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Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

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Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

By Michael Berry

Activist turned skeptic Paul Kingsnorth no longer believes technology can save humanity from "ecocide."

Through 19 essays in Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist (Graywolf Press, 2017), Kingsnorth argues that it is time to abandon the notion of sustainability, "an entirely human-centered piece of politicking, disguised as concern for 'the planet.'"

Instead, he advocates for "dark ecology," a philosophy that insists on the nonsuperiority of humanity, emphasizes the need to preserve nonhuman life, and urges withdrawal from the political fray. For Kingsnorth, that meant moving his family from England to rural County Galway, Ireland, where he could build compost toilets, learn to cut grass with a scythe, and plant 500 small trees.


Author of the Man Booker long-listed novel The Wake, Kingsnorth believes we need a new kind of storytelling to reconnect humanity with the natural world. Versed in both art and science, he uses an engaging prose style to link disparate topics, from cave paintings to the space race, from the poetry of Charles Bukowski to the Norman Conquest. He's candid about the ironies in using fossil fuel vehicles to plant his low-impact trees. "It turns out that living a simpler life can be quite complicated."

Although he writes about feeling despair, grief and loss in the face of climate change, Kingsnorth says he has not given up hope—only what he perceives as false hope. "Together, we shall find the hope beyond hope, the paths that lead to the unknown world ahead of us."

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA.

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