Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

After acceptance – some responses to anticipating collapse

Posted by jembendell on August 25, 2018

This year I have often been talking with people about the likelihood of near-term societal collapse, brought on by disruptive climate change. One reason for publishing my paper on Deep Adaptation was to invite such conversations and begin to explore more purposely what the heck this means for my own work and life. Once people move beyond the various barriers to generative dialogue on this topic, we then begin to discuss all kinds of ideas. I’ve found that people are responding in a variety of different ways. But one theme seems to be consistent – people feel nonplussed about how to explore what to do and who to talk to. People feel isolated. That can lead them back into denial.Red_and_blue_pill

To help me understand my own options and to help others to do the same, I have attempted to map out some of the responses I am witnessing once people accepting near-term societal collapse. What follows is my first attempt at some categories. For each response I have at least one person in mind, but to keep it short, I won’t the give proper examples in this post. I am not a psychologist, and rather than attempt a hack of psychological theories here, I just present these responses in layman’s terms. I have labelled them for ease of discussion in comments below (and for levity). The responses aren’t mutually exclusive – many people are responding in a number of these ways all at the same time, myself included.

I’d welcome input from psychologists, either in the comments below or in the Deep Adaptation Linked-In group. Also, please let me know which types of response that I’ve missed. Here goes:

  • Reading and talking much more about societal collapse, and all the issues it brings up, but without significantly changing behaviour. That can include being active on social media so your tweets and Facebook posts seem rather doom-laden. Let’s call this “SOS!” response.
  • Changing jobs, moving home, and starting to build a more self-sufficient good life, partly off-grid, usually in the countryside. Or researching and planning this process, actively. I’ll call that the “survivalist” response. In some cases, this response could be a form of denial, as it is going to be so difficult to isolate oneself to cope with collapse, as I have discussed elsewhere.
  • Seeking personal growth via therapy, and/or various forms of meaningful play, time in nature, spirituality, or deep conversations. Many people have expressed a massive personal transformation as they accept near term mortality and lose some of their deference to societal norms and expectations. Let’s call this a “transcendence” response.
  • Talking about societal collapse in one’s professional circles, to explore what could be done within one’s profession and beyond. I am now witnessing a few such attempts, and rather than walking away from own profession, decided to do the same, for now. Let’s call this the “professional sunk costs” response.
  • Taking more risks in one’s workplace and community, to express one’s views with less fear of repercussion. Often this involves speaking about purpose and values and not accepting the dominant assumptions about growth, profit and conformity. The “not hiding anymore” response.
  • Reducing workload to create more time for exploring the issue of climate chaos or societal collapse, in anticipation of making a major decision about changing one’s life. The “taking a breather” response.
  • Retraining to develop skills that may be relevant for being useful to oneself and others post-collapse. That could be learning first aid, horticulture, herbal medicines, musical instruments, or even learning how to use a crossbow. Though that last one doesn’t sound too gentle, as these things are done as much as pastimes as preparations, I’ll call this the “gentle prepper” response.
  • Seeking to repair or improve one’s close relationships, while smelling the flowers and being nicer to pets, neighbours and colleagues. The “palliative love” response.
  • Seeking to know how to deal better with confusion, fear, and anticipatory grief, for oneself and to help others with those emotions. The “emotional self-care” response.
  • Looking for networks of people who are creating self-reliant ‘Arks’, in order to support them and have the option to join later. The “all options open” response.
  • Deciding that the options to change one’s life and work aren’t attractive or practical now, so continuing as normal but with a greater focus on peace and joy while waiting for the collapse. This is the “keep a cyanide pill” response. Though, to be honest, I haven’t met anyone who has prepared that way…. or they haven’t told me.
  • A related response to that one is where people accept collapse, go through the range of emotions, consider a range of options and then consciously choose to try and live in denial to have a happier life for as long as they can. Sometimes this can include attempts at living the dolce vita, spending more on today that they might have, given the bleak outlook. This is the “return me to the matrix” response. Sci-fi nerds might call it the “blue pill” response.
  • Organising to get the idea that we face a climate emergency and should prepare for collapse, such as through preparing for food rationing, on to the political agenda. As it evokes the belief in national government and citizen sacrifice that we have seen during wars, I will call this the “war footing” response. I should note that people who respond in this way have a variety of views that are shaped by their existing politics and values and there is no consensus nor likely to be one.
  • Organising to campaign for geoengineering and/or carbon sequestration while we still have the capacity to act on these. Examples include Arctic cloud brightening, agroecology and kelp planting. Some call for these actions with the idea that while civilisation exists then we have the chance to reduce the speed of climate change and thus give the species a chance to avoid extinction. I’ll call it the “where’s Bruce Willis” response.
  • Turning to non-violent direct action to force changes in practices that are making matters worse. Most instances of such direct action appear to be within a carbon emissions reduction paradigm, but could be influenced now by an awareness of impending collapse. That would bring into view a range of new things to disrupt, depending on the values one holds dear after accepting collapse. I will call this the “climate peace activist” response.
  • Organising to promote a particular set of proposals, and develop certain capabilities, for how to adapt to the coming changes, in particular at local levels. Some have started focusing on practical grassroots initiatives to develop capabilities for deep adaptation. I’ll call this the “humanitarian” response.
  • Organising to promote the cultural concepts that will help us to find and express meaning after societal-collapse. It involves looking for beauty and meaning in a new context. This is one focus of the Dark Mountain group. It’s a “reframing collapse” response.
  • Evangelising about one’s views on life, the cosmos and human organisation. That evangelising can be religious, new age spirituality or a view on politics and social organisation. This response can be cloaked in stories about how becoming a believer, or more devout, will help reduce the harm of climate change (so that gets close to collapse-denial) or help with whatever form of human community may survive. Secular versions include people saying they are developing the blueprint for how humanity will be in future if everyone listens and does what they will be told. Collectively, I’ll call these the “follow me” response. One of the joys of lumping all these approaches into the same category is it will annoy the hell out of the people who respond in this way. Sorry guys, and yes its nearly always guys, but the common denominator seems to be an ego-driven need to hold the truth and be recognised for that.
  • Watching Guy McPherson videos on Youtube. The “masochist” response.
  • Sharing Guy McPherson videos with your Facebook friends. The “sadomasochist” response.

