Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist & educator on social & organisational change, now focused on #DeepAdaptation

The Love in Deep Adaptation – A Philosophy for the Forum

Posted by jembendell on March 17, 2019

By Jem Bendell and Katie Carr

Many more people are waking up to the predicament we are in, where rapid climate change threatens the future of our societies – and even our species. Hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded the Deep Adaptation paper and thousands joined the Facebook group. Launching the Deep Adaptation Forum is one means of enabling that interest to become useful collaboration.love

As people begin to work with our colleagues and discuss what “Deep Adaptation” could mean (and what it doesn’t), we wish to clarify some core ideas that have been expressed in more detail elsewhere.

Deep Adaptation refers to the personal and collective changes that might help us to prepare for – and live with – a climate-induced collapse of our societies. Unlike mainstream work on adaptation to climate change, it doesn’t assume that our current economic, social, and political systems can be resilient in the face of rapid climate change. When using the term social or societal collapse, we are referring the uneven ending to our current means of sustenance, shelter, security, pleasure, identity and meaning. Others may prefer the term societal breakdown when referring to the same process. We consider this process to be inevitable, because of our view that humanity will not be able to respond globally fast enough to protect our food supplies from chaotic weather. People who consider that societal collapse or breakdown is either possible, likely or already unfolding, also are interested in deep adaptation.

Four questions guide our work on Deep Adaptation within the forum:

  • Resilience: what do we most value that we want to keep and how?
  • Relinquishment: what do we need to let go of so as not to make matters worse?
  • Restoration: what could we bring back to help us with these difficult times?
  • Reconciliation: with what and whom shall we make peace as we awaken to our mutual mortality?

These questions invite exploration of Deep Adaptation to our climate predicament in order to develop both collapse-readiness and collapse-transcendence.

  • Collapse-readiness includes the mental and material measures that will help reduce disruption to human life – enabling an equitable supply of the basics like food, water, energy, payment systems and health.
  • Collapse-transcendence refers to the psychological, spiritual and cultural shifts that may enable more people to experience greater equanimity toward future disruptions and the likelihood that our situation is beyond our control.

Uncertainty and lack of control are key aspects of our predicament; we do not know whether what we do will slow climate change and societal collapse or reduce harm at scale. It looks likely to us that many will die young and that we may die sooner than we had expected. That does not mean we do not try to extend the glide and soften the crash – and learn from the whole experience.

One thing that rapid climate change can help us to learn is the destructiveness of our delusions about reality and what is important in life. Key to this delusion is the emphasis many of us place on our separate identities. Since birth we have been invited to “other” people and nature. We often assume other people to be less valuable, smart or ethical as us. Or we assume we know what they think. We justify that in many ways, using stories of nationality, gender, morals, personal survival, or simply being “too busy”. Similarly, we have been encouraged to see nature as separate from us. Therefore, we have not regarded the rivers, soils, forests and fields as part of ourselves. Taken together, this othering of people and nature means we dampen any feelings of connection or empathy to such a degree that we can justify exploitation, discrimination, hostility, violence, and rampant consumption.

Seeking physical and psychological security and pleasure through control of our surroundings and how people interact with us is both a personal malaise and at the root of our collective malaise. Yet, as we see more pain in the world, and sense that it will get worse, it is possible that we will shrink from it. It is easier to consider other people’s pain as less valid as one’s own pain or that of the people and pets we know. But there is another way. The suffering of others presents us with an opportunity to feel and express love and compassion. Not to save or to fix, but to be open to sensing the pain of all others and letting that transform how we live in the world. It does not need to lead to paralysis or depression, but to being fully present to life in every moment, however it manifests. This approach is the opposite of othering and arises from a loving mindset, where we experience universal compassion to all beings. It is the love that our climate predicament invites us to connect with. It is the love in deep adaptation.

Therefore, in our work with others on deep adaptation, we wish to pursue and enable loving responses to our predicament. Every interaction offers an opportunity for compassion. It can seem difficult when it feels as if someone is trying to criticise your view, perhaps because they prefer to see collapse as unlikely or human extinction as certain. But to return to compassion, even if we fall away from it in the moment, feels an important way of living our truth. And it is something we can do at any time. As leadership coach Diana Reynolds recently explained, “the incredible compassionate revolution starts here, starts now.”

