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Good Reads  Environmental & Social Studies  Climate Change

At Work in the Ruins Finding Our Place in the Time of Science, Climate Change, Pandemics & All the Other Emergencies

By: Dougald Hine(Author)
224 pages
Publisher: Chelsea Green
At Work in the Ruins
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  • At Work in the Ruins ISBN: 9781645021841 Hardback Feb 2023 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1 week
Price: £22.00
About this book Customer reviews Biography Related titles

About this book

Why would someone who cares so deeply about ecological destruction want to stop talking about climate change now? At Work in the Ruins explores that question.

"Climate change asks us questions that climate science cannot answer," Hine says. Questions like, how did we end up in this mess? Is it just a piece of bad luck with the atmospheric chemistry – or is it the result of a way of approaching the world that would always have brought us to such a pass?

How we answer such questions has consequences. According to Hine, our answers shape our understanding and our thinking about what kind of problem we think we're dealing with and, therefore, what kind of responses we go looking for. "But when science is turned into an object of belief and a source of overriding authority," Hine continues, "it becomes hard even to talk about the questions that it cannot answer."

In eloquent, deeply researched prose, Hine demonstrates how our over-reliance on the single lens of science has blinded us to the nature of the crises around and ahead of us, leading to 'solutions' that can only make things worse. At Work in the Ruins is his reckoning with the strange years we have been living through and our long history of asking too much of science. It's also about how we find our bearings and what kind of tasks are worth giving our lives to, given all we know or have good grounds to fear about the trouble the world is in.

For anyone who has found themselves needing to make sense of the COVID-19 time and how we talk about it, At Work in the Ruins offers guidance by standing firmly forward and facing the depth of the trouble we are in. Hine, ultimately, helps us find the work that is worth doing, even in the ruins.

Customer Reviews


Dougald Hine is a social thinker, writer and speaker. After an early career as a BBC journalist, he cofounded organizations including the Dark Mountain Project and a school called HOME. He has collaborated with scientists, artists and activists, serving as a leader of artistic development at Riksteatern (Sweden's national theatre) and as an associate of the Centre for Environment and Development Studies at Uppsala University. At Work in the Ruins concludes the work that began with Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto (2009), co-written with Paul Kingsnorth, and is his second title with Chelsea Green, following the anthology Walking on Lava (2017).

By: Dougald Hine(Author)
224 pages
Publisher: Chelsea Green
Media reviews

"Drawing on decades of experience in climate journalism and activism, Dougald Hine's At Work in the Ruins is one of the most perceptive and thought-provoking books yet written about the multiple intersecting crises that are now upending our once-familiar world. Of particular importance is Hine's deeply respectful yet unsparing analysis of the strengths and limitations of science in reckoning with these crises. At Work in the Ruins is essential reading for these turbulent times."
– Amitav Ghosh, author of The Great Derangement

"As it begins to dawn on us all that we won't "stop" climate change or "solve" the climate crisis, we are left looking into something of an abyss. Dougald Hine's brilliant book demands we stare into that abyss and rethink our securest certainties about what is actually going on in the climate crisis. It's lucidly unsettling and yet in the end empowering. There is something we can do, and it starts with where we look, how we see and what we choose to change."
– Brian Eno, musician

"In this age of confusion and corruption, Dougald Hine has always had a great gift for asking the right questions. Here he makes a stab at some answers, too – and, more bravely, identifies the places where 'answers' are not available and that the real work is rebooting our entire way of seeing. There are far too many books about climate change around, but this book is about something more unsettling: what our response to climate change reveals about us – and what we can't do about it, as well as what we can. You are certain to come away rethinking some of your own assumptions."
– Paul Kingsnorth, author of Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist

"Dougald Hine's book At Work in the Ruins is a deep reflection on the foundations of the destructive path humanity has been pushed on, driven by colonialism, modernity and fossil fuel addiction, by its love for centralization, control, consumerism, certainty. By stopping to talk about climate change and the other problems we face, Dougald invites us to make deeper shifts by making a turn in our hearts and minds, seeking smaller paths, paths to be discovered and walked along by individuals and communities, paths of diversity and decentralization. And trust uncertainty."
– Vandana Shiva, author of Terra Viva

"I'll get right to it: every time the world ends, it leaves a mark. Yes. Implicitly, the apocalypse is not new. There have been many before. But this mark I speak of [...] it is like a signature. A prophetic molecule of sorts. A sense of discomfort with the rush of the familiar. A taste for questions too slippery for the public imagination. A slant of the eye. An initiation that queers the flesh. Like fungal spores inseminating a zombie ant in the forest. A virus. Not to worry: Not everyone is so marked. But Dougald Hine clearly is. Dougald Hine is mad. And he has my full attention and trust. In this sonorous swoosh of earnest prose composed with the cadence of a fugitive journalist who has a news story that should end all other stories – as well as the unmistakable lilt of an elder who would have sat at the edge of my Nigerian village – Dougald ushers us into the Gordian knots of our strange times where 'following the science', 'solving the climate challenge' and 'saving the world' no longer hold much cartographical promise. Ironically, talking this way about a phenomenon that calls into question humanity's claims to sovereignty is how the modern machine keeps reproducing the fires we want to extinguish. Pushing past popular tropes, Dougald helps us see that how we talk about and address this end-of-world crisis is the crisis. Something else is needed. Mutiny of some kind. An apostasy. Definitely more than a manifesto, a new solution or a new campaign. Let Dougald Hine's masterful storytelling mark you; let his song of loss and longing, his call to fugitivity, dispossess you of your steady gait and poise. Perhaps then we, collectively infected, might together witness the incomprehensible."
– Bayo Akomolafe, author of These Wilds Beyond our Fences

