Thursday, May 27, 2010

GeoMon vs The Dark Mountain

This weekend may see the most significant public debate about the future of the earth and the West's role in helping to save the environment or at least saving some semblance of life after civilisation.

The first ever Dark Mountain Festival will be held in Llangollen north Wales and George Monbiot (GeoMon) who has had a running debate with the Dark Mountain Project will be there to debate in person. George has always insisted that the West take responsibility for environmental destruction and Dark Mountain Project founders Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine head an ever growing movement that is deeply critical of Western civilisation and recognises that we may well have missed our chance to stop catastrophic climate change. Both GeoMon and the Dark Mountain Project are highly critical of the West's actions in it's stewardship of the earth but differ over the message that should be delivered to the people.

I admire George Monbiot a lot. He lives his values and writes articulately, always providing useful references. Most importantly he doesn't fly around the world giving talks and attending conferences instead choosing limited travel by train. George has been the steady voice of eco-reason for me which is why this particular conflict is so significant. The Dark Mountain Project came into my field of view only a few months ago but given the changes in our knowledge of the current and imminent threats to the global climate and the obvious lack of international will to act, their point of view continues to become more and more relevant.

Musician Chris TT who has an association with the Dark Mountain Project sums up the debate quite well in this article. He argues that the essence of the debate is about the reluctance of environmentalists to admit they are privately pessimistic about the future and don't share this pessimism due to the perceived need to grow public optimism. I'm inclined to agree with him.

While I have much admiration for GeoMon I feel that he has got his knickers in a twist over this debate. In his May 10/2010 article in The Guardian GeoMon responds to the Dark Mountain thesis contending that Western civilisation is much more resilient than they assert listing a range of new fossil fuel resources and extraction methods. I didn't find his argument compelling. It seemed that he was arguing that the very practices that he rails against would sustain the system he knows to be the problem.

Paul Kingsnorth in his May 19/2010 article The need for growth makes a strong argument for how utterly dependent Western civilisation is on economic growth and that such growth is necessarily dependent on eco-destructive practices. Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine sharpen their critique of the green movement in their reply to GeoMon entitled The environmental movement needs to stop pretending asserting that more than anything else our lifestyles need to change.

I find this debate to be exciting and extremely important! While I feel that the Dark Mountain Project tend to grandstand a little and GeoMon is defending what may well be a lost cause I feel that between them they have begun to flesh out the defining issue of our age. What seems a little amusing here is how GeoMon comes out looking a bit like an establishment figure.

The Dark Mountain Project have taken a very radical position which I find attractive. There is something very positive to me about new culture and contingency plans for a future that lack of political will seems to make very possible. While I wish for global cooperation and renewable energy solutions for the future I very much see the need for a critique of Western civilisation and the world that it has delivered to us.

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