As this topic involves questions of mortality, impermanence, insecurity and uncontrollability, everyone who is finding themselves navigating their way through is experiencing many strong emotional responses, which may feel turbulent, overwhelming, exhausting as well as energising or enlivening. Often these emotions affect us, including ourselves and our colleagues, in ways that we may not be aware of. Therefore, in the small team working in the Deep Adaptation Forum, and the wider group of volunteers, we invite each other to consider three principles:

  • Return to compassion. We shall seek to return to universal compassion in all our work, and remind each other to notice in ourselves when anger, fear, panic, or insecurity may be influencing our thoughts or behaviours. It is also important to remember to take care of ourselves, especially when the urgency of our predicament can easily lead to burnout.
  • Return to curiosity. We recognise that we do not have many answers on specific technical or policy matters. Instead, our aim is to provide a space and an invitation to participate in generative dialogue that is founded in kindness and curiosity.
  • Return to respect. We respect other people’s situations and however they may be reacting to our alarming predicament, while seeking to build and curate nourishing spaces for deep adaptation.

We hope that all of us in the team continue to provide useful information, avoid negativity, and invite everyone to engage as peers. We also apologise in advance for any times where we do not seem to be living these principles.

If you would like to help the team financially, and have a small fund for such support, then please use the contact form.

If you would like to volunteer with us, please start by joining a relevant group within the Forum and demonstrating your commitment, effectiveness, and aligned approach within that space.

Professor Jem Bendell and Katie Carr co-lead retreats as well as leadership courses related to deep adaptation, at the University of Cumbria.

The photo is of the sculpture entitled “Love” by Ukrainian artist #AlexanderMilov and was found at the 2015 #BurningManFestival. It shows two #wireframe adults with their inner children reaching for each other, symbolizing purity and sincerity. /// photo by @teamwoodnote and used here with a creative commons license.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/designmilk/22871072820

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Organise Deep Adaptation Dialogues

Posted by jembendell on March 17, 2019

As acceptance of likely or unfolding collapse is spreading, we hear of people wanting to gather and discuss what it means for their own lives, communities and work. That hope is not to hear simple answers to our difficult situation, but to share a range of information, emotions, ideas and options.

With a little help from our friends, the Deep Adaptation Forum is able to financially support “Deep Adaptation Dialogues” that bring together people within a community or shared professional interest.

If you would like to organise such a gathering, with some financial support and live video presentation by Professor Jem Bendell or a colleague from the Forum, then please read on…

four people smiling grayscale photo

Photo by rawpixel.com

To enable an emergent and generative dialogue, we want to support gatherings that use the principles of Open Space Technology and are guided by an experienced facilitator. That means participants will gather in a physical location around a collapse-related theme of their choosing, and let a detailed agenda emerge from their group on the day. Prof. Bendell, or another expert from the field of Deep Adaptation, can be invited to open the gathering with a short Q&A video session, before the Open Space conversations begin. At the end of the day, if requested, Prof. Bendell or another expert will reconnect with all participants by video, to listen to summaries of what was discussed and offer some feedback.

To qualify for financial support:

  • propose the event to occur between June 1st and December 31st 2019, for a minimum of half a day.
  • each event must be facilitated by a host with confirmed experience in Open Space Technology;
  • organisers must be members of the Deep Adaptation Forum;
  • the conversation should be community- or profession-focused and be either free or with minimal fee (any fee must be specified in the application);
  • the event should take place in a cheap or free venue (equipped with a good internet connection, a computer projector and speakers, and a webcam pointing at the group participants);
  • event hosts should, when possible, submit to the Deep Adaptation Forum a harvesting of topics at the end of their event. This can take the shape of a video, write-up, or podcast.

To recap, what the Deep Adaptation Forum can offer:

  • Video participation in your event by Prof. Bendell or another expert;
  • 300 euros per event for expenses, paid after the event;
  • Help in spreading the results of your dialogue to the Deep Adaptation Forum and wider network.

To apply, please see here after applying to join the Forum at www.deepadaptation.info

Application deadline is April 25th 2019 and applicants will be informed of decisions by May 5th 2019.

Meetings can be organised in English, French, or Chinese. Applications can be submitted in any of those languages.

Please note that currently only 5 events can be funded in 2019. If you are able to make charitable donations of over 2000 euros (or equivalent) and would like to discuss supporting us scaling up these Deep Adaptation Dialogues, please contact the Forum here. We are not in a position to handle smaller donations at this time.

To be kept in touch with online gatherings on this agenda, please join the Forum at www.deepadaptation.info

 

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University Courses on Deep Adaptation with Prof Jem Bendell

Posted by jembendell on March 10, 2019

The University of Cumbria in the UK is offering three courses related to Deep Adaptation, led by Professor Jem Bendell. They are each at Masters level, and can be taken either as credit-awarding or not, depending on whether you want to work towards a qualification. One of the courses is online and the other two involve 4 days in residence in the stunning Lake District national park.untitled

“Facing up to climate reality is difficult. Leading others and organisations on this agenda is even more so. With these courses we teach leadership within the context of our need to deeply adapt to a disturbing future.” Prof Jem Bendell. 

