Professor Jem Bendell

notes from a strategist and educator on social and organisational change

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Dialogue on Deep Adaptation

Posted by jembendell on August 10, 2018

Sunrise25000 downloads within a week and over 100 emails in my inbox, the release of my study on climate collapse and deep adaptation generated more attention than I had anticipated. It was written about in New York Magazine and Counter Punch. And even in Pakistan. The biblical weather the northern hemisphere has been experiencing during the summer of 2018 may have focused minds on climate change.

I released the study as an Occasional Paper with my Institute in order to “fly a kite” and see who might respond. That was because I wanted to discover who is working on this issue, to then discuss more as I explore what I might do in future. Already these new interactions are showing me the appetite people have to actively develop this agenda. It is more evidence that an understanding we face a social collapse due to climate change can lead to personal reflection, grieving, transformation and new grounds for action, rather than despair and apathy.

Some of the questions I’ve been asked are:

  • What do you mean by social collapse?
  • When will that come?
  • What should government do for deep adaptation?
  • What should I do in my community for deep adaptation?
  • Are you counter-productively implying we should give up trying to fight climate change?
  • Is your stance the same as the “survivalist” or “doomer” perspective?
  • Are there spiritual implications to your perspective?
  • Are you a credible and ethical person?
  • What should I do to explore this topic further?

In answering such questions, I have been explaining that I am not an expert on this topic, as I am new to the conclusion we face an inevitable social collapse. It will require the minds of many people with more relevant experience. It means a different mindset to what we have seen thus far. But here are some ideas…

What do you mean by social collapse?

By the term “social collapse” I mean to imply an uneven ending of normal modes of sustenance, security, pleasure, identity, meaning, and hope. For some people these needs may be met in new ways. I say “social” or “societal” rather than economic or environmental, as these uneven endings will pervade society, and challenge our place within it. For instance, being a Professor won’t be much use anymore. But being myself might be.

When will that come?

Some say collapse has already begun and can point to the role of the unprecedented drought in Syria since 2010 in destabilising rural communities and creating conditions for extremism, war, and refugees. Others point to the growth in rebellious attitudes amongst electorates as indicating a widespread subconscious recognition that normal is over. But if we are talking about social collapse as I have defined it, and in the Western hemisphere, which is of interest to most who ask the question of when, then obviously that is not happening yet. How long it will take is impossible to say in complex systems. Given the impacts on food shortages, two more Northern summers like this year could trigger social collapse in some Western countries, if we don’t respond at such a time with bold and imaginative compassion.

It’s difficult to process these ideas without a clear idea on when. So, I have sought to reconcile myself with the idea that I will see social collapse happening in the West in less than 10 years. That’s not a prediction and I hope that’s wrong. I hope we manage to delay things by massive changes in policies and behaviours. And by seeding Arctic clouds, immediately. But, as a thought experiment, as someone in their mid-40s, I am now exploring what a 10-year life expectancy makes me prioritize in life. And when I meet who wish to discuss this topic, I recommend they do the same. For parents of young children that can be particularly difficult. But denial or despair won’t help them.

What should government do for deep adaptation?

I am not an expert in any area of emergency response. And I am new to the idea that we face a social collapse. But I have some initial thoughts, which relate to the idea of resilience. First a collapse in agriculture means governments will need to prepare for how to ration food. That could mean livestock farmers that use grains having to close and our diets looking very different. It is unlikely normal free markets will work in that context. The way our financial markets will respond to the realisation of climate shocks is unpredictable and the risk is that our systems of both credit and payments could seize up. That means governments need to ensure we have electronic means of payment outside of the private banking system, so trade can continue if there is a financial collapse. Then there are things that will take a bit longer. For instance, building desalinisation plants will be key across Europe. The things I just mentioned are not in any of the national adaptation reports that I have read, which indicates how expecting social collapse invites a different level of conversation and preparation.

There will be the psychological challenge of how to help people who experience dread, grief and confusion. Many of us may be deeply affected by a loss of the assumption of progress or stability. How do we plan our lives now? That will pose huge communications challenges, if we want to enable compassionate and collaborative responses from each other as much as possible. There is a role for leadership on that – and perhaps from leaders in government.

Of course, we should try to buy some more time. We should be seeding and brightening the clouds above the Arctic immediately, as a global emergency, similar to how we would react if an extinction-sized meteor was hurtling towards Earth.

The network of professionals and activists using the term “post-growth” are discussing some useful ideas about policies and have had longer than I to consider implications.

What should I do in my community for deep adaptation? 

Given that we see such poor leadership in most national governments and a poverty of resources in local governments, there is also an equally important agenda for communities. In the UK the deep adaptation framing has been used over the past 12 months to shape community discussions, supported by a Christian charity. In my own work I see global efforts at restoring local community in a material sense to be key and have been volunteering accordingly. I explain the importance of that work here. Others who are being influenced by an acceptance of a near term collapse are also looking to local resilience. Some participants in Joe Brewer’s discussions on managing planetary collapse, in Dark Mountain dialogues and in some Transition Towns initiatives also share this view.

Are you counter-productively implying we should give up trying to fight climate change?

No. A number of things can be true at the same time.

We should be clear that climate change poses an existential threat and no longer make cuts in carbon emissions a secondary concern. I still believe in a global carbon tax framework, applied upstream at energy generation and distribution, and embedded into international trade law to have teeth.

We also need to sequester carbon via changing agricultural systems, replenishing soils, growing sea weed, restoring sea grass meadows and reforestation. We should also invest massively in artificial means of carbon sequestration.

Although most forms of geo-engineering will be too risky and potentially counter-productive, the seeding and brightening of clouds above the Arctic and Antarctica is essential to experiment with immediately at scale.

We should also continue the range of activities included in a narrow interpretation of adaptation. I am just calling for a broader agenda on that.

I have noticed that some people engage in this discussion with a need not just to be right but to be more “right” than others, where their particularly approach is the best and therefore the only one worth considering. Such psychological patterns result from fear, insecurity and outrage at the situation we face. So, they are understandable. But must not affect our decision making.

Is your stance the same as the “survivalist” or “prepper” perspective?

There is a similar starting point: it is time to accept a social collapse is coming. But the discussion I’m inviting is about collective responses to reduce harm, rather than how a few people could tough it out to survive longer than others. I appreciate that prepper or survivalist responses to anticipating collapse will spread. I don’t think it will work at their goal of guaranteeing comparative longevity, given the unpredictability of the complex systems we live within. My own experience is indicative. In June, with a group of friends we toured around some eco-projects, where people have made a choice to live off the land, to varying degrees. One of those places was near Rafina, which was at the epicentre of the tragic fires in Greece just a month later. You may think you have thought of all eventualities and will have – until you haven’t. We can and should look to live more resiliently and closer to the land that feeds us, but there are no guarantees that this will help.

I also think survivalism can be a form of denial: by getting busy rather than allowing oneself to process and integrate a nearer sense of the mortality of oneself and those we love. The likelihood of climate-induced collapse invites us to make time in our lives, right now, for existential and spiritual questions. That can then help us whatever choices we make on how to approach the future.

Are there spiritual implications from your perspective?

Yes. This year I have given myself more time to study and discuss fundamental questions about the universe, reality and the self. I have participated in a range of practices that are novel to me and focus on reconnection with self, nature and each other. These include meditation, breathwork, authentic relating, yoga, peak states, and nature walks.

I am currently sceptical of what established religious institutions or promoters of self-help spiritualities are offering people that can help them comprehend our predicament. But I am fairly new to that topic and see there is much that spiritual communities could do in future.

I put together some advice on these personal dimensions to our predicament, based on my own experience, and include them at the end of this post.

Are you a credible and ethical person?

Not many academics have concluded publicly that we face an inevitable near-term social collapse. Most natural scientists would avoid using the word “inevitable” for anything due to their attention to methodology. Even the most frightening of studies from natural scientists, such as the new one on “Hothouse Earth” reserve judgement on saying what will happen or that collapse is inevitable.

In my paper I lay out the scientific studies and current measurements which lead me to the conclusion we face a near term collapse. About a dozen academics have got in touch to welcome my paper and say they have reached the same conclusion. I need to ask them all whether they wish to be public about that before then sharing on my blog.

