Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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




28 Responses to “Hope and Vision in the Face of Collapse – The 4th R of Deep Adaptation”

  1. Beth said

    Hope is wishing for something over which you have no agency. We hope for things we can’t do much of anything about. If we could do something, we’d act, not hope.

    I think most people, when they say “I need hope!”, mean they hope that civilization doesn’t collapse. However, it is civilization that is causing all the damage to our planet that will eventually cause civilization to collapse. Therefore, I believe we should not only *hope* civilization collapses, we should do everything in our power to make that happen.

    Of course civilization collapsing will be painful. It will require coming to terms with death, as you’ve said so eloquently. But we’ll have to do that no matter what — we all die. And many of us will surely die prematurely in either a business-as-usual scenario or a civilization collapses scenario.

    Working to collapse civilization as quickly as possible will at least help save some small amount of the “natural world” that is left for those that remain after the collapse. Preventing fossil fuel infrastructure *now* helps preserve some clean air and water and soil for later. NOT preventing that fossil fuel infrastructure now and waiting for everything to just play out and collapse means there will be fewer unpolluted (or less polluted, since everything’s polluted now) areas left for wildlife and what remains of humans to live.

    I think your fourth R, reconciliation, should mean “re-indigenizing”. It should be reconciling who we are now with who we once were: people who used to live sustainably as hunters & gatherers on the land. Our indigenous ancestors lived sustainably on the land for thousands of years without wrecking the planet. We could do that again if we really wanted to (in much smaller numbers). It should be reconciling with a non-patriarchial, male-dominated culture–men reconciling with women, living as partners, and in community with other men and women without hierarchy. It should be reconciling with wild nature, re-learning the plants and the animals and the rhythms of life and death. Of course it would mean giving up everything we know about how to live on the planet in industrial civilization, for a plain and simple life, which is why everyone “hopes” that life as we know it — industrial civilization — will continue.

    But, in the end, we have no choice. Either we will actively choose to reconcile, to re-indigenize, or we will be forced to. I’d rather actively choose to do it. To me radical “hope” is in fact radical “action”. To put natural communities — of humans, of wildlife, of wilderness — first, and be willing to sacrifice our individual comforts for the good of something greater than us (as you suggest is possible). Will we do it? Unlikely. But one can hope 🙂

    • Paul Vare said

      Sometimes a thought just hits you between the eyes as blindingly obvious; thank you for this one: “…it is civilization that is causing all the damage to our planet that will eventually cause civilization to collapse…” and the logical next step – civilization (as we know it) needs to go sooner rather than later.

      This will be a helpful thought to share with my education students when they start to grow concerned at the facts and figures that I (feel I must) share with them when we discuss sustainability. I found this thought a relief (presumably part of what Jem terms ‘release’).

      I usually introduce this topic with something along the lines of “it’s not the planet that’s having a crisis, it’s us – so think hard about what it is you want to ‘save’ because it isn’t ‘the world’.” Your response here pushes that argument along and will lead nicely onto a consideration of deep adaptation. Thanks.

      • What Beth is saying, reiterated by Paul, resonates with the de-growth agenda that Jason Hickel and others are promoting. I.e. it is better to have a managed collapse; than a chaotic collapse. De-growth as a guiding principle would support this; we would be purposefully shrinking the economy (at least the most toxic parts of it) .If the inevitable direction of travel is collapse of civilisation (as we know it), it is better to go with the flow, than to fight against the current.

        Our current paradigm around ‘the global economy’ is that it is something that grows, and that that growth is good regardless of which sectors of the economy are driving that growth. The idea that global economic growth is an unquestionably good thing is a deeply embedded frame. A re-framing process is crucial, we need to look at the different sectors of economy and make decisions over whether success is judged on their overall growth or contraction.

        Arms industry growing = bad; Vegan restaurant industry growing = good.

        The likelihood of course is that the net effect of wanting to de-grow the most toxic industries is that the global economy would de-grow; hence ‘purposefully shrinking the economy’. The key thing is that we’d have to have a population (and leaders) who are not uncomfortable or deeply scared about this sort of planned de-growth. Governments will always want to ‘protect jobs’ because it is the surest way of preventing civil unrest and lawlessness; it would be very very hard for any Government to state, as a policy position, that they want to prevent businesses from creating jobs however ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they are. To coin a phrase, we need a ‘jobs first’ de-growth (maybe that’s what Corbyn is up to with his ‘jobs first Brexit’?!)

      • Beth said

        Managed de-growth would be better than what we are doing now (growing infinitely on a finite planet); but what I’m actually saying is more than that: we need to radically rethink everything about how we live on this planet.

        Arms industry growing = bad; vegan restaurant industry growing = also bad. Industry of any kind growing = bad. Industry is part and parcel of industrial civilization and it is inherently unsustainable, not just for humans over the long term, but for all living beings on the planet. Slowing the damage with de-growth would be good. Ending the damage by completely changing how we live is what we actually need.