If you are interested, then you can join an online presentation and Q&A, where both Prof Bendell and his past students will explain the philosophy and content of the courses. These include:

Foundations of Sustainable Leadership. In residence in Lake District, UK. 18-20 July 2019. This course provides a maximum of 24 executive-level participants with a deep dive into critical perspectives on leadership and communications before exploring what these new insights and skills mean for an era of deep adaptation. Non-credit awarding option here (600 GBP). Credit awarding option here (850GBP).

Independent Study on Sustainable Leadership for Deep Adaptation. Online. September 2019 – January 2020. This online course with Prof Bendell guides participants in taking action in their workplace or community to further deep adaptation. Every two weeks participants attend an online webinar, and support and learn from each other as they seek to create change. Maximum of 48 participants. Non credit-awarding option is 400GBP and credit-awarding option is 850GBP. A few concessions will be made available. Further online information to come in summer 2019.

Sustainable Leadership for Deep Adaptation. In residence in Lake District, UK. 7-10 January 2020. This course provides a maximum of 24 executive-level participants with an exploration of leadership and communications for the deep adaptation of individuals, organisations and societies. Non credit-awarding option is 600GBP and credit-awarding option is 850GBP. A few concessions will be made available. Please note that participants may not attend both this course and the Foundations of Sustainable Leadership. Further online information to come in summer 2019.

If enrolling in the University beforehand, these courses can be taken as part of the Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Leadership. The entry requirements include an undergraduate degree and some relevant professional experience.

Up to 100 people can attend the online Q&A about these courses with Prof Bendell on May 1st. The link to the zoom meeting will be sent to those who register here.

It is possible to enrol with the July 2019 course prior to that Q&A i.e. immediately. Note that there are only 24 places so it may be over-subscribed by May 1st (non credit-awarding option here and credit-awarding option here).

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The Deep Adaptation Forum launches

Posted by jembendell on March 6, 2019

People who are alive to the likelihood of society collapsing in our lifetimes will not be alone for long. But for now, we are few and far between. Despite 200,000 people downloading my Deep Adaptation paper, in most professional circles this topic remains taboo, and certainly not a priority within strategies, budgets or meetings. This situation means people find it challenging to work on the professional implications of their concerns. Yet the longer we delay our exploration of what to do and how, the more likely it will be that organisations and societies respond poorly in future.
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There are many professional fields that are relevant to our predicament, including mainstream climate adaptation, disaster risk reduction, mental health, permaculture and so on. Because a society that breaks down will affect all walks of life – and so all of us can do something to help each other prepare, whether from within our current role or a new one.

To extend the glide of our societies and soften the crash, the goal must be for every professional association, think tank, trade union, and research institute, to develop their own work on collapse-readiness. Before that happens, we can connect around the world and support each other to play a role in our professions and locations when the time arrives.

It is for these reasons that today we launch the Deep Adaptation Forum. It is the next step for those of us who accept likely collapse to work together now and thereby mark the way for our colleagues to follow in time. Through this free forum you can join regular webinars, seek advice and co-create shared resources for your field of expertise.

We concentrate mainly on:
* hosting regular video meetings among our members;
* managing jointly edited documents on relevant resources, initiatives, and knowledge needs;
* enabling in-person dialogues within local communities and professional sectors;
* and maintaining an event calendar.
The Forum is not a space for:
* debating climate science or chronicling the latest bad weather;
* disputing whether societal collapse is likely to occur;
* or arguing that near-term human extinction is now inevitable.

Such discussions occur in many other places, and instead, this Forum is solely dedicated to serving those who wish to explore collapse-readiness in all its potential forms, from the practical, to political, emotional and spiritual.

We invite a diversity of opinion, including a diversity of political approaches, so long as these do not advocate forms of fascism or violent conflict. We also invite participants, if they wish, to employ the Deep Adaptation framework. That means exploring what the concepts of resilience, relinquishment, restoration and reconciliation could mean for our profession or interest. Therefore, it will be useful if you read the Deep Adaptation paper and blog on Reconciliation before participating in the Forum.

There is no need to wait for your fellow professionals to wake up to our predicament.

There is no need to spend much time justifying yourself.

There is no need to rage against ignorance.

Instead, we can start to live our truth together now.

I look forward to connecting in the Forum.

Professor Jem Bendell, Founder of the Deep Adaptation Forum.

Note that the Forum is the place for professional collaboration. If you simply want to see the latest posts from professionals in this field, join our LinkedIn Group. If you have a general interest but don’t work on it, then join our Positive Deep Adaptation group on Facebook.

