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Is There Any Point in Fighting to Stave off Industrial Apocalypse?

The collapse of civilization will bring us a saner world, argues Paul Kingsnorth. No, writes George Monbiot -- we can't let billions perish.

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I draw the trifling issue of a few billion fatalities to your attention not to make you look like a heartless fascist but because it's a reality with which you refuse to engage. You don't see it because to do so would be to accept the need for action. But of course you aren't doing nothing. You propose to stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, and, er … "get some perspective on the root cause of this crisis". Fine: we could all do with some perspective. But without action – informed, focused and immediate – the crisis will happen. I agree that the chances of success are small. But they are non-existent if we give up before we have started. You mock this impulse as a "craving for control". I see it as an attempt at survival.

What could you do? You know the answer as well as I do. Join up, protest, propose, create. It's messy, endless and uncertain of success. Perhaps you see yourself as above this futility, but it's all we've got and all we've ever had. And sometimes it works.

The curious outcome of this debate is that while I began as the optimist and you the pessimist, our roles have reversed. You appear to believe that though it is impossible to tame the global economy, it is possible to change our founding myths, some of which predate industrial civilisation by several thousand years. You also believe that good can come of a collapse that deprives most of the population of its means of survival. This strikes me as something more than optimism: a millenarian fantasy, perhaps, of Redemption after the Fall. Perhaps it is the perfect foil to my apocalyptic vision.

With my best wishes, George

Paul Kingsnorth is a writer, environmentalist and poet. He has written widely for publications worldwide. His new book, Real England , is published by Portobello. George Monbiot is the author of the bestselling books The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order and Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain , as well as the investigative travel books Poisoned Arrows , Amazon Watershed and No Man's Land .

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