OK, that’s an in-joke. “Doomer humour” will be a fast-growing genre. And, by its own admission, fairly fast-ending.

There are other responses that I have not come across yet in person, but have heard about. These are worrying forms of response and are sometimes cited by people who don’t want to talk about these issues. They include:

  • Anger and anxiety turning into depression, sometimes leading to suicide. I have read about a couple of suicides related to anxiety caused by awareness of climate change. These were famous cases, so I don’t know of how widespread climate-influenced depression has become. It’s the “depressive” response.
  • Turning to violent direct action to either take revenge or attempt to impose change or force action. I have only heard this discussed in abstract terms, mostly when people wonder why we haven’t seen this kind of action yet. It’s the “violent” response

Mentioning these responses makes me realise that we need psychologists and others who provide counsel to people, such as coaches and religious leaders, to engage actively in this field and develop the relevant support.

Having listed the range of responses above, what does it make you think about or feel?

Does it make you ask any questions?

Might it help in any way?

Please take some time to reflect on those questions, perhaps by returning to them after you finish reading this post.

By listing the range of responses, I have begun to see some of the weaknesses in my own responses. I have begun to wonder if what I think is an informed “response” is actually just another form of denial. I am left wondering what my response might become. And what kind of response from other people do I welcome and want to associate with. And what responses I think we should actively help people to avoid.

Summarising all these responses also makes me wonder where and how we may begin to find a shared agenda and identity, so that we can begin to learn from each other, coordinate better and sustain our simple human need to belong. That is one area where it would be useful to have more conversations, online and in person. They could include a discussion on what it is we share as principles and priorities as we face collapse. In my own reflections, I have not been drawn to the survivalist or prepper response, which seems to be fear-based and maintains an illusion that it is possible to calculate and control one’s future, through one’s own individual power, amidst future turmoil.  Also, it is based on a view that it is good to survive a bit longer than your neighbour when collapse occurs. For me, that is open to debate, as the values and behaviours we believe in have always been as relevant as how long we last on this Earth.

I have met many more people who believe an imminent societal collapse invites personal and collective transformation with universal love at the core, than I have met people who become grim survivalists. “Preppers” have a label for themselves. What might be ours? I have wondered whether “collapsnik” could work. It invokes the term “peacenik” from the early 1970s, which described people who campaigned against the West’s war in Vietnam and Cambodia to an extent that it became a cultural identity for them. Similar to peaceniks, we are not apathetic, but principled, devout, counter-cultural and communitarian. Some wonder whether “collapsnik” implies we want collapse to happen. Not in my case – I like my life at the moment. But I could do with a simple way of identifying people who believe collapse is coming and have let that awareness change their lives.

Other ideas for labels are most welcome…

Photo credit: W. Carter – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

(Note I previously wrote about some of these ideas in an article for Open Democracy in 2014, though I was more agnostic back then about the situation we face.)

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47 Responses to “After acceptance – some responses to anticipating collapse”

  1. R said

    Hi, I think that’s an interesting typology of the possible responses people may have in anticipation of rapid ecosystem and climate change. I’m a psychologist, and I agree there needs to be a lot more focus on this field and development regarding this. However it’s not likely to be viewed well professionally, probably due to current narratives re anxiety and reactions to the media, and professional.preference to always be seen to remain neutral.on topics in which there is c9ntroversy. This is a shame, as psychology offers a lot in terms of helping people adapt to and survive, psychologically speaking, extreme events. I think you should include a typology that includes derealisation / dissociation (common psychological defenses to extreme stress), and one that includes the psychological impact of severe trauma (e.g. PTSD, lasting changes to neural structures related to hypervigilemce and emotions, particularly anxiety and aggression). I also think its useful to question the assumption that a ‘survivalist reaction’ implies denial. Most theories of psychology acknowledge that people have an instinct to survive, and taking pragmatic steps to try to improve survival would be seen as an adaptive psychological response from a psychological perspective. I guess it depends on whether the person involves acknowledges the sheer number of factors outside of their control when trying to adapt and organise themselves and their life, and the possibility that it may have little impact due to the sheer scale of the changes involved.

    • John Burnett/Redpanther said

      You are dead on about “survivalist reaction”, and also that there are NO guarantees. Impact here (for me), in the most likely scenarios, is what has the best odds of outliving the Collapse and regenerating normal/healthy human life.

      My benchmark for mental health is what exists in intact hunter-gatherer-permaculturist human societies – i.e. how our evolution as a life form designed us to live. This is what the enabled/intact Deep Structure of human nature looks like. The present (and doomed) “human condition” is the result, at a biological level, of a 5000-10,000 year accumulation of epigenetic damage.

      The backwoods sanctuary I’m planning is not primarily motivated by “survival”, but a radically higher quality of life – more fully free from capitalism and far more intimate with God and nature. Also a place where human young can grow up decently, (relatively) protected from what will come down. Myself, I’ll be dead by the time things get really bad.

  2. I would add what I call the “climate denialist response.” It is the response of those who know very well that we will pass crucial climate tipping points; pretend (& insist) the science isn’t settled; and, intend to take & consume & profit as much as they can, regardless of the costs. This response is deeply embedded in the belief that one can survive collapse unscathed and at everyone else’s expense.

    • I wrote about collapse-denial in my previous post here https://jembendell.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/barriers-to-dialogue-on-deep-adaptation/

    • John Burnett/Redpanther said

      See: How tech’s richest plan to save themselves after the apocalypse, Guardian, 7-24-18. They (correctly) figure they won’t even be able to trust their hired guards/mercenaries. And the vast, global extractive/economic slavery infrastructure that enables the lifestyle they MUST have will have broken up and collapsed. There will be poetic justice here. Those who think themselves most able to protect themselves from the consequences of their sick values will die the most ugly, protracted death. The “lowliest, most backward, 4th-world savages”, the hunter-gatherer-permaculturists (and those most able to adopt this way of life), in the more remote parts of the world, are the best equipped to outlive the Collapse and thrive.