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Positive Deep Adaptation Group on Facebook

Posted by jembendell on March 3, 2019

In recent weeks I have noticed an upsurge in people discussing the calamitous state of our climate, its impacts and our response. My server crashed twice due to the download demands for my Deep Adaptation paper.
To channel this interest into useful professional collaborations, next week we launch the Deep Adaptation Forum, as an international space for people to work together – ahead of their wider professions buying into this agenda properly (which is bound to happen, but we can’t delay). Already our LinkedIn group for professionals has circa 1500 members.
Many people who are getting in touch or tweeting their thoughts are not professionally engaged, but are retired people, or busy with their existing jobs or families. So, we are today launching a Facebook group as a simple means of helping them connect.
Positive Deep Adaptation will be a place for sharing information on our outer and inner deep adaptation to unfolding societal breakdown due to climate change. We will share information in two areas:
  • First, on emotional, psychological and spiritual implications.
  • Second, on our knowledge of practical means to support wellbeing ahead of (and during) social breakdowns. Those practical means may be at household, community, national or international scales. Collective action in a spirit of compassion is particularly welcomed, rather than defensive prepping for conflict.
The group wont be a place for sharing news or information on the state of our climate or environment. Nor will we share news and information on aspects of social breakdown. Why? Because as things get worse, our feeds will be swamped increasingly by such news, and in that context we can benefit from a group to support our positive deep adaptation to the situation, and not to crowd that out by news chronicling the changing climate or breakdown.
By “positive” deep adaptation we do not mean that we will be inviting messages that say “we must have hope” or “we can’t say it’s too late” or “look at this latest wow tech that will mean someone else will fix everything”. Such fear-based attitudes that script stories of the world to help ourselves feel better, for now, are counter-productive. Instead, we will be sharing information and ideas on all kinds of things that start from the view that collapse is now likely or inevitable. What might that involve? Check it out here.
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ScientistsWarning.tv presents Jem Bendell in Bristol

Posted by matslats on February 19, 2019

This is the first recorded lecture on Deep Adaptation, to 300 people in Bristol, UK. It uses a more informal format than a University lecture, inviting the audience to explore forms of action additional to cutting and drawing down carbon from the atmosphere – actions associated with personal and collective preparedness for coming disruption.

The lecture was accompanied by Toni Spencer, a facilitator who works on Deep Adaptation and Transition. She led the audience in a reflective process to explore feelings and ideas emerging. She also offered some poems and reflections during the process.

Members of the Climate Psychology Alliance spoke from the floor, explaining their new initiative to provide therapeutic support to people working on or affected by this agenda.

The event was organized by the local Constituency Labour Party and Momentum group, but made open to anyone with any political interest or none. To engage on this topic see http://www.deepadaptation.info

We thank Emilio Mula for filming and editing and Seeding Our Future for support to make it possible.

Prof Bendell will speak at several more public events in 2019.

Prof Bendell previously appeared on Scientists Warning TV in this collage.

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Upcoming events with Prof Bendell in 2019

Posted by matslats on February 9, 2019

Online, March 27th. Deep Adaptation Q&A Online with Prof Jem Bendell. Bring your questions for a moderated conversation with the originator of the Deep Adaptation framework. 9am to 10am GMT. March 27th. Limited places available.

London. April 13th. Social Collapse: Probability and Psychological Challenges (Climate Psychology Alliance)

London, April 15th. Rebellion Day, Extinction Rebellion.

Preston, UK. April 29th. Green Monday Anti-fracking protest.

Ambleside, UK. April 30th. Q&A meeting with Ambleside Action For A Future. (By invitation only, apply here)

Findhorn ecovillage, Scotland April 22nd. Climate Change & consciousness (via videolink)

Brussels, May 13th. European Commission. With Dougald Hine and others. Details to be announced.

Canada, May 23rd. Canadian Society for Ecological Economics keynote (via videolink)

Athens, Greece, June 6th. “Community Adaptation to Climate Breakdown” details to be announced.

Anyksciai, Lithuania, June 21st. Q&A at Anyksciai Forest Festival (via videolink)

Kalikalos retreat centre, Greece June 22-29th. Inner resilience for tending a sacred unravelling.

Lancaster UK, July 14th. “Deep Adaptation Community Dialogue” Using Open Space methods to explore implications and initiatives with communities in the North West of England. Free. 10am to 5pm. Room and registration link to be announced.

Cumbria UK, July 18-21st. Certificate in Sustainable Leadership short course, including sessions on Deep Adaptation.

