasping smoke. You posit something real and concrete and possible, and if they can’t disprove it outright, they waft around it. After 6 years of this it becomes both predictable and boring.

But this strategy can go dreadfully wrong for the doomers. Back in 2004 on the doomer email list ROEOZ I was assured that Australian politicians would NEVER discuss overpopulation. “Oh, they’ll never do that because….” (there is too much money in real estate development, they can’t touch that issue, the Christian right will never let them get away with it, yadda yadda yadda).

But here we are in the 2010 election and overpopulation featured as an ELECTION DEBATE TOPIC! “Oh, they’ll never do that because….” Whoops. They did do that. They discussed it! For the first time in our history, sustainable population is close to becoming a government discussion and eventually a policy! Even if it is only Julia Gillard trying to differentiate her political ‘brand’ from Kevin Rudd, it is still a milestone. In one of the blandest elections Australia has ever had, the “P” word got a mention! That is a miracle in itself.

None of these positive trends matter to the hardened Doomer. I can admit the negative trends they talk about. Indeed, it is why I started this blog. We really COULD nuke ourselves back to the Stone Age fighting over the last drop of oil. I’m not saying catastrophe is impossible. Real oil wars and climate disasters and terrible floods and scorching droughts and new disease vectors are all possible. When I consider the possible risks ahead, I shudder. This stuff is for real! I get it!

But are all these scenarios inevitable? All of them? Really? There are ways to fight these trends.

What mystifies George Monbiot and Solitaire Townsend and myself is that while Doomers will salivate with glee over negative trend, they’ll ignore the positive. They’ll study peak oil graphs and rising Co2 graphs, but ignore projections for nuclear power, electric cars, or city transformation and public transport schedules. These are all ‘explained away’. Say it with me, “Oh, they’ll never do that BECAUSE…”

They have given up the fight, and become cynical Apocalyptic Outsiders waiting for a greenie, peak oil judgement day to sweep aside today’s civilisation and force us into behaving ourselves! I say rubbish! Get out there and do something positive, because the fight to save the best things about our civilisation AND our environment are both worth battles. If we give up totally on today’s civilisation, the consequences for young people especially can be terrible.

5. The DANGER

Where does this quest for certainty of doom come from? Well, I’m not going to Bulverise Paul specifically. I don’t know what motivates him. But I will share some findings from psychological studies into various cult-like thinking.

Paul’s last paragraph impressed me because he tried to finish on a more reasonable note. He admits that both apocalyptic doomers and techno-optimists are after the same thing: certainty. The future ahead looks very uncertain indeed. I would agree with him, if only he left his last assertion at this logical point. Yet he just basically goes on to project certainty that we’ll either collapse or slowly decay.

It has been documented that the certainty of doom is what attracts people into various cults. Any kind of certainty is preferable to uncertainty. We do not like uncertainty.

As a good friend of mine is Dr Greg Clarke. Some time ago Greg was invited onto the ABC’s religious program Compass to comment on Apocalyptic thinking in the Christian church, something Greg is a bit of an expert on. Now read Greg’s comments very carefully. As a good mate, we had some fairly long chats about my rather manic awakening to peak oil some years ago. In the early days I was a doomer myself. Over to Greg.

Narrator
These days apocalyptic thinking is common and pervasive

1. Are we at the end – the end of the world…?
It’s a question humans have asked throughout the ages. In our own time too, many people fear we’re on the brink of apocalypse…

Greg Clarke
We do see it today in things like the environmental movement. We say around the corner is a terrible disaster, we’re heading towards it. And the sense of fear and anxiety develops and turns into a full blown sort of apocalyptic fervour.

That was exactly what I was going through some years back, and it was not pleasant! Unlike many that appear comforted by their certainty of the end of the world as we know it, I was not. However, as psychologist Susan Tanner explained on the same episode of Compass, some people are comforted!

Susan Tanner
Clinical Psychologist

Now many things are not predictable. The world is a very uncertain place. People change their jobs, organisations fold, collapse, you know, There is no guarantee in anything any more…Global threats like war, climate change certainly create anxiety too because the future is no longer guaranteed…
.…that sort of unpredictability and uncertainty creates a lot of anxiety, and anxiety is often a precursor to depression.

