Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

NOTE: Blurt has been retired and is no longer updated regularly. For new content, follow these links:

OFF MESSAGE: Vermont News and Politics
BITE CLUB: Food and Drink Blog

« Peter Freyne Memorial Video | Main | Economic Symposium Monday »

January 30, 2009

New Yorker Reports on Vermont 'Doomers'

Passport On Monday, January 26, The New Yorker magazine published an ultra-cheeky article on "doomers" — aka, intellectuals who think the world is, socially and ecologically speaking, irreparably f-ed.

(Back in 2006, McGrath interviewed the Vermont filmmaker Eugene Jarecki, whom I profiled last month.)

In his recent story, "The Dystopians" — a nod to Henry James' 1903 novel The Ambassadors? — McGrath focuses on the social critics Dimitry Orlov and James Howard Kunstler. Orlov, who maintains the (doomish?) blog ClubOrlov, lives on a houseboat outside Boston and wrote Reinventing Collapse: The Soviet Example and American Prospects in 1998. Kunstler, whose 2005 book The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century sold more than 100,000 copies, recently wrote an apocalyptic novel titled World Made by Hand.

Kunstler, as it turns out, was the subject of a 2005 Seven Days cover story, "Global Warning." He was also the keynote speaker at a November conference of the area secession organization Second Vermont Republic.

McGrath's ironical story oozes with Vermonty stuff. He reports, for example, that Orlov is thinking of ferrying maple syrup and apples from Vermont to New York City. Then he attends the November secession conference and grabs lunch in Montpelier with Rob Williams a Champlain College prof-cum-yak-farmer who publishes the secession-oriented monthly newspaper Vermont Commons.

Speaking with Seven Days by phone yesterday, Williams said he was mostly pleased with "The Dystopians," but that he wised he hadn't been painted, well, so doomily. "It didn't do a great job of providing some of the deeper context," Williams said of McGrath's piece. "Dystopians are typically people who see the worst in everything. I sort of feel like, at least I get excited about the work that we're doing..."

Williams — no relation to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant spokesperson — added that he tried to get McGrath to visit his yak farm, but that a visit wasn't in the cards.

Tuns out Williams isn't the only Vermonter who has mixed feelings about the New Yorker story. In a posting titled "DYSTOPIANS ON ESTROGEN," Carolyn Baker, a member of Vermont Commons' editorial board who was mentioned briefly in "The Dystopians," points out on her blog that McGrath didn't quote any women.

"Although I greatly admire Dmitry Orlov and James Howard Kunstler, and while I feel camaraderie in particular with my friends in the Vermont Independence movement, Rob Williams and Thomas Naylor, I found 'The Dystopians' to be an appallingly white male extravaganza," Baker writes, noting that the only other so-called "dystopian" female in the story besides her is the New Mexico-based psychologist Chellis Glendinning.

"My complaint is not about some notion of 'equal time' but rather the consequences of omitting a uniquely female perspective from the discourse about collapse and the construction of a new paradigm of life on the planet," she adds. "Despite my caveat, I know I will be accused of proclaiming the superiority of the female gender, but that is absolutely not my intent. In fact, quite the opposite. The conversation requires the distinct characteristics of both genders, and without it, only half the landscape of collapse can be viewed..."

Thanks for the article. I've always thought the label 'doomer' was for anyone who looks at our present situation realistically and comprehensively.

VT Commons is an extremely thoughtful and mostly positive publication. Isn't it a quarterly? I know it was when Seven Days carried it. That was incredibly convenient.

Check out this terrific doomer article, by a thriving VT wheat-farmer who was profiled by the BFP a few months back:

Eva Sollberger should go check in on this operation with her video camera and find out if he's a doomer.

"and while I feel camaraderie in particular with my friends in the Vermont Independence movement, Rob Williams and Thomas Naylor"

Were either of these "leaders" of the "Vermont Independence Movement," Mr. Williams or Mr. Naylor, born or raised in Vermont? Did either of them actually grow up here? Or did they both move here relatively recently?

Just wundrin'

Thanks for the head up Ivan. I'm always happy to search out doomers...

The comments to this entry are closed.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

All Rights Reserved © Da Capo Publishing Inc. 1995-2012 | PO Box 1164, Burlington, VT 05402-1164 | 802-864-5684