Some wonder if I am challenging the quality of the peer review process of the journal I submitted the paper to. I am not. I think the journal editor and reviewers did their job properly. The feedback from the reviewers was helpful for clarifying to me that my conclusions in effect reject the whole premise of the subject area, and so that it is time for me to move on. The editor believed in my past work, and therefore asked me to resubmit with “major revisions.” The actual recommendations of the reviewers were withheld from me. I presumed, therefore, because one had said “reject” and the editor wanted instead to give me a chance to try again. I wrote to the editor saying that “major revisions” were not possible given the critique and requested changes which went to the core of the argument and were effectively asking for a different paper. I am waiting for confirmation of that situation from the publisher, as they would like me to state I withdrew the paper, rather than it being rejected. My view is that it was not accepted, one reviewer probably rejected it, the editor overruled that to give me another chance, but the changes requested would have amounted to a new paper with a different argument, so I withdrew from the process. I will update on that if I hear different information from the publisher on the reviewers’ actual recommended decisions.

After receiving the reviewer comments, I took some weeks to reflect on the options. I decided the situation is too grave to delay sharing my analysis and I wanted to invite conversation about what we should do. To be so public on this matter renders some of my past knowledge, experience, status and networks now redundant. It also risks opprobrium or ridicule. So, some deep breathing, long walks and sharing circles were helpful as I made the decision.

John Cleese once said that “it’s the goal of every Englishman to get to his grave unembarrassed.” Well I still feel quite English. When I was in the movie theatre last night, I realised I was so engrossed in it that my underlying sense of reality had changed. I noticed that shift when, mid-film, I came back into my non-movie reality for a moment. I then realised that the film had made me feel peaceful, with no sense of anxiety. That helped me realise I still have some way to go to find calm with the outlook I now have. But it also meant that this calm made me, in an instant, question my view on climate collapse. And what was my immediate reaction? Was it elation that perhaps things won’t collapse, massive suffering will be avoided and I have the potential for a longer life and more to contribute to? No. My initial reaction was of embarrassment. What if I’m wrong? My heart leapt, and I had a sharp intake of breath. That was a good reminder that I’m still afflicted, like many of us, with an overriding fear of embarrassment, which makes us conform. Which means I should be understanding of others whose ability to comprehend this information is shaped by their perception of what others will think of them or those who discuss this topic. It also means I should stay open to new information. It would be amazing if some eureka technology is invented. If I turn out to be wrong then that would be a wonderful opportunity for personal development, by embracing embarrassment before my grave! Indeed, I will pray to be embarrassed 🙂

What should I do to explore this topic further?

Try talking about it with some people who are open-minded and open-hearted. We don’t need many people to be conversation partners for exploring things. For networks, I recommend the following the Deep Adaptation group on LinkedIn which I established for professionals. Other info I list here.

To keep up to date with an unvarnished assessment of the latest climate measurements, I recommend the regular youtube postings of Paul Beckwith, who is completing his PhD at Ottawa University.

Below are some insights from my own struggles with this information. How I arrived at these insights is covered in my (rather long) reflection on my last few years.

Fourteen Recommendations on Living Beyond Collapse-Denial

The following recommendations arise from reflecting on the positive and negative aspects of my past four years since I began to accept the inevitability of near term social collapse.

  1. Return to, or explore afresh, the idea of a divine or a spirit or a consciousness or a God that is prior to the Earth and moves through the Universe right now and forever more. Do so without seeking a simple story of explanation but a sense of faith that there is an existence and a meaning beyond our culture, our species and our planet. Such ‘faith’ helps anyone to experience and process the inevitable difficulties and traumas of life.
  2. Listen to those stories from people both past and present who tell us that despair is not the end and therefore does not have to be avoided. Recognise how many spiritual traditions see despair as a gateway to our growth.
  3. Beware when people are promoting their views on what they think the implications of information will be, rather than views on the information itself. The impacts of certain information about climate on other people’s motivations are not certain, and in many cases the darkest analyses have triggered a new level of creativity and boldness. Instead, look at the information and analysis directly for yourself, without second guessing what some interpretations might lead to.
  4. Recognize that any emotional or intellectual resistance you may experience to information which implies catastrophe may come from what you have been consciously or subconsciously telling yourself about your own self-worth, purpose and meaning. Then remember how your views of yourself and the world have evolved through your life and still can.
  5. Don’t panic. Give yourself time to evolve both personally and professionally in response to your emerging awareness, but ensure you stay connected to a group or an activity which keeps reminding you of the basis for your emerging awareness.
  6. Recognize there is much work ahead for you to reconstitute concepts of meaning and what’s good and to align your life with those. It will not happen overnight, yet it will not happen if you do not give time to this work. There may be some time needed to bridge your existing life with the way you will want to live in future.
  7. Plan more time and resources for you to do things which inspire wonder at life. This could be more time in beautiful environments, or with uplifting music, or in contemplation, or through creative writing, or being with loved ones and close friends. That means freeing up time from other activities such as TV, social media and mainstream news. It may also mean downshifting from your workload.
  8. Look for opportunities for supported self-reflection and sense-making. This is because your worldview and self-identity will undoubtedly transform overtime as you process the new information and analysis.
  9. Expect a catharsis, both personal and professional. This will occur because the subconscious or conscious limits that you placed on yourself until now will be lifted. Go with that rush of energy and creativity, but be vigilant that those new activities don’t become so consuming they distract you from the personal work you still need to do.
  10. If you are a mission-driven professional in fields related to environment or social justice then expect that you may be driven to rebuild a sense of self-worth and that this need of the ego, while natural and potentially useful, could become a frantic distraction.
  11. Expect a change in your personal relationships and how you spend your spare time. Some forms of small talk and light-hearted social interaction with acquaintances may seem pointless, while you may wish to spend more time with close friends and family. While for some this could be a welcome rebalancing, for others this can become a vector of reclusiveness and loneliness. Therefore, it is important to find new ways of connecting with people on the new levels that feel meaningful to you.
  12. Create a positive vision of people sharing compassion, love and play. It may feel that an eco-tragic outlook means you cannot have any meaningful vision of a better future for yourself, your community, or humanity. An absence of something positive to work towards can be destabilising and limiting. Some people will think you are depressed – or depressing – and need some “positive thinking”. For a personal vision, the answer may lie in developing a vision for how you will be approaching life, rather than imagining attributes of a lifestyle. This may parallel the dimensions of a collective vision. A future full of love and learning, rather than flying cars and fancy robots, could be a way to imagine a more beautiful world. And remember, the future will still be beautiful in its own way, no matter what life forms are in it – or if your favourite town is under water!
  13. Don’t get dogmatic and avoid those who do. That comes from recognising that our terms for phenomena are not the same as the phenomena themselves. The words we use imply things which may have effects on us but aren’t necessarily so. Words like near-term, civilisation, collapse, and tragedy, are our words, and may trigger ideas, images and emotions which aren’t inevitable consequences of the phenomena being described.
  14. Do not prioritise maintaining your own mental and physical situation at the expense of the need to act in solidarity with future generations who will live with the future we are creating for them. Tomorrow’s children won’t thank us much for having joined a support group on Facebook or taken up yoga, unless it aligned with us remaining active in the world.

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The study on collapse they thought you should not read – yet

Posted by jembendell on July 26, 2018

A research paper concluding that climate-induced collapse is now inevitable, was recently rejected by anonymous reviewers of an academic journal.

It has been released directly by the Professor who wrote it, to promote discussion of the necessary deep adaptation to climate chaos.

