Notes from Underground #1: Al Gore Didn’t Want You to Panic

This is the first of a new series by Commissioning Editor, Dougald Hine.

The third week in August 2018. The end of a long dry summer and I’m headed into Stockholm for the day. My phone pings, an SMS from one of the people I’m due to meet: ‘If you happen to walk by parliament on your way, you’ll see a school strike for climate.’

I’ve got a three-year-old in tow, and I’m rushing to park him and my parents at the Astrid Lindgren-themed children’s museum on Djurgården before my first meeting. The detour will have to wait, but this is the first I hear about Greta Thunberg and the movement she is about to start.

‘I’m optimistic about the future because of youth around the world like Greta Thunberg,’ tweets Christine Lagarde from Davos.

‘I don’t want your hope,’ says Greta in a speech the next day. ‘I want you to panic.’

After that, the German tabloids hail her as the ‘Eco Pippi’, but if we need a children’s literature reference, then surely it’s that Greta is channelling Katniss Everdeen from Hunger Games.

The massive popularity among young people of a series about a society that sends its children to do battle in a snuff movie remake of TV’s Big Brother ought to come as a warning to the grown-ups. At least that’s the thought that struck me reading those books a few years back. That was around the time Jay Springett wrote about ‘The Coming Asperity’: the moment when the young turn against the generations before them. I’m not saying that’s what this is, but you can taste the edge of that energy.

*   *   *

Whatever else, it should be clear by now that a shift is underway, a change in the cultural weather that goes back at least to the summer of 2018 and perhaps a little further. In hindsight, we might see David Wallace-Wells’s original New York magazine version of ‘The Uninhabitable Earth’ and the response it generated as the first sign of what was coming. Certainly, his publishers aren’t shy about calling him the man who launched the movement. On hopeful days, I’m tempted to say we’ve crossed a cultural tipping point.

Seasoned observers talk about the Issue–Attention cycle, the long rhythm by which different issues rise and fall on the news agenda. Seen through this lens, the climate issue is enjoying its latest season in the sun. The last wave of attention rose around 2005 and crashed four years later on the failed hopes of the Copenhagen summit. We know how this story ends, the old hands seem to say.

For those living the headiness of a wave, the mobilisation of emotion, such detached analysis can come as an unwanted slap in the face. Whatever lessons it has to offer, the voice of experience risks being heard as know-it-all, seen-it-all cynicism.

Something else might come into view, however, if we stay with this longer perspective for a moment: a difference between the current climate wave and the one that many of us lived through a decade and more ago; a qualitative shift in attention.

If there was one figure who embodied the public focus on climate last time around, then it was Al Gore. He strode onto the stage with his after-dinner patter – ‘I used to be the next president of the United States’ – to talk the audience through the high-end PowerPoint presentation that was An Inconvenient Truth. The effect of all the well-crafted rhetoric was to walk you up to a safe viewing point, about a quarter of a mile from the abyss, to gesture in its general direction, and then to walk you back and leave you with a list of things we can do to make the horror go away, starting with changing our lightbulbs. Al Gore didn’t want you to panic.

Those at the centre of this new moment of climate awareness have little in common with Al Gore. I’m thinking of Greta Thunberg, but also of Gail Bradbrook and Roger Hallam of Extinction Rebellion, and of Jem Bendell, whose academic paper ‘Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Climate Tragedy’ has been downloaded half a million times. Of the four of them, only Jem has a touch of the insider’s training, but the attention his work has received owes much to his willingness to sacrifice his credibility and go against the conventions of the institutions through which he built his reputation.

For millions, their encounter with Extinction Rebellion, Deep Adaptation or the school strikes movement over the past year has thrust them out over the abyss, hanging there with little promise of what lies beyond it. The strange collection of public figures giving voice to these intersecting movements are hanging out there too, dangling into the void of what we know and fear about the changes already underway. Their voices are powerful in part because they’re as scared as any of us.