Somerset UK, September 11-12th. Green Earth Awakening camp 2019, Buddhafield festival

Cumbria UK, September 18th. Deep Adaptation Public Lecture, Ambleside Campus. Time and registration link to be announced.

Cumbria UK, September 24-27th. Deep Adaptation Retreat (with Katie Carr).

Please sign up to my quarterly newsletter for more detailed information.

If you would like Jem to appear in a meeting you are organising, then consider applying to the Deep Adaptation Forum to host a dialogue. Info here.

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UK Deep Adaptation Retreat, with Jem Bendell & Katie Carr

Posted by matslats on February 8, 2019

Cumbria, UK,
24-27th September 2019

Take time out to pause, and give space and time to reflect – with others – on what is being asked of us in these extraordinary times.

As of March 9th the retreat was fully booked. Join the waiting list. See other Deep Adaptation courses led by Prof. Bendell.

The emerging realisation that climate change is becoming a destructive tragedy, not just an urgent challenge, is profoundly disorientating for many people. How are we to feel? What are we to do? What might become the purpose of our lives and work in the face of imminent societal breakdown from climate chaos?

You are warmly invited to join us for three days of dialogue and reflection with people who are working on this Deep Adaptation agenda, integrating questions of resilience, relinquishment, restoration and reconciliation into their lives and work.

We will focus on nourishing the inner resilience for us all to help make this a kinder and more sacred unravelling of life-as-we-know-it. We will draw upon the experiences of participants, a range of experiential exercises as well as facilitated connection and exploration that welcomes emotional, spiritual and somatic ways of being and (un)learning, as well as the intellectual/cognitive. Our aspiration is that we will support peaceful empowered surrender to our predicament, where action can arise from an engaged love of humanity and nature, rather than problematic stories of worth and purpose.
This retreat is for you if you:

  • are accepting the premise of Deep Adaptation, that near-term social collapse due to climate change is inevitable or very likely
  • are engaged around the implications of climate breakdown for your personal and professional future
  • sense that some days spent in nature with people on a similar path could support your journey and healing.

Within a safely held and gently facilitated space, we aim to explore the possibilities for meaning, purpose, acceptance and joy amidst the climate tragedy, whilst cultivating the practice of welcoming the whole range of human emotions, including those that are painful and often pushed away. The focus is on inner adaptation rather than policies for reducing the harm from societal collapse. The retreat is part of a wider movement on Deep Adaptation. Our hope is you leave better able to host future gatherings on this agenda, and feel more peaceful in your ability to be alongside and support others in their own journeys.

You are invited to bring a reading, practice or insight to share that is helping you to explore living lovingly and actively in the face of climate-induced collapse.

he retreat will take place at the Haybergill Centre, a large eco-friendly, Scandinavian style venue in the beautiful Eden Valley in Cumbria, with breathtaking views all around and within touching distance of the Lake District, Teesdale and the Yorkshire Dales. The Centre connects easily to the A66 and there is quick, direct access to the A1 and M6 motorways. Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool are all reached in 2 hours or less by road. Penrith train station is 20 minutes away in a taxi. Appleby train station is a few minutes drive away (with some coordination and a donation towards fuel costs, the centre can provide lifts from Appleby station). All meals will be vegetarian, and are freshly prepared using mainly local produce and where possible from their own polytunnel.

Flow of activities
The retreat begins at 10.30am on Tuesday 24th September, with a welcome to the centre, and an opening circle.
The specific flow of our days together will be emergent, and will weave together facilitated experiential exercises, offerings from participants, and time for silent/quiet reflection. Each day will open and close with a circle sharing, a gently held space in which each of us is invited to share what is moving us, without judgment or analysis, and to witness each other as we are in-the-moment. The retreat will give space for creative expression, contemplative reflection (individual or with others), and experiential exploration of connection in the outdoors (please bring appropriate clothes and footwear).

On the final day you will be asked to help Haybergill staff prepare for the arrival of the next group by stripping your bed. We will finish at around 11am, and have an early ‘brunch’ before departing at 12.30pm.

Apply online. The cost of the retreat is £495, inclusive of accomodation and all meals. Spaces are limited to 18, and our retreat in Greece sold out 5 months ahead, so book early to secure your place. You will receive an email confirmation with instructions on how to pay the deposit (£250). If you need to cancel, you can do so up to eight weeks before the retreat begins (before 31st July), and your deposit will be refunded. If you cancel within those eight weeks, we will endeavour to fill your place, so that your deposit can be refunded, but if the place isn’t taken by someone else the deposit will be non-refundable. Apply here.

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Deep adaptation audio format!

Posted by jembendell on January 29, 2019

The original Deep Adaptation paper has now been downloaded 110,000 times so to make it more accessible it is now available in as a podcast.