      Nature ultimately eliminates anything that damages what it depends on. – Jag Bhalla, Scientific American, 7-12-13.

    • f nord said

      That, I believe, describes the mindset of our politicians. Even those who pay lip service to adaptation seem to believe that all they need to do is to promise to do better tomorrow. And the people believe that it’s someone else’s responsibility to “take the heat” — to bear the expense, discomfort, whatever. So crank up the AC, get out of town with the SUV (ever further away from the city ‘cuz the price of cottage real estate gets crazy, eh?),

      Otherwise how to explain the Canadian federal government buying pipelines, their most populous province electing someone who says he “believes in climate change and that it’s man-made” but, it seems, that it’s nevertheless appropriate to cancel existing mitigation measures, let alone do anything else.

      When I grew up, it was not “the good ol’ days.” But while some things were worse, some *were* better: one piece being the acceptance of community responsibillity and actual facts, another being that one could rely on one’s neighbours. In remote northern villages, at any rate. Neither were the pioneer days “the good ol’ days,” despite that both basically involved self-reliance of communities.

      Neither do I buy that humans used to be genetically superior — and although epigenetic damage due to “modern living” is pretty much a given, we do have the knowledge now and the technology to delve into individual particulars, and to fix a lot of it.

      Including things like tendencies to anxiety and depression. It’s another matter, though, to address what our general way of life, including education of the young, has wrought: an increasing inability to deal with anything unpleasant or “negative,” and an increasing sense of entitlement to “fun” and having one’s own way at all times.

      Personally, that we’re basically at the edges of a tipping point is not a surprise: it’s just another phase of disillusionment. The what to do about it, to help make useful change and to increase the odds that those dear or near to me “arrive intact,” is a puzzle to which I’ve as yet absolutely no answer.

      Suicide is not an answer for me, having committed to a decision against that half a century ago. Besides, it’s in the centre of the range of useless drama that leaves in its wake emotional desolation for others.

      Neither is denialism, generally: I’ve never been able to deny or even discount what I know, or to persist in behaviour I’ve realized is destructive. So I guess I’ll be looking for clues, till some kind of useful answer begins to gel. Hopefully something I can lend my efforts toward in a co-operative participatory way, in the years that are left to me.

      I don’t think Mr. Trump or Mr. Ford embody any answer … or that either even has a clue.

  3. Malcolm Waugh said

    Having listed the range of responses above, what does it make you think about or feel?

    Hey! Just what I’m interested in: categories of response, and figuring out my own response. I had a minimal list: denial, and three variants of post-acceptance – activism, party-on, hospice, suicide. And my own rough position is a combination of party-on and hospice, with intent and hope to end with suicide. I’m in many of the categories above.

    Suggested term, not snappy, but, I think, on-target: transition-aware.

  4. Dave B said

    Count me in the “keep a cyanide pill” group. I am severely disabled and would not want to live through significant events. I can barely make it through the day the way it is. My wife would join me if the time comes. We are in our 60’s, living in the States, so there is a chance that we may not see things like food shortages or rioting in our lifetimes. I do wonder what will happen to those disabled who would want to survive but find themselves isolated because of their disabilities. Will they be left behind?

    • greenholly said

      Rather than ‘keep a cyanide pill’; are these even readily available? ; there must be an argument here for dignified euthanasia. To come home and find a relative has used their own method of early extermination would be hugely traumatic to family, friends and neighbours at a time when they will already suffering enormous trauma.
      A calm, planned and peaceful exit would enable people time to say goodbye, mourn their loved one, and give them the reassurance that their loved one chose to go rather than just died or was killed.
      Mental health will become so critical, families should do everything to protect each other and those around them.
      Knowing that such an option would be readily available if everything really became too much may give people the confidence to carry on if possible to a better form of life if they knew they wouldn’t have to plan and execute a self termination strategy.
      Personally, I am more in the ‘climate peace activist ‘ at present but could change.

    • Nikki said

      Dave, I’m with you, though I’m thinking more of a bullet than cyanide. I’m at 50 now, my current partner is at 60, neither of us is in perfect health, and neither of us has family to band together with, so we would not fare well if society collapses. Do I think the disabled will be left behind (along with even the relatively healthy elderly, and perhaps many of the children)? In a word, yes. There are two reasons for that. First, my read on what happens after societal collapse is that major violence will break out sooner or later. Maybe initially people will come together, as they do in major disasters, but when the food shortages persist and serious hunger sets in, the strong will take what they need from those weaker than them. Most will be concerned with only their own family and kin. Those who can fight to protect what they have get to keep it, and perhaps take more from others; those who lack a strong clan are doomed. The second issue is that in the event of a societal collapse, medications will become scarce and hospitals may cease to function, so anyone who is dependent on medical care to survive will be doomed. So, since I expect to be older, infirm, and lacking either wealth or a strong clan to protect me, I view a planned suicide to be better than a slow death by starvation or lack of medical care.

      • John Burnett/Redpanther said

        At age 61, I have numerous tears in 3 left shoulder tendons (from a lifetime of physical work), but somehow managed to lift 100 lb. flagstones and move several tons of rock/soil amendments this summer. Oh, and supposedly I have asthma, take NOTHING for it – but can do 30 hours of physical work per week. Surgical tendon repair will get done while I still have access to modern medicine (thanks to Obamacare). Bone density and muscle mass are simple to maintain, as is back maintenance. I have pics of “savages” (normal humans) who at age 65 put ME to shame. “Savagery” (including the “savage” diet) is good for your health.

        The war of all against all you describe will be less pressing in the backwoods where there is lots of Forest Service land. Almost NO ONE has a clue how to live in nature there, and almost no one is there now.

        I’m with you when it gets my time to be 85 or even 90, when I could easily have Alzheimer’s or advanced Parkinson’s, and Medicare/Social Security may not exist. I hear a combined OD on opioids and barbituates is nice.

  5. tylerdisney said

    I’ve been exploring the gradations of denial in myself for about a year now, after I became aware of it, and this list of responses nicely clarifies some of them. I’m moving further and further from any certainty regarding the appropriateness of response the more I think about it, for a variety of reasons.