*   *   *

As word began to spread last autumn, in the weeks before Extinction Rebellion kicked off, I saw a run of articles from professional campaigners and climate communications experts, explaining to Gail and Roger and their co‑conspirators how they were doing it wrong. I found myself wondering why we even have climate communications experts. Surely if there was anyone around who actually knew how to communicate successfully about climate change, we wouldn’t be as deep in this mess as we are?

Still, confident in their credentials, these experts explained that the messaging was a mistake: it’s no good scaring people, talking about how bad things look; you need to give them hope, where hope means a story about how it can all be OK. Well, no one listened. Instead, a strange alliance of the scared and the disillusioned proceeded to launch a mobilisation around climate change that has captured the cultural agenda to an extent we haven’t seen in a generation.

I have a hunch as to what caught so many of the professionals off guard. It’s that the toolkit of ‘communications’ is not adequate to what is at stake, to the kind of process that is called for and already underway. After all, the techniques of the communications industry were developed mostly for delivering commercial propaganda to promote the habits of consumption that brought us to this pass. Clever as the communicators are, their models may not encompass the range of possibilities for how people come to know a thing like the climate crisis, or how we come together in the experience and enactment of change.

What kind of process is it, then, that has been underway this past year? Here’s what I’ve been picking up from the people I meet, the audiences I speak to and the stories that come back to me: on a scale not seen before, people are having an encounter with climate change not as a problem that can be solved or managed, made to go away, or reconciled with some existing arc of progress, but as a dark knowledge that calls our path into question, that starts to burn away the stories we were told and the trajectories our lives were meant to follow, the entitlements we were brought up to believe we had, our assumptions about the shape of history, the kind of world we were born into and our place within it.

The power of this encounter stems not least from the sense that some secret part of us already knew. We had been sitting silently with this pouch of unnamed fears and darknesses, and now it becomes possible to find each other, to share our fears, to name something of the dark material we were carrying all along. And for the first time, we have movements in which our engagement is welcome without us having to suppress all this in favour of a can-do rhetoric we can’t quite believe in.

If this read on the processes at work is anywhere close to accurate, then we are in territory where the tools known to mythographers and anthropologists are more help than the standard equipment of communications, campaigning or activism. I can’t find another language for what’s going on, without risking the suggestion that this is some kind of initiatory process.

In the first instance, the risk is to my own ability to say anything intelligible, since most of us were born into a time and place that hardly knows how to take a thing like initiation seriously. If it has any connotations at all, they will be the National Geographic photo essay with boys in tribal costumes, or the humiliations enforced on new members of drug gangs and college fraternities, or the cringeworthy cultural appropriation of white dudes selling their services as shamans. Not a promising frame of reference, then, but it’s what I have.

What we know is that across a great range of times and places, people have taken practices of initiation seriously. They have constructed and relied on rituals, tied to moments of transition, in which the participants are taken out of their everyday reality for a time and brought to a confrontation with limits, to the rough edges of knowledge and perception, to the lived experience of their own mortality. The purpose of the ritual may be to mark a transition in the life of the participants – as with rites of passage into adulthood – or in the collective life of the community itself, as it encounters the limits of its current way of being. The literature on such practices is considerable, though much of it is corrupted by the colonial lenses through which other ways of being human have been studied.

My claim is that there are elements here that resemble the experiences people are having right now around climate change – and, if this is so, then thinking about these experiences in terms of initiation might help us get oriented to their implications and also to the dangers that go with them.

For one thing, in a context where initiation is taken seriously, the skill of holding a safe-enough space for such experiences is not seen as something you can learn in the course of a few weekend workshops. We are starting with precious little common language for this work, in a context where deep skill is hard to find, is marginalised or is simply absent. When it comes to the initiatory encounter with the dark knowledge of climate change and the mystery which it represents, those who are propelled into roles of leadership are often there because of the power with which they articulate their own experience of being broken by the encounter, rather than because they are equipped to hold a space in which others can be broken well and have a chance of healing. The hardest part of initiatory work is not the rupture from the everyday, the getting ‘far out’, but the return, the reintegration of what we have learned, how it has changed us, who we have become.