Unresolved anxiety sets people up for depression, because you can then feel despondent that well there actually isn’t anything I can do. Because climate change is out of my hands, terrorism is out of my hands…
So that can lead to what’s called catastrophic thinking, that imagining the worst scenario of what might happen and then believing that that’s what will happen.

Narrator
Surprisingly, being certain about the end can actually bring relief to those suffering anxiety…

Susan Tanner
Apocalyptic thinking can be very useful to people who need to feel a sense of control, and that they therefore feel calm because they know what’s going to happen. Living with uncertainty, living with a question mark is the hardest thing to do for all human beings. We like to know what’s going to happen. That’s why we visit clairvoyants and you know we have our tarots read and all sorts of things….

Apocalypse can even be attractive for its own sake if we are predicting catastrophe for groups we do not like. It’s the greenie judgement day scenario again, where all those evil corporations are just wiped out. It’s why Dark Mountain exists, so all the doomers can get together and confirm each other in their secret, special ‘knowledge’ about the coming environmental wrath.

But sometimes this certainty is not so comforting. Doomers are a real risk to young people. The sheer certainty with which they project the future is unreal: it is the stuff of cults. It is a belief system, backed by their own creeds and symbols and High Priests of doom. And the reason I’m so worked up about it is that it kills. I know of one bright young 19 year old kid who killed himself so that he would not witness the collapse of society. The views he had were so entrenched that he lost all hope and gave up on life. I hold the doomers I know on a certain email list in Australia partly responsible for this young man’s death. I was on the email list, presenting various alternative views, but the group think was too strong. I had lunch with his father, and the grief in that poor man’s world is unbearable.

But even if Doomerism doesn’t kill them, it can certainly become a hope sapping obsession that can completely distracts them from study and work. It can become worse than World of Warcraft addiction!

It can also side-track activists into just plain giving up hope for a better world. It stops activism. Why bother if collapse is inevitable? They switch off, and retreat from political engagement into a world of navel gazing doomer forums where everyone thinks as they do.

In summary: I don’t hate doomers. Some of them are very smart people talking about the very real risks to law and order and food supplies and the stuff of daily life that most of us just take for granted.

However, I hate their pessimism. I hate their tricky denial of the  many technical and social change solutions that are available to us once we get motivated. Yes the car is speeding towards the cliff, apparently with the breaks out. But there are quite a few emergency exit ramps before we go over the cliff. That is why I’m sticking with the likes of Alex Steffen from Worldchanging who completely dismiss the doomer meme as an unnecessary distraction. There’s work to do. It’s time to pull up your sleeves and get back into it!

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13 Responses to Dark Mountain Bulverises

  1. paulkingsnorth says:

    Goodness me, I do seem to have hit a nerve. Your blog post was even longer than mine! What can I say? Other than ‘thanks for proving my point’?

    I’m afraid you have not looked closely enough at what Dark Mountain is actually doing: the same mistake that ‘Solitaire’ made, though perhaps from a different angle. Dark Mountain is not about predicting the future: it is precisely about uncertainty. We’re pretty convinced the future does not look pretty for those of us in the rich world, with our rich world assumptions, but beyond that, we don’t know.

    As for ‘apocalypse’ – sorry, but Dark Mountain is an attempt to get beyond the progress/apocalyspe binary. We expand on this quite a bit in our first book, which clearly you’ve not read.

    • eclipsenow says:

      You can’t make out that you’re for uncertainty and then write the way you do. Monbiot has gathered a few pertinent quotes. Some of the points you discuss as impossible to address are being discussed across Australia right now as the Dick Smith Population documentary has just screened on the ABC.

      That task, Paul Kingsnorth – a co-founder of Dark Mountain – believes, is futile: “The civilisation we are a part of is hitting the buffers at full speed, and it is too late to stop it.” Nor can we bargain with it, as “the economic system we rely upon cannot be tamed without collapsing, for it relies upon … growth in order to function”. Instead of trying to reduce the impacts of our civilisation, we should “start thinking about how we are going to live through its fall, and what we can learn from its collapse … Our task is to negotiate the coming descent as best we can, whilst creating new myths which put humanity in its proper place”.