        To your last point Morgan, I agree: I am not sure democracy will ever be able to solve the truly wicked problems like climate change, biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, topsoil loss, etc. etc…. all the crises we face because our current way of living on the planet requires growth, requires the unsustainable use of “resources” (i.e. nature), precisely because people will fight to maintain their source of life (food, water, money, etc) and right now that source of life is industrial civilization. No politician elected democratically will keep their job for long as soon as they start asking people to give up what we think we need, and, in fact, what we DO need, because industrial civilization has stripped from us our ability to feed ourselves, and live freely on the land as we used to when we lived as the human “animals” that we actually are. While many humans still do that to some degree (mostly the poor and indigenous in non-urban areas), most of us here in the western world have long since forgotten how to live off the land. And so, we fight to maintain that which feeds us, that which is killing the planet.

        I don’t really see much of a solution to this; managed de-growth is better than nothing, but it is not the long term solution that we really need. However, it may help make the eventual collapse slightly less painful. If we learn to live with less now, the eventual loss of everything will seem less abrupt I suppose.

    • Norelpom said

      First, hastening collapse will hasten our deaths, for the collapse of industrial society will result in the obliteration of the global masking effect, and this will result in the planet heating up within a matter of weeks–to a rise in GAST (global average surface temperature) that will result in the rapid loss of human hsbitat and, thus, death of all complex life forms. Be careful what you wish for.

      Second, you want to keep some areas of “natural world”? Good luck because when the world’s approximately 400 nuclear power plants melt down, and they will (because chaos and mayhem will result in no qualified people around to run them), then the earth will be covered with ionizing radiation. Life very likely will never exist again on our planet, unless it’s billions of years from now.

      • uilyam said

        “the collapse of industrial society will result in the obliteration of the global masking effect, and this will result in the planet heating up within a matter of weeks” ???

        Can you provide some support for this assertion? Industrial aerosol, which are primarily responsible for the masking effect you mention, tend to have short lifetimes in the atmosphere (which accounts for “a matter of weeks” in your assertion). For the same reason, they tend to be nonuniformly distributed in the atmosphere. Most relevant would be how much of the nonuniform masking effect is over the oceans (about 70% of the earth’s surface). The oceans account for over 90% of the solar radiation absorbed to heat the earth.

    • Paul Vare said

      Interesting how this developing. I like Morgan’s idea of differentiating between socially/environmentally positive developments (it doesn’t have to be ‘growth’) and those with chiefly negative impacts.

      The suggestion that all industry is bad seems rather sweeping – I couldn’t read this blog without a lot of industry behind it; I wouldn’t live much longer either. And for what it’s worth, I also expect the planet would heat up more rapidly if we suddenly stopped industry, aviation, etc. (witness the warming that occurred after all planes in the US were grounded after 9/11).

      It’s not industry that’s the problem, it’s the linear model that has been followed hitherto and the fuel that currently powers most of it. We’ve so much more to learn from nature but we’ve been squandering the time we’ve had to perfect our models. Like an eager but unlucky child, it seems we got a bit too burnt in our first ill-advised encounter with the glittering fire.

      If we are going to survive what’s coming, we not only need to view all waste as a resource (as the sustainability professionals advise us), we’d better view each other as a resource, not as a threat. We need to promote working examples of cooperation, adaptive technologies in food production, etc. for as long as we have the means to do so. Rather than look forward to the demise of others we had better embrace all the hope that the next living person represents. There’s certainly a lot of fear to be encountered, it’s incumbent on all of us as concerned alchemists to transform that fear into love. Whatever fate awaits us, I’d rather die in someone’s arms than at their hands.

  2. […] SOURCE: Hope and Vision in the Face of Collapse: The 4th R of Deep Adaptation […]

  3. Iain said

    *Thank You* Jem.

    Margaret Wheatley’s “Warrior for the Human Spirit” program discusses similar conclusions and provides detailed training in the spiritual domains you’re exploring.

    Also. On a very small level. You’ve provided a beautiful justification for recent actions. A move to bring spiritual offerings into our everyday domain. In 2017 it “just felt right” to stop volunteering in our universities engineering entrepreneurship ecosystem in order to begin developing mindfulness curriculum for the same group. Our first “under-the-radar” prototype was within a core engineering course.