Without the depth of skill, without the steady hands of people who know this work, we can get lost out there. I see people trapped in loops of panic and fear, fed by a Facebook algorithm that serves up endless paralysing slices of apocalypse. This is not where we need to be. It’s not the encounter with darkness in which we have a chance of coming alive, but a spell that keeps us in the outer layers of hell.

Or else the encounter is rendered safe: another experience to be consumed. We are so well trained to approach the world as consumers, we can hardly help it, and pretty soon the grief ritual becomes another form of catharsis-on-demand. Here, too, we are under a spell – and it may be that the only way to break it is to raise the stakes, to put our own lives on the line, to violate the logic of the transaction and go beyond cost–benefit analysis. ‘The price of entry is to be consumed,’ writes Martin Shaw, who knows as much as anyone I’ve met about the stakes involved when initiation is for real.

Around the edges of our world, even today, there are characters like Martin who I would trust to hold this work. What keeps me awake at night is the question of what this looks like on the kind of scale that is called for now. This isn’t a countercultural pocket, a couple of hundred souls gathered around a campfire; this is crossing the horizon of the wider culture. Let’s say we’re talking hundreds of thousands of people, over this past year, having an encounter that calls their lives into question, that contains an element of revelation, which can look a lot like despair. What would it take to catch that many people as they fall?

There is one large-scale modern Western example of an initiatory movement that I find convincing and it’s Alcoholics Anonymous. Its strength is directly related to the stakes involved. You don’t arrive at an AA meeting without having burned your life down, one way or another. The thing you all have in common in that room is the price of entry.

I wish I knew what that looked like, transposed to the kind of ‘recovery’ that is called for now. We’re not talking about a pathology that lies at the level of the individual. There is no getting clean when it comes to climate change. I’m not even convinced that climate change is the root of what we’re talking about here. But this is the question that flickers through the conversations I’ve been having lately: what does Alcoholics Anonymous for a whole culture look like?

Dougald Hine, Västerås, 23 September 2019


Photo: Anders Hellberg of Effekt magazine

Comments (48)

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  1. Topher Dawson says:

    I’ve been wondering what ethical person does when he or she realises the game is lost. We are not going to clean up in time.

    I’m sad for my grandchildren. There is only one good thing; humanity is probably doomed but life will go on. I wonder if the cockroaches will reinvent democracy?

    1. Dougald Hine says:

      Thanks for starting the comments rolling, Topher. How we hold a sense of what is at stake, how much we know and fear, how much remains unknown – these are all themes that we’ll come back to as this series goes on. Ten years ago, at the end of the Dark Mountain manifesto, Paul Kingsnorth and I wrote, ‘The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world, full stop.’ I’d stand by those words – and I’ll have more to say about what I understand by them.

      Meanwhile, here are some good reflections from my friend Martin Shaw:

      1. Lark says:

        The AA analogy is apt. It reminds me of Gabor Mate’s assertion that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it’s connection. And as EM Forster said: “Only connect”. Without this, nothing.

  2. april griefsong says:

    Wow. Deep gratitude for this writing, Dougald. This is the most insightful and relevant description of the trouble of these times that I have read. Having been one of those voices speaking up for what matters to me and admitting my own brokenhearteness by it all, I have often felt the weight of the responsibility of weaving folks into this initiation. We are all wrestling with angels for the skill of spell breaking and culture creation – and still this speaks up to me as more needed than burying my head in the sand and pretending all will be ok. It very clearly will not be ok. It will be messy and uncomfortable and deeply traumatising. The overwhelming temptation, and the trained re-set under tension – is to reach for a quick fix – or any fix. And there lies our greatest danger right now. There is no fix for this, quick or otherwise. This is going to get messy and uncomfortable and traumatising, brokenkenhearted and grief struck. We will feel like we can’t go on. We go on. I am intending to show up again…. and again… and yet again…. to show up as if I am needed…and maybe, just maybe it might matter to someone, human or more than human. I look forward to sharing consequence with you. Ax

    1. Dougald Hine says:

      Thank you, April. It’s good to have you as a companion on this journey.