    This makes me wonder about the time relationship of these responses. I recognize many of the responses in my life over the past several years, and in *my personal* introspection I consider some to be early/immature responses to my dawning realization of the inevitability of collapse, with others reflecting a growing amount of reflection and maturity applied to the “what the hell do I do now?” question. And, to be clear, some of those responses are still in the aspirational category – a response I hope to soon have the maturity to adopt, even though I’m at this moment resistant to it.

    So – can some of these responses be ordered on a timeline? The parallels to Kubler Ross 5 stages of grief are clear, but as you say, best left to the professional psychologists (I’m not one).

    I also am thinking about the concept of valuing dissensus, that is, admitting that besides a few edge cases, perhaps we aren’t capable of assigning value to any particular response. Furthermore, pushing for a variety and diversity of responses might be a best practice approach – encourage people to run with whatever makes sense to them, develop and nurture an ecosystem of responses, go easy on the judgement, and see what seems to work best with our unfolding environment.

    Which, of course, begs the question of what the hell “works best with” means, because it implies a goal. Is that measured by psychological well-being? Concrete results in terms of carbon sequestered, citizens mobilized?

    It took me months if not years of dealing with collapse inevitability to reframe my thinking – I was programmed to evaluate everything in terms of “can this help sustain our civilization and avoid collapse?” and it permeated my thinking in obvious as well as subtle ways. I had to do a lot of work to start thinking in terms of “What does this mean/what value will it have/what impact will it have in the context of a near-term post-collapse society?”

    I work in the green building industry. I’m pretty sure that most of the projects we work on have basically no utility in the post-collapse world, as most of them are predicated on the assumption of a grid, political and economic stability, etc. At best some of these buildings will function as shelter, but as an engineer none of the mechanical/electrical/plumbing systems I’m involved with will be working. I basically view my current life’s work as placing valuable materials like copper in obvious places for future generations (/me in a decade or two) to one day salvage for something actually fucking useful, like making pots or something.

    Thank you for the work you’re doing. I’ve been following you for about a year now and have gotten a lot of value from your writing. The isolation of these viewpoints can be very hard to deal with, as you know and wrote about, so your emails while challenging definitely provide a vector of comfort.

    Cheers, Tyler

    On Sat, Aug 25, 2018 at 5:18 AM Professor Jem Bendell wrote:

    > jembendell posted: “This year I have often been talking with people about > the likelihood of near-term societal collapse, brought on by disruptive > climate change. One reason for publishing my paper on Deep Adaptation was > to invite such conversations and begin to explore more ” >

  6. Paul Heft said

    The “collapsnik” label has been used for years. It seems appropriate, but expect some push back because many people interpret “-nik” as derogatory (as stated at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/-nik).

    Comments on the listed responses to anticipating collapse:
    • I’m sure that many of us collapsniks recognize the listed categories and realize we may have moved through several of them while trying to orient ourselves in anticipation of collapse. While each of us might currently identify with one or two of the categories, we probably also have reasons to condemn some categories. This might make for interesting discussions, but also might become rabbit holes to fall into, with minimal productive outcomes. Generally speaking, I recommend that we approach others with compassion and a lot of true listening when examining differences—but I realize that’s awfully difficult, especially in online forums or when time is pressing. Alternatively, have fun watching the blaming, shaming, and virtue signaling proceed! Whether anyone succeeds in explicitly helping others to avoid unproductive responses will be interesting for me to watch; it seems an attractive idea but I wonder if it’s realistic.
    • How should we behave in the context of collapse with other humans and nonhumans, as producers, consumers, citizens, neighbors, and so on? There are ethical issues that might be considered in some categories and completely ignored in others.
    • Survivalist: For some this is a recognition that collapse does not occur all at once, it stretches out two or more decades. Therefore they want to become as “resilient” as they can (without being able to finally shield themselves), hoping that during the descent they might have better options available than the masses of us.
    • Transcendence or Emotional Self-Care: Some are calling for “grief work” as a key part of accepting collapse and personally transforming. Examples: Carolyn Baker, Joanna Macy, Meg Wheatley.
    • Keep a Cyanide Pill: What distinguishes this from Palliative Love? Does the former just include less concern for others?
    • Return Me to the Matrix: I’m surprised how many people know that collapse is in the cards yet they prefer to push off consciousness of it in favor of more immediate concerns. (This might be considered a form of denial.) They turn their attention to rising fascism, the teetering financial system, threatened habitats, various injustices, and so on, or to personal matters such as raising their family, developing their career, or various personal challenges. They often explain their approach in terms of the future never being certain (the difficulty of predictions), so that other disasters and problems besides climate collapse also loom in importance.
    • Where’s Bruce Willis: I have seen this interpreted as giving more nonhuman species a chance to avoid extinction, even if humans become extinct.
    • Climate Peace Activist: Joanna Macy, for example, advocates “holding actions” and dismantling the “industrial growth society”.
    • Humanitarian: This probably includes some work by Transition Towns, which also respond with Not Hiding Anymore and perhaps Gentle Prepper approaches. Another example is Meg Wheatley’s “Warrior for the Human Spirit” concept, which can operate at organizational or local levels.

  7. “This year I have often been talking with people about the likelihood of near-term societal collapse, brought on by disruptive climate change.”
    Anyone paying attention to my public comments knows that I have been speaking like Jem Bendell and Meyer Hillman for the last 5 yrs after I spent two years trying to deny the conclusions of Guy McPherson and then accepted the science after joining the dots few seem capable of linking.
    The shit has hit the fan folks, my time speaking out about this is drawing to a close as is habitation on this planet.
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/26/were-doomed-mayer-hillman-on-the-climate-reality-no-one-else-will-dare-mention

  8. Tiziano Gianni said

    My answer is:
    “Humanity has lost wisdom (for various reasons) and does not deserve to live on planet Earth (only the indigenous peoples, they deserve). I am sad and I think of the wild nature, which has no faults of this kind.
    I feel guilty about people and exploited human beings and wild nature.
    When I can, I express my pain with the people I talk to. “

  9. uilyam said

    Personally, I have been dealing with this problem since I first articulated an initial formulation of it in 1969. One of my multiple responses is to laugh a lot. I also try to expand my awareness in small ways, fighting against what I currently call “cultural solipsism.” I still retain one assumption from my initial problem formulation: A human being is incapable of understanding the problem humanity faces, while keeping in mind the dictum that assume makes an ass of u and me.

