At one point in his magnificent new book Alastair McIntosh explains the distinction between optimism and hope: the former alleviates suffering by denying reality whereas the latter draws on inner resources which can coexist with pessimism. With the accumulating evidence on climate change, he points out, at time 'one cannot help but hear the thundering hooves and feel the hot breath of the apocalypse cantering by'. And it is for this reason that he has 'been forced to abandon optimism and take recourse in hope'. For as he points out, hope, unlike optimism, is a spur for action, not a substitute for it.
While McIntosh does an admirable job of summarizing the science, economics and politics of climate change in the first section, it is the second part of the book that forms the meat of his argument. A tour de force rendered in flawless prose, the section draws on philosophy, theology, poetry, myth and literature to situate the real root of Hell and High water in the human condition. The modernity ushered in by the Enlightenment may have introduced much that is worth celebrating, but the rationality in the form of logical positivism that accompanied it has helped break the link between the inner realm and the outer world that nurtures its -- man and nature, soil and soul. The dissociation of sensibility first set in motion with the reformation and the suppression of imagination (faerie) has led to hollowing out of the human psyche; leading vacant souls ripe for colonization by consumerism. Emptied (and disparaged in the case of the New Atheists) of the spirituality that sustains inner health the culture satisfies its quest for meaning (the liminal) with a variety of addictions that approximate the experience (the liminoid). It confuses 'having' with 'being'.
McIntosh does not offer easy answers, but he does have a 12-step program for the regeneration of the human spirit and revival of its link to the world around it. I do not agree with all but that is more because of practicality than my view of their usefulness. But like Chris Hedges, McIntosh makes the important distinction between the irrational and the non-rational (love, hope, spirit et al), and stresses that the later needs to be reconciled with practicality in order to bring about meaningful change.
I had picked up this book as a diversion for an evening, but once I started reading, I had to hold everything else and immerse myself in it. I was overwhelmed. George Monbiot had it right: McIntosh IS a world changing author.