      Dick Smith, one of our more successful business entrepreneurs, has donated about 10% of the costs to the ABC of producing this population discussion. He is openly asking how we can create a zero growth economy. But you said… “For it relies on growth in order to function”. Say it with me again, “They’ll never do that because….”

      Oh, and this bit was priceless. I almost heard the snare drum call “Tissh boom!”

      As for ‘apocalypse’ – sorry, but Dark Mountain is an attempt to get beyond the progress/apocalyspe binary.

      I know, you come in all flavours of decline… apocalypse, social dysfunction, Super-Right Wing American fascism, economic decline, Greater Depressions, complete economic collapse… it’s all there! You offer a buffet of badness and diverse diet of doom.

      What can I say? Other than ‘thanks for proving my point’?

      Bulverising again? Thanks for proving my point. 😉

      Try Alex Steffen from Worldchanging:

      But real apocalypses are sordid, banal, insane. If things do come unraveled, they present not a golden opportunity for lone wolves and well-armed geeks, but a reality of babies with diarrhea, of bugs and weird weather and dust everywhere, of never enough to eat, of famine and starving, hollow-eyed people, of drunken soldiers full of boredom and self-hate, of random murder and rape and wars which accomplish nothing, of many fine things lost for no reason and nothing of any value gained. And survivalists, if they actually manage to avoid becoming the prey of larger groups, sitting bitter and cold and hungry and paranoid, watching their supplies run low and wishing they had a clean bed and some friends. Of all the lies we tell ourselves, this is the biggest: that there is any world worth living in that involves the breakdown of society.
      Worldchanging October 2004

  2. Barry Brook says:

    A powerful critique EN. Well done, and thanks.

  3. paulkingsnorth says:

    Is there very much point in continuing the dialogue of the deaf?

    Here’s what the editorial of our book has to say about apocalyptic narratives:

    “[this] misreading of the manifesto was not an uncommon one, confusing an attempt to face the realities of our likely future with a desire to welcome, or to revel in, apocalypse. This is ironic, because this project has never been a quest for apocalyptic narratives, but rather an attempt to get beyond them.

    There are two kinds of future which we in the industrialised world are good at imagining. One represents business-as-usual – the life we have grown up with projected into the future, usually with some technological and political improvements. The other is the apocalyptic anti-future. There is nothing radical today about apocalyptic visions: they are the stuff of mainstream popular culture, the nightmares we love to relive at the cinema, post-religious fantasies charged with the lingering energy of our Christian heritage. It is not hard to imagine the end of the world, because we have seen it in every zombie flick: the supermarket shelves empty, the cars out of petrol, the television snowing blankly.

    One of the most talked-about novels of the last couple of years has been Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: a horrific vision of a dead world populated by roving cannibal gangs. It is a brilliantly-written, terrifying and dispiriting tale, but it is not an original one, and it serves in a curious way to validate a central deception of our culture: the claim that life without the components of our current way of living is simply unliveable. That the future will give us either unbroken progress or apocalypse, and there are no spaces between.

    The spaces between, however, are the spaces in which our real future is likely to be played out. They represent a gap in our cultural imagination; a gap in which the Dark Mountain Project has pitched its camp. Uncivilisation addressed what we believe to be the inevitable crumbling of our current way of our life. This is not the same thing as a ‘cleansing catastrophe’ or some kind of apocalyptic event. It is not The Road or The Day After Tomorrow; it is the world we are already living in.”

    There’s much more, but you’ll have to buy it. The point is that the disappearance of this unsustainable and hugely destructive version of industrial living is inevitable. It can’t last. You know this, I know this. The only question is how we manage its end. You think that if we can change the tech quick enough, we can keep on living pretty much as we do now, only without the destruction. I find that very unlikely, but I am, in any case, apparently not on the same quest as you. I don’t want us to keep living like this. I think that the values which underlie the society we live in are more of a problem than what fuel source we use. That’s where Dark Mountain came from. It’s all in the manifesto.

