A year ago, the world seemed different. This could be our partial view of it – all views are partial, after all. But back then the view from the slopes of the Dark Mountain looked out on a different landscape.
For starters the Dark Mountain Project, in February 2010, was smaller and more tentative than it is now. Our first book, our first festival and our online network were yet to come. The conversation was spreading, there was a sense that this mattered, but we were only just beginning the climb. A year on we are further up the slopes, and it feels like we are starting to get into our stride; to find a way among the bogs and the screes, to read the weather and the landscape as we walk.
But the world seems changed now too. When we launched the project just over eighteen months ago (and writing that, it suddenly becomes clear how young this still is) our talk of coming contraction and converging crises surprised some people, excited others, and baffled many more. Some people laughed at us. Look at the silly doomers, they said. Look at the apocalyptic utopians. Contraction indeed!
I’ve not heard anyone laughing recently. Since the manifesto was written, we have seen entire Western economies collapse – Iceland, Greece and Ireland down, Spain and Portugal teetering on the brink. We have seen the continued decline of the world’s pre-eminent Empire and of the world’s natural systems. We have seen the existence, perhaps even the historical fact, of peak oil quietly acknowledged by those in the driving seat. In the British Isles, where this project began, we are seeing the beginning of a process of state-mandated social and cultural contraction, the like of which most of us have not seen in our lifetimes, designed to save capitalism from itself. Meanwhile, in north Africa…
The point here is not to say ‘we were right’, but simply to underline the central observation with which we launched this project: the world we live in is being turned upside down by a series of converging crises. This process has not finished: it has only just begun, and it’s likely to get faster, deeper, harder. We can choose how to react to it, but there’s no going back.
The second claim we made when we launched this project was that writing, and cultural expression more generally, can and should create counter-narratives that acknowledge the scale of this and our part in it. We are living in a time when much we took for granted is falling away. This process can be terrifying, and none of us should see ourselves as safe, yet as it unfolds we are also watching the crumbling of the myths that got us here.
We set out with the ambitious aim of finding new myths, new stories, new ways of seeing – or rediscovering old ones – which could offer better maps for this age of consequences. We can’t do this on our own, and wouldn’t try to. But we can make a start. We began to do this with our first collection of Uncivilised writing, last May’s Dark Mountain: Issue One. Now we offer up a second installment.
If the first book was an introduction to the conversations around Dark Mountain, Issue Two represents a deepening of this project. We have looked this time for work which focuses in: which considers the detail of what the unfolding world looks like, which tells stories from the frontlines of our rapidly shifting experience. To us, this book looks like a dispatch from the same journey as the first, at a time when the travellers have got to know the landscape around them a little better than when they started out.
As before, we have aimed to present a mixture of writing by names both well-known and (as yet) less familiar. Amongst the former this time around we have Naomi Klein reflecting on the future of climate change activism in a world that has no interest in listening; extracts from Jay Griffiths’ forthcoming novel about the life of Frida Kahlo and from poet Melanie Challenger’s forthcoming book on extinction and the modern mind; and new poetry from Mario Petrucci and Heathcote Williams.
There is new Uncivilised fiction from Nick Hunt, Simon Lys and Antonio Dias, a Canadian farmer’s reflections on place and belonging, a rehabilitation of the Luddites on the 200th anniversary of their uprising against the Machine, a conversation with poet Glyn Hughes, a dissection of the dead language of ’sustainability’ and a recipe for pheasant stew. There will also be illustrated poems, woodcuts, Uncivilised art and free tracks from Dark Mountain Music, the first EP from the Australian band The General Assembly.
We’re still in the final stages of editing Dark Mountain: Issue 2, which will be published in June. But to help cover the costs of publishing, we are opening for pre-orders on the same basis that we did last year.
To order your copy, please go to our campaign page on IndieGoGo.