“I am releasing this paper immediately, directly, because I can’t wait any longer in exploring how to learn the implications of the social collapse we now face,” explained the author Dr Bendell, a full Professor of Sustainability Leadership.  deep adaptation paper

In saying the paper was not suitable for publication, one of the comments from the reviewers questioned the emotional impact that the paper might have on readers. “I was left wondering about the social implications of presenting a scenario for the future as inevitable reality, and about the responsibility of research in communicating climate change scenarios and strategies for adaptation.” wrote one of the reviewers. “As the authors pointed out, denial is a common emotional response to situations that are perceived as threatening and inescapable, leading to a sense of helplessness, inadequacy, and hopelessness and ultimately disengagement from the issue…”

That perspective is discussed in the paper as one that enables denial. Professor Bendell explains in his response to the Editor, that the response may reflect “the self-defeating hierarchical attitude towards society that many of us have in both academia and sustainability, where we censure our own exploration of a topic due to what we consider should or should not be communicated. There is both scholarship and experience on the impact of communicating about disaster, and I discuss that in the paper.” Moreover, Bendell consulted with practicing psychotherapists on both the motivational and mental health implications of this analysis and was reassured that perceptions of a collective tragic future should not in itself be a cause for depression. Instead, it could trigger transformative reflection which could be supported – and would be inevitable one day, given the inevitability of mortality for all human life.

The paper offers a new framing for beginning to make sense of the disaster we face, called “deep adaptation.” It is one that Professor Bendell proposed in a keynote lecture two years ago and has influenced community dialogue on climate change in Britain in the past two years, including in Peterborough and Newcastle as well as being used by the Dark Mountain network.

The paper “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy” is downloadable as a pdf from here.

The response of Professor Bendell to the Editor of the journal follows below.

A list of resources to support people as they process this information, including emotional support is here.

A LinkedIn group on Deep Adaptation exists to support professional discussion of the topic.

Letter to the Editor of SAMPJ, Professor Carol Adams, from Professor Jem Bendell, 26th July 2018.

Dear Professor Adams,

It is an odd situation to be in as a writer, but I feel compassion for anyone reading my Deep Adaptation article on the inevitability of near term social collapse due to climate chaos! I am especially grateful for anyone taking the time to analyse it in depth and provide feedback. So, I am grateful to you arranging that and the reviewers for providing their feedback. Some of the feedback, particularly recommendations for a better introduction, were helpful. However, I am unable to work with their main requests for revisions, as they are, I believe, either impossible or inappropriate, as I will seek to explain.

I agree with Professor Rob Gray that “The journal’s constant exploration of new and challenging perspectives on how accountability and sustainability might play out in organisations ensures a stimulating source of articles, experiences and ideas.” It is why I was pleased to guest edit an issue last year and bring critical perspectives on leadership to its readership. However, the topic of inevitable collapse from climate change is so challenging it is not surprising it didn’t find support from the anonymous peer reviewers.

I would have had difficulty finding motivation for undertaking a complete re-write given the conclusion of the paper – that the premise of the “sustainable business” field that the journal is part of is no longer valid. Indeed, the assumptions about progress and stability that lead us to stay in academia in the field of management studies are also now under question.

The first referee questioned “to which literature (s) does this article actually contribute” and stated that “the research question or gap that you intend to address must be drawn from the literature,” continuing that “to join the conversation, you need to be aware of the current conversation in the field, which can be identified by reviewing relevant and recent articles published in these journals.” That is the standard guidance I use with my students and it was both amusing and annoying to read that feedback after having dozens of peer reviewed articles published over the last 20 years. The problem with that guidance is when the article is challenging the basis of the field and where there are not any other articles exploring or accepting the same premise. For instance, there are no articles in either SAMPJ or Organisation and Environment that explore implications for business practice or policy of a near term inevitable collapse due to environmental catastrophe (including those that mention or address climate adaptation). That isn’t surprising, because the data hasn’t been so conclusive on that until the last couple of years.

It is surprising therefore that the first reviewer says “the paper does not contain any new or significant information. The paper reiterates what has already been told by many studies.” The reviewer implies therefore that the paper is about climate change being a big problem. But the article doesn’t say that. It says that we face an unsolvable predicament and great tragedy. When the reviewer says “There are not clear contributions that can be derived from the article” then I wonder whether that is wilful blindness, as the article is saying that the basis of the field is now untenable.

At a couple of points, I attempted to cut through the unemotional way that research is presented. Or instance, when I directly address the reader about the implications of the analysis for their own likely hunger and safety, it is to elicit an emotional response. I say in the text why I express myself in that way and that although it is not typical in some journals the situation we face suggests to me that we do try to communicate emotively. The reviewer comments “the language used is not appropriate for a scholarly article.”

The second reviewer summarises the paper as “the introduction of deep adaptation as an effective response to climate change” which suggests to me a fundamental misunderstanding despite it being made clear throughout the paper. There is no “effective” response. The reviewer also writes “I am not sure that the extensive presentation of climate data supports the core argument of the paper in a meaningful way.” Yet the summary of science is the core of the paper as everything then flows from the conclusion of that analysis. Note that the science I summarise is about what is happening right now, rather than models or theories of complex adaptive systems which the reviewer would have preferred.

One piece of feedback from the 2nd reviewer is worth quoting verbatim:

“The authors stress repeatedly that “climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable” as if that was a factual statement… I was left wondering about the social implications of presenting a scenario for the future as inevitable reality, and about the responsibility of research in communicating climate change scenarios and strategies for adaptation. As the authors pointed out, denial is a common emotional response to situations that are perceived as threatening and inescapable, leading to a sense of helplessness, inadequacy, and hopelessness and ultimately disengagement from the issue…”

This perspective is one I discuss in some detail in the paper, as one that enables denial. It reflects the self-defeating hierarchical attitude towards society that many of us have in both academia and sustainability, where we censure our own exploration of a topic due to what we consider should or should not be communicated. There is both scholarship and experience on the impact of communicating about disaster, and I discuss that in the paper.

The trauma from assessing our situation with climate change has led me to become aware of and drop some of my past preoccupations and tactics. I realise it is time to fully accept my truth as I see it, even if partially formed and not polished yet for wider articulation. I know that academia involves as much a process of wrapping up truth as unfolding it. We wrap truth in disciplines, discrete methodologies, away from the body, away from intuition, away from the collective, away from the everyday. So as that is my truth then I wish to act on it as well, and not keep this analysis hidden in the pursuit of academic respect. Instead, I want to share it now as a tool for shifting the quality of conversations that I need to have. Therefore, I have decided to publish it simply as an IFLAS Occasional Paper.

The process has helped me realise that I need to relinquish activities that I no longer have passion for, in what I am experiencing as a dramatically new context. Therefore, I must step back from the Editorial team of the journal. Thank you for having involved me and congratulations on it now being in the top ten journals in business, management and accounting.

Please pass on my thanks to the reviewers. On my website I will be listing some links to articles, podcasts, videos and social networks that are helping people explore and come to terms with a realisation of near term collapse (and even extinction), which they may be interested in. 

Yours sincerely,

Jem Bendell


Posted in Uncategorized | 53 Comments »

Emotional support in face of climate tragedy

Posted by jembendell on July 26, 2018

If you have come to recognise that climate change will lead to a near term collapse in our way of life, or even worse, then this can be a very difficult realisation to process, integrate into our lives, or communicate to other people.

Here are some links to resources that I have found helpful.

Lifeboat Hour podcast
Any books and articles by Caroline Baker
Joanna Macy lecture
Human Near Term Extinction Support Group on Facebook
Reframing Collapse Facebook Group
The Dark Mountain network
Deep Adaptation LinkedIn group (more for professionals working on this).
Climate Psychology Alliance (again more for professionals, but requests for advice can be made).

I write up some of my own reflections on how I have been trying and wobbling to integrate this awareness into my life and work, in this rather long reflective piece called “After Despair

Ultimately, I think we will best supported by activities that support our transcendence from our normal fears, whether those activities are spiritual or agnostic. There are an increasing number of spiritual coaches appearing online such as my friend Zori. These forms of grassroots, diverse, non dogmatic, spiritual inspiration and support will become more important.  If you have suggestions, please enter them in the comments below.

My academic paper on the latest climate science as well as the many forms of denial about our situation is available for download here.


Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »

Racism and Lovephobia in Media and Ourselves

Posted by jembendell on April 6, 2018

WhatsApp groups are a strange thing. One minute people are wishing each other happy birthday and the next minute angrily debating current political flashpoints. You know, the ones we have all been told to debate by mass media. One group I belong to includes about 60 past participants on a Harvard Uni Global Leadership course. As you can imagine, we aren’t shy with sharing our views on politics. Today one member of the group posted a link to a recent article from The Economist magazine, and appended a comment:

“Nasty Corbyn”

The arguments around whether the leadership of the UK Labour party has done enough to challenge anti-semitism amongst its members or it’s wider supporters has been raging in the British media. It is not to deny that there is racism in Britain and political parties to point out that many of the opinions expressed by journalists and politicians on this subject are influenced by interests other than combatting racism. The problem with that is if it drowns out the opportunity for serious reflection on how any of us might be contributing to the problem of contemporary racism, including anti-semitism and then what to do about it.

