So tweeting wont save democracy? Nor blogging :-(

For me, Twitter has been a useful place for getting some news headlines but a lousy mechanism for discussion. With over 11,000 followers I thought I should keep sharing some news and views, despite the restrictive format. So for the first time I tweeted a couple of threads, to give a bit more of a substantive view on a topic that is alive right now… whether authoritarianism is a growing concern in general and might even come with the excuse of environmental necessity over the coming years. Reading it in blog format, below, it’s hard not to have a robotic Dalek voice in my head.

The first thread is here:

My paper in a #psychotherapy journal is generating some discussion on social media. I explore why & how to talk publicly about anticipated disruption & societal #breakdown
https://ojs.aut.ac.nz/ata/article/view/187

The issue of why it is time to speak out about the worst case scenarios as becoming likely, and to allow that to transform us and radicalise us, is well explored by @AndMedh, former finance lead of @ExtinctionRebellion
https://andmed.medium.com/contemplating-collapse-should-we-speak-about-it-more-and-if-so-how-b835e32cd13c

I look at the poor theoretical & empirical basis for arguing such an outlook is unhelpful #doomism. I invite attention on whether emotional avoidance leads some to demonise people with bleaker outlooks. Something picked up on by XR founder member Skeena
https://www.resilience.org/stories/2021-10-06/its-meant-to-hurt-allowing-our-feelings-on-climate-will-promote-action-and-reduce-conflict/

I explore the extensive social & pyschological research on how emotional avoidance in response to anxiety can lead to support for authoritarianism. A theme picked up by this ecologist in a warning that says fascism would itself be an aspect of #collapse
https://papillon-earth.medium.com/destination-collapse-next-stop-fascism-a6eff8cdbd19

Although sociology says much on the dynamics of authoritarianism, this paper arose from inquiry with psychology research over 3 yrs, since the #deepadaptation paper came out & I realised (unaknowledged) inner states influence scholarly & policy discussion on topics like #collapse

I have mostly focused on improving different ways of relating that could avoid some of the emotional avoidance that limits topics & the depth of our discovery. For instance, #deeprelating #facilitation, which I explained in a peer reviewed paper https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/11/6280

I also worked on enabling the articulation of many views on how to positively engage in reducing harm if one anticipates societal disruption & collapse, which is why I edited #DeepAdaptation with
@RupertRead that includes many experts e.g. @jongosling
https://politybooks.com/bookdetail/?isbn=9781509546831

It was a change of tack to analyse closely the veracity of arguments of scholars who say that the range of collapse-anticipators (e.g. @scholarswarning) are somehow ‘bad.’ Strident critique of others is normal in academia, but felt unfortunate in the climate arena. So why now?

My reason is the psychology research doesn’t support their view. Instead it points to a concerning process where #ExperientialAvoidance (esteemed in some academia) can lead to aggressive & authoritarian views. Thus, within the #EnvironmentalMovement we can be clearer about values

In the next years some climate scientists will back techno fixes, oppressive rules & censorship, not because of science but from their personalities & anxieties. Others will centre rights, justice, accountability & changing the systems pushing us to compete, exploit & denigrate

The establishment, backed by capital & presented to us by compliant politicians, bureaucrats & media will sell us the technoauthoritarian fraud of safety & success. They won’t push for freedom from exploitative & oppressive systems. Grassroots radical environmentalism does that

Therefore, in a situation with vastly unequal power relations between different persons within the environmental and climate fields and movements, calls to avoid arguments & collaborate might actually enable a technoauthoritarian dystopia in the name of climate safety.

Instead, it’s time for #agonistic dialogue, where we are keen to identify differences of opinion, expecting either shifts of perspective or confirming views. Can that happen on social media? I’ve seen scholars blocking, virtue signalling & shaming in response to @AndMedh

Therefore, if you have just come across this on social media, it’s worth knowing that 500+ scholars & scientists from around the world signed a public letter that explicitly addressed this need to have better dialogue on collapse risk & readiness
http://iflas.blogspot.com/2021/02/over-500-sign-scholarswarning-on.html

My next thread was in response to the main Extinction Rebellion twitter account promoting the report from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue on the right wing conspiracy theories about a #climatelockdown. Slightly less Dalek…

A thread on this in reply. The report on conspiracy theories about a future #climatelockdown has been promoted by environmental campaigners and experts. That might seem sensible, as the way some Covid-lockdown critics then pivot into climate change denial is a worry. However…

Focusing on conspiracy theories can undermine legitimate and needed discussion of substantive issues and our undermine scrutiny of public policy and those seeking to influence it. Promoting conspiracy theories is even a tactic of elites to disable criticism #hypernormalisation

Many scholars and activists I talk to or read from are advocating forms of authoritarianism as what they see as a needed response to climate crisis, and pointing to experience from Covid policies as proof there can be such action. That view needs serious questionning.

If someone doesn’t understand how the environmental crisis is the result of wrong dis/incentives that drive exploitation, consumption, destruction, etc, then they might wrongly conclude that unrestrained humans are the problem that need stricter rules by a parent-like authority

By focusing on a rightwing conspiracy theory, rather than the actual issues, like what is authoritarianism and whether it is growing and would be counterproductive or not for efforts on the environment.

Ive heard some climate experts wishing for a day when there’s a climate equivalent of a Fauci to ordain what “science says” are sensible policies. A different starting point to respect human nature & try to liberate us to look after eachother & nature isnt an instinct of elites

Instead we need clearer articulation of rights-based environmentalism, like #XR works on with #coliberation processes & calls for participatory democracy. How do we uphold rights during a necessary bold policy agenda on emissions, drawdown, adaptation, restoration & reparations?