  3. SleepingDog says:

    I would say that Greta Thunberg and Roger Hallam are philosophers (and most people can be philosophers) when dealing with the climate emergency. Thunberg’s recent rejection of an award is a rejection of mainstream fixation on ‘leaders’ (and pinning one’s hopes on them and their one-to-many communication), the school strikers are telling people to listen to the scientists (plural). Hallam’s XR movement promotes similar many-to-many communication in the streets and elsewhere. Simple many-to-one communication (like people trying to channel their concerns through their MP) is not going to work either. Their movements urge us to break away from the false Great Man (occasionally Woman) View of History, as only mass movements can make the great systems changes to address the climate emergency and all the related problems today.

    I don’t think it is terribly valuable to try and trace an ancestral lineage of climate thought. My guess is that science fiction writers did it long ago, and they nicked ideas from everywhere they could. We’re all standing on the shoulders of others, our minds are social creations.

    What is potentially new is that modern many-to-many communication (if unmediated or at least not tampered with; obviously the social media technology firms can mess with this big time online) unleashes a new kind of collective intelligence with orders of magnitude of connectivity greater than before with faster waves of decision-making. Whether this monster will turn out to be a schizophrenic idiot or a world saviour, I guess we will just have to wait and see.

    1. Alistair Taylor says:

      Aye, was just listening to a radio programme about “quantam computer” in development by Google. Whilst the technology/intelligence might have the potential to come up with solutions to climate change, the more likely use will be to hack into everyone’s bank accounts. Lol.

      1. Alistair Taylor says:

        Quantum, even. (Spelling is importint),

        1. SleepingDog says:

          @Alistair Taylor, I guess if we destroy human civilization and go back to counting on fingers, a money-free economy and painting on cave walls, it will be quontam computing.

          1. Alistair Taylor says:

            Lol. Very good, SD. “A money-free economy and painting on cave walls” actually sounds pretty appealing to me. Right back to Nature.

    2. Dougald Hine says:

      SleepingDog – well, I can’t quite summon up the same degree of optimism as you for these modern many-to-many platforms, though obviously I’m grateful for the potential of quieter corners of the internet like this one. I wonder if ‘faster’ decision-making is what we need right now? I’m thinking of something Bayo Akomolafe says: ‘The times are urgent, let us slow down.’ I’ll come back to where that thought takes me as the series goes on.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Dougald Hine, I am uncertain rather than optimistic about a globally-networked collective intelligence, but we are in the early days (hopefully) and have a lot to learn. In some sense it may be true that a town is collectively more intelligent than a village, and a city than a town (which is not the same as wiser or ethically better, nor to say a random townsperson is smarter than a villager individually). Cities have been around for millennia, modern nation states are newer, global civilization in its drooling infancy. What scales, what doesn’t? Can we sustain global mental health? Maybe it took centuries for the city institutions we recognise to develop.

        On “faster waves of decision-making” I am talking about speeding up rationality in the sense of Elaine Scarry’s Thinking in an Emergency:
        “She reveals how regular citizens can reclaim the power to protect one another and our democratic principles. Government leaders sometimes argue that the need for swift national action means there is no time for the population to think, deliberate, or debate. But Scarry shows that clear thinking and rapid action are not in opposition.”
        There are ways we can compile complex ideas so we can process them faster. This is, after all, how ethics works, whether you follow rules, try to embody virtues or calculate consequences (or more likely a mixture of these, weighed).

        I look forward to reading your thoughts on this topic on the site.