This became clear to me after clicking through to that article in The Economist. For those of you who have read this magazine, you will know that their style is to try to convey an objectively-reasonable and factually-informed opinion. If you read it, you are being invited to think you are learning what is the most respectable opinion to have on any matter – not just economics.

The article made the argument that left-wing people are susceptible to anti-semitism and that the leader of the UK Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn will be incapable of ridding the party of such racism because he doesn’t care for minorities if they are not economically oppressed.  Given that Corbyn has been a lifelong anti-racism campaigner and risked arrest in doing that, I thought that was a rather weak and speculative analysis of his psyche. After googling I found that the Economist has also expressed concern about the far right and its influence on actual regulations in Eastern Europe from governments that the Conservative government of the UK is allied with politically within the European Parliament. Fair play, I thought, the Economist is criticizing any deviation from what it considers a Centrist viewpoint. But still something felt unhelpful and uncaring about the message in this article – as if the victims of racism were not the prime concern of the author. But I didn’t understand why I felt that and thought it just might be my own bias in what has become a conflictual debate, rather than an exploration of how we rid society of anti-semitism and racism.Angry1

I switched off my phone, as I had arrived a the group meditation I was going to. Some moments into the meditation I calmed down from that feeling of intellectual combat. Rather than thinking, I just began to feel compassion for everybody involved in this debate as well as the dignity and individuality of everybody being talked about in this debate. I’m bad at meditation in the sense that my thoughts don’t stop coming. But in this moment of compassion, one line from that Economist article came into my mind’s eye. Here it is:

“British Jews – particularly those who support Israel – are being marginalized in the Labour Party. There are three million Muslims in Britain compared with about 284,000 Jews and they are concentrated in areas vital for Labours future such as Birmingham and Manchester.”


In a flash I realized the subconscious racism of this statement and my own subconscious racism for not realizing that when I first read it. The sentence uses that typical Economist tone of offering numbers and (geographical) facts so you think it is merely describing reality, rather than their particular viewpoint. But do you see the unconscious racism in this argument from The Economist?  

If not, then you are not alone.

But if we are to overcome racism in society, we need to be able to examine at our own assumptions and how they are normalized by those with power such as an economist writer. As I meditated, I saw an image of one of my best friends and colleagues who worked for the Labour party during last year’s General Election. I saw him with one of his friends who he plays tennis with. He is a British Jew and she is a British Muslim. I am a British Christian and we have had fun times together.

Okay, semi-Christian, but you get my point?

The Economist writer and editor assumed that most Muslims in Britain dislike Jewish people. Moreover they assume that most Muslims in Britain would dislike political leaders who fight anti-semitism. Really? Let’s look at that sentence again.

“British Jews – particularly those who support Israel – are being marginalized in the Labour Party. There are three million Muslims in Britain compared with about 284,000 Jews and they are concentrated in areas vital for Labours future such as Birmingham and Manchester.”

The argument is predicated on the view that politicians do not choose policies and priorities based on values or what is good for the country, but on pure electoral calculation. That can be debated. But the Economist invites you to assume that the Labour Party is cynical. Their key racism, however, is to suggest that a significant majority of 3 million people will have a negative view of almost 300000 people and any politician who supports them purely because of religion. They don’t qualify the statement, so they could be implying that ALL Muslims should be assumed to have that kind of negative view of all Jewish people.

Despite me knowing Muslims and Jews in Britain, and not experiencing racism from them towards each other at any point in my life, and me witnessing Muslim-Jewish friendships amongst my own friends, I did not immediately see this racism from The Economist.  Therefore I cannot blame the person who wrote it, the person who edited it, or the person who shared it, or the people who did not immediately object to it. Instead, I could point this out to friends and colleagues, in a harmless way, such as a blog post.


But before I click publish,  I should take a moment to dig deeper: to inquire into the complex reality of race relations and what to do about it.

A quick search led me to a study on anti-semitic opinion in Britain today. It found that on average Muslims express some anti-semitic views slightly more than the average in the UK. But the same study found that those who described themselves as far right are two to four times more likely to express anti-semitic opinions. In addition I found that one of the key questions used in the study to demonstrate increased likelihood of anti-Semitic views from Muslims was actually flawed. They asked for agreement or not with the statement. “A British Jew is just as British as any other British person.” The question is flawed because minorities in the UK may be more aware that any minority is less likely to be universally considered as “British” as a non minority. Let’s say you are a British Jew: you may be aware that British Pakistanis may not be seen by all Britosh people as British as any other British person. This question could have avoided that with a slight change into: “A British Jew should be considered just as British as any other British person.” Yes, a bit too much detail for a blog, but I’m an academic so I can’t let methodoligical mess-ups pass me by.  The result from the flawed question was that 80% of British Christians agreed and 61% of British Muslims agreed.

I also saw that different journalists had selectively chosen what data to present to tell the race-based story they wanted to tell. Which is why I wont link to them here as I havent got the time to pick apart all their mis-statements. 

The reality is that there is some racism in most organizations in all societies. Which is bad. But there is also a majority of non racist people. Which is good. That the Economist would make such a statement as they did, without validation, shows but they are not exempt from the problem of racism. The way for us to overcome this problem is blocked by both our pride and the desire to reaffirm our existing positions. Yet we should avoid reducing the individuality of people due to a category of identity just so that we can make a self-serving argument.

This insight on the racist assumption of views of Muslims in the UK was not difficult for me to arrive at. It involved me sitting still and breathing deeper than normal. Not tough. That enabled me to drop the feeling of combat and look at everyone with compassion and respect. It made me realize we often have a phobia of feeling such love towards each other. Because some of us have a phobia of not being right all the time. Yet there is no escaping this issue in the field of identity politics. Because the universal value that invites us to respect everybody no matter their religion, race, creed, gender, orientation or politics, is that everyone has their own dignity regardless of any identity ascribed to them. 

We need to be alert to anti-semitism and racism everywhere. We can always improve – all of us. To do that we need to overcome our “lovephobia”. By which I mean we can chill out and move into a spirit of compassion to all, thereby forgiving mistaken opinions and combative approaches, so we can raise the discussion to something more powerful. So I look forward to more celebrations of the inter-religious solidarity that I know exists in Britain today. It’s something I love about the country.

So how might we celebrate that? Here is an idea… A video of Muslim and Jewish friends reading that Economist article together and wondering if they aren’t meant to campaign together against capitalist exploitation.

I’d enjoy posting that in the WhatsApp Group.

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Doctoral Study on Deep Adaptation to Climate Disruption

Posted by jembendell on March 22, 2018

Some of us are waking up to the climate tragedy we face. To the disruptions to our way of life that will be unfolding over the next decade or so. To the inevitable collapse of our social and economic systems.

If this sounds too dark to you, please catch up on the latest climate science here.

There are so many ways to respond: some nihilist, some hedonist, some delusional, some loving, some ambitious. One way to respond includes attempts at combining our existing skills, knowledge and networks with the intention of growing into a different way of life.

In this situation we do not have time to waste on activities which are not, in some way, truly beautiful. For me there is something truly beautiful about research, which is now so often lost in institutional settings. That beauty is the transdisciplinary exploration of subjects, unlearning unhelpful assumptions, and making new sense of situations in ways that are meaningful to share. It is that kind of enquirer I seek to support and learn with.


I am inviting initial enquiries, before the end of April 2018, to research for a PhD on deep adaptation to climate change that would start on October 1st. Information what that topic involves is here. These will be interdiscipinary studies, that parrallel your engagement with this subject in your daily life over the coming 3 to 4 years. Therefore, appropriate methods will be either action research, cooperative inquiry or living theory (google these if they are new to you, before getting in touch).