    You quote from someone else about what ‘apocalypses’ look like. Apocalypses are happening every day. There’s one in Pakistan right now which you may have noticed. Here’s a piece from the book which expands on this:

    You see, there’s little point in attacking our ‘doomerism’ if we’re not ‘doomers’, is there? Are you open to the possibility that you might have missed the point? Maybe there’s something more interesting going on here.

    The point I was making in that blog post is that when you try to discuss the likelihood of an ongoing civilisational crash – which I continue to believe is a strong likelihood, though I have no idea where it will end up or what the impacts will be – people dismiss you by calling you names. Names like ‘doomer.’ You responded to that by calling us ‘doomers’. Eleven times. You even threw in some stuff about apocalypse and gaming nerds too, just to make sure.

    As I wrote at the end of that blog post, there are a lot of people out there who crave certainty. I’ve never expressed any certainty about how climate change will play out, when oil will peak or any of that stuff. This is the reason you can’t find any quotes from me on those subjects. If you’d bothered going through the (admittedly long) comment thread underneath the post, you would have found me taking issue with people who do claim to be certain.

    The Dark Mountain Project does not express to express anybody’s’ certainty about the future. It’s a place where people come together to try and formulate cultural responses to an age of disruption, uncertainty and decline. That decline is already here – in the loss of species in the oceans and forests, in the stumbling fall of our economic systems. Zero growth economies? Yes, we’ve all heard the ideas, haven’t we? But ideas are cheap. In Bill McKibben’s latest book, he explains how switching the global economy over from one fuel source to another takes, on average, a century. Maybe we could halve it but we’d have to start soon. In the end, these are judgement calls. I think your nuclear-fuelled world is pure fantasy. Certainly at the moment all the political and economic signs point in precisely the opposite direction (we’ve not built a nuclear reactor in this country for three decades). There we are. You disagree. We’ll have to see who’s right.

    In any case, your techniques for dismissing those you choose as your enemies is as easy to pin down as mine. You simply mock any attempts to explain why an approach is unlikely, and appear to believe that because something is theoretically possible, it’s actually possible. Then you play the hero card: hey doomer, at least I’m getting down to work! I’m saving the world! I’m rolling up my sleeves! I’m trying ! What are you doing? Role-playing again! Cah! Children!

    I’ve never suggested there is no ‘hope’, largely because such a sentiment is pretty meaningless. When you talk about ‘hope’, what do you hope for? When you talk about optimism, what are you optimistic about? There are a gazillion different answers possible. You need to define your terms to make the conversation meaningful.

    Dark Mountain started life as a writers’ movement. It’s become a more broad-based cultural movement. What it’s not is a ‘doomers’ convention’, or a political movement, dedicated either to hope or despair. It’s an expedition into the unknown. Nobody has to join. It’s not an obstacle to your campaign for more nukes, or your aggressive proselytising for techno-progressive values. Go ahead. Each to their own.

    • eclipsenow says:

      Paul, please stop straw-manning my understanding of your position. I referred to ‘collapse or decay’ in my main article, which encompasses pretty much everything you have mentioned. I also explained I understand your position as encompassing all flavours of negative scenario from a mere Greater Depression through to economic collapse. I don’t know what else to say, other than to ask you a question in return.

      What positive scenarios can you imagine ahead? 😉

      I think your nuclear-fuelled world is pure fantasy.

      Brothers and Sisters, let us raise our hands together in holy union as we sing our next hymn.
      “They’ll never do that BECAUSE…”

      The point is that the disappearance of this unsustainable and hugely destructive version of industrial living is inevitable.

      I agree, but you won’t allow for it to disappear by the very obsolescence of that industrial system being replaced with shiny new one! Industrialisation 2.0 is on the way. It makes more sense for our increasingly environmentally conscious culture. It will make more money. I’m currently studying business marketing, and capturing the green consumer with GENUINELY greener products (not just green-washing) is a whole market segment and strategy they identify. It is coming.