    3. Rosemary McMullen says:

      I am going to search for articles about this theme and report back, sleepingdog. In my comment below I mentioned FB groups that gather around an author’s ideas like Charles Eisenstein, as an example, or a cultural offering, like the Netflix series OA, which was for me an analogy of group initiation.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Rosemary McMullen, yes, I think there can be fast, deep, broad, connected, emotionally-invested, rigorous online discussions about such ideas (or their cultural vehicles) where they can be tested, exampled, improved, challenged, disseminated, transformed and incorporated into larger systems of ideas. I have not read Charles Eisenstein’s books, but I agree with his argument in an article I found online about regenerative agriculture being better than geoengineering. Especially since I am not on Facebook nor subscribe to Netflix, it will be interesting to read a summary of what you find out about such groups and their activities.

  4. Pete Roberts says:

    Thanks for this article. It has been dawning on me for a while that our whole model of patriarchal materialist civilisation is in its death throes. The emergence of liars and crooks like Trump and Johnson as national leaders is a symptom of this. It is not sustainable and if we persist trying to keep it going we will devastate the global ecology and wipe ourselves out. Fortunately the planet seems to be starting to react and hopefully it will destroy the infrastructure that our civilisation depends on, forcing the survivors to adapt to a new way of life.

    This will certainly present challenges but they will not be the soul destroying challenges of trying to survive on poverty wages while your employer becomes a billionaire and his political sock puppets become millionaires.. They will be real challenges which will force the survivors to co-operate with nature and each other, and rising to these challenges will allow for a new model of civilisation to emerge, with the Greta Thunbergs of the world and others referred to in the article providing the leadership which will be needed. It will be a damn sight healthier than what we have now and I honestly don’t see any other hope for the survival of humanity.

    1. john learmonth says:

      According to the met office the average summer temperature (june-august) in the central belt of scotland is 21oc. If (and its a big if as climate predictions have been woefully inaccurate) and worse case scenario (assuming everything stays the same, which it won’t ) then by the end of the century we’ll be looking at average summer temperatures of 23oc and we’re all going to die??
      HOW DARE YOU…..

      1. Interpolar says:

        Yeah. 2 degrees does not sound a lot, but if you consider that it’s 2 degrees everywhere, across the whole planet, that’s a darn lot of energy building up. It’s going to do something.

        1. john learmonth says:

          Will just take us back to the warming period of the middle ages when the vikings settled on a large island and named it ‘Greenland’ due to the fact that they could plant crops and raise livestock something that would be impossible in todays ‘warming’ climate
          Todays eco alarmists are just the latest in a long line who have been predicting the end of civilisation since the beginning of civilisation.
          The world is not coming to an end and we’re not going to die due to ‘climate change’ unless we go hiking in the cairngorms in january in t-shirt and shorts……

          1. Can I ask how old you are John?

          2. john learmonth says:

            Why? What has age got to do with anything.
            More than happy to tell you if you could tell me your reasoning for the question?

          3. I’ve just never met anyone under 60 that believes this nonsense. And while it might seem rude – I think we are (existentially) a bit past rude – I don’t normally let climate denialists a presence on my site – I’d really like you to have some context to your views.

          4. john learmonth says:

            First i’m not a climate ‘denialist’
            I fully accept that the worlds climate changes over time just that i’m highly sceptical that ‘we’ i.e humamity have much (if anything to do with it). How do you explain the warming and cooling periods of the past and why do you think that these huge forces of nature have mysteriously disappeared to be replaced solely by manmade CO2 emmissions as the sole driver of ‘climate change’. Do you not accept that solar activity/plate techtonics/volvanic eruptions(or the lack of them) might also have an influence?
            For the record i’m 48, would tell you my socio economic class (as i perceive it) sexual orientation as well as my post code and voting record should you want them but i fail to see the relevance and why should the cut off point be 60?
            Are you saying that once you hit 60 you become a ‘denialist’? I could equally claim that if your below a certain age (say 16 like St Greta) your far more likely to be too young to make your own mind up on any matter and are more likely to be indoctrinated by your ‘elders’. Age works both ways.

