I attended the Annual General Meeting of The Centre for Human Ecology in Edinburgh last night. Prior to the AGM, Alastair McIntosh spoke on his forthcoming book Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition (due out in May from Birlinn Press).
Alastair’s critique of the human condition in this book pulls us out of the technical realm of “fixing” the environment and into a larger discussion of the moral, social, and spiritual causes of our situation. From the publisher:
Climate change is the greatest challenge that the world has ever faced. In this groundbreaking new book, Alastair McIntosh summarises the science of what is happening to the planet – both globally and using Scotland as a local case study. He moves on, controversially, to suggest that politics alone is not enough to tackle the scale and depth of the problem. At root is our addictive consumer mentality. Wants have replaced needs and consumption drives our very identity. In a fascinating journey through early texts that speak to climate change – including the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, Plato’s myth of Atlantis, and Shakespeare’s Macbeth—McIntosh reveals the psychohistory of modern consumerism. He shows how we have fallen prey to a numbing culture of violence and the motivational manipulation of marketing. To start to resolve what has become of the human condition we must get more real in facing up to despair and death. Only then will we discover the spiritual meaning of these our troubled times. Only then can magic, new meaning, and all that gives life, start to mend a broken world.
I recorded his talk and the Q&A following (right before he starts speaking in the recording, he removes his jacket and jumper. The venue for the AGM was The Melting Pot in Edinburgh):
Update: Okay, somebody has already asked—a few minutes into the lecture, Alastair uncorks something and pours a glass. Just to clarify, this is a glass of WATER not a glass of WHISKY!
Note that, after this cover was designed, Alastair considered the ultimate message and aim of the book. The word Hope was then added to the title—as hope is one of humankind’s most enduring and energetic abilities.