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The Dark Mountain Project: or how literature can confront ecocide

Believe, Evolve, Inspire

This literary and artistic movement urges us to tell stories from the very beginning, ridding ourselves once and for all of the “myth of civilization”.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Wordsworth, “The Tables Turned” (fragment)

Words are elementary. The only reason we can live from day to day with some of eloquence, is that we tell stories to make sense of things. The words and images that we are made of can change our point of view, our emotions and they can even change the course of history. But, perhaps we are not telling ourselves the right stories. Or, in our collection of stories we are missing those that truly speak of the world, of the world’s present. Dark Mountain ProjectNew Window tackles this.

This is a creative project; a literary movement that has become something much more important. We could call it “environmentalist”, but it rejects most of what environmentalism has become: it is part of the same consumerist society, which to begin with, is its fundamental problem. Dark Mountain tells us everything that we want to hear (“darkness lies beneath”) and it represents an elegant and well-studied answer to the era of “ecocide”. In addition, unlike other movements of a similar nature, those who are responsible (mainly Dougald Hine and Paul Kingsnorth) are not activists and are not interested in developing an apocalyptic vision of what awaits us in our financial and environmental horizon.

It is unusual that a new cultural movement, which apparently believes that civilization is failing and that we should all, in real life or figuratively, “go to the mountains”, is present in academic discussions. Dark Mountain Project studies how narratives frame and open the possibility for organic and sustainable lifestyles, and calls for new narratives and forms of art that can confront the present and the future in an integral and new manner. Their manifesto, which has the drawn attention of academicians and artists, is a somber and nerve-wracking read which confronts collective denial and the “myth of civilization”, which has reproduced ad nauseam the idea that the human is the chosen race and that immediate benefits are more important than the exploitation of the world’s resources.

dark mountain project

But the manifesto is also an eloquent call to generate stories that can lay down the foundations for a new culture that avoids the abyss generated by thinking about human history in terms of a lineal progress. “A literary challenge” they say, “to accept the world for what it is and to make our home here, rather than dreaming of relocating to the stars, or existing in a Man-forged bubble and pretending to ourselves that there is nothing outside it to which we have any connection at all.”

The project calls for thinkers, writers, artists, musicians and artisans to share a vision of the future beyond the mainstream perspective, which tries to “dehumanize” our points of view. To put it in other words: Dark Mountain wants to displace the focus of human attention to something else. To lessen “personal importance” which floods our mind and to validate that our separation from nature (the mere existence of the word “nature” proves that we no longer consider ourselves part of it) is a myth that has enabled the triumph of civilization.

Mainstream art in the West has long been about shock; about busting taboos, about Getting Noticed. This has gone on for so long that it has become common to assert that in these ironic, exhausted, post-everything times, there are no taboos left to bust. But there is one.

But beyond rejecting humanity, Dark Mountain is the affirmation of how wonderful it is to be human. True, climate change and other principles are making all human projects irrelevant, but what is also true is that new challenges that can shed light on our poor understanding of the world we inhabit exist, and thus we can reshape our world with the rock and ocean that we are made from. The project is ambitious; however, its intelligence resides in its possibilities. The question remains: can literature confront climate change?

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