  4. Reblogged this on syndax vuzz.

  5. Mat Osmond said

    Grateful for this, Jem, which teases out the thread that meant the most to me in DA, an essay which brought together so much of the past ten years, since the Dark Mountain Manifesto’s first articulation of some of this. (Curiously, one thing I found particularly helpful in DA was your naming of the grim certainties of INTHE for what they are: a species of attraction, even a strange kind of reassurance.) You won’t have time for piles of ‘you-must-reads’, but after two decades’ or so meandering ‘spiritual practice’ that was getting me nowhere, a turn-around occurred through picking up the Japanese novelist Hiroyuki Itsuki’s ‘Tariki: Embracing Despair, Discovering Peace’. Since then my feet have led me down other and less familiar paths, central to which is, perhaps, this matter of hope and its abandonment. Its a book I’ve seen loved by many friends who would never go near mainstream ‘spiritual writing’ with its well-marketed promises. Its the story of an old man who has managed not to kill himself, just, over a long life haunted by survivor’s guilt. Its about knowing that our efforts will be in vain, but that’s OK, b\c this never was down to us, even when its all down to us. Handing over our lives, in whatever language we choose to frame that gesture, and then leaning into the wind as whatever life wants of us next, and offers us next, emerges.

  6. Neil Winship said

    Extraordinarily fortuitous timing for me and our Science, Faith & Philosophy group meeting tomorrow.   I intend responding to your questions in due course, meanwhile thanks.

    _Neil Winship_ __

    _01473736423 / 07768316214_

  7. Thanks Jem, this piece helped me to clarify something and I think it will be useful in my work:

    Deep Adaptation is an INNER process – of reconciliation and making peace – as well as an OUTER process – drawing down, erecting polytunnels, irrigating, plant-based diets for all, etc. We need to enable folk to do both if we’re going to postpone collapse as far as possible and deal with it when it finally comes. These processes are mutally reinforcing.

    As the director of climate change adaptation charity, I’ve been focussing on the OUTER, we need to focus more on the INNER stuff too; will continue to seek out ways of doing both.

    • jembendell said

      And I like your other idea as well:

      “Three strands?

      a. POSTPONE – Mitigation; based on drawing down GHG emissions.
      b. ADAPT – Adaptation; in the conventional sense, agriculture etc.
      c. RECONCILE – Internal process of letting go of our ideas of permanance / the concept of sustainability.

      Strand ‘c’ involves a significant re-framing of climate change and thus re-shapes our approaches to a and b.”

  8. uilyam said

    The notion of hope relates to two recollections from my journey.

    First, in one “spiritual” practice to which I was exposed, hope is one of four (or five) spiritual faculties in a kind of functional anatomy of the soul (some regard spirit and soul as essentially synoymous, while others distinguish them as quite different, but here I use the terms as synonyms): Will, Faith (or Belief), Hope, and Acceptance (a variant adds the fifth faculty, Love). My understanding is that Will (as in “I will something”) is the soul source of force for producing action. Faith (“I believe”) provides a foundation for projecting that force. Hope (“I hope”) provides a direction or “aims” the force. And Acceptance (“I accept”) provides a connection to reality.

    Second, there was a brief period when I drove my first two children to and from school every weekday. My wife was temporarily away from home, and our children were in special education classes in a school far from home with no bus service. To “kill” the time during the quarter-hour between home and school, I tossed a small book of oriental wisdom (a collection of sayings) into the back seat and asked them to open to a random page, close eyes, point to a random place on a page, and read the saying closest to the pointing finger. For about two weeks in the morning and afternoon drives, we tried to elucidate the meaning of “Wrong desire is the greatest enemy of happiness.” One point that we eventually established is that any desire (I want, I wish, I hope) directed to the past or present is automatically wrong because it either cannot possibly be satisfied or is already satisfied. In either case, it represents wasted desire. Unfortunately, our everyday life is filled with examples of such wrong desires, which we hear from others (a parental “I wish you hadn’t done that” or a conmrade’s “I wish it weren’t raining today”), and as imitative primates, we unthinkingly tend to utter similar statements. I am grateful to my children for that learning episode in the 1980s. I attest that learning to avoid that particular category of “wrong desire” has required continual practice for me. I also note that it is not always easy to release a specific hope after its expiration date. But I am learning.

    I close with the refrain from a song written by Billy Edd Wheeler, hoping that it might resonate with some reader of this blog (I frequently hear it sung in my head): “You’ve got to prime the pump. You must have faith and believe. And you must give of yourself before you’re worthy to receive. Drink all the water you can hold. Wash your face and cool your feet. But leave the bottle full for others. Thank you kindly, Desert Pete.”

  9. I think you’ve demonstrated that imagining near-term social collapse, and our own mortality, can be a life-changing exercise that can helps us create a more compassionate civilisation. For me, the next question is, what artistic methods can we use to go about the imagining, and communicate our stories with creativity? I’m attempting to do this via a fictional comic book based on deep adaptation. But I feel this needs to avoid portraying the people we disagree with as the villains. As you’ve suggested here, the heroes would need to bring Reconciliation. E.g. bridging the political and cultural divides that would prevent us coming together with compassion in the event of the tragic global crop failures that you’ve warned are coming soon.