The PhD research can be undertaken either in residence in Cumbria for 3 years full-time, or part-time over 4 years, via remote-working with visits to Cumbria. These PhDs are entirely self-funded, we do not have scholarships for this opportunity. Information on fees etc is here.

Information on me, your prospective supervisor, and how I am approaching this deep adaptation topic is here.

I am also accepting PhD applications for people working on currency innovation and alternative exchanges systems as methods for community-based resilience.

Do you meet the following criteria?

  • You have a Masters degree
  • You have a 2.1 or above at undegraduate level
  • You can self-fund your studies
  • You can either move to Cumbria or do this PhD remotely part time with a few visits to Cumbria each year
  • You can start on October 1st 2018
  • You know what Im talking about by having read information on the links above

If so, then please prepare one page of A4, maximum, by May 1st 2018, detailing the following

  • What your topic is
  • Why you are interested in it
  • What intellectual schools of thought you anticipate drawing upon to research it
  • What your Masters was in
  • What your current work or volunteering is in and how it relates to your proposed topic
  • A statement that you have read my blogs on latest climate science on the deep adaptation agenda (the links above).

Please note that

  • We do not offer PhDs by publication
  • We do not accept people who have their own mega theory that they have already half written and would like a PhD for when they finish writing it.. because a PhD is about becoming a skilled researcher through the process of the 3 years, not just getting a label for existing ideas.

Send this to me via drjbendell AT (the ubiquitous)

Unfortunately due to a full inbox, tennis elbow, and a growing self-respect, I will only reply to people who exactly follow the information above.

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A Summary of Some Climate Science in 2018

Posted by jembendell on March 22, 2018

CaptureConversations we have with people about climate change are rarely based on a comprehensive assessment of the current state of knowledge on atmospheric changes and the implications for our environment and society. We receive bits and pieces of news, often shared by friends on Facebook or Twitter, which make us worry for a few moments, before returning to busy daily life. We may think we have already integrated an awareness of climate change into our lives, by the career choice we made, or the way we shop, recycle or don’t eat meat. Most of us are not climate scientists anyway, there’s all kinds of other things to take care of, and we have bills to pay!

That was me, anyway, until this year. I decided to look more closely at the latest information from the range of sciences that give a perspective on our situation. The last time I studied climate closely was in 1994 when I was being taught climate science at Cambridge University. I do not claim to be an expert in any one climate-related field, but as a Professor who has worked and published in a range of disciplines, I have experience in assessing knowledge claims from various sources. In this summary I provide references as much as possible, so you can investigate further.

Many people working in the climate field look to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to provide the calm and authoritative voice on this complicated subject. That is what I used to do, as it made sense as a busy person who wanted to have a quick way of “making the case” to others. However, given that the IPCC has proven over the past decades to be woefully inaccurate in the cautiousness of its predictions, I now agree with some of the most eminent climate scientists that the IPCC cannot be looked to for telling us what the situation is. That is why I spent a few weeks returning to primary sources in academic journals and research institute reports, and piecing together a perspective myself. Given the long time span it takes for data to appear in academic journals, I often turn to the information direct from research institutes and their individual experts. The result of that process follows below.

This is Our World Right Now – not theory!

The simple evidence of global ambient temperature rise is undisputable. Seventeen of the 18 warmest years in the 136-year record all have occurred since 2001, and global temperatures have increased by 0.9°C since 1880 (NASA/GISS, 2018). The most surprising warming is in the Arctic, where the 2016 land surface temperature was 2.0°C above the 1981-2010 average, breaking the previous records of 2007, 2011, and 2015 by 0.8°C, representing a 3.5°C increase since the record began in 1900 (Aaron-Morrison et al, 2017).

The warming of the Arctic reached wider public awareness this year as it has begun destabilizing winds in the higher atmosphere, specifically the jet stream and the northern polar vortex, leading to extreme movements of warmer air north in to the Arctic and cold air to the south. At one point in early 2018, temperature recordings from the Arctic were 20 degrees Celsius above the average for that date (Watts, 2018). The warming Arctic has led to dramatic loss in sea ice, the average September extent of which has been decreasing at a rate of 13.2% per decade since 1980, so that over two thirds of the ice cover has gone (NSIDC/NASA, 2018). This data is made more concerning by changes in sea ice volume, which is an indicator of resilience of the ice sheet to future warming and storms. It was at the lowest it has ever been in 2017, continuing a consistent downward trend (Kahn, 2017).

Given a reduction in the reflection of the Sun’s rays from the surface of white ice, an ice-free Arctic is predicted to increase warming globally by a substantial degree. Writing in 2014 scientists calculated this change is already equivalent to 25% of the direct forcing of temperature increase from CO2 during the past 30 years (Pistone et al, 2014). That means we could cut CO2 emissions by 25% and it is already outweighed by the loss of the reflective power of Arctic sea ice. One of the most eminent climate scientists in the world, Peter Wadhams, believes an ice-free Arctic will occur one summer in the next few years and that it will likely double the warming caused by the CO2 produced by human activity (Wadhams, 2016). In itself, that renders the calculations of the IPCC redundant, along with the targets and proposals of the UNFCCC.

Between 2002 and 2016, Greenland shed approximately 280 gigatons of ice per year, and the island’s lower-elevation and coastal areas experienced up to 13.1 feet (4 meters) of ice mass loss (expressed in equivalent-water-height) over a 14-year period (NASA, 2018). Along with other melting of land ice, and the thermal expansion of water, this has contributed to a global mean sea level rise of about 3.2 mm/year, representing a total increase of over 80 mm, since 1993 (JPL/PO.DAAC, 2018). Stating a figure per year implies a linear increase, which is what has been assumed by IPCC and others in making their predictions. However, recent data shows that the upward trend is non-linear (Malmquist, 2018). That means sea level is rising due to non-linear increases in the melting of land-based ice.

The observed phenomena, of actual temperatures and sea levels, are greater than what the climate models over the past decades were predicting for our current time. They are consistent with non-linear changes in our environment that then trigger uncontrollable impacts on human habitat and agriculture, with subsequent complex impacts on social, economic and political systems. I will return to the implications of these trends after listing some more of the impacts that are already being reported as occurring today.

Already we see impacts on storm, drought and flood frequency and strength due to increased volatility from more energy in the atmosphere (Herring et al, 2018). We are witnessing negative impacts on agriculture. Climate change has reduced growth in crop yields by 1–2 percent per decade over the past century (Wiebe et al, 2015). The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that weather abnormalities related to climate change are costing billions of dollars a year, and growing exponentially. For now, the impact is calculated in money, but the nutritional implications are key (FAO, 2018). We are also seeing impacts on marine ecosystems. About half of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years, due a mixture of reasons though higher water temperatures and acidification due to higher CO2 concentrations in ocean water being key (, 2018). In ten years prior to 2016 the Atlantic Ocean soaked up 50 percent more carbon dioxide than it did the previous decade, measurably speeding up the acidification of the ocean (Woosely et al, 2016). This study is indicative of oceans worldwide, and the consequent acidification degrades the base of the marine food web, thereby reducing the ability of fish populations to reproduce themselves across the globe (Britten et al, 2015). Meanwhile warming oceans are already reducing the population size of some fish species (Aaron-Morrison et al, 2017). Compounding these threats to human nutrition, in some regions we are witnessing an exponential rise in the spread of mosquito and tick-borne viruses as temperatures become more conducive to them (ECJCR, 2018).

To conclude, this data is consistent with non-linear changes to our environment. Non-linear changes are of central importance to understanding climate change, as they suggest both that impacts will be far more rapid and severe than predictions based on linear projections and that the changes no longer correlate with the rate of anthropogenic carbon emissions. In other words – ‘runaway climate change.’

