Speaking with the Mountain: The Dark Mountain Project

22 | 09 | 2021

The end of the world as we know it, may be the start of something else.

Every now and then, we witness a project that just may reaffirm our faith in humanity —in art, in our capacity for consciousness, and the possibility of creating (or re-creating), even at the most difficult of moments. One such undertaking is The Dark Mountain Project which came about in 2009. It was begun by Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine, two English writers and activists concerned about climate change and its consequences. They came together to create an ecological record of the reality humanity is today living. For Kingsnorth and Hine, it was no longer enough to write about things going wrong. They felt they had to assume the task of inspiring, influencing, and giving a space to those who wanted to be part of change even from within an indolent society blind to the problems afflicting it.

Initially, Kingsnorth and Hine knew each other only at a distance. They’d read the articles published by each other in their respective blogs. One afternoon they decided to meet for the first time in a pub where, over drinks and shared ideas, the following came to be: a little manifesto expressing the impotence stirred up in people by the direction the world had taken in recent decades.

Later, that manifesto became more than just an essay on unease. It came to be a living document for expressing the details of the coming ecological collapse and for challenging a culture which refuses to express itself on the matter —as though turning one’s back on reality could ever make it disappear. Their project resulted in an editorial platform that seeks to call out the barbarism with which we live with eyes firmly closed. This is not to gloat in the face of tragedy, but to take it to account, transform it, and to turn it into art.

Thus, the Dark Mountain Project became a space to shelter the pessimists, the romantics, and the realists who intend to leave their own testimony as to this catharsis.

A Single Poem

In 1935, the American writer, Robinson Jeffers wrote a poem titled Rearmament. It put into words and tried to explain the imminent danger of World War II. For the poet, humanity had lost its way, and no one could stop the coming destruction: “I would burn my right hand in a slow fire to change the future,” he wrote in one line of the poem. He suggested that fate would take its course, and no one could do anything to stop the coming doom. We were walking on the dark side of the mountain, in the middle of a dense forest, and we didn’t realize it.

The Dark Mountain Project resulted from the entrails of this poem. Although for the moment humanity isn’t threatened with a global war, we face an immense enemy with neither a name nor a delimited territory: climate change.

It might be easy to deny it, but the ravages of this atmospheric phenomenon on the planet are upon us, at our heels. Natural disasters add up and the consequences of all of them have yet to be seen. We know that they could be fatal to life on the planet. But there’s hope evident in every human act and initiative to repair and rebuild. Such is the case with the Dark Mountain Project.

The Manifesto

The Dark Mountain Project consists of a group of activist-artists aiming to change our conception of the present with words. These have been distilled into a collection of publications inviting us to understand the essence of climate change and to build accurate opinions around it.

To be part of the initiative is to be aware of a wide range of issues. Somehow, everything’s connected. One effective way to understand the project’s importance and depth is to read their eight essential principles:

  1. We live in a time of social, economic, and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
  2. We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions.’
  3. We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilization: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature.’ These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.
  4. We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.
  5. Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will begin with the attempt to step outside the human bubble. By careful attention, we will re-engage with the non-human world.
  6. We will celebrate writing and art which is grounded in a sense of place and of time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.
  7. We will not lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our fingernails.
  8. The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop. Together, we will find the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.

Though the essence of the Dark Mountain Project is born of disaster, its existence is hopeful. It’s a group of people who, from their own positions, are doing something valuable: holding up a mirror encouraging reflection on ourselves and a contemplation of our reality. Their proposal surpasses pessimism and puts itself in a human place, as it makes use of the best there is in human beings: the capacity to feel, to (re)create, and to transform.

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