…and a coherent response to #bigtech hegemony. Any report that advocates more unaccountable forms of bigtech censorship rather than the following is not pro-democratic:
i) breaking up bigtech
ii) compulsory publishing algorithms & the editorial decision systems within bigtech

After these threads, I am left with the obvious insight that defending support for human rights and democratic accountability is going to require more than tweets (or blogs). At some point more of us will need to recognise that organising is required and that complaining is not organising. Dalek or not, words won’t ‘exteeeerrminaaaate’ authoritarianism. If you know of any relevant initiatives please leave a comment below. Or if you just want to join the noise on twitter, you can find me here. I have uploaded a picture to prove I am not a Dalek.

Resources from Jem Bendell on Deep Adaptation

Our Campus resides near this Lake

I work part time with the University of Cumbria in the UK (less than 2 days a week). Cumbria is known as a beautiful part of the UK and being wonderful for hiking (opportunity for a fab landscape photo!). The University is not old, but builds upon traditions of its prior institutions and their emphasis on interdisciplinary research, experiential learning, outdoor education, critical sociology and the serving professions. Therefore the University has been ideal for me in how it welcomes interdisciplinary applied research with a social purpose. Aside from our teaching commitments, every so often we are asked to summarise some of our most relevant activities in research and outreach. I am sharing this information also here on my blog, so that it is easier for me to share with other audiences in future (and for me to find!). If you engage in the matter of our climate crisis, then I hope some of the links to talks, events and publications are of interest.

Invited conference keynote speeches:

“Introducing Deep Adaptation to climate chaos” June 10th 2021.
Keynote to the EU commission, organised by Globe EU (with participants from DG Grow, DG Environment, DG Move, DG Climate, and the EU Defence Agency.
Info on the event: https://www.globe-eu.org/globe-eu-wakeup-calls/
Transcript of speech: https://jembendell.com/2021/06/11/for-environmentalists-covid-is-the-elephant-in-the-zoom/
Video of speech: https://www.globe-eu.org/globe-eu-wakeup-calls/
Key commentary:
I explained the scientific basis for why leaders in society need to work on preparing for disruption, in ways that engage civil dialogue, to enable wiser responses than if panicked or decided by agencies without public scrutiny.

“Why help people express thoughts and feelings about perceptions of societal collapse” 13th March 2021
Keynote to New Zealand Association of Psychotherapy conference “Climate Crucible”
Info on the event: https://nzap.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Climate-Crucible-programme.pdf
Background notes on the presentation: https://jembendell.com/2021/02/18/should-we-discuss-our-anticipation-of-collapse/
Video of speech: not released yet
Key commentary:
I explained the insights from my autoethnographic exploration of the process of communicating about collapse risk and readiness, and how I had been interfacing that with readings in psychology. I explained the way ‘experiential avoidance’ amongst scholars and others working on environmental issues may be restricting dialogue on preparing for difficult scenarios.

“Taking Deep Adaptation to Heart” June 22nd 2021
Keynote to the ‘Open University’ event, University of Groningen, Netherlands
Info on the event: https://klimaatadaptatiegroningen.nl/en/events/live-event-open-university-on-climate-adaptation
Video of the speech: https://youtu.be/fLCXTeYv5f4
Key commentary:
I explained how the rise in epidemics can be undertstood in relation to the destabilising of ecosystems and the stress on species within them, which means we can understand widespread societal disruption from environmental breakdown as already having started (whether Covid has natural origin or a lab origin due to scientists conducting risky experiments to prepare for an era of pandemics induced by environmental/climate change).

“Organisational Implications of Anticipating Societal Collapse” December 2nd, 2020
Keynote speech to University of Bath
Info on the event: https://www.bath.ac.uk/events/deep-adaptation-and-system-wide-disruption-of-organisations-for-sustainability/
Video of speech https://youtu.be/VGtYBTdICEY
Key commentary:
This is my most comprehensive introduction to the deep adaptation agenda and framework, in the form of a lecture.

Panel presentations:

“Why Deep Adaptation Matters to Universities” 19th May 2020
Panel presentation to the Climate Commission of the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges (EAUC)
Info on the event: https://www.eauc.org.uk/shop/mms_single_event.php?event_id=6915
Video of the speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AS-6rtQYuU4
Key commentary:
I explained how many scholars now privately anticipate societal disruption and even collapse, and there need to be more public conversations and initiatives about the implications, including ones that go deep into inquiry about what we learn and unlearn from this crisis, tragedy and predicament.

“Leading in a time of dying” November 9th 2020
Panel presentation at the “Leading at the Edge”, conference of the International Leadership Association
Info on the event: http://www.ILA-net.org
Notes for the presentation are here: https://jembendell.com/2020/11/09/leading-in-a-time-of-dying-notes-for-talk-at-ila-2020/
Video of the panel: https://youtu.be/LVhya0RO-v0
Key commentary:
I explained my insights from 2 years working to launch the Deep Adaptation Forum, where I had applied approaches based on a collaborative leadership approach to social change.

“Climate activists must advocate on adaptation” 9th May, 2021
Panel presentation at the XR World conference
Video of the talk: https://youtu.be/p11ylUmfhUE
Key commentary:
I explained how activists can be more open about how they now anticipate a breakdown in our way of life, and see it happening already around the world, and that is why we act to promote a just form of adaptation to these disruptions. It’s too late and unhelpful to stick merely to activism on mitigation as otherwise the adaptation and “restoration” policies are left to elites to counterproductively shape in their own interests.

