Growing up in the mostly wooded rural countryside of northern Wisconsin, in the decades immediately after the Second World War, meant immersion in cultural transformation. An economy of subsistence and self-provisioning was rapidly becoming industrialized and commercial. The culture of the local and small-scale was being overpowered by the metropolitan and large-scale. This experience provided the practical groundedness for exploring the decline and even the demise of small-scale farming, not just in northern Wisconsin, but as an example and illustration of how industrialization and globalization undermine local rural culture everywhere. Linked with an ecological critique that asserts the unsustainability of globalized industrialism, the exploration into the meaning of rural culture took on larger significance, especially when seen in relation to the collapse of all prior civilizations. In addition, the investigation into the origins of civilization revealed the predatory relationship civilization developed in regard to agriculture and rural life. The rampant globalization of civilization results in the destitution and impoverishment of agrarian culture.
The question then becomes whether civilization has finally achieved the technical mastery by which to protect and extend itself permanently or whether its complexity only assures a more catastrophic collapse or whether civilization may learn to be flexible enough to merge with an essentially noncivilized folk culture to create a new cultural sensibility that enhances the best of both worlds. This is the question the entire world is now facing. Weapons of mass destruction, climate change, and peak oil all combine the force a resolution to this dilemma.
Endorsements & Reviews-
"Paul Gilk gives us a profound meditation, eloquent and provocative, on how so-called 'civilization' has driven us, not only from our roots in the land, but from our cultural and spiritual moorings. This is a rare and important book in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau and Lewis Mumford. While sobering in its description of our current reality, it is ultimately exhilarating and hopeful. It should be widely read." --Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States
Paul Gilk Helena Norberg-Hodge
Born in 1946, Paul Gilk grew up on a small homestead farm in northern Wisconsin. From work horses, threshing crews and silo-filling rings, huge gardens, quilting bees and one-room schools, township demographics changed in twenty-five years from thirty farms to three. Returning to northern Wisconsin from St. Louis in 1979, Gilk built a cottage in the woods of what had been part of the family farm. Several years of intensive study followed. The question that preoccupied him was "Why are small farms dying?" In the early 1990s, he reconstructed a nineteenth-century log house and, in 1995, married Suzanna Juon. He has made a living by farm work, woods work, carpentry, writing, and folk music.