    Because I favor wider discussion of these issues, I have shared the following on my FB page and in two closed FB groups (“Whistling In The Dark” and “Doomer Humo(u)r, Art, Poetry, Cracker Barrel Philosophy and Bombing Society”):

    A professor has identified 22 types of response to near-term collapse: “SOS!” “survivalist” “transcendence” “professional sunk costs” “not hiding anymore” “taking a breather” “gentle prepper” “palliative love” “emotional self-care” “all options open” “keep a cyanide pill” “return me to the matrix a.k.a. blue pill” “war footing” “where’s Bruce Willis” “climate peace activist” “humanitarian” “reframing collapse” “follow me” “masochist” “sadomasochist” “depressive” and “violent” responses.
    =====
    He also notes: “‘Doomer humour’ will be a fast-growing genre. And, by its own admission, fairly fast-ending.”

    For details and discussion, see .
    =====

    I particularly recognize “an ego-driven need to hold the truth and be recognised for that.”

  10. uilyam said

    Edited:

    Personally, I have been dealing with this problem since I first articulated an initial formulation of it in 1969. One of my multiple responses is to laugh a lot. I also try to expand my awareness in small ways, fighting against what I currently call “cultural solipsism.” I still retain one assumption from my initial problem formulation: A human being is incapable of understanding the problem humanity faces, while keeping in mind the dictum that assume makes an ass of u and me.

    Because I favor wider discussion of these issues, I have shared the following on my FB page and in two closed FB groups (“Whistling In The Dark” and “Doomer Humo(u)r, Art, Poetry, Cracker Barrel Philosophy and Bombing Society”):
    =====
    A professor has identified 22 types of response to near-term collapse: “SOS!” “survivalist” “transcendence” “professional sunk costs” “not hiding anymore” “taking a breather” “gentle prepper” “palliative love” “emotional self-care” “all options open” “keep a cyanide pill” “return me to the matrix a.k.a. blue pill” “war footing” “where’s Bruce Willis” “climate peace activist” “humanitarian” “reframing collapse” “follow me” “masochist” “sadomasochist” “depressive” and “violent” responses.

    He also notes: “‘Doomer humour’ will be a fast-growing genre. And, by its own admission, fairly fast-ending.”

    For details and discussion, see .
    =====

    I particularly recognize “an ego-driven need to hold the truth and be recognised for that.”

  11. Malcolm Ayles said

    Initially I tried to change things, fighting for action on climate change, even starting my own NFP. Since then I have come to accept we won’t take any action significant enough to prevent or even delay collapse. Initially this was really depressing but have moved on to accept it.

    Now I keep my goals short term, not looking too far ahead, avoid conversations about long term plans. Not worry about long term finances / health so much.
    I look to enjoy my life as much as I can today, take more holidays, work less hours and party more.
    Also have taken steps to stock food, water and off grid power in a dependable location. This will give some short term ability to insulate those I love from the suffering of the madness of initial collapse I hope.

    Live for today, party hard but be prepared for the horror to come.

    I share the truth with those who want to hear and discuss it but no more. I don’t see the point in convincing anyone of anything, serves no purpose now.

    • dustyravens@gmail.com said

      Wow Malcolm- brother in arms- your succinct description of scenario,psychology, and action fits my own less my “just look busy” adaptation.

  12. John Burnett/Redpanther said

    I recently skipped thru a thick book that just came out: “We’re Doomed. Now What?”. Lots of philosophizing/thinking out loud. And the author has a 3-year-old daughter. I thought – I don’t have time for this. I have the PRACTICALITIES of “Now What?” to take care of.

    A practicality: I just finished working out the sequence for rotated lentil/wheat permaculture. Rain-fed, and will work with less than half of the 70″ of annual precipitation the Land I’m interested in now gets. Nearly all the fertilizer, and all the compost/crushed charcoal will come directly from cleaning up the existing forest to restore it’s health (and from the nitrogen-fixing lentil slash). This also greatly reduces fire hazard and greatly raises acorn yield. Lentils, wheat, and acorn (which must be pounded and leeched to eat) together provide complete protein. One old-growth black oak, with space for mid-day sun to reach the sides, will provide 500 lbs. or even more acorn every other year. As for the permaculture Land, it will over time become a more temperate version of the tierra prietta found in the Amazon, which was created over time by the Original People (“Indians”) there.

    The author of “We’re Doomed. Now What?” says he’s a bad environmentalist and a worse meditator. 300 mcg. of LSD, taken in the backwoods with appropriate intent, can take care of THAT.
    A body of what is (badly) called mystical experience, IF applied to one’s life over time, is what makes solving this BIG problem possible. A word the Ju/’hoansi use for mystical experience is Seeing Properly. I have used the word Direct Knowledge. One of the results is a very powerful life instinct fused with little fear of death – EXACTLY what the coming times will require.

  13. Arthur Noll said

    I suppose I could be categorized in the “follow me, guys” slot, since I’m trying to give a blueprint of how to measure value and behavior, that I think would have better odds of survival, and would work better in the future. I can’t be absolutely sure I’m put in this slot. One way I don’t fit, perhaps, is I’m not looking for everyone to follow me, just people who agree. I’m doubtful that is enough to take me out of this category, though.

    I find it interesting that if I am in fact being put in this category, you get some joy in lumping me in with others with blueprints I don’t agree with because you think it would annoy me. And yes, of course it is a little annoying to be rejected, though the lumping isn’t what is most annoying to me. It is more annoying to be dismissed as ego driven to be the one with truth, to have it implied that it is wrong to think you have superior ways of thinking about something. I have to wonder, since when is science more concerned about how someone thinks of themselves, than with the validity of the observation and logic given? And that would apply to everyone put in this category, not just me. But that is certainly how I want to be judged here.