Public lecture for Cumbria University:

“Universities facing climate chaos – approaching deep adaptation” May 18th 2020
Open Lecture, University of Cumbria
Video of the speech: https://youtu.be/81_n9wJJ9x4
Key commentary:
I explained how Universities are not getting ready for adaptation to climate change, in either philosophy, strategy, teaching, research or outreach, and what they could do if they fully recognised the depth and urgency of the implications of rapid climate change.

Public seminars (organised and participated):

Deep Adaptation book launch, 7th July 2021
Panel presentation about why we did the edited book
Video of the event: https://youtu.be/Phoe6H0laaQ
Key commentary:
Why it is important to help people in professional roles to understand that a wide variety of researchers and executives in all walks of life now anticipate disruption and even societal collapse, and are exploring how to change what they work on to respond.

“The Current Monetary System is Driving Us Faster Towards Collapse” 25th March 2021
Panel presentation and chairing discussion about a research paper on the monetary growth imperative
Video of the event: https://youtu.be/CZ81-IduGfg
Key commentary:
The current monetary system, with the requirements associated with new loans (the source of the money supply) and the levels of accumulation that result, mean that money becomes scarce for those who service debts, and thus the economy and the money supply must expand to enable the system to work, thereby necessitating increased resource consumption.

“Deep Adaptation Forum Q&A with Jem Bendell” 3rd September 2020
A seminar of DA Forum participants asking me questions
Video of the event: https://youtu.be/HCMV7STX_dI
Key commentary:
A wide range of issues came up, including the philosophy behind the Forum, which is to enable co-creation of this agenda.

“Deep Adaptation Forum Q&A with Jem Bendell #2” 19th January 2021
Another seminar of DA Forum participants asking me questions
Video of the event: https://youtu.be/p5dfO7I42Cc
Key commentary:
A wide range of issues came up, with some time exploring how people in the emerging Deep Adaptation movement might learn from, respond to and transcend the criticisms from people who think that our existence is counterproductive.

Interviews:

“What could possibly go right?” 30th March 2021
Interview with Post Carbon Institute
Video of the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZKYJjDxeos
Key commentary:
I talked about the way a realisation that our current system has failed and breaking down has been unleashing people to transform the way they live, with new boldness and creativity about love-in-action.

“Navigating the realities of climate chaos” 4th July 2021
Interview with Facing Future TV
Video of the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPr8-fmkI5w
Transcript of the interview: https://www.resilience.org/stories/2021-07-09/jem-bendell-on-deep-adaptation-to-climate-chaos/
Key commentary:
I gave what I consider the most comprehensive summary of what Deep Adaptation analysis, ethos, framework, community and movement. I also explained some of my own journey towards coming up with that concept and approach, including the role of Improvisational Theatre with practical anti-authoritarians in my personal and professional development.

Academic Publications

Here are some of my academic outputs in the since the beginning of 2020. Many are downloadable via Insight.

Bendell, Jem (2021) Psychological insights on discussing societal disruption and collapse. Ata: Journal of Psychotherapy Aotearoa New Zealand .

Bendell, Jem and Carr, Katie (2021) Group facilitation on societal disruption and collapse: insights from Deep Adaptation. Sustainability, 13 (11). e6280.

Bendell, Jem and Read, Rupert (2021) Deep Adaptation: navigating the realities of climate chaos. Wiley, London.

Little, Richard and Bendell, Jem (2021) One reason there are many bad leaders is the misleading myth of “leadership”. In: Ortenblad, Anders, (ed.) Debating Bad Leadership: Reasons and Remedies. Springer, pp. 234-259.

Place, Christophe, Bendell, Jem, Chapman, Ian, Mcphie, Jamie and Murphy, David (2021) Integral research on the Lake District Pound: Six mixed methods for assessing the impact of a currency. International Journal of Community Currency Research .

Arnsperger, Christian, Bendell, Jem and Slater, Matthew (2021) Monetary adaptation to planetary emergency: addressing the monetary growth imperative. Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) Occasional Papers Volume 8. University of Cumbria, Ambleside, UK.

Kieft, Jasmine and Bendell, Jem (2021) The responsibility of communicating difficult truths about climate influenced societal disruption and collapse: an introduction to psychological research. Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) Occasional Papers Volume 7. University of Cumbria, Ambleside, UK

Bendell, Jem (2020) In the company of rebels: towards a role for cross-sector partnering in radical change and deep adaptation to climate chaos. In: Murphy, David and Marshall, Alison, (eds.) Citizenship and sustainability in organizations: exploring and spanning the boundaries. Routledge, London.

Carr, Katie and Bendell, Jem (2020) Facilitation for Deep Adaptation: enabling loving conversations about our predicament. Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) Occasional Papers Volume 6. University of Cumbria, Ambleside, UK.

Willocks, Katie, Bendell, Jem and Little, R. (2020) Professional Learning from Disturbances in Healthcare: Managerialism and Compassion. International Journal of Management, Knowledge and Learning, 9 (1).

And.. in case you read French, in September 2020 my sole authored book on L’Adaptation Radicale was published. Available here.

Everything I have listed above would not have been possible without many companions on my journey of research and public engagement. If you have been involved, thank you. Photo credit: My Mum.

Reviving humanity and creativity in this time of dying

The Deep Adaptation Quarterly is out. it shows what a lot of stuff is happening under the radar of the mainstream media’s attention to social change. This is my editorial – you can also read the full newsletter and subscribe to the next.

