Climate and Community

01 Mar 2021

By Joe Smith

What an inspirational way to draw the Paisley Book Festival 2021 to an end!

The move to online events may have some drawbacks through the separation of audience from authors. But as we have discovered over the ten days of this Book Festival, there were many benefits. Without a doubt, one of them was the opportunity to see Alastair McIntosh physically reference his conversation, in real-time, by pulling from his bookshelves the cornucopia of texts that have informed his thinking. And if that wasn’t amazing enough, Alastair, through the impromptu use of props, proved his thesis that storytelling is the best way to engage an audience. Sharing examples from his own experiences, he drew upon inflatable canoes, baskets and a drawer containing ten different types of glue, all of which he produced from around his room, and to the delight of the audience. In such a manner, Alasdair concisely explored a range of complex ideas around climate change, land reform, community and spiritual activism.

Roxani Krystalli expertly guided the conversation through many of the important issues that feature in Alastair’s latest book Riders on the Storm. The book, Roxani noted, was in two parts, the first dealing with the vast and sometimes very complicated science of climate change; and the second, where Alastair told stories to make the subject of climate change personal and communal.

Roxani asked about the challenges of conveying science in a way that engages people and facilitates activism and change. Alastair conceded that the technicalities of science are complex and have been subject to much discussion and debate. But in addition to the knowledge garnered through science, climate change is evidenced when we are able to read the landscape, a skill that Alastair says we need to relearn, not just in order to understand the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’ of human ecology.

The discussion was truly inspiring, touching upon a range of issues rooted in both the practical and the spiritual realms of being. Alastair, not content in being just a critical voice, sought to outline some possible solutions. These included his ‘four C’s’, sequentially represented by clearance, collapse, consumption and community. From the First Nation People of the Americas to the poverty-riven areas of Scotland, the importance of re-establishing and re-connecting in community is essential to overcome the disconnections of modern life and the destructive patterns we often engage in to try to fill our personal and collective void.

Critical friendship was another key concept in Alastair’s tool-box of activist solutions. Indeed, Riders on the Storm rejects the alarmist vision wherein all hope is lost and an apocalyptic future is presented. In order to combat this negative and pessimistic scenario, he noted the importance of young activists involved with Extinction Rebellion, for example, informed by science and able to use it to challenge governments and wider society.

As Roxani noted, one of the important themes of Alastair’s work was that of place and belonging. This he defined as the ability to cherish place and to be cherished by its people. Belonging is one of the many foundations of Alastair’s spiritual teaching which encompasses radical forgiveness and places the concept of love at the very heart of community.

In relation to a question from the audience about the approaching climate conference (COP26) in Glasgow this year, Alasdair emphasised the importance of making people feel welcome. Quoting GalGael founder Colin Macleod of the Pollok Free State, Alastair said ‘we’ve shown them what we are against, now let’s show them what we are for!’

This event gave us all much to ponder, including climate change, denialism, the importance of place and a sense of belonging, the role of spirituality, the divine feminine and the centrality of ‘love’ in our own radical new futures. All beautifully and inspirationally gifted through the power of stories and reflections on community that warmed our hearts.

If you missed Alastair McIntosh: Climate and Community you can watch again with this link until 26th March. Alastair's book is available here to purchase