To My Friend the Climate Defeatist: Here’s Why I’m Still In the Fight

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Jim Shultz
Yes! magazine
Apr 29, 2014

My English friend Paul Kingsnorth was the subject of a long article two weeks ago in The New York Times magazine, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It … and He Feels Fine.”

A former editor of The Ecologist, Paul has gained new attention of late for his passionate and public despair over “an age of ecocide” and his proclamations that we are now powerless to do anything about it. That expression of despair coincides with an equally public withdrawal from the battlefield of big-scale climate and environmental activism. He warns, “What all these movements are doing is selling a false premise. They’re saying, ‘If we take these actions, we will be able to achieve this goal.’ And if you can’t and you know that you are lying to people.”

The article and his previous writings in the same vein have struck a resonant chord as the hard reality of what we face reveals itself, not in theories about the future but in the current realities of fierce storms, unprecedented droughts, mutating weather patterns, and a lack of political will to take strong action. More than 500 people left comments on the Times web site. A young activist who works with me at the Democracy Center, also from the U.K., emailed the article to her parents with a note saying, “This is exactly how I feel!”

The hard question that Paul Kingsnorth provokes is neither a new one nor is it only about the climate and environmental crisis. It has been a question inherent in political activism as long as there has been political activism: What action do we take when we have no guarantee at all that what we do will make any difference?

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