  10. stuartjeffery said

    Hi Jem, thank you.

    A really interesting piece – particularly the move into the spiritual discussion, a discussion that I have been having with my Pagan friends over the past few years.

    The concept of the sacredness of the Earth is one that is common among Pagans and yet we often act in a way that is dishonourable to Her. I have been arguing that a core part of our lives should be to honour the Earth by treading lightly on Her, by building and strengthening communities and by fighting against damage to her, i.e. activism. There is a great quote by John Halstead: “there is nothing more truly spiritual than a radically activist life”.

    I was really pleased to see the commentary on consciousness too. Quite animistic!

  11. Bruce Snyder said

    Dear Prof Bendell – I value your brave assay into the challenge of truth-telling around climate. Your remarks indicate a strong Buddhist influence as in the prescription that ‘one who understands impermanence ceases to struggle’ [or words to that effect]. As a fortunate fairly well-off elderly retiree I do find peace in this sort of disconnection. The neurobiology involves a cognitive approach to ‘disengaging’ our circuits for planning and assessing consequences. My sense of sadness and regret involves the degree of suffering that likely or inevitable collapse will visit upon billions of my fellow humans and countless other creatures of this earth. So perhaps the sense of desperation felt by some is not primarily a fear of personal death (tip of the hat to Becker) but rather an awareness of what our communal actions have meant for so many. I hasten to add that in the years I’ve been grappling with this my anger and frustration have faded considerably as I recognize that the seeds of our own destruction are implicit in what we have evolved to be. Again I do feel that your essays do a service and I wish you and those close to you all the best for an uncertain future.

    *Bruce D Snyder MD FAAN* *Clinical Professor of Neurology*

    *CoordinatorHealth Professionals for a Healthy Climate *

    On Wed, Jan 9, 2019 at 12:14 PM Professor Jem Bendell wrote:

    > jembendell posted: “”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 p” >

  12. Thank you for sharing your insights, grief and personal experiences on your journey, it resonates with my own and makes my own actions and thoughts seem less crazy somehow.

  13. […] regarding how we respond to anthropogenic climate breakdown and chaos. Below, we excerpt from a January 9 posting that focuses on reconceiving what we might hope for, and […]

  14. Andre Piver said

    I would like to share 1) Ronald Wrights’s “A Short History of Progress” as the best frame for the predictable collapse of the global industrial civilization i.e. whatever it is that makes civilizations successsful is over-applied, until it becomes the cause of its collapse. Most of us don’t believe until we experience, no matter our verbal theoretical knowledge (see “Thinking Fast and Slow” Kahneman. Furthermore, politiciaans can no longer expect to be re-elected if they lead rather than follow (“Shopping for Votes” – Delacourt) 2) The “Transition Town” practical approach to reweaving the fabric while minimizing the carbon footprint and building locally adapted resilience also provides meaning to however impermanent our lives .

  15. Nate Birr said

    A new vision of what hope means is needed in these end times for our current way of life. Thank you for your thoughtful post. You have given me much to consider. May we both choose peace, come what may.

  16. AD Mitchell said

    There is a beautiful irony in this hopeless hopefulness.

    It is a psychosocial recipe that could actually bring about the real changes needed to avoid or significantly abrogate its base assumptions.

  17. Thank you for starting to speak out about the spiritual dimension of the crisis we are encountering. Ten years ago I stopped campaigning to deepen my own spiritual understanding, and have recently come back to activism (through XR) but in a transformed way, whilst continuing to practise and deepen my energy healing practice – the product of the intervening ten years.

    I’ve found through working with energy healing (like Reiki and other forms of spiritual/pranic healing) that the experiences that people have can be so profound that they are left in no doubt that they are part of a much larger continuum of consciousness, and are not ‘just a body’.

    This can lead to reconciliation for individuals regardless of the trajectory that their body is on. So, as we each individually find that deeper connection ourselves, at an energetic level, we can start to cultivate an environment where it is safe for others to become more open to that as a possibility, allowing for them to also face the future, whatever it may be, with courage, dignity and peace.

    Learning how to talk about the spiritual dimension with people who are focused on practical elements is essential if we are collectively going to manage our emotional response to the oncoming disruptions, wherever they lead us. Even though I come from an engineering background and have been convinced beyond doubt that we are part of a continuum of energy and are temporarily manifesting as matter, I am still finding it challenging to discuss this with outer-focused people.

    So, I am grateful for your writings on this. Please keep up the dialogue.

  18. Elma said

    Thank you for such eloquent expression dear brother. I could not agree with you more. You have just helped me set the tone for my green newsfeed this year, though I have expressed as I feel the same love as motivation for a meaningful life before. Please may we publish this on our platform Let us be in touch?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: