Well, here we are, it's publication day for At Work in the Ruins
Dougald—I found your book via a Resilience.org cross-post of an article from Andrew Curry’s blog. I finished reading your book a few days ago, and it is a magnificent piece of work. I am a voracious reader, probably around 100 books a year plus a lot of online stuff; even in that crowded field, this book was a clear standout for me.
Similar to at least one other commenter, I am not persuaded that human activity is a significant contributor to climate change. I am persuaded, however, that we are nearing the end of Industrial Civilization as we know it, due to resource depletion, pollution, and the end of cheap energy, and that significant changes are in store for human society, whether we like it or not. In that respect, we perhaps are not so far apart in our thinking after all. The beauty of your book is that people like me can disagree with some of your views and still find ourselves in agreement with your core message, that the “big path” is not the right one. My own opinion is that the path we are currently being rudely shoved down leads to dystopia.
Even if we manage a course correction in time, the adjustment will be difficult for those of us that will have to (try to?) live through the changes. But I believe the human race can survive it if done right. And I don’t think human post-industrial life needs to be bad. Especially for those born to it in the time after things have settled down to their new equilibrium, it has the perhaps surprising potential to be an even better and more meaningful time to be alive.
I just discovered your Substack after reading the book, and I'm looking forward to your future writing. I'm also following up by reading a couple of the other books you have pointed to.
I love Vanessa's important work, and that you are synced up with her. And thank you for your stunning last paragraph. If broken up into shorter bits, it's a Poem For the Way Through! (I wrote that before noticing that a previous commenter cited the beautiful Gary Snyder poem. ;) ) Also, as an "Earth-Sky" astrologer, I also really appreciate your presencing the need for us to "dance again with the rhythms of cosmology." May it be so.
I am reading your book and although I am not an academic or big reader by any stretch of the imagination, I am finding your writing style so approachable and refreshing. I am just so glad of it for so many reasons.
It is a beautifully written book, the letters, words and sentences all roll together to make comfortable, relatable sense and at times poetry. So far (I have just finished part IV), you have had me sighing, laughing and crying too.
It’s an honest, balanced book and I feel that everything I’m being invited to think about is without agenda or spin.
It’s a well put together and presented book. The length of the chapters, perfectly bite size and absorbable mean that I can do a daily processing, moving clearly from one idea to the next.
It’s a deepening book. Part IV has helped me so much and comforted me whilst assisting me in working out ‘What Just Happened’!
“Life is not a statistical experience; it is inherently anecdotal. This is not an illusion or an error in our perception. The patterns that can be traced when lives are reduced to statistics do not reveal an underlying truth, deeper and more trustworthy than the evidence of our own experience. These patterns are the footprints left on a beach across which we have walked. Read with care, they have things to tell us; but they are silent about almost everything that mattered about the day we spent together on that beach.”
You cannot know how important that passage is to me and how many times I will revisit it to enjoy the feel and the truth of the words. Thank you.
I have yet to finish it, but I sent a copy to a friend and we have been reading it together, her book full of stickers, mine full of pencil scribbles, and it has certainly opened the conversation up for us two.
My thought processes have always been clunky and inexpressible at the best of times, but the last few years have added an underlying stomach churning during the day and a claustrophobic, unsettled brain at night. You have given me a vessel into which I can rest these awful feelings and the hope that we might yet “dance again with the rhythms of the cosmology”
Honestly...... thank you so much for doing this beautiful thinking on behalf of all of us.
I received your book on advance order a few days ago and have already read it and marked up the pages with marginalia. Your words speak to me, and I especially appreciate your interpretation of the Covid years. I’m in the United States and it’s refreshing to read a perspective that is outside the binary red/blue discourse that permeates our political conversations over here.
I listened to a podcast episode where your interlocutor called your approach “gentle.” And I appreciate the gentle, thoughtful approach, as a way to possibly change some hearts and conversations. I plan to share this book with a friend or two in hopes of generating conversation around the status quo and the alternative small path(s) we could be taking instead.
Wishing you the best at the start of your book tour!
A poem came to mind while reading this.
(I replaced the poem here with bad formatting with this link.)
I tried to repair the bad formatting, but it only got worse!
I have only just started on your book. Already it is even better than I could have hoped for. I am most definitely walking with you on the ‘small path’. I have been for a while now, and covid certainly helped with that. You’re right too that we on that path come from different places. You seem very convinced of where climate change is coming from, I am not. So we should be on opposing sides. But we’re not. I’m a ‘the science’ skeptic in all its forms, but what I am clear about is we’ve taken the wrong path. You don’t have to hold any view either way on man-made climate change to believe that. I’m loving the book Dougald! A balanced, thoughtful, breath of fresh air in this messed up world. I shall read on!
May I republish this in The R-Word? - https://rword.substack.com/
If I had your personal email address, I'd have sent this request to you privately. You can reply in private if you like (or here). jrivermartin (at) gmail (dot) com
Thank you for such clear heartfelt invitations to find our place...
I've just read your book, Dougald - I gobbled it up in a few days, after struggling to read books at all in this day and age of Substack articles that absorb most of my reading time! I have a great sense of relief and release, resonating with so much of what you write and loving your style (I'm new to your writing - thank you to Rhyd Wildermuth for introducing you to me through his podcast). I've straightaway ordered Vanessa and Chris's books, and appreciated the connections with David Cayley, Jem Bendell, David Holmgren and of course Paul, all of whom I have found valuable accompaniers during the past few years of strangeness. I'll be recommending your book to many others and so appreciate the affirmation of hope that I too have regarding those other, currently smaller paths. Thank you so much!
Beautiful! I’m grateful to you for turning me on to Vanessa’s great work, which I’ve used in my teaching. Meanwhile, I’m off to get my hands on the audiobook. Thanks for this offering and have a fine book tour!
Thank you Dougald, your work shines a light into that dark future we all sense is coming, and is already here. Safe travels and good fortune along the way.
Good luck with the speaking tour Dougald. I hope to catch you at Sheffield. Only just found your Substack . . . Look forward to future posts.