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Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  329 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Paul Kingsnorth was once an activist, an ardent environmentalist. He fought against rampant development and the depredations of a corporate world that seemed hell-bent on ignoring a looming climate crisis in its relentless pursuit of profit. But as the environmental movement began to focus on 'sustainability' rather than the defence of wild places for their own sake and as ...more
Paperback, 284 pages
Published March 16th 2017 by Faber Faber
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4.32  · 
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 ·  329 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Cathrine ☯️
Saudade (from the Portuguese): The feeling of intense longing for a person or place you love but is now lost. A Haunting desire for what is gone.
5 ★
Paul Kingsnorth was born in the same year I was first learning the word ecology and has a long history of writing and working on behalf of the environment. He no longer believes that humanity can stop what has been unleashed and writes essays in an attempt to work out what he thinks of it all, what to do next, and maintain his sanity while doing it.

Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Occasionally I read a book so thought-provoking that it makes me want to write a book. Never has this feeling been stronger than when I was reading Paul Kingsnorth’s ‘Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist’. Just about every essay in the book inspired a potentially essay-length series of responses. In the interests of space, I won’t even attempt to cram them all into this review. Instead, it’s worth considering why I found the book so compelling. Kingsnorth’s writing style is extremely rea ...more
The author wouldn't approve of the way I’ve been reading this: online, mostly on a smartphone, and without paying. (Most of the essays are legitimately online - I haven't pirated it.)

The first couple of times I tried to read Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist, I had the same problem I often have with essay collections: it made me want to write another one in response, and the note-taking was exhausting. This time I started it in the same frame of mind in which I sometimes read lots of
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't find much of the promised "ultimately hopeful"but there was heaping portions no- punches- pulled honesty. If we've already passed the point of no return for climate change, unrestrained commercialism/capitalism and looking into the maw of the Earth's sixth extinction, what's a reasonable person to do? Very thought provoking and I look forward to discussion in my book club.
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2017
Paul Kingsnorth was a passionate environmentalist, taking the time to be involved in activities and protests against the creep of corporate and governmental interests that threatened the climate and places with ill thought out developments. His view started to change as the business world embraced green ideals, and those opposing them watered down their vociferous defence of our wild places and cosied up to sustainability instead. He saw it as a betrayal of the movement as they chose to ignore t ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really important work. The essays are a little uneven, but they chronicle a fairly long span of development in the author's style and thinking. Ultimately, though, the message is a crucial one: being anti-capitalist isn't even radical enough when it comes to navigating and/or ameliorating the runaway climate crisis. We also have to somehow shed the myth (which, as he puts it, is all the more dangerous for not being regarded as a myth--by leftists either; I can confirm this having run with enough ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't let this be the first book on environmentalism you read, or even one of the first. Read the others first, read all one books on technology too, sign some petitions, buy eggs from a neighbour, grow vegetables, and then when you despair read this. It's not that it's hopeful, it's just honest.
Kasey Jueds
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, nonfiction
This is an important book. I discovered Paul Kingsnorth's work via a blog post by a writer who had attended one of his retreats. Kingsnorth is the co-founder of Dark Mountain, and an intelligent, clear-eyed, persuasive writer. He's wonderful at exposing and questioning commonly-held myths (for example, that technology will save us), and, among other things, has a great self-deprecating sense of humor: he tells tales on himself (especially his younger self) and never sets himself above the very h ...more
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Sometimes I’m kept awake at night by a chicken-and-egg question: which came first, the science or the science fiction?”

I’ve had this exact same thought off and on again for the past ten years and was genuinely startled to see it offered up by Kingsnorth in this perspective-shifting collection of essays. Strongly recommend and unexpectedly ‘hopeful’ for want of a better word.
If you know me--please read this book, so you can understand where I'm coming from.
Marie Belcredi
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book which squarely faces what we are actually doing ie ecocide . I have, in the past, been frustrated with books that describe climate change but then try and finish on a note of optimism. Lets face it, we are already beyond the point where we can stop massive changes. Climate change in Australia has been so politicised that our government has been bought by the coal lobby. They are good at pretending to do something but in reality they are maintaining the status quo. For example they ...more
This is a collection of essays, mostly also published over the last 10 years in magazines and newspapers, in which Paul Kingsnorth critiques assumptions at the heart of 21st century environmentalism ( it still treats the planet as a commodity, with "resources" to be exploited, it assumes "progress" or more technology will solve many of our problems, it thinks of humans as separate from nature). Although it's tempting to say he has given up on environmentalism, and the title of this book encourag ...more
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017
Without a shadow of doubt, one of the most important and timely books I have ever read. Kingsnorth has a clarity of thinking, and a readiness to question his own deeply held views which cuts right through here. His backstory matters, this is someone who has done the hard yards, and has come to understand the scale of the challenges we face and our lack of ability to do anything about them. That the current environmental movement is no longer fit for purpose is a crystal clear conclusion which he ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was like an arrow right into my heart, in that it expresses everything that I've known but couldn't or didn't know how to admit.
Matthew Borowka
Overall, a thought-provoking read. Kingsnorth has given me some things to ponder: my limited relationship with nature, my value system, and how I view the current environmental/sustainable movement. He writes well; his poetic style plays well with appreciation of nature.