"I've long felt Dougald Hine an elder to our environmental movements. In this timely book, he is asking us to pause and consider where we are now and how we got here – to think about the deeper causes of the polycrisis. I consider this book a must-read for all those activists feeling lost, desperate and perhaps subject to "press-on-itis". Let's find our curiosity together, hold each other as we navigate the turbulence and face our lack of roadmap. For me, reading this book was like having a long and honest supper with an old friend around a warming fire. I finished it with a relieving sigh, feeling nourished, heart opened, humanity seen. Let our longings guide our actions. Thank you, Dougald."
– Gail Bradbrook, cofounder Extinction Rebellion

"I love reading Hine's writing. Here is a work that began with a feeling that was sensed before it was thought. The result is a book of rare originality and depth – profound, far-reaching, mind-altering stuff."
– Helen Jukes, author of A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings

"There is great storytelling woven within Dougald's timely and sometimes-disturbing book. Hine addresses the blessings and chaos of this moment without ever moving into relentless naysaying or vapid optimism, which makes it hugely refreshing. He seeks a third, truer position. A bigger one. At Work in the Ruins carries the weight of many years at the front line of thinking around climate emergency. This isn't a weary, trotted-out mandate; it wonderingly tugs at what we think we know and points towards what we may not."
– Martin Shaw, author of Courting the Wild Twin

"Dougald Hine's very personable book makes a persuasive and welcome case for a new view of science. He shows clearly how movements that live by science – in its current, institutionalized meaning – will also die by science. At Work in the Ruins speaks up for practical judgment, common sense and the wisdom of heart as guides on the 'small and branching path' that Hine contrasts with the big highway of surveillance and regulation by which scientized technocracy proposes to address climate change. The COVID-19 years have revealed a stark choice, long foreseen by the prophetic thinkers, such as Ivan Illich, by whom Hine is inspired. I hope many will heed Hine's invitation to friendship and intellectual modesty, and join him on the adventure of the small path."
– David Cayley, author of Ivan Illich: An Intellectual Journey

"If the hourglass has come to stand for the time of endings in which we find ourselves, Dougald Hine looks beyond it to recall the myriad encounters with thinkers and knowledges which have shaped his sense-making over the past two decades, and which shed light on our predicament. When our gaze returns to the hourglass, the reader might question its shape, the width of the opening, where the sand was taken from and who gets to turn it. What actually happens once the sand has drained? Or what happens if it doesn't? What would happen if the glass cracked and the sand was allowed to spill out onto the table? Hine makes tentative maps with that spilt sand, tracing lines with his finger that are clear, compelling and cathartic; reverent to the unknown and unknowable."
– Sarah Thomas, author of The Raven's Nest

"Here is a book that explores the public understanding of science around climate change, COVID-19 and social movements. Asking if we demand too much of science, Hine points beyond the "dark hubris" of despair. With eloquence and honesty, he invites us to the hope of deeper mystery that life on Earth might yet unfold."
– Alastair McIntosh, author of Soil and Soul and Riders on the Storm

"We've tried browbeating people into saving the planet. It doesn't work, both because most people don't like to be told what to do and because it is pure folly to imagine that individual microchoices are sufficient to lift us out of this crisis. Why not try, instead, to invite people to think together with us in a spirit of honesty, not only about the crisis and possible ways out of it, but also about the deeper reasons why we cherish the world we have been told we must save? This is Dougald Hine's approach, and it is timely indeed – a desperately needed change of register in contemporary environmental thinking."
– Justin E.H. Smith, author of The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is

"In this book, Dougald Hine invites us to repurpose the ruins of the modern structures of organisation and existence (within and around us) that have led us on the path of premature extinction. The end of the world as we know it is the end of a world that needs hospicing, and perhaps, through this hospicing, humanity can learn to be taught by the violence it has inflicted on itself and the rest of nature. It is pretentious to think we (humans) can 'birth' a new world; but since we are part of nature and not the centre of it, we can learn to trust the healing capacity of its metabolism to work through us, if we can decentre ourselves to allow it to happen."
– Vanessa Machado de Oliveira, author of Hospicing Modernity

"It's hard to exaggerate the importance and sheer nerve of Hine's prophetic call to face the facts. This is an elegant and acute examination of our personal and societal pathology, and a stirring but never polemical insistence that we must start the treatment. What's wrong with us? Our storylessness, our pathetic clutching at polarities, and our ludicrous faith in progress rather than process. And the therapy? Stories that are worthy of us, because we're huge and enduring – unlike politics or institutions or ideas. These are apocalyptic times. Hine reminds us that apocalypse means "unveiling" and prepares us for what we might see if we've still got eyes."
– Charles Foster, author of Being a Human and Being a Beast

"Without dismissing the importance of governments or science, Hine writes that an important first step is acknowledging that governments and science don't have ready solutions for all the problems people face [...] Looking ahead, he seeks options, not optimism, and works to advance the conversation around climate change and other global crises from a Western perspective, with the aim of encouraging dialogue beyond binary ideologies. VERDICT A thought-provoking suggestion for readers well versed in climate discourse."
Library Journal

"[A] rich book, which like a poetic or religious text deserves multiple readings"
– Richard Smith, British Medical Journal

"(Hine's) powerful performance of this important message will make listeners question their unexamined assumptions about the planet's future and what they can do about it."
AudioFile Magazine

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