In other news, Scientists Warning have created this rather shorter video emphasising the most poignant ideas in Deep Adaptation.

If you are on Linkedin, you can join the Deep Adaptation group for news and solidarity on this subject.

Don’t forget to share this post on your favourite social media!
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in deep adaptation, Podcasts | 4 Comments »

Hope and Vision in the Face of Collapse – The 4th R of Deep Adaptation

Posted by jembendell on January 9, 2019

“People need hope, Jem.”
“It’s really important to have a vision of a better future, Jem”

As someone who worked in environmental campaigning and then organizational change, I learned about the role of hope and vision in helping to align and motivate people. As someone who worked at the heart of political communications during the 2017 UK General Election campaign, I’m also aware of the power of a positive narrative when told well, consistently and authentically. In my professional world of leadership and its development, hope and vision are recognized as key. I still teach such skills to senior executives in business, politics and civil society and am proud of the way they feel empowered in their purpose as a result.

But, but, but…

Since my return to analysing climate science last year led me to conclude we face inevitable near-term societal collapse, where might we find any hope or vision?

The question used to be a quiet one, raised in private conversations. But since the unexpected impact of my paper on Deep Adaptation and the attention generated by the peaceful Extinction Rebellion protest movement, I am hearing it a lot. When faced with evidence of forthcoming collapse, people not only wonder about their personal need for hope and vision, but also what should be said to others – whether fellow professionals, kids, parents or the general public. You may have read or heard people saying we must not give up hope or destroy another’s hope: that to lose hope would undermine action that might prevent catastrophic climate change. Or you may have heard people say that we need to be able to believe in a positive vision of how life could be, whether that is averting, living through or beyond a breakdown in our society due to climate chaos.

Right now, people are seeking to frame the future and the meaning of our activism on climate. So although I am still working things out for myself, perhaps unendingly, I want to share my current and provisional thoughts on the topic of hope and vision. In so doing, I will offer a new “R” to my framing of Deep Adaptation – reconciliation – and invite feedback on this and related ideas (in the comments below).

The subject of my following reflections is one that has been explored for millennia and across cultures. In comparison to that, my level of intellectual inquiry, experiential reflection and lived practice is a bit like a skin cell on the floor of a crowded temple. I feel some embarrassment writing about these things. But our current predicament means that none of us should postpone finding our provisional answers to existential questions, and we might help each other with that by sharing things in writing. So here goes…

When exploring this matter, I recommend you do not follow people who say that people like me look at the world in an overly pessimistic or defeatist way. The suffering of this world today and to come, and in ourselves, is something to be witnessed, but, with intention, I am beginning to sense that we can feel and realize peace and happiness through it all. That will not happen through a desperate belief in stories of personal or collective salvation in this world or the next. Instead, we can turn away from frantic chatter or action, relax into our hearts, notice the impermanence of life, and let love for this momentary experience of life in all its flavours flood our being and shape our next steps. Expressing that aspiration in our words, actions and inactions may invite people who are fear-driven to put down their microphones for a time and join people living from love. It is with that sentiment I share the following ideas.

ON HOPE

If we say to a terminally ill person that they should not give up hope then that could become cruel. If by that we mean hope that they could survive, or that they could live while forgetting their situation, then it reflects unresolved and pathological fear of death. It suggests the person spend their last days in struggle and denial, rather than discovering what might matter after acceptance.

I’m not saying the human race has a terminal diagnosis in the near term. But we do in the long-term. Many hominids have gone extinct and so will homo sapiens one day. When that will be is another question – a difficult one, and I am not currently convinced of the arguments for near term human extinction. But I have concluded that our way of life has a terminal diagnosis. Because rain-fed agriculture will continue to breakdown over the next decade. Unless we immediately build massive irrigated greenhouses, and plan for compulsory plant-heavy diets and food rationing, we will see malnutrition in the West and resultant civil unrest, lawlessness and a breakdown in normal life.

One problem with hoping things will be OK is that it means we give up our agency. We assume someone will fix things. That is what some call “passive hope.” Meanwhile, any unrealistic hope steals possibility, by wasting the precious time we have to attempt to reduce harm and save humanity. So the problem with proponents of the hope that “we can fix this” is that it makes taboo the needed conversations about what to do given that we can’t fix things. That is what we could call “magical hope”, as it often comes with an overt or implicit suggestion that we can make the reality evolve according to moments where we are choosing to hope (as an aside: if we are co-creating our reality through our consciousness then it is through every moment of attention, not just those moments when we choose to pull ourselves together and do some magical hoping). In distinction to passive hope some have called for an “active hope” where we drop mainstream or received ideas of hope and instead face what we think is reality and construct a new hope based on what we believe in. That is a powerful rethinking of what hope means, as it makes us realise that hope involves actions to make it real. But I don’t think it is a sufficient reworking of the concept of hope. Because it can downplay whether we really think our actions will add up to the outcome we are actively hoping for. Instead, the emphasis is on intention, without being precise about the nature of intention, such as love, compassion, forgiveness, and so on. Therefore, people who speak of “active hope” may actually be practising magical hope, and avoiding either deeper inquiry into the intentions they value or into the implications of the futility of their actions.