Often in this collection of essays, I’ve felt that Kingsnorth is naive and uncertain when it comes to what he wants. Some essays are excellent, moving, and well argued. Others seem like they’ve been written by a misanthropic env
Dec 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Still pondering what I think about this. A lot of it sounds like it coming from a place of privilege but I guess that's also the audience of this book. Some of this book made me feel guilty for the way I live and made me question some of my beliefs which is a good sign. But I also don't think I completely agree with his viewpoint of retreating away, maybe it because I'm young? I get that humans are just one tiny facet of nature and then end of our ability to live on earth is just like the end of ...more
Mike Toms
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The essays in this book come from a mix of sources, the backbone drawn from the Dark Mountain books. Several of the essays are astonishing, clear, thoughtful and life changing. This is a writer who is on a journey, who is changing his responses to the challenges faced by our world. While I often feel the same doubts that Kingsnorth identifies here, I’m heartened by his response and because of this I realise that I can, as an individual, choose how I live my life. This is a book that I will read ...more
Courtney Coffey
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't entirely share Kingsnorth's worldview, but I do think he's right that our talk about "sustainability" is often misguided in the sense that it still assumes that the Earth and all its creatures/forces only exist to support humans, and have no inherent value in themselves. His radicalism is bracing.
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Dark Mountain movement is very masculine. I like their ideas and wish they would include an even less anthropomorphic view, for example encompassing veganism as a refutation of and counterbalance to the systems they dislike. But at least there’s mention of Buddhism in this book.
Rishi Krishnan
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
what absolute noobs gave this book less than 5 stars
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.

Kingsnorth articulates so much of what I have been thinking and feeling over the past years. I applaud him for the clarity of his vision and his willingness to carry on in spite of everything.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I probably agree with Paul Kingsnorth more than 99% of other writers. Despite the anti-environmental sounding title, he actually is still very environmentally minded. He's one of the few writers willing to explicitly label economic growth, dependence on (and addiction to) high-tech gadgets and even civilization itself as problems. For that alone I can't give this a bad review. However, I can't give this a good review either. Some of his views are just so defeatist that it makes the book kind of ...more
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a thought-provoking take on the pitfalls in our society’s view of the natural world and the modern environmental movement. I found myself nodding in agreement with him in many of the points he makes, though I did have some glaring issues with them as well. Most of these stem from personal disagreements with his points, but a few were issues with logic or confusion about the inclusion of certain essays in this particular collection.

I agree with him on a need for greater eco-centrism and t
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever thought when listening to earnest discussions around environment, sustainability, and climate change that something felt fantastical? Far from being able to "solve" climate change, have you ever worried that we have gone past the point of no return? If so, then "Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist" by Paul Kingsnorth will give voice to your forebodings. These fifteen essays challenge fundamental pillars of our globalized society: the inevitability of progress, the power an ...more
Lisa Newton-Smart
While I want to very much like this book, I found it rather daunting, dark, and not quite "hopeful" as many reviewers have tagged it. I found Kingsnorth at times, to be rather smug and condescending. I am teaching this book to my English 1302 (second part of grammar and composition). Perhaps in all fairness, a number of reasons are behind my disliking the text. It was not a choice, and I was exhausted from the long semester when I taught it. I also probably had unrealistic expectations in that I ...more
Matt Chester
To read the my full review, check out my blog post about the book here:

I was initially attracted to Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist and Other Essays by Paul Kingsnorth by the title. Obviously, Kingsnorth is still someone who cares deeply for environmental and green issues, so his coy self-identification as a ‘recovering environmentalist’ and his frustration with the state of today’s ‘green’ movement intrigued me enough to pick his book up fro
Sep 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was pointed to the Dark Mountain Project a few years ago by a Goodreads participant, but I didn't see much there for me. I think this book, however, has created the context through which I now can better understand it: "Too many green quants, then, and not enough green poets" (p.49).

Overall, I think Kingsnorth's worldview is important, and he certainly shares a convincing critique of what currently passes for 'environmentalism': as "the catalytic converter on the silver SUV of the global econo
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I love reading books about nature, and I feel inspired by them to spend time with nature.

This isn't one of those books, this is a book that tells us that the stories we tell ourselves about nature, about humanity, about progress and civilisation, are delusions behind which we hide because it is too painful to acknowledge how serious is the destruction we are wreaking on the earth.

Paul Kingsnorth cut his environmental teeth on the road protests of the early '90s but has become disillusioned wit
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist, Paul Kingsnorth writes a series of essays that detail his disillusionment with the environmental movement. His discouragement with environmentalist as they sacrifice fighting for wild spaces and instead turn to promoting sustainability is at the forefront of his essays. Throughout the book, his melancholy prose reads as a sad acceptance that our environment will never be the same. In the degradation of our ecosystem, he see's humanity's potential ...more
Jul 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kingsnorth is pacey, impatient, and shallow where he feels himself thinking most deeply; he is also, and more generously, thoughtful and persistent, especially where he neither has an axe to grind or the pressure to perform. Especially valuable, if slightly uneven, is his quarrel with environmentalism, which has transformed from the loving occupation of ecological-minded activists to a societal end with a complex web of politics, policies, and histories attached. Blaming both the neoliberals and ...more
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Paul Kingsnorth is an English writer and thinker. He is a former deputy-editor of The Ecologist and a co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project. He lives in the west of Ireland.

He studied modern history at Oxford University, where he was also heavily involved in the road protest movement of the early 1990s.

After graduating, Paul spent two months in Indonesia working on conservation projects in Borne
“We are the first generations to grow up surrounded by evidence that our attempt to separate ourselves from ‘nature’ has been a grim failure, proof not of our genius but our hubris.” 5 likes
“Increasingly, though, for those penned into cities with no view of the stars and no taste of clean air and nothing but grass between the cracks in the pavement to nourish their sense of the wild, this is no freedom at all. We have made ourselves caged animals, and all the gadgets in the world cannot compensate for what we have lost. Humans” 2 likes
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