          5. You say you’re not a climate denialist and then list all of the key arguments of climate denial.

          6. Todd Cory says:

            “eco alarmists”

            yes, the climate changes but the rate of change is unprecedented.

            if you think 7.6 billion humans, breeding 1,000,000 more every 4.5 days, living on massive carbon footprint, non-negotiable lifestyles, powered by burning 100 million barrels of hydroCARBON fuels every day = 410 ppm of co2 increasing at a phenomenal rate of 3 ppm/ year is just normal background change, then i have to ask you… where did you get your science degree?

            perhaps you missed seeing the data:


          7. john learmonth says:

            I see then, any perfectly reasonable questions can just be closed down by accusing people of being ‘deniers’ thereby absolving you of answering. Science is not consensus.9

          8. SleepingDog says:

            @john learmonth, you are really going with Vikings as the model of modern sustainability, the failed farmers who launched a campaign of rape and pillage on the world? And how would that work in the modern world of 7.5 billion or so?

      2. Pete Roberts says:

        Where am I saying it’s all about temperatures?

      3. Dougald Hine says:

        John –

        Firstly, I don’t know what article you were commenting on, but the article I wrote does not claim that “we’re all going to die”. Nor have I claimed that anywhere else – except to point out the mundane fact that we are all going to die, sooner or later.

        Secondly, if you want to engage in pseudo-debate about the climate science, bringing up standard-issue denial talking points, can I recommend you go somewhere else? That’s not the subject of this series – and if the comments start to get cluttered up with the kind of stuff you’ve been posting this week, then we’ll just tighten up the comments policy to encourage you to find another outlet.


  5. Billco says:

    If some of the more extreme scenarios of global warming are correct, then it’s not cultural AA we need, but global palliative care…

    1. Dougald Hine says:

      Billco – the tricky part is, a scenario can only be ‘correct’ in hindsight. So yes, you can find those scenarios and people who are strongly attached to them, for reasons that may be worth digging into. But in the meantime, here we are, deep enough in trouble already and with clear enough warnings from the science about what lies around and ahead of us. So that’s where I want to start from in these essays.

  6. Julie Daniels says:

    We all began to see the signs. Hear about the pollution levels the dirty drinking water. We could see the air pollution, taste it. The pesticides killing everything including the insects and bees. We also learned that our whole society is based around oil. Plastic is killing us.
    We spent to much time sticking plasters on the wounds and didn’t address the real problem. It’s so big nobody knew where to begin. To release us from the grip of a system built on mass production for the sake of it. It’s sick. Now the climate crisis is a consequence of our manic abuse. Like an alcoholic we know what we are doing we just can’t stop. Fast forward to inspirational Greta and many others. Here we all are together to face our AA meeting. Are we ready? Probably not but we can’t and mustn’t give up. We have future generations that will suffer everytime we fall of the wagon.
    The massive concern I have as I face age 60 nx year is do I have enough time and energy to help. There’s no dealing with people’s despair unless you give them a reason to be positive. That means we need to see a radical and fast move on tackling the big problems we have today.
    There are many many people focused on this and I shall continue to be one of them.

    1. Alistair Taylor says:

      It’s a very difficult place we are in Julie, and it could (and probably will) get a whole lot worse before it gets better.
      That whole generation of Trumps, Farages and Johnsons (and the people that support them) are a waste of space.

      Humans need to evolve, or die.
      (Dying out might be for the best, overall… Let the plants and animals go at it, without the destructive forces of people messing the place up.)
      On that cheery note,
      all the best. (smiley face).

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Alistair Taylor, the same sentiment of Timon of Athens and philosopher Apemantus:
        “TIMON: What wouldst thou do with the world,
        Apemantus, if it lay in thy power?
        “APEMANTUS: Give it the beasts, to be rid of the men.