    I think that when someone wants to annoy you, you have probably first annoyed them. I’m sorry about that. People have hounded me for a long time to shorten up my presentation of ideas, but when you do that, it can make things a lot harsher. I’m 63, have made a lot of mistakes in my life, making mistakes was a big part of learning what I’ve put together. Having made such mistakes, I know how easy it can be to make them, and I don’t feel superior to others making similar mistakes. I very much doubt I’m beyond making more mistakes either, but at my age and what I’ve lived through, and the condition of the world, I think the time I have left to make more mistakes is probably growing rather short. To give what I’ve learned and die, is the most realistic outcome I think I can hope for. If I could do that, I’d really like to know how it all turns out, but some things we can’t have.

    .

    .

    • Paul Heft said

      “It is more annoying to be dismissed as ego driven [if you are] the one [claiming the] truth, to have it implied that it is wrong to think you have superior ways of thinking about something.”

      Arthur, I think you hit on something that doesn’t just involve the “follow me” category. At least a few of the other categories’ proponents may raise suspicions about motivations.

      Let me use the “emotional self-care” response as an example. Say that a psychologically-trained person wants to inform the world about how we need to deal with difficult emotions while navigating collapse. Those who don’t like the advice may question whether anyone should listen to the “self-proclaimed expert”. They might argue, “It’s not adequately backed up by scientific evidence,” or “It’s so self-serving, she expects to make a living as a collapse expert,” or “It’s just ego driven, he needs to have the world see him as an expert.” Humans are expert at cooking up rationalizations for resisting a new idea.

      I think what Jem was getting at is that we need a category to describe people who claim, “If only everyone thinks or behaves as I advise, together we could manage a better outcome. Let’s make it so!” I suspect that you fall into such a category, using science as your main analytical method. Others may fall into the category coming from other angles, such as religion, or a particular sociological theory, or anarchism or Marxism, or based on an earlier tradition, and so on. I think the “follow me” label is appropriate.

      These proponents aren’t necessarily ego driven–some certainly seem to be–but, as you suggest, why should we bother questioning their motivations? We should be able to evaluate their claims or decide whether to join their movements using a variety of truth-testing criteria, scientific or otherwise.

  14. Jem, I agree with you and greatly appreciate your writing this and making it available to all of us. Over the last five years I’ve come to a similar conclusion.

    If you’d like to audio record this, I’d love to feature it on my “Grace Limits/Deep Sustainability” audio page, here (as you can see, you’ll be in good company 🙂

    http://thegreatstory.org/sustainability-audios.html

    You can ignore the blue box. I only added it so folk coming to my page would not be immediately frightened away. The green box is my attempt at prioritizing the more than 1,000 hours of audios on this page.

  15. dannybloom said

    Another category to consider , the cli-fi category, for creative types who write write cli-fi novels such as Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver to communicate near societal collapse issues. See my website since I coined the term cli-fi.net

  16. RogerCO said

    Good post, much food for real life discussion. Here I just wanted to share a lovely webirony that put an advertisment for life insurance at the end of your text. Has the interweb developed a sense of humour 😉

  17. I want to add a piece that carries quiet attention to what is actually happening and how to be with this. Being with my mom in a prolonged process of dying, I learned deep lessons about how to be with imminent death. Towards the very end I felt inadequate along side of a sense of urgency. She had been in a dementia blur for any months. Instincts told me to begin with being very honest. I told that her time had come and she was going to to die. And that I wanted to be sad together, in the truth. Her eyes opened and cleared for the first time in many months. She popped out of the dementia. We cried together, holding hands very gently. And in the flow of things there were some things she wanted to say that were snagged in her about the past. I listened and spoke my own truths, simply. A great stream of love opened between us after a lifetime of challenge in our connection. It was precious beyond words, changing a checked past, and opening the gates for the purest expression of love. Her last words were, “take care of the water.” She died the next day.

    What I want to say is that I think we have to learn our way into this time. Each one of us is confronted with a different and unique channel of listening and the opportunity for completions and profound connection with life. What humility it takes to stand in the face of what we have wrought and not know what to do. Somehow women innately know how to give birth. We can do this end of the cycle too. And we need the support of one another. This site is important, thanks Jem and each one.

  18. In the last 4 years as a result of my exposure to many people dealing with habitat collapse the responses you have identified are fairly comprehensive. Bravo – In the nthe love group on facebook we have also identified ‘intellectualising’ – where discussions go round and round and it is a form of denial where the talking/writing acts as an emotional shield. – it is where somehow talking about it is a cover for actually dealing with it personally and it takes precedence over the emotional landscape and tends to be a plateau in acceptance – the words seem to say a person has accepted it but there is a second stage of grief and acceptance when it moves into the affective domain – the feelings side.

    I would also add the Questioner response – where ‘everything’ is on the table for change.Home Relationships Activity Lifestyle Values system – the I have no idea what to do – but i know it is not what i am doing now response.

    May I also suggest that the ‘Survivalist’ response is also connected to the desire for a different lifestyle and that ‘waiting until i retire’ is no longer feasible so additionally people are fast tracking their lifetime goals..

    We have not faced such an existential threat like this before. I am in the ‘holding space and connecting people we can talk to about this’ camp. It is why i do what i do right now because there is a huge need and it seems to help a lot.

  19. Can I ask exactly where this ‘categorization’ of responses is going? The tone of belittling, of putting down people for the myriad of responses feels like so much intellectual wankery and hubris that it leaves me somewhat stunned. I have had this horrible feeling all day after reading this and your response fills me with dismay at the hubris of thinking to word those genuine people’s grief, dismay and concern in such terms leaves me thinking you have yet another step of acceptance to go and to you this is all just a thought experiment.

    Saddened to read this. It has been smouldering in my mind all day while i considered the FEELING of what you were writing and between the lines i see things that concern me greatly.

    • Thank you Wendy for the depth of your response. I would like to hear about the things that concern you greatly.

      • Facing grief follows a known pattern. Planetary grief and response is something not only do we not have a precedence for – the sheer size of it creates a sense of losing solid ground. What concerns me is a sense of being still locked in the mindset and thinking that there is a single answer, the categorization bespeaks a thinking style that likes things in neat boxes – but the reality is that dealing with the real world concerns is a messy business. There is much overlap and there is also the constantly changing nature of the emotional response that perhaps cannot be pinned down into a neat document.

