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Neo-pastoralism and Doomer Optimism, Old Crow Hill, 26 December, mid-afternoon

An interesting article started making the Doomer Optimist rounds today, an attempt by writer Nadia Asparouhova to identify the "7 tribes of the climate movement." The article is admirable enough, with its goal of shining a light on the nuances marbling the climate movement monolith. The reason it's ended up on the DO radar is because it specifically mentions the movement as being an offshoot of Neo-pastoralism.

Much discussion ensued.

I, for one, have little issue with the term neo-pastoralism as a descriptor for Doomer Optimism. I think it's apt in a general way. Most Doomer Optimists I know (your author included) seem to be edging toward a sort of modernized pastoralism, and land stewardship is certainly one of the fundamental organizing ideas of the movement. Sure, this term sands off a lot of the edges, but I can imagine from an outsider perspective, DO must be a total pain in the ass to stereotype. Even among the three podcast founders, there is considerable disagreement about all sorts of issues.

But, the problem with this term is that in context of the wider article, it's being used as both a way to lump DO in with a specific strand of right wing radicalism, as well as fob it off as being "cute" and "unreasonable," a fairy tale spun by drop outs and dreamers. In this way, it's understandable that large numbers of Doomer Optimists would find the term inaccurate or even offensive.

In a climate changing world, filled to the brim with plastic, 100's of thousands of novel chemicals, and rapid biodiversity loss, looking backward to times when people lived more in harmony with the planet is just as reasonable an impulse as looking forward to new technologies and political systems. I'd argue it's more reasonable, given how much of our current predicament is directly the result of 400+ years of techno-scale-idolatry. We've dug a planet-sized hole for ourselves with all our technology, so maybe it's time we just stop digging?

So, is it so wrong to dream of sheep herding, or homemade pumpkin pie made from your neighbor's prize-winning pumpkins? Is it too much to imagine neighborhoods filled again with playing children, the sound of their laughter, rather than the grind of wheels on pavement? Is it unreasonable to take the time to learn the rhythms of the earth, its tides and secrets, or to share those secrets with those you've come to call brother and sister?

Of course it isn't. It is the right thing to do. It's no more radical than placing a book that's fallen to the floor back on the shelf. Except in our case, the whole damn bookshelf has toppled over. There are a lot of books to put back.

Doomer Optimists have just decided to start in the gardening and sheep herding section.


Parenting is a bit like trying to sweep in a tornado. No matter how hard you try, everything you sweep will just be blown away. This is only frustrating if your goal is to make tidy little piles of your life.

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