Editorial – Reviving humanity and creativity in this time of dying

Anxiety about climate change and its impacts was discussed more widely in mainstream media in the last few months. For both children and adults, the main message coming from psychologists is that we can become more open about our feelings, rather than suppress them and pretend we are feeling fine. Although greater discussion of that in the mainstream is a step forward, it was unfortunate that a typical assumption of modern culture appeared in nearly all the reporting I read. That is the assumption that people positively engage in society because we believe we will make situations better. Instead, many people engage to make things less worse or because we believe in doing what’s good and true, whatever the situation or outcome. The dominant ideology of modern cultures, where material progress is assumed to be good and uncontestable underlies the limited ways motivation is discussed. However, just because material progress might be dying, does not mean we kill our humanity or creativity. This newsletter contains information which illustrates the wide range of creative solidarity that is emerging from people who anticipate societal disruption and collapse.

Many people want to live according to their unfolding truth, help others in bold ways, and be more creative and expressive precisely because they anticipate greater disruptions to their way of life. Creativity is one important response. An increasing amount of poetry and stories are being shared on the blog of the Deep Adaptation Forum. Music has been released that is inspired by a Deep Adaptation approach to life. I have also worked with the creative arts, to produce a multimedia art project that will raise funds for the children of Bali who have been badly affected by the pandemic. The project, called #BreakingTogether, incorporates one of my poems about climate anxiety, and includes the theme of impermanence – thus counter to the ideology of material progress.

For years the group Dark Mountain have encouraged cultural expression to help people explore what a new way of being human in a time of disruption and collapse might feel like. Moving ahead, it appears to me that artistic activity of all kinds will not only be important for personal wellbeing of the people involved, or the funds raised for charity, but also for more massive communication. Because we are entering a crucial period for sense-making about the environmental situation, as more and more people become aware of how bad the situation is becoming. That was the main theme of my recent essay reflecting on the past year since I left management of the Deep Adaptation Forum. The concern is that people could be susceptible to messages that suit the interests of corporations and incumbent power, and not get to hear about the diversity of ideas that are shared by people engaged in the Deep Adaptation conversation.

When collapse-anticipation does get discussed in the mainstream media, even now it is lampooned, or labelled as unhelpful ‘doomism’. In my most recent academic article I analyse the evidence-base of the claims that people who anticipate disruption and collapse are unhelpful for either enabling social change or public mental health. From both a sociological and psychological basis, I conclude those claims are not robust. Therefore, they may reflect the desire of the authors to negatively frame and marginalise people with opinions that make them feel uncomfortable. That’s something worth naming to make it easier to discuss – adaptation delayism. The paper is also available in a 1 hour audio format here.

Reviewing the paper, the former financial coordinator of Extinction Rebellion (XR), Andrew Medhurst explains how his own acceptance that massive disruption had become inevitable shook him out of his day job and into full time activism. Something similar happened for XR founder member Skeena Rathor, who, yesterday, shared her reflections on a summer of bad climate news. She argues that we need more people in the public eye talking about compassionate responses to disaster, to offer an alternative to the rise of authoritarianism. It is an important invitation for the environmental movement to consider,  articulate and uphold key values, as more people in both national and intergovernmental processes wake up to the peril (at COP26 and beyond).

The widespread inability to be present to what is happening in the world andcommunicate about it is why we are in the current predicament. That inability is partly the result of our systems of media, money, economy and politics. The same processes that drove the calamity continue now as societal disruption spreads. Therefore misinformed aggression towards people in ways that worsen problems and ignore root causes, will be an aspect and accelerator of societal collapse. So I am not under any illusions. Our attempts to respond to calamity and vulnerability in positive ways that reaffirm human dignity are not likely to have a significant effect when faced with the ongoing communication dominance from incumbent power and the habits from modern culture. But many of us will try anyway, because it is both right to try and it is part of our own self-respect and self-actualisation. With that in mind, I anticipate a lot more radical creativity in the coming months and years. Let’s go for it!

Right now, I invite you to watch the 3 minute video of the making of the multimedia art project #BreakingTogether, as well as browsing the many initiatives in this newsletter (our next issue will be at the end of the year).

Prof Jem Bendell, University of Cumbria, UK
Distinguished Fellow, The Schumacher Institute
Managing Editor, Deep Adaptation Quarterly

Breaking Together – digital art for social impact

One practice that is recommended for people engaging in art as a therapeutic aid is to paint everyday on the same canvas. Yes, that’s right, it means painting over your previous day’s creation! Including anything amazing you might have painted. To engage in this art practice properly requires painting each day with a passion for expression and detail, even while knowing you will destroy it the following day!

There’s something special about painting over something beautiful that you painted. It’s a practice of relinquishment and non-attachment. A practice of giving earnest attention to the process with non-attachment to the outcome.

It echoes the sand mandalas created in Buddhist monasteries. They take days or weeks to create, with each contributor knowing it will then be brushed together into a pile.

These are microcosms of a ‘knowing’ that we all have.

Because we all create while knowing that whatever is produced will disappear. We may lower that knowledge from our consciousness, but underneath we all do still know it.

Not just the sandcastles of warm childhood memories. Not just the incredible creations from centuries ago. But also the most cherished creations of ours today will, one day, be forever gone. Painting, poems, books, businesses, laws, victories, landscapes, families, planets. All will be lost. And for that, all is more wonderful.

With that in mind, in the process of making an audiovisual experience with one of my poems on ecological degradation, I asked Balinese painter Kan Kulak to paint prayer hands and then paint over them. In his flow, he decided for those hands to bless Mount Agung before returning into that volcano.

