Carrying the Fire
May 2013 has seen carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reach concentrations at or above 400ppm. The first time this has been so for over 3 million years. Meanwhile the UK continues to experience ‘weird weather’: unseasonal cold, with snow in Shropshire in mid-May, as well as gales and heavy rain. Direct links are now being made between disrupted weather patterns and Arctic ice melt. Talking to farmers here in Dumfriesshire, it’s clear that there’s a level of disquiet that runs deeper than the usual grumblings about the cost of feed and poor prices at market. The impact of ‘unusual’ weather over the last few years has threatened, in particular, the viability of smaller farms.
There’s a strange kind of cognitive dissonance about all of this – those same farmers complain about the “bloody windfarms springing up everywhere.” We all suffer from it: I’ll read a report on the shocking consequences of tar sand oil extraction, and then jump in the car to drive a few miles to the shops. This is our culture, riddled with contradictions. How do we make sense of it? How do we absorb the truth of Climate Change, or the knowledge that our Western lifestyle is responsible for the destruction of the biosphere?
These are the questions you don’t ask at a party, unless you want to find yourself alone in the kitchen. Nor does it seem that our politicians want to engage – I mean properly engage, not just pay lip service. Yet the scientists are increasingly panicked, and each new study shows that the evidence is clearer, the speed of change accelerating, the space for action narrowing.
It’s a hard place to go to, grappling with this stuff, but I think it’s important. Not to despair, or to wallow, but to dig for the deeper truths beneath mainstream culture’s insistence that everything is fine. The Dark Mountain Project is an organisation committed to digging deeper, and we’re running a mid-summer event called Carrying the Fire at Wiston Lodge in the Scottish Borders. This is not a festival as such, more of a convivial gathering and a rare opportunity to sit round the hearth in a clearing in the woods, to share stories in good company and to begin to engage with those difficult questions.
It’s also an opportunity to take time out and explore the beautiful woods and permaculture gardens at Wiston, as well as to climb (weather and fitness permitting) Tinto Hill which rises over 2000ft at the back of the Lodge. We also have some wonderful talks and performances lined up, including from two of the UK’s foremost writers on our relationship to the natural world: Jay Griffiths, who will read from and discuss her new book Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape; and Sara Maitland, discussing Gossip from the Forest. There will also be performances from the amazing Metaforestry and from food activist and Bella editor Mike Small, who will present Equidea, his blistering and darkly comic account of the ongoing horsemeat scandal.
If any of this is of interest, then I urge you to come along, and to spread the word – it’s going to be a great weekend. It’s happening on June 14th -16th, for more information on programme and tickets, etc, click here.