        “TIMON (To the gold):
        Think, thy slave man rebels, and by thy virtue
        Set them into confounding odds, that beasts
        May have the world in empire!”

        So Shakespeare’s Timon and Apemantus would save the world from capitalism by giving (or leaving) it to the beasts. I wonder why that play is not so popular.

  7. PHILIP S RHOADS says:

    Go, Greta! Go, Dougald! Initiatory! Cringeworthy! Great language and great purpose!

  8. Derek Henry says:

    So how do you pay for it Mr Hine ?

    Well you don’t know do you ?

    My guess is you believe it has to be paid by taxes ? The gold standard, fixed exchange rate, household budget nonsense ?

    Just so you can start to understand how the changes needed can be ” paid for ” here is an excellent article by David Graeber.

    Notice the truth about our monetary system in 2019 and the lies that have been used to hide that truth for the last 40 years. That voters fell for because of 15 min sound bites repeated ad nauseam on the radio and TV sets.

    ” In fact, there’s absolutely no reason a modern state should fund itself primarily by appropriating a proportion of each citizen’s earnings”

    1. Derek – you are going to have to moderate your tone or be removed.

    2. SleepingDog says:

      @Derek Henry, it that what this is all about? A psychological aversion to paying taxes? Tell me, are you a hoarder by any chance?

  9. Derek Henry says:

    Mr Hine.

    If you voted to remain in the EU and you want an Indy Scotland to be at the heart of Europe and sign up to the single market rules.

    How would an Indy Scotland ” pay for ” the changes that are needed ?

    When we would only be allowed to run 3% government budget deficits and run debt to GDP ratio of 60% ? The 2 pack, 6 pack excessive debt proceedure, corrective arm.

    When everyone knows we would need to run 10- 15% deficits and higher ratio’s. Totally ignore the neoliberal gold standard, fixed exchange rate myths embedded throughout the EU treaties.The

    Mr Hine, how would you square that neoliberal globalist circle ?

    1. Dougald Hine says:

      Derek –

      I’m curious whether you find that making comments that are (1) unnecessarily aggressive, (2) completely at a tangent to the original post and (3) jump to baseless conclusions about the author is an effective way of promoting the positions to which you are attached?


  10. Dave Dix says:

    Fascinating to get inside the mind of someone who actually believes the hysterical and completely unscientific nonsense Greta has been peddling.

    1. Dougald Hine says:

      Fascinating to hear from (I can only assume) one of the old white men who think they know better than the climate scientists Greta talks to regularly.

  11. Janet Hicks says:

    I think that the most interesting line in this article is “I’m not even convinced that climate change is the root of what we’re talking about here.” What drove us to be a planet of hungry ghosts, devouring but never being satisfied? Is the price of entry a radical shift from self concern to concern for the life of all beings? And what would this look like? It could be a joyous connection that fills our hungry bellies.

    1. Dougald Hine says:

      Thanks, Janet. I’m glad you homed in on that line. Although climate change has been part of what I’ve worked with for a long time, for much of that time I found myself reluctant to write and speak too much about it, because it so easily becomes a way of not talking about all the rest of what you are pointing to here. My hope is that the existential encounter with the climate crisis that many people are having right now can open us up to a deeper conversation: a conversation we would need to be having, even if the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere was different and could happily absorb all of our industrial emissions. I guess this series is my contribution to nudging the climate conversation in that direction?

  12. Keith Hayes says:

    1) We admitted we were powerless over fossil fuels—that our lives had become unmanageable.

    2) We came to believe that new arrangements for living could restore us to sanity.

    3) We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over attempting to become sustainable and living within limits as we learned more about the impact of our previous selfish choices.

    4) We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

    5) We admitted to the generations to come after us and to ourselves and to those living with us the exact nature of our wrongs.

    6) Were entirely ready to have new lifestyles remove all these defects in the way we have been living.

    7) We were ready to have citizens assemblies identify the new ways to live.