That process is represented on film and in a gif that is now a Non-Fungible Token (NFT). It might be ‘non-fungible’, but it is not indestructible. Like anything, the video will disappear one day. The physical painting will soon be on its way to a gallery, but also, one day, will be destroyed. The high-definition photo of the painting will be experienced around the world more than the painting, yet will also disappear one day. As will the gif that shows the moment of the praying being painted. As will all of us involved in its creation. As will all the children who will be helped through the auction of the digital art. As will the phase of the natural world that gave rise to all of us. This lack of permanence never undermined our desire and drive for creativity and right action. Only the chronically deluded would pretend otherwise.

This artistic process resonates with a core idea in my poem “An Ode To Moana Loa”. The destruction of nature by one part of nature called homosapiens is extremely painful. The video of the painting process is shown backwards so the biodiversity disappears before fracturing upon a recent peak of C02 part per million. Another pain is that the great injustice of this destruction is that the ones who have produced the least harm are the ones suffering the consequences first and most. In solidarity with them, we can try to slow and reduce the damage, no matter what comes or how bad it gets.

Adjusted to the certainty of future losses, we can focus not only on all we can save but also what we can create within the tragedy. The creative activities that produced the video are only the start of the story. The poetry, the painting, the music, the filmmaking, and the digital art are just the opening chapters. Will this story involve new chapters of support to transform lives in the here and now?

Will you write yourself into this story? You can do that by sharing this blog far and wide, especially with people who could support Balinese children by making a bid on the digital art.

The auction of the digital art begins today, September 28th 2021 from this link, and continues for 3 weeks.

Or perhaps you could place a bid? It is for a good cause. Which is what this is really about. Because an uncomfortable secret in the art world is that art is actually abundant. We can all become artistic and produce art. The scarcity mentality about art is a reflection of how our culture incentivizes us to commodify and control everything. That process involves the constant telling of stories of value and ownership, until they embed as ‘common sense’. The assumption in the art world is that art’s value requires those stories of scarcity. In the case of this particular digital art project, the fact there is only one certificate of ownership for the digital picture and for the gif is less relevant than the opportunity to participate in something wonderful. Perhaps someone will make a statement against the fictions of art by placing a bid!

I mention this aspect of the art world as stories of value and ownership can become counterproductive. Such as the story of money – what it is, who gets to make and distribute it, and how we relate to it. So much downstream damage has been done in the world because of the way societies have chosen to create and refine their stories of money. Therefore, it feels somewhat poetic to auction this particular digital artwork for cryptocurrency, with all the proceeds going to charity.

The “Breaking Together” video: https://youtu.be/UDjOIepPLb0

How the video was made:  https://youtu.be/0_Iv8sOJ1pQ

The auction raises funds for the Bali Children’s Project.

Please consider making a bid at the auction site, or telling your friends and colleagues who might be more crypto-savvy and able to make a bid.

The poem is An Ode To Moana Loa by Jem Bendell

The artist is Balinese painter Kan Kulak. The film maker is Wekku Ari Saaski. The musician is Darinka Montico. Stay in touch with future developments at Bali NFTs.

Jem spoke on currency innovation in a TEDx ten years ago and delivered a keynote speech to the UN on currency innovation in 2018 (“the technology we need is love”).

Covering this in the media? Send questions via this form.

See how we made the video

Breaking Together – a video of poem and painting

Act Now BECAUSE It’s Too Late – XR founder member invites us men to join

This weekend, the environmental action group Extinction Rebellion launches its latest wave of protests seeking to make responding to climate chaos the organising principle of all political parties and governments. In response to the latest IPCC report, which began to catch up with the perspectives of XR and the Deep Adaptation movement, XR reasserts its view that we are already within an unfolding disaster and must act to reduce harm, save what we can, and uphold our values in the process.

“Act now because it’s too late,” is also the message I conveyed in the XR handbook. It is too late for reform, for delay, or for pretending we can fix our environmental predicament – but it will never be too late to do the right thing. I even attempted a poem about it – “thank God it’s too late”!

Skeena Rathor is a founding member of XR and a governance member of the Deep Adaptation Forum. She introduced my opening speech at the launch of the international rebellion two years ago. Her courage in saying what needs to be heard and calling us to be our higher selves is immense. Perhaps that is why she featured in this recent music video on Chamunda. I am pleased to share on my blog her invitation to men to join the peaceful rebellion that starts this weekend in the UK. In this letter she conveys the emotions that move her and others to defend Life.

Dearest Brothers

This letter is a plea and comes from a dream that I had over summer solstice. 

But who am I and why and how could this request possibly be part of what is yours to do in this moment? 

The main ask is in bold below.

My name is Skeena.  Skeena Rathor….I’m brown skinned…..My family is from Kashmir – the place of the oldest running conflict registered on the UN agenda… I was born and raised here in the UK…..where the streets of our London council estate were also not safe for a brown child.  Still, safety wise it was easier for my parents.    

I am the Co Founder of Extinction Rebellion’s Guardianship and Visioning Circle which in speaking to you remotely and without real invitation feels like a tricky admission.  I think we’ve done some great things and I think we and I made some mistakes. 

And here we are three years later and the world is burning just as we imagined it would.  Species are dying at an accelerated rate just as we imagined they would.  

Brown and black children are mainly the casualties of our genocidal and ecocidal economics, more and more so every day and this is still only in our imaginations and may not touch us because deep down weve been told the black and brown children are worth less than the white. 

But then more than 4 million children in the UK are hungry… and how many are poisoned through the airs, soils and waters?…..our children are also in a mental health crisis, an addiction crisis and a powerlessness and manipulation crisis. 

I’m a mother of 3 girls.  Maybe you’re not in a relationship with children.  It doesn’t matter. I know you carry the mothering principle and instinct like all living beings do and just as much as I do…because like me you are here to create, nurture and protect.  