In my work I have begun to invite people to explore what a radical hope may look like. In my Deep Adaptation paper, I explain how this was inspired in part by how some Native Americans responded to a realisation of the inevitability of the destruction of their way of life. Some elders decided that they had to let go of all their existing hopes and construct a new one that was possible. In comparison to their past way of life, this form of hope would seem more like a horror, but in comparison to complete annihilation, it was chosen by some tribes. Radical hope is a form of hope that’s consciously chosen after denial. It is a form of hope that is empowered surrender to a situation. It accepts difficult realities about what is happening as well as one’s capabilities to influence things, but still connects with deeper values and requires action to make it real.

To explore what a radical hope might be for humanity facing global breakdown, I realised it is useful to set aside discussing hope for a time and consider what I really believe in.

ON BELIEF

So we need to turn to the matter of belief. Yikes. Now I am really out of my depth. But please join me while I sink…

Some spiritual perspectives on the ‘oneness’ of oneself with the universe suggest that we have power to create our reality. That view has been misunderstood and deliberately marketed to people seeking ways to improve their lives. A more accurate insight from both wisdom traditions, contemporary physics, and current experience, is that we are co-creating our reality with others, the material and ineffable dimensions in ways that we can never fully comprehend through human thought and language. We each participate in shaping our experience of the world, but not autonomously of others or the world. Now, even with this perspective, it means that the current calamity facing humanity is one of our own mutual volition. Crikey. Why have we done this to ourselves?

Partly because what is happening, as painful as it is, is normal. Yes, the cosmic nature of things is that everything must go. Sure, we don’t like death. It hurts. But death has always been the partner of life, not its enemy. Impermanence makes everything and everyone around us totally sacred and significant. It invites our heartfelt gratitude for all that we experience. Certainly, sensing a nearer end to my own life has meant the rebirth of my ability to love being alive. The tragedy of climate chaos is also an invitation to drop our illusions of permanence. Abundant life, coming and going, shows just what the cosmos can do. While some religious buildings might be nice, it’s our whole planet that is an altar for the adoration of the creative cosmos. We can worship it in all that we do, and all that we do not do.

Climate chaos can invite us to consider the life force of consciousness that came before material organic life. And to consider the way in which aspects of our conscious being will continue after our death. Also, the way our lives may affect a universal field of consciousness and thus the future of life in whatever forms. Indeed, perhaps consciousness has chosen to experience itself in our minds and bodies at this moment and time. How else would we come to exist?

Climate chaos invites us to bring all of that into our present awareness. It may be a shock. But it can wake us up to that impermanence so that things fall away to leave us with love, curiosity, play, compassion, and creativity. Upon reflection, I wondered whether in our ‘heart of hearts’ we really do want this civilisation to continue more than anything; or even the human race to continue more than anything. I wondered if we want something else more than that. I wondered if we desire that our hearts bulge with love and we merge our consciousness with the all. And that we hope all other people might have the chance for the same experience. I wondered if in our hearts we want the planet to continue as a living organism more than we want our species to do so. I present these as musings, as I’m not going to pretend I am certain about these views. I recommend reflecting on these questions and finding your own sense of things.

I particularly like how an Extinction Rebellion leader Skeena Rathor, expressed it in her speech on Westminster Bridge in London on Rebellion Day (November 17th 2018).

“If we are honest with ourselves and look into our heart’s deep interior, if we are honest from there then this isn’t about saving humanity this is about our courage to love as we have never loved before… Let us live now at the edge of our courage to love.”

But don’t take my word for it, or Skeena’s. Rather, once you have explored what you really believe in, then stared back into the abyss of an imminent societal collapse, so you may be find a radical hope of your own.

A RADICAL HOPE OF RECONCILIATION

If you, like me, hope that through growing realisation of a coming collapse, more people will awaken to a deeper understanding of themselves and life, and live with love and compassion, then that is not an idle hope. Because it is not prediction. People respond in myriad ways when the shit hits the fan. There will be some horrible reactions. Indeed, there already are. Therefore, a radical hope of humanity awakening is one where we are actively engaged in it.