Looking Ahead

The impacts I just summarised are already upon us and even without increasing their severity they will nevertheless increase their impacts on our ecosystems, soils, seas and our societies over time. It is difficult to predict future impacts. But it is more difficult not to predict them. Because the reported impacts today are at the very worst end of predictions being made in the early 1990s – back when I first studied climate change and model-based climate predictions as an undergraduate at Cambridge University. The models today suggest an increase in storm number and strength (Herring et al, 2018). They predict a decline of normal agriculture, including the compromising of mass production of grains in the northern hemisphere and intermittent disruption to rice production in the tropics. That includes predicted declines in the yields of rice, wheat, and corn in China by 36.25%, 18.26%, and 45.10%, respectively, by the end of this century (Zhang et al, 2016). Naresh Kumar et al. (2014) project a 6–23 and 15–25% reduction in the wheat yield in India during the 2050s and 2080s, respectively, under the mainstream projected climate change scenarios. The loss of coral and the acidification of the seas is predicted to reduce fisheries productivity by over half (Rogers et al, 2017). The rates of sea level rise suggest they may be soon become exponential (Malmquist, 2018), which will pose significant problems for billions of people living in coastal zones (Neumann et al, 2015).

Environmental scientists are now describing our current era as the sixth mass extinction event in the history of planet Earth, with this one caused by us. About half of all plants and animal species in the world’s most biodiverse places are at risk of extinction due to climate change (WWF, 2018). The World Bank reported in 2018 that countries needed to prepare for over 100 million internally displaced people due to the effects of climate change (Rigaud et al, 2018), in addition to millions of international refugees. This situation has led some commentators to describe our time as a new geological era shaped by humans – the Anthropocene (Hamilton, et al, 2015). It has led others to conclude that we should be exploring how to live in an unstable post-Sustainability situation (Benson and Craig, 2014; Foster, 2015).

The politically permissible scientific consensus is that we need to stay beneath 2 degrees warming of global ambient temperatures, to avoid dangerous and uncontrollable levels of climate change, with impacts such as mass starvation, disease, flooding, storm destruction, forced migration and war. That figure was agreed by governments that were dealing with many domestic and international pressures from vested interests, particularly corporations. It is therefore not a figure that many scientists would advise, given that many ecosystems will be lost and many risks created if we approach 2 degrees global ambient warming (Wadhams, 2018). The IPCC agreed in 2013 that if the world does not keep further anthropogenic emissions below a total of 800 billion tonnes of carbon we are not likely to keep average temperatures below 2 degrees of global averaged warming. That left about 270 billion tonnes of carbon to burn (Pidcock, 2013). Total global emissions remain at around 11 billion tonnes of carbon year (which is 37 billion tonnes of CO2). Those calculations appear worrying but give the impression we have at least a decade to change. It takes significant time to change economic systems and so if we are not already on the path to dramatic reductions it is unlikely we will keep within the carbon limit. With an increase of carbon emissions of 2% in 2017, the decoupling of economic activity from emissions is not yet making a net dent in global emissions (Canadell et al, 2017). So, we are not on the path to prevent going over 2 degrees warming through emissions reductions. In any case the IPCC estimate of a carbon budget was controversial with many scientists who estimated that existing CO2 in the atmosphere should already produce global ambient temperature rises over 5°C and so there is no carbon budget – it has already been overspent (Wasdell, 2015).

That situation is why some experts have argued for more work on removing carbon from the atmosphere with machines. Unfortunately, the current technology needs to be scaled by a factor of 2 million times within 2 years, all powered by renewables, alongside massive emission cuts, to reduce the amount of heating already locked into the system (Wadhams, 2018). Biological approaches to carbon capture appear far more promising (Hawken and Wilkinson, 2017). These include planting trees, restoring soils used in agriculture, growing seagrass and kelp, amongst other approaches. They also offer wider beneficial environmental and social side effects. Studies on seagrass (Greiner et al, 2013) and seaweed (Flanery, 2015) indicate we could be taking millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere immediately and continually if we had a massive effort to restore seagrass meadows and to farm seaweed. The net sequestration effect is still being assessed but in certain environments will be significant (Howard et al, 2017).

Research into “management-intensive rotational grazing” practices (MIRG), also known as holistic grazing, show how a healthy grassland can store carbon. A 2014 study measured annual per-hectare increases in soil carbon at 8 tons per year on farms converted to these practices. The world uses about 3.5 billion hectares of land for pasture and fodder crops. Using the 8 tons figure above, converting a tenth of that land to MIRG practices would sequester a quarter of present emissions. In addition, no-till methods of horticulture can sequester as much as two tons of carbon per hectare per year, so could also make significant contributions. It is clear, therefore, that our assessment of carbon budgets must focus as much on these agricultural systems as we do on emissions reductions.

Clearly a massive campaign and policy agenda to transform agriculture and restore ecosystems globally is needed right now. It will be a huge undertaking, undoing 60 years of developments in world agriculture. In addition, it means the conservation of our existing wetlands and forests must suddenly become successful, after decades of failure across lands outside of geographically limited nature reserves. Even if such will emerges immediately, the heating and instability already locked into the climate will cause damage to ecosystems, so it is will be difficult for such approaches to curb the global atmospheric carbon level. The reality that we have progressed too far already to avert disruptions to ecosystems is highlighted by the finding that if CO2 removal from the atmosphere could work at scale, it would not prevent massive damage to marine life, which is locked in for many years due to acidification from the dissolving of CO2 in the oceans (Mathesius et al, 2015).

Despite the limitations of what humans can do to work with nature to encourage its carbon sequestration processes, the planet has been helping us out anyway. A global “greening” of the planet has significantly slowed the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the start of the century. Plants have been growing faster and larger due to higher CO2 levels in the air and warming temperatures that reduce the CO2 emitted by plants via respiration. The effects led the proportion of annual carbon emissions remaining in the air to fall from about 50% to 40% in the last decade. However, this process only offers a limited effect, as the absolute level of CO2 in the atmosphere is continuing to rise, breaking the milestone of 400 parts per million (ppm) in 2015. Given that changes in seasons, temperatures extremes, flood and drought are beginning to negatively affect ecosystems, the risk exists that this global greening effect may be reduced in time (Keenan et al, 2016)

These potential reductions in atmospheric carbon from natural and assisted biological processes is a flickering ray of hope in our dark situation. However, the uncertainty about their impact needs to be contrasted with the uncertain yet significant impact of increasing methane release in the atmosphere. It is a gas that enables far more trapping of heat from the sun’s rays than CO2 but was ignored in most of the climate models over the past decades. The authors of the 2016 Global Methane Budget report found that in the early years of this century, concentrations of methane rose by only about 0.5ppb each year, compared with 10ppb in 2014 and 2015. Various sources were identified, from fossil fuels, to agriculture to melting permafrost (Saunois et al, 2016).

Given the controversy around this topic in the scientific community, it may even be contentious for me to say that there is no scientific consensus on the sources of current methane emissions or the potential risk and timing of significant methane releases from either surface and subsea permafrost. A recent attempt at consensus on methane risk from melting surface permafrost concluded methane release would happen over centuries or millennia, not this decade (Schuur et al. 2015). Yet within three years that consensus was broken by one of the most detailed experiments which found that if the melting permafrost remains waterlogged, which is likely, then it produces significant amounts of methane within just a few years (Knoblauch et al, 2018). The debate is now likely to be about whether other microorganisms might thrive in that environment to eat up the methane – and whether or not in time to reduce the climate impact.

The debate about methane release from clathrate forms, or frozen methane hydrates, on the Arctic sea floor is even more contentious. In 2010 a group of scientists published a study that warned how the warming of the Arctic could lead to a speed and scale of methane release that would be catastrophic to life on earth through atmospheric heating of over 5 degrees within just a few years of such a release (Shakhova et al, 2010). The study triggered a fierce debate, much of which was ill considered, perhaps understandably given the shocking implications of this information (Ahmed, 2013). Since then, key questions at the heart of this scientific debate (about what would amount to the probable extinction of the human race) include the amount of time it will take for ocean warming to destabilise hydrates on the sea floor, and how much methane will be consumed by aerobic and anaerobic microbes before it reaches the surface and escapes to the atmosphere. In a global review of this contentious topic, scientists concluded that there is not the evidence to predict a sudden release of catastrophic levels of methane in the near-term (Ruppel and Kessler, 2017). However, a key reason for their conclusion was the lack of data showing actual increases in atmospheric methane at the surface of the Arctic, which is partly the result of a lack of sensors collecting such information. Most ground-level methane measuring systems are on land. Could that be why the unusual increases in atmospheric methane concentrations cannot be fully explained by existing data sets from around the world (Saunois et al, 2016)? One way of calculating how much methane is probably coming from our oceans is to compare data from ground level measurements, which are mostly but not entirely on land, with upper atmosphere measurements, which indicate an averaging out of total sources. Data published by scientists from the Arctic News (2018) website indicates that in March 2018 at mid altitudes, methane was around 1865 parts per billion (ppb), which represents a 1.8 percent increase of 35 ppb from the same time in 2017, while surface measurements of methane increased by about 15 ppb in that time. Both figures are consistent with a non-linear increase – potentially exponential – in atmospheric levels since 2007. That is worrying data in itself, but the more significant matter is the difference between the increase measured at ground and mid altitudes. That is consistent with this added methane coming from our oceans, which could in turn be from methane hydrates.

