All Change

is the co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project, of which he was director from 2009-2017, He is the author of nine books - three novels, two poetry collections and four works of non-fiction - all of which, it turns out, tell the same story: how we walked away from the wild world, and how we might get home again, if we can. He runs the Wyrd School which teaches wild writing and art and lives in the west of Ireland.
Some of you may have seen George Monbiot’s article in yesterday’s Guardian about the Dark Mountain Project. It was good to see it, and it was fair and balanced. There are issues we take with it, of course, and Dougald I have taken them up in a response column to be published in the paper tomorrow.

The comments underneath articles like this are usually a pretty depressing example of the worst tendencies of the internet, and this time round was no exception. As ever, a common criticism of Dark Mountain was that we were a group of people who had ‘given up.’  Interestingly though, this criticism was rarely if ever extended beyond those two words. In other words, it was never made clear what we were supposed to be giving up on. This is largely because it’s generally a knee-jerk, defensive reaction – in this case from environmentalists, who assume that giving up on the platitudes of environmentalism is the same thing as giving up on, well, life.

What interests me about much of the wider debate around Dark Mountain  is how often confusions and conflations like this arise. The overarching one is our unerring ability to confuse the world with the Earth. The Earth is the planet we live on, of which we are one species amongst billions. The world is human society – civilisation. My bone of contention with environmentalism is that it has moved seamlessly from defending the former to defending the latter whilst pretending that they are the same thing – and that many of its footsoldiers don’t seem to have even noticed.

I’ve written an essay examining this in more detail for the first issue of Dark Mountain. It’s one of the essays George quotes from in his piece. We’ve been talking on this blog for nine months about this first collection of Uncivilised writing. It fulfils one of the missions we set ourselves in our manifesto – to seek out a new kind of writing, and send it out into the world. We’re very excited to be able to announce that the book has now arrived in our hands, and can be ordered now through this site.

We hope this book fulfils some of our promises, and we’d like to hear thoughts about that, positive or otherwise. If you’ve already ordered a copy, it will be on its way to you in the next ten days. After the festival, we’ll put our minds to the next one.

The festival, meanwhile, is now only sixteen days away, and it will hopefully fulfil another of our initial aims – bringing together a wide group of people, to take this project forward. Today we have also put the full festival programme online. I hope you’ll find it exciting – I do, and I can’t wait to see it come together, and what comes out of it. We have arranged some of the big sessions around two key themes – ‘time to stop pretending’ on the Saturday, and ‘new stories’ on the Sunday. The former will see, amongst other things, Dougald acting as Jeremy Paxman to George Monbiot’s man from the ministry, which should be worth the ticket price alone.

What I’m really looking forward to though is the conversations that will be going on throughout the weekend, and in the Dark Mountain camp in the runup, around the campfire, in the bar, on the grass and all around the site. There’s going to be a lot happening. If you’re still planning to come but haven’t bought your ticket yet, now’s the time, before they all go. Any questions you still have can hopefully be answered by the Uncivilisation network.

Living in Britain in the last week has been an interesting object lesson in how cherished assumptions and seemingly fixed situations can change faster than our ability to come to grips with their meaning or significance. I don’t imagine it’s done yet, either.  It seems like a good time for us to be coming together. There’s a lot to talk about.


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