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At Work in the Ruins: Finding Our Place in the Time of Science, Climate Change, Pandemics and All the Other Emergencies
by Dougald Hine


Dougald Hine's "At Work in the Ruins" is a deep reflection on the state of the world, particularly in the face of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and other global crises. The book challenges readers to move beyond the limitations of how we typically talk about these issues, particularly the reliance on a scientific framework that often fosters a sense of control and management.

Key Arguments:

  • Beyond Climate Change: Hine argues that climate change is a symptom of a deeper, underlying problem – a way of being in the world that has been shaped by industrial modernity. He questions our reliance on the authority of science, suggesting that the truth about these crises extends beyond what science can tell us.
  • The End of a World: The book explores the end of the world "as we know it," including the end of the dominant narrative of progress and the limitations of science in addressing these complex issues.
  • The Need for a New Way of Knowing: Hine calls for a shift from "knowledge" to "knowing," emphasizing the importance of emotional intelligence, human judgement, and intuition alongside scientific data. He challenges the tendency towards techno-fixes and calls for a more grounded, local approach.
  • Facing Mortality and Re-engaging with Nature: Hine argues that our modern culture's avoidance of death, coupled with the reliance on fossil fuels, has contributed to our predicament. He calls for a reconnection with the cycles of nature and a deeper appreciation for the interconnectedness of all living things.
  • Beyond the Left/Right Divide: The book challenges readers to move beyond the traditional left/right paradigm, arguing that the solutions to our current challenges may lie outside these conventional frameworks.
  • The Importance of Local Resilience: Hine highlights the importance of local resilience and community-driven solutions, drawing on examples from permaculture, small-scale farming, and indigenous knowledge systems.
  • Finding Hope in the Ruins: Hine emphasizes the need for a new kind of hope that embraces uncertainty, accepts the limitations of science, and finds inspiration in the stories and practices of those who live close to the land and are not blinded by the promises of a unsustainable modernity.

Overall, "At Work in the Ruins" offers a powerful, nuanced critique of modernity and its limits, urging readers to move beyond fear, denial, and technological solutions to embrace a new way of thinking and being in the world. The book provides a roadmap for navigating the challenges ahead, urging us to find hope in the ruins of a world that is ending, and to discover the possibilities that lie in the unknown.