Alastair McIntosh in Conversation With Bernadette McAliskey: Climate Change, Nonviolence, and A Spirituality for Our Times

Event Details

Picture of Alastair McIntosh.

Alastair McIntosh – Peace activist and author.

video of this event

Perhaps the most pressing question facing us, is how do we live our resistance to the injustice and violence we are embedded in?  And in particular with regard to climate change.

For nearly twenty years Scottish writer, activist and human ecologist, Alastair McIntosh, has harnessed a deep spiritual commitment to nonviolence, to positive and radical effect.  In the field of environmental protection his approach was instrumental in stopping a multinational corporation from turning a majestic Hebridean mountain into ‘the gravel pit of Europe’.  And in the field of land reform in Scotland, in empowering the community of  the Isle of Eigg in buying out their laird.

What might be the lessons and challenges for us in the north of whatever faith or none, also struggling for justice but in the charged context of a past that continues to divide us?
In his ground-breaking books, Alastair McIntosh links violence to the consumerism that helps to drive climate change. In his talk and afterwards in conversation with Bernadette McAliskey, he will explore the roots of violence within each one of us and how our religious traditions were conscripted to its cause. He will explore insights to be learned from nonviolence that can help to reduce our addictions to consumerism and foster solidarity. In so doing, he calls for a “spiritual activism” that better integrates inner faith with our outer life in communities, including importantly political life. This opens up fresh vision for the place of faith as truth from the heart in this, the third millennium of Christianity.

Veteran Civil Rights campaigner Bernadette McAlliskey.

Veteran Civil Rights campaigner Bernadette McAlliskey.

Professor Alastair McIntosh is a Quaker with honorary positions at the University of Glasgow and Edinburgh University’s divinity school. His books include Soil and Soul on land reform, Hell and High Water on climate change, Spiritual Activism on leadership, and most recently, Poacher’s Pilgrimage about war and an ecology of the imagination. He regularly guest lectures on nonviolence at the UK Defence Academy and the Irish Defence Force at Curragh.

Alastair on the Irish Context

“It was not until I left home on the Isle of Lewis and went to study on the mainland, that I came to understand that I was from a background where hard-line Protestant views were embedded into us about Ireland. Only gradually, did I come to see that the course of history had wronged the indigenous Irish Catholics, but also, had arguably wrong-footed poor Scots settlers who had moved to Ulster.”

Alastair on Nonviolence

“Violence has been democratised.  Anybody can make a bomb – as schoolboys we even knew how to do so ourselves with common agricultural chemicals. But to live in peace takes guts of a different sort….   But how can nonviolence be actively explored, and constantly re-empowered, against the backdrop of ongoing pressures to take recourse to violence? And those pressures, in the face of so many social, political, environmental and religious injustices in our world?”

Venue: City Hotel (Alexander Suite)

Admission: Free

“The environment is emerging as a new battleground for human rights.” (Global Witness 2016)

Things they say about Alastair McIntosh and his books:

  • “World-changing” – George Monbiot, Guardian writer
  • “Very, very inspiring.” – Sr. Miriam MacGillis, Genesis Farm, USA
  • “One of the world’s leading environmental campaigners” – William Crawley, BBC
  • “Truly mental” – Thom Yorke, Radiohead


His Home Page

Alastair’s take on spiritual activism

Alastair’s thinking on the importance of our connection to place and the importance of a community’s ownership of the land in properly caring for it.

Alastair’s Tedx Talk


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Context 2017

One World One Struggle

Bloody Sunday was inflicted on the people of Derry.  But it has resonated around the world.  It is a local issue relevant to people everywhere.

Over the 45 years since British paratroopers erupted into the working-class Bogside area with rifles spitting death at civil rights marchers, representatives of victims of State violence from both sides of the Atlantic, from Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, have travelled to Derry to take part in the annual commemoration and give substance to the idea of 'One World, One Struggle'. 

The British Government still sets its face Iike flint against telling the full truth about the Derry massacre.  A long Inquiry reported in 2010 that all the dead and wounded had been unlawfully shot. Despite this, the Report stopped well short of proposing prosecution of the killers - and pointed no finger of`blame at the senior military officers who had sent the Paras in, or at the politicians who had connived at the assault and then orchestrated a cover-up.

This is always the way when it comes to the violence of imperialism.

Only the persistence of family members and their supporters forced a police investigation. We await the outcome. One reason the British authorities fear the facts about Bloody Sunday is that this massacre cannot be ascribed to warring Irish factions. This was an authentically British atrocity.

Past commemorations have featured African Americans, Palestinians, former Guantanamo prisoners, victims of police violence in Britain etc., as well as members of other families bereaved by murder here in the North, in many cases murder inflicted by State agents and then systematically lied about to protect the same undercover agents.

Lectures, debates and cultural events are highlighted, economic struggles, women’s rights, gay rights, the rights of the environment, and many other examples of`oppression.  We have commemorated, too, the killing of other innocent people by non-State groups - Dublin Monaghan, Birmingham, Shankill, Greysteel, the Ormeau bookies, etc.

We believe that the programme we have produced this year puts Bloody Sunday in its proper context, an extreme example of the fact that, commonly, it’s innocent people who pose no threat to anyone who bear the brunt of conflict.

The trek towards truth and justice has been long and sometimes arduous. But we keep on keeping on because the cause is just and gives good example to the one world in which we all struggle. 

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