Dark Mountain

What happens when you stop pretending?

For over fifteen years, since my student days, I was a committed environmentalist. I used much of my writing, and the associated campaigning I filled up much of my life with, to try and stop the human machine from devastating the natural world.

It was around 2008 that I began to accept, reluctantly, that much of what I had (probably naively) imagined could be done was not possible. We weren’t going to stop climate change. We couldn’t prevent the onward march of the human economy, with much of its associated destruction. Instead, we seemed to be committed to a denuded future in a much poorer world.

It wasn’t a cheery message, but it seemed to me – it still does – to be an honest one. The question I wanted to answer was: where did it leave me? Where did it leave me as a writer, and where did it leave me as a human being? When you give up on the failing stories you have been telling yourself, what replaces them?

The Dark Mountain Project grew out of these questions. It marked my personal departure from campaigning writing and from identification with political movements and narratives. It first took form in a slim, self-published pamphlet called Uncivilisation, co-written with Dougald Hine. which called for a cultural response to what was, it seemed to me, a cultural crisis.

The roots of our converging global problems – peak oil, mass extinction, climate change, a cannibalistic economic model – are not technological, nor even economic, but are rooted in the stories we tell ourselves as a civilisation about who we are and where we are going. The Dark Mountain Project was set up to challenge these stories and begin to explore new ones.

Dark Mountain has taken off way beyond my imagining. Thousands of people from around the world have been involved since it launched in 2009, and the movement has broadened out from writers to take in painters, artists, philosophers, farmers, scientists, policy wonks, journalists and many more. We currently publish two books of ‘uncivilised writing’ every year, as well as staging occasional events and collaborations.

2 Comments

  • Kelvin Campbel

    Paul, Came across you in the Guardian piece on ‘bigness’ Leopold Kohr is my hero.

    Thought you would like to see this. It is in final draft and Chelsea Green are about to publish it. Welcome your feedback. https://www.dropbox.com/s/cxcu6o0vpdhwvz2/MASSIVE%20SMALL%20COMPENDIUM%20DRAFT%203.pdf?dl=0

    I can send you a copy of the Radical Incrementalist, if you send me a postal address. Regards

  • John Gabriel Otvos

    I’ve come across your name and ‘organization’ from Friday’s Esquire article on: When The End of Human Civilization is your Day Job. I was introduced 20 years ago, through a series of Brian Swimme lectures, to the concept of the 6th mass extinction. It was just beginning to register for the few who ‘chase’ these stories. At that time, the ‘idea’ was about the coming loss of the megafauna. Swimme speculated that biological scientists theorized that it would take 10,000,000 years to replace these, given a drawback from *their* habitation, which we have not done, only accelerated. None of this was ‘above the fold’. The Net was new. Included now, within that epic story are the pollinators, songbirds and the summer bugs squashed on your bumper and windshield. Today, the story has ramped up so that homo sapiens are included too. And so goes the non-local unconsciousness. Sigh!

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