Paul Kingsnorth & Friends Discuss “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist”

Has environmentalism lost its way? What does sustainability really have to do with a healthy planet? During Orion‘s latest live web event, Paul Kingsnorth discussed his essay “Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist” in the January/February 2012 issue of the magazine. According to Kingsnorth, environmentalism has effectively died, its original deep connection to nature lost in the language of science and economics. Kingsnorth is joined by authors Lierre Keith and David Abram.


  1. Listened intently to this recording, glad it’s online. Some good things from the guests, especially Paul’s unrehearsed comments which sound as though they are coming from deep within.

    Very diplomatic comments about – best summed up as “they do what they do”; except they don’t change anything, which is why, in effect, what do is precisely what Paul’s essay railed against. You only have to read their page called “Businesses for 350″ which contains the words “More than ever, businesses are positioned to change the way that clean energy policies are made. They have a profound influence on politics, the economy and consumer choices, and with business owners like you on our side, we will have a stronger collective voice and a better chance of passing effective clean energy legislation worldwide.” If that isn’t mainstream, pro-industry BS then I don’t know what is.

  2. War? 17 minutes what a load of bull. Feminist? You are woman, develop that maternal instinct honey. This is not the way forward.

  3. Clyde, I don’t know what Keith’s gender has to do with anything. Yes, some people react with anger born from hopelessness and extreme frustration. If you prefer Abram’s point of view about metamorphosis, which is what I personally hope for rather than violent overthrow, that’s great. However, hopefully you’re actually doing something, be it radical or not, rather than simply criticizing and using sexist platitudes like “honey”.

  4. Carol-Keith’s gender…I was referring to a female who spoke at the beginning of the interview. She did seem quite radical, so much so that I had to stop listening. Apologies, I do not recall her name but she does refer to herself as a radical feminist. This attitude came through in her tone and does not help matters. Sexist platitudes… she took note.
    In reality, humans and the environment are a long way from any being friends, I do however constantly endeavour to facilitate change. Respect and compassion for fellow man will lead to great things.

  5. This is a movingly honest, eloquent and passionate trialogue about the predicament humanity finds ourselves in and ways of dealing with it.

    I like David A’s computers as ‘isolating house of mirrors’ metaphor. Also, Lierre’s call for solidarity with other species & cultures and support for a culture of resistance. Also, Paul’s clarification of what the term sustainability really means in practice: i.e. sustaining the Great Machine which is gutting the Earth.

    Thanks. Essential listening!

  6. It’s ok, I assumed Clyde was referring to Lierre Keith, not me; we share a name and quite a few ideas, but not all views…

  7. I was disappointed to see Lierre Keith just mouthing the same talking points from Derrick Jensen – does she have any ideas of her own that she might express in her own words?

    This whole “Deep Green Resistance” movement is starting to sound rather eerily like a cult, complete with a dogma, which its members seem to memorize and spout at every opportunity.

  8. Hi Denizen, drop me an email via the link on my name – it’s an interesting observation.


  9. Dear Clyde

    Can you elaborate on what you mean by your last comment? Up to now, it seems reasonable to suggest that the application of scientific knowledge has only accelerated ecological destruction at every turn. It can be argued that the only ‘sustainable’ form of technology is stone age technology.

  10. Dave – thank you for the good chuckle, a welcomed distraction.
    The application of knowledge has led us – in this case – you and I, to this point, where we can blog and so it goes on. To sum it up; consider the current situation in Nigeria, overpopulation and exploitation of resource has lead to conflict and resulted in all sorts of destructive behaviour. Provide the “science” and stop this positive feedback loop and we all win i.e. free and abundant energy and and and…

  11. Hi Clyde
    The current situation in Nigeria would seem to me to demonstrate the direction in which the entire world is heading. Nigeria was colonised through destructive technology and continues to be exploited – via its oil industry – by similar technology. Blogging can only go on while computers and servers continue to operate on fossil fuel power – surely a relatively short-term scenario given the consensus on peak oil and other resources. I’m not sure what this ‘free and abundant’ energy source you mention is but it must pale into insignificance compared to the energy intensity of fossil fuels. 9 million bloggers – I’m afraid not.

  12. You miss the point, through scientific endeavour we may find the elusive “free energy” who knows… this path and process is predetermined by humanities inherent character – a necessary evil? Or a bump in the road of evolution? I am angry too, but to what end? Revel in it and enjoy each day for what it is :) Breathe deeply my friend and savour the toxic stench of progress!

  13. I wish I could share your optimism, Clyde, but I have to say I won’t be pinning my hopes on accessing any free energy anytime soon – any more than I’ll be expecting free food, rent, or anything else. If ‘progress’ is code for planetary omnicide (as it increasingly seems to be), then I’m not interested. I have to lay my cards on the table and state that I am in general agreement with Lierre Keith, Derrick Jensen et al that resistance to the omnicidal prevailing culture is paramount. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the question they pose. Who do you identify with? Technology? Computers? Progress? Civilisation? Or the natural world that sustains all life? If the latter, what are you prepared to do to preserve and protect it?

  14. My commitment to this planet is profound, to answer your question – everything I can.

  15. Thanks greatly for this fantastic audio with 3 great thinkers..will put a link on the blog..

  16. So, everybody ready to go cheer on the shutting down of an oil refinery?
    According to the general log-rolling vibe here (nary a contested thought), all are in agreement – some good old -fashioned direct action, and the system goes back to applecarts and folkdancing.
    The green “movement,” along with OWS “movement,” is beset by frauds who promise great, instaneous, and wondrous change while the sociological forces work across all institutions to advance the dominant order.
    In the last wave of direct action, the Green Scare resulted in many fine, good-natured folks doing very, very limited damage and getting shitloads of hard time – a horrible waste.
    Neither Kingsnorth, nor Keith, nor Abram evinced any concern for the terrible fates of their erstwhile comrades while they talk up similar actions. Humanity builds up potent, oppressive institutions that arrogate to themselves massive powers to perpetuate the status quo, and yet here folks come to dream to somehow they are going to reverse-engineer social forces, with some words, a book or two, and a stance.

  17. Great ideas. Loved you all. I particularly admire Lierre’s insistence and strength. Other people dont because it means work, and they would prefer to talk and read about it forever instead. I believe she has cut to it…we need to replace the prairie, the forest, the wetlands. We need to obtain our food from these (local!) ecosystems. We need to reduce our energy consumption and protect what ecosystems are left from oil, coal &coal; seam gas and logging companies. This will naturally address climate change so we havent got time to sit around talking about it. Plant a food or forage tree today.

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