But then ok….I hear you…. There’s so much other crisis in your own lives, in the lives of your beloveds.

AND as men….. I think you have suffered a devastating severing from one another and an imprisoning of real self.  Its been different from the pain of women but just as real.

From the moment you were born the world responded to your cries less than they did the cry of girls – fact – and then you were told you weren’t allowed to mourn your losses and cry too passionately…. not allowed to express your rage for fear of scaring people…. not allowed to be too close to your brothers or sisters for fear of wrongness …..not allowed to be equally important to your children because apparently your not as important for the children…. not allowed to rest for too long, not allowed to play too hard, not allowed to love wildly….. not allowed not allowed – you’ve been DISALLOWED. 

Only recently, from my dear brother Ianto Doyle, I learnt the word misandry.  How embarrassing as a Liberation campaigner…. I had no idea.  I’m sorry …. so sorry because I think when sometimes we sisters talk about patriarchy we make you wrong.  More disallowing,  

So I see that your beauty, your strength, your vulnerability and your tenderness is in a stranglehold just as mine has been.

How do we come back together?…. What is it that we need to do together?…  Be together?…. Feel together?  What would you do?

For now, I had this dream –  

To open this Rebellion,  

on Sunday the 22nd August at 5pm,  

As an OPENING CEREMONY of direct nonviolent action……together with my sisters of colours and cultures with our men in their fierce care and protection of us.

There will be three tributaries – the women (FINT – female, intersex, non binary and trans) , the men and the more than human reps, all arriving from different directions. 

We are going to the heart of the violent system to make a stand and say stop the harm and heal the harm.  We are describing it as a Co Liberation action – being in the body of my freedom as your freedom and your freedom as mine. 

I want to ask you to stand in front of us…. as men connected in one unbroken line ….and turn around together, in each other’s arms, reunited to face the truth of this system.   

I want you to protect me and my sisters from what will come towards us, just for a moment and only until you need to.

I want the whole human family in its diversity to stand together – to create a picture of the reconciliation of the human family in the web of life, a picture of deep solidarity and kinship… and so much more than this, more than a picture…. an experience… for all of us…. of a family undivided, in FIERCE LOVE.    

Outside you, holding you, will be mixed rebels and then the Co Founders of XR and Black men as the least arrestable, outside them will be representatives of the more than human – the great web of life.  

Together we will look like an amphitheatre of life protecting life.   

I wonder what you need to stand with us and for us?

I can only face tomorrow if you can face it with me.  Otherwise its too much.  

Theres a vast ocean of crises aren’t there?  Its hard to know which one to turn towards, which one to face….  

But this is where I am calling you all in…..im calling you into facing some crisis with me….because 

Mostly…. I see us still trying to turn away from all of it….facing none of it…..  I’m scared, that because we have our backs turned away… we can’t really see what’s coming…..  

With our backs turned ….we are even more vulnerable and fragile…..and we are already more broken, more disconnected, more disembodied, more dislocated….than we have ever been before….eons of traumas have come home to roost in our bodies, in our lifetime….so we turn away…. 

And who has our backs if we are all facing the other way?  Who has your back?  Who has my back?  

I mean real back.  In full physical presence.  From metaphor to real life…..  I want to get real with you….for us to feel something real together….our power…our freedom…our interdependence…our belonging to one another….in real time….in full life force.

We need each other so very much.  With our love in action.

My privilege and your privilege costs lives every day…..every day life dies because of the systems we are locked into….we are part of the machinery of death and destruction.

Most days, I wake up with this despairing guilt sickness in my stomach, knots of helplessness and anguish…. and then often I hit what feels like a rip tide of grief…. in hearing my children’s voices and thinking about THE Children ….. there is some escape and I can get upright….in being with beloveds there is some more escape….enough to lift me into my resistance….  in the day my resistance includes joy, dance and laughter but I often go to bed with the same sickness.  I wonder how your grief and rage is for you.  

I know I’m not alone in this pain. I know you know so much of this pain.  I know as men you carry a version of my pain.  I don’t really know what your version feels like for you.  

I want to attempt a mass recovery WITH you.  I want to embark on a journey of epic restoration WITH you.  I know…… we need to hear more about what it is you need and dream of. 

I want us to begin something on the 22nd August. 2021, the anniversary of the Haitain Revolution of 1804, the only successful revolt of black slaves.

Please will you start something with me, by protecting us.

We do this in protection of all of us…..especially the children – the children of all species, our children, my children, your children.

With fierce love and prayers for your power and mine to rise and face what is here.

xSkeenax

Skeena Rathor

XRUK Co Founder Guardianship and Visioning  

For all the granddaughters

A poem written today, day 7 of my Covid-19 experience.

For All the Granddaughters

If you believe that our situation is terrible

So do I

If you experience emotions that seem unbearable

So do I

If you want some ways to escape the grief and anxiety

So do I

If you want to save your granddaughters

So do I

If you want to justify yourself as a good guy whatever may come

So do I.

If you respond to all of that by being defensive

Not so I

If you argue we must drop values of justice, kindness and equity

Not so I

If you dismiss people who disagree with you as naive

Not so I

If you pretend that your country has the power to enforce its survival above others

Not so I

If you won’t think of granddaughters other than your own

Not so I.

We grew up in a culture telling us we are naughty kids

Waiting for a strict daddy to come sort us out

And discipline the ones who stray

But we also grew up with families and friends

In a different reality

Never perfect and never the same

But where each of us has some dignity

and infinite possibility

for kind and wise action.

My pumping neck and jutting jaw doesn’t need an enemy anymore.