      In many cases the technology for Industrialisation 2.0 is already here, just waiting to be deployed. GenIV nukes that eat nuclear waste, trolley buses, electric cars, jet-fuel from nukes and air, biofarming with biochar and crop & cow rotation, it’s all possible with today’s technology.

      The Green Chemistry movement is growing exponentially, and will completely re-imagine the materials we use. Look out for “The Story of Stuff” by Nova, coming later this year.

      Portland Oregon has rebuilt their American dream around New Urbanism and public transport philosophies to both enrich their town centre, and create a more thriving business centre. The fact that this is also far more sustainable seems to be a mere side-effect. Americans are moving there in droves. It is the 2nd most sustainable city in the world, in AMERICA of all places, the birthplace of the car and suburbia! There is more, so much more, that is being imagined and being done. Last night’s Population Puzzle by Dick Smith was truly astonishing. He is offering $1 million dollars to the person who solves overpopulation.
      Dick Smith's $1 000 000

      This man will not stop until the world has a sustainable population policy. It was a meme-changing experience for Australia. What was I told back in 2004? “They’ll never do that BECAUSE…”

      So, over to you. What positive scenarios can you imagine ahead? 😉

  4. specialletters says:

    Your deaf comment is very discerning of you Paul – my hearing aids are not as good as previously and I actually have a meeting re new ones this arvo. Has EN mistakenly seen you as someone seriously discussing world problems? I read your project as just being there to sell books so that these stories will be around when we are back to flickering candle light. Unless of course Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” happens and there are no books. Perhaps EN should join a writer’s cooperative

  5. paulkingsnorth says:

    A writer’s co-op. What a good idea.

    ‘Positive scenarios’? Positive for whom? For what? For your lifestyle? For humanity? For Western civilisation? For the biosphere? These are very different things. Tellingly, what is good for the first of these – apparently your primary concern – is often extremely bad for the latter.

    There are plenty of small-scale positive things going on over here in Blighty, some of which I’m involved in myself. A resurgence in small farming; the spread of permaculture; some good stuff coming out of transition towns.

    That’s in the human domain. Outside it, there are also perhaps some positive developments. Perhaps peak oil really will kick in to slow the human growth machine down and allow the biosphere to recover. Perhaps a global economic crash will do what a regional crash did in the Soviet union and send carbon emissions through the floor, thus rescuing at least part of the Holocene. Anything’s possible. It would all be good news for polar bears and Siberian tigers.

    Meanwhile, a good positive development is an increasing realisation that we need to ‘get real’ as regards what the future could – and should – look like. Not a lot of point discussing this with you. As I’ve said, we are after different things. Your idea of a positive future – all nukes and world government – leaves me cold. And in any case, when I point you towards discussions which seriously address what specialletters tellingly calls ‘world problems’, held with people whose knowledge of such things is, shall we say, more grounded than yours, you ignore them and just repeat yourself. ‘They’ll never do that because …’ is your equivalent of ‘we’re all doomed.’ It’s just a tag you spray on walls.

    I’ll leave it here, I think. But I still do find it very amusing how you responded to my blog post by doing precisely the thing I was suggesting people like you always do.

    Oh, and that’s, what, thirteen ‘doomers’ now? 🙂

  6. paulkingsnorth says:

    Ah, hang on. I just noticed this bit.

    “I’m currently studying business marketing, and capturing the green consumer with GENUINELY greener products (not just green-washing) is a whole market segment and strategy they identify.”

    Capturing the green consumer. A market segment. Now I see.

    I’m afraid I have dedicated much of my life to opposing values like these. They are the poison in our veins. They are the problem, not the solution.

    No wonder we can’t find many areas of agreement.

  7. eclipsenow says:

    Why? Are you a socialist? You don’t believe the marketplace can ever do anything good?

    Why on earth is motivating people to buy green technologies a bad thing? Water tanks, Earthship homes, EV’s, nuclear power, “Cradle to Cradle” toxin-free products, biofarmed produce, New Urbanism, public transport, biochar: it’s all good stuff. Unless of course you just think civilisation itself is a bad thing, in which case you will see positive technologies as a threat to your gloomier predictions. In that case can I suggest that you have too much of your own identity caught up in decline? It’s become a little bit to precious to you. You don’t seem to know what you’d do with yourself if the future did actually pan out in a more positive light-green way; what you’d no doubt call “techno-utopian”.