In my case, that feels like why I am putting out this blog, with my half-baked ideas on the cosmos, God and all that. Because my radical hope is that many more of us will begin to explore together publicly what “spirituality” and love are and can mean today.

To make this more explicit in the Deep Adaptation framework, I now propose a 4th R to the existing ones on Resilience, Relinquishment and Restoration. The original Deep Adaptation paper has been downloaded over 100,000 times. Like Skeena, people have told me it changed their life. What I have noticed is, however, that some people who report being woken up by that paper are now calling for anything to be done to stop collapse. That is, to attempt whatever draconian measures might cut emissions and drawdown carbon. I still think bold cuts and drawdown measures are essential. But that is not the focus of Deep Adaptation, which invites us to prepare for what is now inevitable. Therefore, to make that even more explicit, I propose a fourth question to guide our reflection on how to navigate our climate tragedy:

“What could I make peace with to lessen suffering?”

This question incorporates the idea of Reconciliation with one’s death, including any difficulties and regrets in one’s life, any anger towards existence itself (or God). It also invites reconciliation between peoples, genders, classes, generations, countries, religions and political persuasions. Because it is time to make our peace. Otherwise, without this inner deep adaptation to climate collapse we risk tearing each other apart and dying hellishly. My radical hope is that more of us work together to achieve this reconciliation, in all its forms, as a basis for the fuller deep adaptation agenda that I explain in my paper.

VISIONS WANTED

Unless you are a spiritual leader, then a hope for mass awakening and reconciliation does not sound very specific. It may not immediately seem to support straightforward campaign strategies or policy development! If we are to offer a vision where our radical hope of awakening is realised, then what would that look like? From my work as a Professor of Leadership, I know a vision is meant to be tangible, relatable, credible, and relevant to the problems faced. I would really like to see your own ideas on visions in the comments below (but I wont grade them 😉)

To whet your own imaginations, here is one idea…

I envision seeing whole neighbourhoods and camps of people spontaneously singing and dancing together of their pure joy of experiencing all sensations of life, both during and between working together on useful tasks. Not because they are singing from habit, custom, obligation, or recreation, but because they are so connected to the wonder of experiencing life while serving life. I envision people feeling grateful they suddenly found there is time in their lives to sing, dance and connect with nature and each other. I envision this connection also supporting ways of production, sharing, consumption, and caring, that mean people are able to live happily with fewer resources and less certainty.

If that sounds hippy, then so be it. For me it is a highly aspirational, credible and relatable vision, one I can truly hope for and work towards. But please share your own visions below!

GETTING THERE

In the coming months and years there will be many views emerging on how to achieve change, for both cutting and drawing down emissions, as well as adapting to disruptive impacts of climate change. Some will argue for eco-socialist revolution to take over the key infrastructure, so we have the chance of everyone being fed, watered, housed and cared for as best as possible. Others will seek to harness the powers of the existing system, and turn to transnational corporations, financial institutions and international organisations. Others will continue to hope that elected representatives will be able to suddenly find within themselves the heart and boldness to act and the talent to explain sufficiently to their electorates to remain in power. Others will turn to their neighbours, local associations and local governments, to organise as best they can locally and regionally. I do not yet have a hope or vision in relation to any of those ideas, but welcome people exploring these and other ideas.

IMPOSSIBLE CONCLUSIONS

With this blog I intend to open up conversation on hope and vision rather than close it down. However, as it is a long blog, here is a summary…

We can no longer stop disruptive climate change. We might be able to slow it. We can try to reduce the harm coming from it. We can explore how to live and die lovingly because of it. But all of that we can do because we have a faith or sense that this is the right way to be alive, not because it will work. Most calls for hope that I’m hearing are from, or for, those fearful of living with death in their awareness. That’s typical, but also a recipe for discussion and action that is counter-productive to life, love and understanding. Which is exactly the opposite of the effect of those who say “don’t take away our hope”. It is time to drop all hopes and visions that arise from an inability to accept impermanence and non-control, and instead describe a radical hope of how we respond in these times. I believe it’s possible and necessary, though mutual inquiry and support, for our fears, beliefs or certainties of collapse to be brought to a place of peaceful inner and outer resourcefulness. Ours is a time for reconciliation with mortality, nature and each other.

We can develop and share a vision of more of us experiencing the invitation to live lovingly, creatively, and truthfully, in acceptance of mortality and impermanence. After all, any other hope or vision were always a tactical delusion for temporary benefit. Ultimately, many more of us may come to see that we love love more than we love life. Hopefully before too much unnecessary suffering and destruction.

You can hear me in conversation about these topics here.

Discussing with Skeena and Gail of XR

 

 

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