Neither does it need fixing with false hope

It just is.

Neither a wisdom to act from or a feeling to run from

It’s just there.

An aspect of me and perhaps everyone from now on.

While I do not wish to dysregulate

Surfacing stuff will splash those near

So please excuse my poetic expression

And holding love for granddaughters everywhere

Go fuck fascism.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

For Environmentalists, COVID is the Elephant in the Zoom

On June 10th Professor Jem Bendell gave a talk to the EU commission, organised by Globe EU, with participants from DG Grow, DG Environment, DG Move, DG Climate, and the EU Defence Agency. Here is a rough transcript of the talk, which will appear as a video soon.

“Thank you to Roland-Jan Meijer and Sirpa Pietikäinen for the invitation. Already at these European Commission “wake up calls” you have had really top experts in environmental science like Johan Rockström, Sandrine Dixson, Tim Palmer, Maja Göpel, Petteri Taalas, all warning about the risk of irreversible climate change. So, I will not go over that.

Instead, I want to share a few ideas about what if they are right about the problem, but that their wishes that all societies around the world change fast enough to good effect, turn out to be unfulfilled. What if it is too late to prevent dangerous levels of climate change further affecting food, water, trade, infectious disease, and, in turn, economic systems, political cultures, physical and mental health?

This isn’t an easy topic, especially for those of us who have given our professional lives to seeking to reform our current systems and culture to transition effectively to a greener way of life. But it really is now time to keep pushing for the best but prepare for worst.

Because it is affecting all of us, and is a stressful situation, I want to offer a few comments on the implications of pandemic disease. Last century we never had a coronavirus outbreak that could kill people. We just got runny noses from them. In the last 16 years we have had 3 nasty coronavirus outbreaks of the kind that can kill people – SARS, MERS and COVID. Some epidemiologists have predicted this due, in part, to environmental damage and climate change. The UN Environment Programme backed up that analysis in a report in July 2020.

Some epidemiologists have sought more funds for experiments on viruses because of their concern about this new era of pandemic risk. That comes with risks – despite efforts at biosafety, lab leaks are simply normal. A US Government report documented that there were 2 lab escapes of pathogens every week from biosafety level 3 and level 4 laboratories in that country. I don’t know if there is similar data for Europe, but there are dozens of such labs across Europe.

Away from the politicisation of the issue, the key point here is that by damaging nature and seeking to protect ourselves from that damage, we are making pandemic disease more likely. We already see the ramifications to economics, politics, civic freedoms, education, physical and mental health. Whatever happens with COVID-19, the bigger picture is further disease. That means a need for dialogue about smarter, more long term, more holistic and socially just responses to this new era, as well as redoubled efforts to conserve nature.

I focus on disease not because it is my specialism – it’s not – but because when we are talking about environmental impacts, it’s clearly a topic that we don’t feel comfortable approaching. It feels contentious, uncertain, scary even. For environmentalists, it’s been the elephant in the zoom.

The benefit of normalising an anticipation of societal disruption and collapse is that we can approach the full implications of zoonotic disease more deliberately. Just like we could approach matters of food security more deliberately. What do I mean by that? I mean without downplaying it, without laughing it off as doomist, without allowing our discomfort to turn into attempts to shut down the topic.

Unfortunately, some people have been trying to shut down the topic of collapse anticipation. That is why over 600 scholars from over 30 countries signed an international scholars’ warning on societal disruption and collapse, saying we need more sober and serious dialogue about it. Unfortunately, the world’s media and elites have not wanted to hear that warning. So, before sharing some thoughts about the implications of this agenda, and taking your questions on it, it may be useful to share some thoughts on those criticisms of collapse anticipation. If you did not know already, there are professionals within the environmental sector who argue that collapse anticipation is scientifically wrong or counterproductive to the cause of sustainability.

When talking with them, I ask them to recognize that there is a bias in us for normality – where we think what is normal in our everyday experience will continue. Of course, that has been shaken somewhat since the start of the pandemic and yet it is an aspect of the way people think. The normality bias shows up in the discussion of the latest climate science in the way it apportions the burden of proof. If you anticipate that everything will change everywhere almost immediately and that we get lucky that such change is sufficient, despite the already existing destabilization of global environmental systems, then the mainstream scientific establishment does not demand that you prove the basis for your anticipation.

When I anticipate collapse all I am doing is anticipating that what is happening now on many levels will continue to occur in similar ways. For instance, if we look at anthropogenic carbon emissions they have continued to increase near exponentially since the start of the industrial revolution with only a couple of blips in 2008 and in 2020 – though now in 2021 we have seen one of the fastest ever leaps in those emissions. That is despite decades of awareness, campaigning, policy initiatives and technological advances. Why should it need to be proven that this will continue, before assessing the implications of it continuing?

Or if we look at global atmospheric carbon concentrations they have also increased near exponentially since the start of the industrial revolution. The atmospheric concentration of carbon increased during 2020 despite a 7% drop in global emissions from humans. That indicates that some self-reinforcing feedbacks have begun to some degree such as the Amazon rainforest becoming a source rather than a sink of carbon dioxide as its soil dries and as it catches fire. Why should it need to be proven that this will continue, before assessing the implications of it continuing?

Then if we look at indicators such as sea level rise, the loss of Arctic Ice, the loss of land ice or the increase in droughts and floods, the loss of biodiversity, or the release of methane from inland permafrost, we see similar trends. Why should it need to be proven that this will continue, before assessing the implications of it continuing? And then if we look at impacts on society such as storm damage to property and to loss of crops from erratic weather, or the impacts of zoonotic disease on societies in general, the trends are also bad. Why should it need to be proven that this will continue, rather than to assess the implications of it continuing?

