“A book of rare originality and depth – profound, far-reaching, mind-altering stuff.”
HELEN JUKES, AUTHOR OF A HONEYBEE HEART HAS FIVE OPENINGS
“One of the most perceptive and thought-provoking books yet written about the multiple intersecting crises that are now upending our once-familiar world.”
amitav ghosh, AUTHOR OF the great derangement
“Let Dougald Hine’s masterful storytelling mark you; let his song of loss and longing, his call to fugitivity, dispossess you of your steady gait and poise. Perhaps then we, collectively infected, might together witness the incomprehensible.”
Bayo Akomolafe, AUTHOR OF these Wilds Beyond Our Fences
OUT 9 FEBRUARY 2023
“Maybe it’s time to stop talking about climate change…”
Even as I heard the words come out of my mouth, I wondered how this could possibly be true – for me, at least – and in order to answer that question, I began to write a book.
For years, my work has involved talking to people about climate change: on stages and on Zoom calls, on air and off the record, in essays and articles and conversations. It has brought me into dialogue with scientists and policymakers, artists, activists, Indigenous thinkers and religious leaders.
At Work in the Ruins is the fruit of all those encounters – but also of a moment, in the second year of the pandemic, when I began to wonder if this work still made sense.
Climate change asks us questions that climate science cannot answer. Questions like, how did we end up in this mess? Is it just a piece of bad luck with the atmospheric chemistry – or is it the result of a way of approaching the world that would always have brought us to such a pass, even if the climate system had been less sensitive to our industrial emissions?
How we answer such questions has consequences. But when science is turned into an object of belief and a source of overriding authority, it gets hard even to talk about the questions that it cannot answer.
Something changed in the way we talk about science during the Covid time. In hindsight, you could trace a line back from the politicians’ rhetoric of “following the science” to the placards of the climate movements of 2018-19 that read “Unite Behind the Science”.
So this book becomes a reckoning with the strange years we have been living through, the long history of asking too much of science, and the different things we can be talking about when we talk about “taking climate change seriously”. It’s also a book about how we find our bearings and what kind of tasks are worth giving our lives to, given all we know or have good grounds to fear about the trouble the world is in.
I remain convinced that the world is deep in trouble, deeper than we know how to talk about. I also see a danger that, when we talk about “taking climate change seriously”, this increasingly comes to justify the project of making our living planet and its inhabitants into an object of technological management and control. Those of us who want no part in such a project will need to find other ways of talking and other paths worth taking.
“A deep reflection on the foundations of the destructive path humanity has been pushed on, driven by colonialism, modernity and fossil fuel addiction, the love for centralisation, control, consumerism, certainty.”
DR VANDANA SHIVA, author of TERRA VIVA
“At Work in the Ruins speaks up for practical judgment, common sense, and the wisdom of heart. I hope many will heed Hine’s invitation to friendship and intellectual modesty and join him on the adventure of the small path.”
DAVID CAYLEY, AUTHOR OF IVAN ILLICH: AN INTELLECTUAL JOURNEY
“Asking if we demand too much of science, Hine points beyond the ‘dark hubris’ of despair. With eloquence and honesty, he invites us to the hope of deeper mystery that life on earth might yet unfold.”
ALASTAIR MCINTOSH, author of soil and soul and riders on the storm
A message from Bayo Akomolafe
I’ll get right to it: every time the world ends, it leaves a mark. Yes. Impliedly, the apocalypse is not new. There have been many before.
But this mark I speak of … it is like a signature. A prophetic molecule of sorts. A sense of discomfort with the rush of the familiar. A taste for questions too slippery for the public imagination. A slant of the eye. An initiation that queers the flesh. Like fungal spores inseminating a zombie ant in the forest. A virus.
Not to worry: not everyone is so marked. But Dougald Hine clearly is. Dougald Hine is mad. And he has my full attention and trust.
In this sonorous swoosh of earnest prose composed with the cadence of a fugitive journalist who has a news story that should end all other stories – as well as the unmistakable lilt of an elder who would have sat at the edge of my Nigerian village – Dougald ushers us into the Gordian knots of our strange times where “following the science”, “solving the climate challenge”, and “saving the world” no longer hold much cartographical promise. Ironically, talking this way about a phenomenon that calls into question humanity’s claims to sovereignty is how the modern machine keeps reproducing the fires we want to extinguish.
BAYO AKOMOLAFE, PhD
Author of These Wilds Beyond Our Fences
Pushing past popular tropes, Dougald helps us see that how we talk about and address this end-of-world crisis is the crisis. Something else is needed. Mutiny of some kind. An apostasy. Definitely more than a manifesto, a new solution, or a new campaign.
Let Dougald Hine’s masterful storytelling mark you; let his song of loss and longing, his call to fugitivity, dispossess you of your steady gait and poise. Perhaps then we, collectively infected, might together witness the incomprehensible.
“In this age of confusion and corruption, Dougald Hine has always had a great gift for asking the right questions. Here he makes a stab at some answers too – and, more bravely, identifies the places where ‘answers’ are not available, and the real work is rebooting our entire way of seeing. You are certain to come away rethinking some of your own assumptions.”
paul Kingsnorth, author of confessions of a recovering environmentalist
“Dougald Hine invites us to repurpose the ruins of the modern structures of organisation and existence (within and around us) that have led us on the path of premature extinction. The end of the world as we know it is the end of a world that needs hospicing and perhaps, through this hospicing, humanity can learn to be taught by the violence it has inflicted on itself and the rest of nature.”
Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, AUTHOR OF Hospicing Modernity
“There is great storytelling woven within Dougald’s timely and sometimes disturbing book. He addresses the blessings and chaos of this moment without ever moving into relentless naysaying or vapid optimism, which makes it hugely refreshing. He seeks a third, truer position. A bigger one.”