        There feels almost a contempt of each response in the language used – the judgement. Judgement is not particularly useful when talking about the complexity of very human responses to anticipation collapse of habitat. I particularly felt the ad hominem attack on Guy Mc Pherson was a low blow and completely undeserved and ugly – everyone is doing the best they can from where they are at. We as a very small percentage of an small percentage that both care and are concerned should be reaching out to each other not knocking each other down.

        There will always be differences between people….we should work from a commonality not a beginning point documenting division.

    • Jeff Currey said

      Wendy, you are obviously a beautiful, highly intelligent, caring person and I feel love reading your reply to Barbara Cecil. Thank you.
      Please don’t let them drag you down. You clearly understand the issues, while others flounder around trying to get a grasp.

      • I too feel a lot of compassion for myself and for others who are courageous enough to take in the necessity of deep adaptation. Over the years and months I have felt myself recalibrating, breathing out, going thorough walls of resistance, finding equilibrium, being knocked off balance, managing anger and grief alternately, finding solid ground, coming to terms with death, working with my own need for context…and more. I am hoping this is a place where this kind of wrestling and change can be supported. It’s why I simply wrote the entry that I did, rather than worrying about the category stuff. I am inclined now to begin my own web site where these depths and consternation can be held in one another. A sanctuary as we face the reality of the times on multiple fronts now, and find our footing in thought and action that suits who each one is.

      • uilyam said

        Barbara, if you follow your inclination and do “begin my own web site,” post a link to it here?

      • Uilyam, will do. Take care.

      • John Burnett/Redpanther said

        I also agree with Wendy. It is FAR easier to categorize OTHER people’s responses than to lay out the PRACTICAL foundation of a real deep adaption in real life. I prefer the word regeneration, as late capitalism is a DISEASE that deserves to die. Regeneration here also refers to regenerating healthy human nature (which we STILL have the DNA for).

        Nature is NOT going to die, it is going to change. The Permian Extinction (around 250 million years ago) was FAR worse than anything late capitalism will manage to do before it collapses, and Nature regenerated.

        A practical example: I’m ASSUMING a temperature increase in the ecosystem of my planned backwoods sanctuary of 8-9 degrees F by the end of the century. This would mean a July/Aug. max of 95-96 where the initial Land base will be – a little too hot for the tan oaks that now totally dominate the broadleaf part of the forest there – but just fine for black oaks. (BOTH bear LOTS of food if the forest isn’t overcrowded; you have to know how to store acorn and prepare it). So black oaks can be planted to facilitate the necessary ecosystem change. Black oaks also need less precipitation than tan oaks, but this may not drop and could actually increase – due to stronger atmospheric rivers from the tropics during our wet season. Also there is very nice Forest Service land around 1500-2000 ft. higher in elevation not far away that the initial residential Land base can be moved to – because by the end of the century the Forest Service will no longer exist. This will have a climate similar to what the initial Land base has now. Humans can move far easier than the vegetation zones. We can also facilitate the plant community changes higher at elevations too.

        More immediately, I’m surveying the health of the forest around the initial Land base – this will take up to a few years given the shear size of the area. I know how the Original People (“wild Indians”) tended this ecosystem to maximum health, and will find out what the few people already owning houses/cabins there know about this. All these TERRIBLE forest fires we are having out West are NOT primarily due to climate change. They are due to stupid/ignorant “forest management” by the logging corporations and the (capitalist)State. The bad decisions were already made decades/generations ago. Now the bill is coming due. Sort of like the whole mess.

        One last positive note: healthy forests are an IMMENSE carbon sink – FAR vaster than the silly little carbon-extraction technologies The Economist stupidly yaks about. Emptying the Titanic with teacups.

    • rightbug said

      For me personally, I found the categorization useful as it gave me a framework to start thinking about my own responses currently and the range of potential responses moving forward.

      Tone is always a tricky thing when talking about existential matters. One person’s levity is another’s snark and as a writer I would imagine it’s a hard line to walk. It strikes me that the sort of people who have reached a level of acceptance that would draw them to a post of this sort are also the sort of people whose own attitudes are not likely to be adversely affected by the author’s choice of tone but I agree with you and others who say that there is not much to be gained and potentially some harm to be done by casting judgement on people’s responses.

  20. Jeff Currey said

    So far, several of these categories apply to my own experience, though none exactly. A little gentle prepper while “keeping a cyanide pill”?
    At any rate I am a “staying busy with enjoyable work, loving my walks with the dog, discussing collapse with my doomer friend, while watching the weather channel” kind of guy, aka “the hobbyist” who indulges his own eye for detail while observing the absurdity of the whole thing awaiting NTHE.
    An “informed denial” category similar to “return me to the Matrix” but which could also be more appropriately called “Jesus is Coming- look busy”.

    • John Burnett/Redpanther said

      Fergit the cyanide pill. 300 mcg. of LSD in the backwoods with appropriate intent might be a LOT more constructive. What (clueless) “civilization” calls mystical experience has a way of making things very clear. The Ju/’hoansi call this Seeing Properly. The necessary deep, radical rupture with the existing disease (which as a practical matter has to be phased) requires a DEEP, experiential spiritual foundation. This foundation results in a very powerful life instinct fused with little fear of death – exactly what will be required. And even terminally ill individuals have found psilocybin and LSD very helpful with end of life issues. There are new FDA-approved clinical studies now. See the Johns Hopkins Psilocybin Project, for example. God has even provided Psilocybe cyanensis free of charge in our backwoods.

  21. You ask for psychologists to respond to topics that deep adaptation evokes. As a psychotherapist I celebrate the depth and scale and ‘due diligence’ of your reflexivity. For me as a psychotherapist this is the best we can do, though it may not be enough.

    I went through much of the inner and outer turmoil that you describe so eloquently in the production of a video Messages From The Blue Planet – The Climate Emergency This started out from the premise of asking, as some kind of elder, what did I have to say to my grandchildren that might be useful in their lives?