This closer look at the latest data on methane is worthwhile given the critical risks to which it relates. It suggests that the recent attempt at a consensus that it is highly unlikely we will see near term massive release of methane from the Arctic Ocean is sadly inconclusive. In 2017 scientists working on the Eastern Siberian sea shelf, reported that the permafrost layer has thinned enough to risk destabilising hydrates (The Artic, 2017). That report of subsea permafrost destabilisation in the East Siberian Arctic sea shelf, the latest unprecedented temperatures in the Arctic, and the data in non-linear rises in high-atmosphere methane levels, combine to make it feel like we are about to play Russian Roulette with the entire human race, with already two bullets in the chamber. Nothing is certain. But it is sobering that humanity has arrived at a situation of our own making where we now debate the strength of analyses of our near-term extinction.

Apocalypse Uncertain

The truly shocking information on the trends in climate change and its impacts on ecology and society are leading some to call for us to experiment with geoengineering the climate, from fertilizing the oceans so they photosynthesize more CO2, to releasing chemicals in the upper atmosphere so the Sun’s rays are reflected. The unpredictability of geoengineering the climate through the latter method, in particular the dangers of disturbances to seasonal rains that billions of people rely on, make it unlikely to be used (Keller et al, 2014). The potential natural geoengineering from increased sulphur releases from volcanoes due to isostatic rebound as weight on the Earth’s crust is redistributed is not likely to make a significant contribution to earth temperatures for decades or centuries.

It is a truism that we do not know what the future will be. But we can see trends. We do not know if the power of human ingenuity will help sufficiently to change the environmental trajectory we are on. Unfortunately, the recent years of innovation, investment and patenting indicate how human ingenuity has increasingly been channelled into consumerism and financial engineering. We might pray for time. But the evidence before us suggests that we are set for disruptive and uncontrollable levels of climate change, bringing starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war.

We do not know for certain how disruptive the impacts of climate change will be or where will be most affected, especially as economic and social systems will respond in complex ways. But the evidence is mounting that the impacts will be catastrophic to our livelihoods and the societies that we live within. Our norms of behaviour, that we call our “civilisation,” may also degrade. When we contemplate this possibility, it can seem abstract. The words I ended the previous paragraph with may seem, subconsciously at least, to be describing a situation to feel sorry about as we witness scenes on TV or online. But when I say starvation, destruction, migration, disease and war, I mean in your own life. With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend on your neighbours for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.

What Now Then?

My conclusion from analysing the latest climate science is that we can ask ourselves questions about what is fundamentally important to us in our own lives. We are being confronted by our own mortality and that of everything we could contribute to. That reflection and reorientation is not a simple or fast process, and I recommend it is explored in community. Share this blog with friends and talk to them. I recommend Dark Mountain Facebook group as one place for that. I would like to recommend other very popular Facebook groups on this topic, but I have found them to reflect a lot of repressed anger. My own hope is that we can cultivate love within this darkness.

Then there is the broader question of how we could help our communities, countries and humanity adapt to the coming troubles. I have dubbed this the “Deep Adaptation Agenda,” to contrast it with the limited scope of current climate adaptation activities. I have created a LinkedIn group for people who work in related areas in a professional capacity.

All manner of personal and institutional pressures and incentives work towards making us ignore or de-prioritise the kind of information and analysis I have presented above. It will be difficult not to be seduced by those who make us think we have more time, or that things aren’t so bad, or that planting more kelp will save us. It will also be difficult to avoid seduction by those saying that praying will help fix things, or that this tragedy can be welcomed as God’s moment of return. Instead, I recommend exploring what is your heart’s desire after you relinquish concern for either conformity, certainty, status, security or self-preservation. That’s probably how we should approach life anyway… Oops. Not to late for that then!

I have written in length about my own journey on this issue here. I was interviewed by Dark Mountain about it here.

I will be exploring implications of this information for our own agency as professionals in a Sustainable Leadership course. Info here.

My thanks to Chris Erskine at Seedbed and Dougald Hine at Dark Mountain for encouraging me to prioritise this path.


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Funded PhD on Local Currencies

Posted by jembendell on December 26, 2017

Fully funded full time PhD on local currencies in stunning Cumbria, supervised by me, Prof Jem Bendell

Closing date: midnight 18 February 2018

The Lake District Pound (LD£) initiative is the context within which the research project will be carried out. This is an innovation in local currency that builds on the prior work and positive outcomes of other complimentary currency initiatives in the UK and globally. The LD£ will operate alongside sovereign Sterling currency with a more direct purpose to support the local rural economy.

This initiative will utilise a range of innovative methods to adapt and extend the idea of a ‘currency with a purpose’ to a rural context with a unique demographic including for the first time a National Park. A core aim of the initiative is to shift visitor spending from using large external businesses (e.g. online retailers and travel companies, remote delivery services, etc.) towards local companies and communities. The anticipated impact is to retain more wealth in the region to fund social and environmental projects and through the local focus and supply chains deliver measureable environmental benefits.
The LD£ initiative has a number of short and long-term aims, which will be greatly enabled through this research project. The aim of the research project is to provide a foundation and framework for measuring the success of the local currency initiative and from that measure, to identify optimum practice and future direction to improve such local currency initiatives.

The PhD research topic is the development of a framework for evaluation of the impact of the Lake District Pound and generation of data on that impact. This evaluation must include indicators of economic impacts, as well as social, cultural and environmental impacts. The evaluation needs to involve quantitative metrics, but can also include more qualitative assessments. It is a multidisciplinary study, with the candidate being able to draw upon a range of fields in consultation with the supervisor (for instance, potential insights from sociology, accounting, corporate sustainability, voluntary sector and organisation studies).

The PhD researcher will work with The Lakes Currency Project Ltd as well as conducting the research for the PhD – and will be based in the stunning Lake District National Park.

The Lakes Currency Project Ltd is the organisation behind the introduction and support of the ‘Lake District Pound’. It is incorporated as a private entity following the guidelines of a Community Interest Company to drive the LD£ initiative as a commercially sustainable project. The generation of revenue from the initiative will be directed in joint partnership with the Lake District Foundation to support vital sustainability projects in and around the National Park, and the Cumbria Community Foundation to support critical projects to help the poorer local communities. Their long-term aim is to develop an element of autonomy and economic resilience within the Lake District and surrounding communities in response to the continually increasing impact of global tourism that often serves to impoverish rural areas.


Full-time PhD – annual tax-free stipend of £15,000 p.a. for 3 years
Tuition fees paid for by the industry sponsor (Home/EU fee)

The PhD is supported by the ERDF funded Eco-innovation Cumbria project led by the University of Cumbria.

Application process

To apply please visit the website for details of the entry requirements which must be met and to access the application form. Under the Research Proposal section of the form please summarise your approach to the proposed project outlined in this advert under the following headings: General Overview of Area, Identification of the Relevant Literature, Key Research Questions, Methodology, Timescale/Research Planning

Please include a covering letter telling us why you want to study for a PhD, what interests you about this project and highlight the skills and experience you will bring. Give the title of your research proposal as: “The Lake District Pound: Developing Local Sustainability through Economic Innovation in a Rural Context”

For any queries relating to admissions please contact Research Student Admissions

If you wish to find out more about the project in the first instance please contact: Ken Royall, Chief Executive, The Lakes Currency Project Ltd. or Dr David Murphy, Institute for Leadership and Sustainability, University of Cumbria or

Closing date: midnight 18 February 2018

Interviews to be conducted 26th February 2018 in Ambleside, Cumbria. Candidates will be required to give a short presentation on their approach to the research proposal. Strong candidates may be given the option for an interview by video conference.

