Dougald Hine

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"Dougald is a writer, speaker and creator of organisations, projects and events.

His work is driven by a desire to understand how we change things, and how things change, with or without us. This has taken him cross country through a range of fields, from social theory to the tech industry, literary criticism, the future of institutions and the skills of improvisation. He seeks to make connections between people, between ideas and between worlds.

In 2009, he founded the Dark Mountain Project with Paul Kingsnorth, former editor of The Ecologist. The project began with an invitation to a new cultural conversation about the deep roots of our ecological, social and economic crises.

His other projects include the web star-tup School of Everything, inspired by the radical educational ideas of Ivan Illich, and Space Makers Agency, which brings people together to revive unused urban space.

He grew up in the north-east of England and studied English Literature at New College, Oxford. In addition to several years as a BBC journalist, his early career included teaching English in China, selling books in California and busking throughout Europe.

He is currently working on his next book, 'Collapsonomics: How we do a good job of getting poorer'." (


Interview with Dougald Hine by Willi Paul:

Please give us some examples from the Dark Mountain Project (DMP); how is it “a new cultural movement for an age of global disruption?”

Dark Mountain started as a conversation between two writers. We'd both had careers as journalists, both been involved with the environmental movement, and both arrived at a similar sense of deep frustration. Environmentalism had narrowed from a critique of our ways of living to this technocratic focus on counting carbon emissions, losing its cultural dimension. Meanwhile, you looked at the books celebrated in the Culture sections of the papers, and felt how irrelevant or offensive they would seem when people look back a generation from now, given what we already knew about the crises around and ahead of us.

So, we did what writers do and wrote about this. The result was a pamphlet we called ‘Uncivilisation: The Dark Mountain Manifesto’. It wasn’t a manifesto in the political sense - a set of proposals making up a party line. More like an invitation. We were opening a space in which you didn’t have to pretend that this way of living can somehow be made “sustainable”, or that life ceases to be liveable outside of the bubble of modern western consumerism people are trying to sustain.

Our first thought - again, because we were writers - was to start a publication, a journal of some kind, which would offer a home to people who wanted to write in the face of this unmanageable situation we find ourselves in. That happened - the first volume of Dark Mountain came out in 2010, a book full of stories, essays, poems, images and conversations, and we’re in the middle of editing number two. But the project also branched off into all kinds of other directions: we got invitations to run festivals and collaborate on art projects; musicians like Marmaduke Dando, The General Assembly and Chris T-T recorded songs inspired by the manifesto; we heard from reading groups around the world that were discussing it, and people who had started to organise local meetups and events.

So that original conversation has gone on to spark thousands of conversations around the world, some of which we get to hear about, many of which are going on just fine without us.


Do you consider the world as polarized between survivalists and all the others?

No. It's very rarely a good idea to look at the world in polarised terms. Charles Hugh Smith wrote a great essay about survivalism, which we’re publishing in the next book. He’s coming from the perspective of being a guy who grew up in hillbilly country, watching the flatlanders come and build their heavily-defended hideaways. “The best protection isn’t owning 30 guns,” he says, “it’s having 30 people who care about you… The second best protection isn’t a big stash of stuff others want to steal; it’s sharing what you have and owning little of value.”

If the survivalists didn’t exist, though, our culture would probably invent them. We have this deep need for black-and-white oppositions, for believing that either things go on along just the trajectory we’re set on, or else it’s the apocalypse. That kind of opposition is something what we’re trying to pry open with Dark Mountain - when we talk about the importance of the imagination, it’s because we need to get better at imagining all the other futures in between “the end of the world as we know it” and “the end of the world, full stop” as written in Revelation.

As you claim, you are just responding to the world now unfolding around you, but certainly you hold certain business models, spiritual beliefs and artistic patterns higher than others? Details please!

Given that this “movement” is more like a conversation than like a political party, there’s no Dark Mountain party line I can give you about a question like this. I can tell you a bit about what I think, for what it’s worth - just don’t expect Paul or anyone else to necessarily agree with all of it.

So, I think we’ve become used to metabolising money to a dangerous extent. We’ve lost the knack of getting things done without using either money or coercion - not entirely, not everywhere or in all corners of our lives, but compared to how people have tended to live in most times and places, we’ve become very rusty. One of the things I’ve been exploring in my work with Space Makers is how we can reground our economic lives within a social and cultural whole, within custom and community, in the pockets where the mainstream economy is most visibly failing.

I tend to assume that animism is the default human attitude to reality and anything else will most likely prove a temporary aberration - that’s something I talk about in the conversation I filmed with David Abram. But I’ve been deeply influenced by friendships with thoughtful believers from various traditions. I look at my friends and I see people driven to improvise new vocational forms, new ways of living which negotiate between the known and the unknown, which may yet restore some of the social functions of religion, while letting go of much of its vocabulary.

As for artistic patterns? Well, one thing that seems to connect the writers who inspire me is that they see a pattern as the record of a process. In other words, they cannot look at a thing without seeing the past and future flowing through it, the history and prehistory of an object and its materials, the lives and experiences - often carefully hidden from view - without which this wall, or this book, or this landscape would not be as it is. What goes with this is an insistence on the value of the specific, the qualitative, the incommensurable - that which cannot be meaningfully measured - which sets them quietly at odds with many of the assumptions encoded in the institutions and ways of thinking which have recently dominated our societies." (