    But I value civilisation. I love law and order, food supplies, and enough money to educate our kids and care for our sick and elderly. I value all the good things in life that abundant technology and energy and wealth have given us. I also value the environment, and saving the biosphere for future generations.

    You just assume we can’t have both, and so have turned against your own civilisation. You’re created a dichotomy where none need exist: civilisation or nature, our world or the natural world. We CAN have both. Future cities and energy systems and agriculture will look very different. Nothing you have said proves anything one way or the other. You are indulging in cheap Bulverisms and character attacks, and childish name calling, to avoid the FACT that today’s technologies COULD be deployed to prevent disaster. And then you accuse me of returning the same? I’m trying to engage you on the technologies that could be deployed, but you just whisper “pure fantasy”. I’m sorry to say it, but I cannot support this line of thinking.

    But will we deploy them in time? If we take your “uncivilisation” project through to absurd extremes, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you had your way all greenie activists would join you in navel-gazing talk- fests about “uncivilisation”. Nothing would get done as we sang kumbaya while the world burned.

    But fortunately the majority of people have too much to live for, and will reject your defeatism. They’ll get on with the job of making a comfortable, modern life that can meet all our needs while also cherishing the natural world.

    Or not. We could always fail to get there in time. That’s why I find you threatening. Your meme’s not only drive young people to suicide, they distract them from doing anything positive if they do understand the risks. Instead of activism, they dream of moving to a survivalist bunker somewhere in the bush rather than getting on with the job of engaging their politicians.

    Yet those of us that can see the way ahead are slowly building momentum.

    If we feel like indulging our apocalyptic side, we can always read “Day of the Triffids” or “Canticle for Lebowitz”. There’s nothing wrong with a little story time. We can even read some ‘decline’ scenarios like Bruce Sterling’s “Distraction” or “Caryatids”. Pssst: You’re movement is redundant. Better writers, futurists, and thinkers than yourselves have already done the job for us. So while I might read a few thrillers now and then, and might even write my own version one day, I’m too busy trying to install the solutions to actually believe I know the future.

  8. paulkingsnorth says:

    ‘the FACT that today’s technologies COULD be deployed to prevent disaster.’ The ‘FACT’?

    It sounds to me like you’re very sure you ‘know the future’.

    I suppose my movement of silly storytellers could be redundant. But if that’s the case why are thousands of people across the world so enthusiastically engaged in it?

    I suppose they’re just all mentally ill. Thank goodness we have sane people like you to point us in the right direction.

    Further reading:

    http://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-kingsnorth/confessions-of-recovering-environmentalist

  9. paulkingsnorth says:

    Oh, and a very, VERY final PS:

    If you’re going to accuse somebody of being a mentally disturbed depressive survivalist whose work drives ‘young people to suicide’, it’s best not to also accuse them of ‘name calling’ in the same paragraph 🙂

    It’s best also not to expect to be taken very seriously if you engage in this degree of slander (the suicide remark is disgustingly below the belt.) Particularly since you STILL don’t understand what Dark Mountain is about after having had it patiently explained to you several times.

    Still, I guess you’re just too busy self-righteously saving the world to spend time in careful reading. Good luck with the nuclear revolution. You’ll need it.

    • eclipsenow says:

      I’m surprised that a journalist such as yourself is having so much trouble with reading and comprehension.