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What after we stop pretending? Quarterly 11

Posted by jembendell on December 1, 2017

Hello from Athens where I’ve started my sabbatical year researching a book and supporting an NGO creating systems for local currencies that enable the solidarity economy.


Have you ever wondered what we might do if we stopped pretending we can prevent climate change from wreaking havoc? Next summer I’m hosting a retreat for environmentalists who sense despair at the current trends. It’s at the Kalikalos eco-retreat in Greece, a spin off from the Findhorn centre in the UK. The retreat explores the contours of the deep adaptation agenda (from personal to political). Please get in touch with me if this resonates and you are considering joining us (dr j  bendell at gmail).

The retreat builds on what I have learned by teaching the University of Cumbria’s sustainable leadership courses. I summarise the ideas on leadership which underpin those courses in a new journal article. I really enjoy what my students do once freed from the cautious narratives of incremental (often inconsequential) change. One of our new graduates, Julie Hutchison, was featured last week for launching a new charity trustee training programme. We are taking applications now for the September 2018 intake of this course. We are also keen to hear from organisations that could sponsor the student fees, so we could offer free places to people with potential to create major change.

Another of our students, Cheryl Clarke, is part of a team which today launches a pre-sale on a new blockchain platform and token, with the smallish aim of disrupting Hollywood! This field of crypto currencies has boomed in 2017. Previously I was only contacted about currency innovation by people with a passion for crazy ideas or creating change. My inbox now bulges with people serious about the commercial and investment opportunities. It makes writing a book about the future of money an interesting challenge. I’m currently sorting out which are my favourite blockchain projects and related start-ups and how I will support them (so watch this space). Certainly there are many better approaches than bitcoin, which has a horrible and unnecessary carbon footprint.

I’m really looking forward to the leadership conference we, that’s IFLAS, are hosting in the Lake District next September. The deadline for submitting an abstract for either a paper, poster or a workshop is January 30th. The conference is FREE, and is hosted with Crossfields Institute and Alanus University. Stunning location, fab keynotes, highly interactive, some stuff outdoors, cutting edge insights on heartfelt approaches to professional development. You should come. But the only way to make sure you have a place is to submit your idea now.

Volcano permitting, my research takes me to Bali for 3 months from January 1st. If you are volcanologist, maybe I’ll see you there?

@jembendellBlog / Quarterly Bulletin

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This personal is political – Jem’s Quarterly #10

Posted by jembendell on July 31, 2017

I used to avoid party politics. I thought it wouldn’t be a way to promote positive change, because political leaders would only consider options framed by national vested interests and international finance. Instead, I focused on the contexts around political parties, such as increasingly public awareness of key issues, promoting change in the practices of business and financial institutions, and supporting alternatives at the grassroots. This year, that changed for me.  As my University role is part time, I took an opportunity to support the office of the Leader of the Opposition in the UK. For the first time in my life, I saw the potential for a mainstream political party in the UK to engage with wider social movements for a sustainable transformation.

A lot has been said about the current leadership and direction of the Labour Party, and of left-wing politics in general. Nothing beats hearing directly from the people involved. So, for a sense of his philosophy on leadership and change, I recommend a speech Jeremy Corbyn MP gave in London on April 29th called “Stepping Up for Britain”. For an insight into the economic approach Labour proposed, I recommend a speech in May from John McDonnell MP, the Shadow Chancellor. For Corbyn’s views on security and foreign policy I recommend the latter half of a speech he gave some days after the terrible bombing in Manchester. I was pleased to work with them on those speeches, during my support for the election campaign.

The result of the election was one step forward in the process of establishing a broad left agenda for the future of economy and society. Nevertheless, there remains much to be done in the UK, Europe and elsewhere for governments to enable people to improve their lives and communities in a rapidly changing world.

In other news:

2017 marks 20 years since my first book was published! With Dr David Murphy, we looked at collaborations for sustainable development in the book “In the Company of Partners.” To mark this anniversary, I gave an open lecture at the University of Cumbria, which you can watch here. My article of reflections on what has happened on this topic over the last 20 years is available in Issue 66 of the Journal of Corporate Citizenship.

I recorded a video to promote our free online Money and Society MOOC, which starts again on August 19th. You can read more about it and sign up at

CCCIn May, with Matthew Slater, we presented a paper on the future of complementary currencies in an age of blockchains at the joint academic-practitioner RAMICS conference in Barcelona. We also outlined a new initiative to create the protocols and tools for the massive scaling of socially useful new currencies. We then presented these ideas to participants and supporters of the social and solidarity economy at a RIPESS event in Athens. In my next update, I will outline the shape of this effort, which federates over 300 local currencies into one initiative. For some of the philosophical background see

From September, I am taking a year-long sabbatical to (attempt to) write a popular book that will convey some of the things I work towards. The project will take me through London, Valencia, Athens, Geneva, Milan, Manila and Bali, so if in any of these locations, it would be great to hear from you.

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Jem’s Quarterly #9 – Lead collaborations for meaningful change

Posted by jembendell on April 26, 2017

I will keep it quick this quarter and focus on the resources and opportunities now available to you on sustainable leadership, collaboration, and currency innovation.


My paper on a needed revolution in collaboration between business and NGOs will appear in the JCC academic journal in June. I wrote this to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the publication of my first book, In the Company of Partners. I gave a lecture about that to our international MBA students and invited guests, and it’s been nicely produced here.

The next course offer from IFLAS on this topic is the “Skills for Leading Teams” course over 3 days in June. That is a wonderful time to visit the Lake District. Led by IFLAS Doctoral Researcher Jo Chaffer, the course will be a special experience and I look forward to seeing some of you there. The module is also part of our MA in Leadership Development. The foundational 6-day residential for that is also in the Lake District, and starts 12th September.

Sustainable Leadership

The special issue of the SAMPJ academic journal is now complete and will appear in September. It features a paper “Beyond Unsustainable Leadership” which I wrote with Richard Little (Impact International) and Dr Neil Sutherland (UWE). I will present this in Carlisle on July 17th. My research in leadership has been recognized with a prize from a Swiss institute, who will host me in June to discuss implications for leadership within the United Nations system.

Our number of doctoral students focusing on these topics grows, with Aimee Leslie of WWF joining us to explore how leaders in the environmental sector interpret the tragedies as well as successes in this line of work. Speaking of environmental tragedy, the video for my talk at Griffith University on getting real about what troubles climate change presents us is online here.

The Institute continues to animate discussion on these topics, with former RGS VP and TV personality Paul Rose and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood both speaking about sustainable leadership on our Ambleside Campus this summer. These are some of the 10 free public events IFLAS is organising to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the University of Cumbria.

If you are wondering how we approach sustainability and why we think the heritage and landscape of the Lake District matters in what we do, I recommend my Inaugural Lecture, and some thoughts I shared on our research at IFLAS.

Currency Innovation

In March, more people completed our free Money and Society MOOC than ever before. We hosted 30 of them at a summit in London, which was also part of our PGC in Sustainable Leadership. We are delighted the Finance Lab also offered one free fellowship for 6 months for alumni of our MOOC. We look forward to hosting them on their retreat in the Lake District this summer.

In May I will be presenting a paper on the future of complementary currencies in an age of blockchains at the joint academic-practitioner RAMICS conference in Barcelona. We will be explaining the proposal for a new Credit Commons Collective to create the protocols and tools for the massive scaling of socially useful new currencies. I’m also helping organise a workshop there for PhD researchers and then, a first for me, helping with a hackathon to develop some of the software that is needed. I’m pleased to be working with my PhD student Leander Bindewald and MOOC colleague Matthew Slater on these efforts.

I have long advocated these solutions for Greece, and in June will be presenting the ideas and tools with Matthew to community groups and local government at the RIPESS event in Athens and then will guest lecture on a course a few hours north near Volos, with the commercial barter guru Tom Greco (course info here).

The common theme of all this stuff is enabling people to lead collaboration for  meaningful change in an unstable environment. I hope to continue doing that in various ways, new and old, in the coming years.


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