    Research for the video (before becoming a psychotherapist/facilitator I had a long career as film director for broadcast TV) escalated from a calm review of what I might have to offer based on my lived experience, to an intense enquiry into climate change. This was a rude awakening that became recurringly more challenging as I collected material and tried to figure out what, the ‘Big Picture’ of climate change was, and I came to roughly the same conclusion as you have, that ‘business-as-usual’ can’t go on, won’t go on.

    I also ran into resistance from people who, for me count as peer reviewers of several of the varieties that you describe; disbelief at my account of the contributing causes of climate change and quite strident objections to how hope was being extinguished. There was also a personal oscillation in my sense of civic accountability as a practitioner, was it legitimate to expose the scale of the climate change threat publicly?

    If I keep to your topics of how climate change is being experienced/denied, two notable issues emerged. The first was: how might such confronting material be ‘voiced’; this was not a documentary, I had already decided that there would be no data, no statistics and no celebrity interviews. I realised that I could choose to speak as the Earth, the Planet, a semi-organic entity that, while intrinsically on automatic, had something to say about its experience at the hands of humankind. An artistic choice.

    This choice had an often intensely emotional outcome that both convinced me of the validity of speaking out and the relevance of what I was producing. Editing a video like this at a professional level requires endless repetition of the material and as the assembly and voicing came together I found that quite often as I viewed them, it tripped me into tears, lots of tears. As a practitioner this is something to embrace and I neither looked for it nor avoided the feelings, even though they occurred quite frequently. The distress was evidently grief, feelings beyond mere sadness, mourning for the death of an astonishingly elaborate, complex, even beautiful civilisation and its creators, that however wonderful, was engaged in terminal self harm.

    To conclude, I feel that in bringing out the inevitability of near term social collapse, denial and disavowal may often arise because the news can indeed threaten to trigger expression, to ‘re-stimulate’, pre-existing deep and sometimes very deep experience of loss in many of us. The expression of this grief and associated feelings is still very inhibited in society so that a failure to be able to access and work through it towards some form of adaptation stalls action, feeding inertia and complacency.

  22. The link for Messages From The Blue Planet was deleted, it can be accessed here

  23. Jay said

    I think the characterization of “preppers” as selfish may be counter-productive, and I’d like to change your mind:

    I consider myself a prepper, but primarily because I have come to the conclusion that my current skill set is not useful to anyone in a post-collapse society. Society is going to need people who have skill sets that are more practical than paper-pushing and typing…and they need people who can teach those skills to others *before* the collapse comes.

    Personally, I consider myself a technologist…not the kind that thinks technology will save us, but the kind that wants to explore questions like, “How do we repurpose the alternators from those cars we can’t drive, in order to make sure hospitals have electricity for another 10-20 years?” and “Bicycles are great, and must be used for more than just personal transportation. How can we make the best use out of them, and what do we replace the tires with when they start breaking down in 5-10 years?” And “How do we make sure more people are trained in repurposing old (i.e., existing) technology?”

    It’s won’t solve the problem of, “What do we do after that time?” But it will buy us more time to make the transition…because I’m pretty sure we’re going to mostly keep going like we are, until we go over the side of the cliff.

    I hope you’ll reconsider your position on preppers. Perhaps convince more of us to join the “How can we use our new skills for the community as a whole?” group. 😉

    • Nikki said

      Interesting approach, Jay. I think you are spot on about thinking about what skills will continue to be useful and how to repurpose or recycle existing technologies. Lacking technological skills or mechanical inclination myself, I’m looking into learning how to make, repair, and alter clothing. Absent endless cheap stuff from China, people will certainly need to either make their own clothes or alter whatever they can scrounge. I also view learning to shoot as an essential skill. Call me a doomer if you will, but from what I’ve seen of my fellow humans, should government-imposed law and order break down, the strong will simply take from the weak, and those who don’t want to be victims had better be prepared to fight back. Remember that peasant classes were always dominated by warrior classes. I do not think a time of scarcity will necessarily bring out the best in the surviving humans. Those with building skills, who can scavenge parts from abandoned structures to repair pipes, electrical wiring, etc. will also find that their skills are in demand.

  24. In which category would you place Drawdown / Hawken ?

  25. […] explores the possible range of psychological and emotional reactions people might feel when confronted with this uncomfortable […]

  26. rightbug said

    One issue that I am wrestling with that I would love to see some discussion on is what to say to family, friends, loved ones and colleagues when the subject comes up. While I am vocal and try to raise awareness and concern on the subject of climate change generally, I have at times felt guilty about depressing people who already share concerns about the subject when I get too deep into the trajectory of things and how dramatically it will affect our lives and the lives of our children, nieces, friends, etc. And that was actually before I came to accept the inevitability of near term collapse. Since then I have not discussed the subject in detail with anyone apart from my wife and even there I’ve been vague on how much sooner I expect things to really turn for the worse.

    It seems silly to feel guilty for evangelizing on the subject of climate change but, aside from Facebook appeals into the void, the sorts of folks I talk to about climate change are part of the choir — People who accept climate change and are immensely frustrated by the world’s refusal/inability to address it. For educators, scientists, politicians, professionals in relevant fields, there is both the means and responsibility to speak frankly on the subject but what about those of us who discuss the subject on a more personal level? Is it my place to force the red pill on folks who are already concerned about climate change but perhaps unaware of exactly what the near term ramifications are? Do I have a responsibility to warn folks so they can start preparing themselves? Do I even want to do so?

    Currently I’m choosing not to do so. My own response so far mostly falls in the palliative love category. Not so much repairing relationships, because I’ve always been fine on that front, but reveling in and enriching my relationships with friends, family, those I love, colleagues, total strangers, etc. I suppose there will come a time in the not so distant future where such conversations will become inevitable and necessary and important but what about the time between then and now?

    I would love to hear what others think on this subject. I’m not sure how well I’ve articulated my feelings on the subject and, as mentioned above, I realize there is a difference between public and private communication and that public figures must necessarily answer these questions differently than others.

    As an aside, I often return in my mind to George R Stewart’s novel Earth Abides. It’s a book that had a profound positive effect on how I react to change or the prospect of change. It helps that my wife, temperamentally and philosophically, is a near perfect analog for the character of Emma in the novel. Over time I have moved closer and closer to her point of view which is one of acceptance, adaptation and resiliency.

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