    8) With humility we decided to live considering others and not live making it all about ourselves. With humility we wish to be lost in the sands of time while mankind and planet earth continue to flourish.

    9) By choosing to live in a different way we make amends to everybody.

    10) We continue to find better ways to live that makes everyones’ lives happier and which also preserves the planet.

    11) With thought meditation and reflection we try to understand how to become more sustainable and socially connected every day.

    12) We seek to spread the message of living within limits and being more connected to others is a better way to live.

  13. Topher Dawson says:

    There is one aspect of this I’ve not seen mentioned. Past generations threw away what they used up just as we do. Skara Brae in Orkney has piles of limpet shells just outside the doors of the huts where the inhabitants dumped their food packaging 5000 years ago. Ancient settlements all have these “middens” or dumps. But because they were throwing away degradable stuff like shells, wood and skins, they did not ruin their environment.

    Our rubbish is plastic packaging and CO2 which do ruin the environment.

    Also some commenters to this post are not convinced there is any problem, or are not convinced the problem is caused by humans. We can all agree that there are a lot of extreme record breaking weather events in the last 10 years. But none of us have first hand a big picture of the global ecosystem failing, we have it second hand from the scientists or third hand from people summarising the scientific picture. I personally believe the science, but some don’t.

    There is a significant group of people who have come to distrust information from people they don’t know, for understandable reasons. A lot of disinformation has been put out by groups (Trump’s backers, Putin, Bannon…..) with an agenda which poisons the pool of common information. Thus some have come to distrust vaccinations and some genuinely believe the earth to be flat.

    It is human to decide not to believe inconvenient truths and perhaps that is where Greta Thunberg comes in, to break through that shell of deliberate ignorance by blunt abruptness.

  14. Nick Stewart says:

    Excellent piece Dougald. But I prefer the idea of a practice – daily – to that of initiation. As someone who has been practising meditation for some 40+ years I can say with some authority that it is a daily practice that shifts the sense of self to a deeper, more resilient space, that would help greatly here. In my experience, the discipline of meditation enables the development of an inner stillness, a profound silence, that is not subject to the changing circumstances of the world at large. This doesn’t mean the individual becomes impervious to experience but it does mean that individual experience is increasingly grounded in a deep level of being that remains at peace, regardless of circumstances. Of course, the experience of grief and the shock of such developing climate knowledge as we are all now becoming familiar with remains. and can cut through. But the knowledge and experience that a meditation practice brings helps us to navigate the despair of the present moment and, like a dye cast in water, colours our experience, enabling us to grasp the everyday as a source of pleasure, and even, joy, while not erasing the concern with the impending crisis. This is difficult to articulate without sounding like being a fanatic. But this is not a product of belief. It’s a result of experience, the practice of a discipline not dependent on belief but trusted to work at a deeper, unconscious level to bring us into some sort of alignment with a larger reality.
    There is much useful knowledge and experience in modern art that is also relevant here. But that’s for another day …

  15. Sandy Tabin says:

    I’ve wondered same, how to incorporate AAs practice towards this work. Couple months ago I read a bit about “my name is and I’m recovering from Civilization

  16. Rosemary McMullen says:

    I just saw this today 4 December 2019 and am interested in how others reacted to his question about world initiation. Putting it another way might be Charles Eisenstein’s books that focus on what story people are letting play. The More Beautiful World We All Know Is Possible has a FB group with over 20000 people.

    “Initiatory process” refers to a systemic change of consciousness and of course there are age wold world wide ways this has been done and is being done anew by the Internet Age. One interesting manifestation of this sense of group initiation was the OA Netflix series that had a fan group where many of these processes of spiritual awakening and group work were discussed by hundreds over months. I saw the heroine Prairie as an early stage initiate whose task was to free captive angels (people who are sleeping, drugged, or otherwise spiritually unawake) and instruct them in moving to higher consciousness. Group work was a key item.

    Looking forward to hearing how others respond to the idea.
    Looking forward to dialogue and finding out.

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