      You accused me of pretending to know the future, but I was talking about the present. I was talking about the FACT that there are technologies that Professor Barry Brook (read his FAQ on IFR’s and nuclear power generally) and Dr James Hansen both support that could provide all the energy we need for longer than the human species has been on this planet! Unlike you or I, these guys are trained scientists that have developed expertise in the latest cutting edge nuclear science. GenIII AP-1000’s are being built around the world. Some have higher First of a Kind costs associated with them, but are already far more affordable and reliable than any attempt to deploy wind and solar thermal at scale. We have 300 reactor years experience with breeder reactors and GE have various plans for GenIV reactors to be mass produced in factories and the components delivered and constructed on site. We are talking about about something the world has never seen before, a serious production line for nuclear power! Now these are technical issues that I fully expect you to dodge with the standard “They’ll never do that BECAUSE…” reply. A technical debate with the likes of Professor Barry Brook would not go your way! Even a lifelong renewable energy debunker like Dr Ted Trainer of “The Simpler Way” fame (whom I have met and respect), is still having trouble debunking the fuel-breeding IFR and other GenIV reactors! Fortunately for us, E=MC2 results in a very big number!

      I have already admitted that I do not know if nuclear power will be deployed in time to prevent the kind of decline scenarios you discuss. I am convinced that they can. But will we make it? Or will we nuke each other back to the Stone Age? I don’t know. Anything could happen, and that is the point!

      Do I indulge in name calling?
      Of course I do! Just check my page on doomers. I don’t feel I’m dismissing the very real dangers that you guys discuss, which I take very seriously, to point out the dangers of your movement. But then, I’m not the one who wrote a 9 paragraph diatribe against name calling and then indulge in cheap Bulverisms. You guys are so easy to read, you’re a dime a dozen. You pretend not to conform to the predictable patterns of doomerism, but won’t participate in discussing nuclear power, and resort to calling it wishful thinking. You pretend not to be a doomer, and yet your writing is replete with the inevitable decline of society.

      Have you met Geoff McKee? Maybe you would change your tune if you had. Try this article on for size. It mentions the suicide of Tasman McKee. I had lunch with Geoff to discuss the belief systems and mood of the movement that killed his son. I call ‘foul’ to the belief systems that killed that bright young kid! While I shared this article, I have to say that I disagree with the technical pessimism of the author, and don’t think it would stand up in court with witnesses like Drs Hansen and Brook. But his writing is beautiful, especially regarding the need for sensitivity and hope for our youth.

      At the same time, I don’t want her to be overtaken by grief. At a peak oil conference in Cork last year I met a man who had journeyed there from Australia on behalf of his teenaged son. His son, Tasman McKee, learned about peak oil in 2005, read the works of the most dire peak oil prophets, joined list-serves that pore over details of a coming die-off, and he became more and more convinced that nothing lay before him but a desperate and despairing future. After a year of this, he vanished, and only after reading his computer files did his parents learn of his obsession. His body was found on a remote mountain two months after his suicide.

      I have been getting back in touch with old friends from environmental campaigns, and many have also fallen off the map. Few went as far as Tasman, or as far as a church pastor and Green activist I knew who killed himself a few years ago. But many feel defeated. They had warned of peak oil, climate change and economic collapse for decades – now, some say, it’s started. It’s too late.

      I want to spare my daughter this. I want to instill, to whatever extent a father can, the high and driving Spirit, the sanguine craving to restore. Of course it is too late to change everything, and always has been. Everything is too big. But each of us can do something where we are, and there are millions of us.

      When Australia’s energy systems could be rebuilt for a trifling $150 to $200 billion, I disagree that this is all too hard. But I completely agree with the “sanguine craving to restore”. That is something worth fighting for! You and I could have been brothers in the same cause. We both really care about this stuff. But your doomerism has put you on the other side of the fence, sneering at and fighting against the solutions. Fortunately I think the rest of society will not stoop to that level.

  10. Good take on Dark Mountain. I was a PO doomer once…

    Paul is either a terrible writer or really doesn’t know what he is about, he keeps having to tell people “no that is not what we are about!” He says he’s never met a doomer, then writes that he thinks industrial society will inevitably collapse, and he is “sitting here in my hill farm oiling my shotgun”. I guess the doomstead has no mirrors 😉

    Paul is pretty much like all the doomers I have observed over the years, although somewhat more verbose. I don’t much like labels either, but he is definitely in denial… Doomers usually lack the ability to be self-critical.

    It occurred to me that the only way Dark Mountain could achieve their aims is to create a new religion. They certainly have the hallmarks of a new cult. Perhaps Paul is aiming to be the next L Ron Hubbert? (sic)

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