An acclaimed novelist and poet, Paul Kingsnorth has also served as one of the most vocal and determined environmental activists. He inspired many throughout the world with his thoughts on conservation, and his belief that humanity could play the key role in saving the world from the ravages of climate change. But that was yesterday. In the vpro documentary Paul Kingsnorth: Portrait of a Recovering Environmentalist, we meet a man who no longer believes we can save the world.
He now lives on the outskirts of the grid in Ireland, where he remains committed to maintaining an efficient, sustainable life. It's a commendable way of life he and his family have adopted, but he's under no illusions that it will make a bit of difference in the larger fight against climate change.
He recognizes that steps have been taken to curb the ill effects of the crisis, but he believes that the global approach to the problem has been misguided.
Firstly, wind turbines and solar panels would have to blanket the entirety of the Earth in order to satisfy our world's dependence on energy. For Kingsnorth, that concept is both impractical and immoral, because it presumes that nature's role is solely to accommodate our activities. By calling upon the powers of industry to resolve our climate issues, we're essentially regarding the natural world as an entity for financial gain. Climate change technologies are exploiting the very resources they are designed to protect. They're intruders on the landscape, their bombastic sounds disturb the natural order, and their turbine panels destroy vast amounts of bird life.
In order to truly combat climate change, Kingsnorth asserts, we must change our way of thinking as a modern species. We must reclaim our sense of the divinity of nature, and stand before it with humility. Without this, the technologies will prove meaningless.
Throughout the film, Kingsnorth rides a wave between cynicism, aspiration and resignation. His approach to the issue of climate change has evolved significantly over the years. His once fiery brand of impassioned activism has given way to a more reflective and philosophical rhetoric.
Kingsnorth: Portrait of a Recovering Environmentalist may prove depressing and defeating to some. Others may find a greater truth in the film, and one in which they can extrapolate their own sense of hope.