It is positive that we see a new emphasis on adaptation to climate change from the World Bank, the European Commission, and various intergovernmental organisations. Yet research on the mainstream adaptation policy agenda finds that it is too limited and often counterproductive. For instance, scholars like IPCC author Lisa Schipper of Oxford Uni shows that so much of what is done in the name of climate adaptation is trying to patch up situations which won’t continue and which add to inequality.

Rather than having a shallow view of adaptation, my assessment of the implications of all the trends I mentioned earlier is that they will disrupt our food systems, economic systems, financial systems and belief systems sufficiently to fracture industrial consumer societies. That is going further than mainstream adaptation policies, and why I call it ‘deep adaptation’. Our societies are highly complex and so it is a fool’s game to argue about which impact will break the cultural camel’s back. In my work and in the Deep Adaptation field and the collapsology field most of us aren’t spending time to try and predict how and when collapse will happen or how confident one should be about that according to a particular frame of reference for knowledge claims. Instead, it’s taken as extremely plausible and therefore must be worked on.

Ultimately the cultural impacts of people waking up to this situation and experiencing the psychosocial stress could easily hasten such collapses. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way if more of us are prepared to face the situation and support each other in curious and compassionate dialogue about the implications. 

Indeed, there is a lot of evidence against the argument that to anticipate collapse breeds apathy. This evidence is available through just talking to activists or paying attention to the life stories of some of the leaders of the recent wave of climate activism. They say quite clearly that they continue to push for the best but prepare for the worst. In addition, there is research on psychological impacts of collapse anticipation which suggest it is not disabling of the kinds of action which matter for political change. The focus of behavioural psychology and behavioural economics on individual consumers and how they may or may not change because of their beliefs in the effectiveness of their actions is not a sound basis for assessing the implications of people’s perspectives. We are not just consumers – we are all potentially radical co-leaders in our communities and organisations. Therefore, to assume that an anticipation of collapse would be disabling of radical action might be telling us more about ourselves than other people. I know that because I used to be one of them when I assumed that I could not consider the situation to be as bad as it is because then I would hit despair and not know what to do. Fortunately, I found that there’s a place beyond that despair which is creative and committed to finding out what’s right and doing that no matter what.

Unless we have more social dialogue, or civic dialogue, about this situation then we risk agendas being developed that could be damaging. Currently these topics are discussed behind closed doors within the confines of narrow mandates. For instance, military strategists are now scenario planning for catastrophic climate impacts, and even considering whether wars might need to be fought to secure the capabilities for fighting wars. It’s easy to see where that will lead.

It is imperative that far more people, across all aspects of society, find ways of thinking and talking about what these complicated interconnected threats might mean, in ways that aren’t determined by fear, haste or submission to authoritarian stories about safety. Because we need more wisdom than we have had. That means not just more rationality but also a meta rationality. We become less wise when we are fear driven and reactive. We need space for imagination, not just Gannt charts and risk analyses.

I offer a framework in my book released this month, titled Deep Adaptation. That has become an umbrella term for an ethos, a framework, a community and a movement.

The ethos is essentially a commitment to working together to do what’s helpful during the disruption and ultimate collapse of societies because of the direct and indirect impacts of environmental breakdown including climate change. It’s an ethos of being engaged, open-hearted and open-minded about how to be and how to respond.

It’s a framework for exploring ideas for how to attempt that. Which is what we call the four Rs of Deep Adaptation.  “What do we most value that we want to keep and how,” is a question of resilience. “What could we let go of so as not to make matters worse,” is a question of relinquishment. “What could we bring back to help us in these difficult times,” is a question of restoration. “With what and with whom shall we make peace as we awaken to our common mortality,” is a question of reconciliation. These are all questions because we are in a very new situation where the expectation of simple answers given to us by somebody else is not going to help as much as us exploring together how to be and what to do.

Deep Adaptation is also a community in the form of thousands of participants and hundreds of volunteers in the international Deep Adaptation Forum and various national groups. There are regular events online – even every day now. The community is quite focused on providing emotional support to each other and sharing skills about organising, but much more is planned.

It also seems to be a movement now because I keep hearing of people using the idea of deep Adaptation for their own efforts at living meaningful lives with a starting point of either experiencing disruption in their society or anticipating it. For instance, this year I learned about a deep adaptation group in Southern India. They were doing various activities to be more resilient in terms of the food and water in the face of disruptions; but when COVID hit they mobilize to really help the migrant labourers who were stranded in the region without income.

I believe this movement can be engaged with by people within their organisations. It is only a matter of time before more people discuss the question:

“What if the way of life in Europe will now change because of environmental impacts? What is it we want to retain, rescind, restore or reconcile with…”

The Deep Adaptation community has been around for over 2 years, so there are skills and approaches, for people to help others to engage more with this matter in a generative way. It can simply start with convening a discussion group amongst your colleagues and their families, about:

“What is ours to do if our way of life will continue to be disrupted?”

Such dialogues could be official or unofficial. They could use the Deep Adaptation approach or not. But it’s important to get started, because so many of the senior leaders I know from my previous involvement with the UN, the World Economic Forum, business, NGOs and party politics, are wondering about this topic but not finding ways to work on it. That is something also noticed and explored by one of the world’s top academics on leadership development, Professor Jonathan Gosling, in a chapter in my new book on Deep Adaptation.

I recommend checking out deepadaptation.info and scholarswarning.net for more information. In addition, there are many coaches and guides ready to help. A simple way of staying in touch on this topic is via the Deep Adaptation Leadership group on LinkedIn, and the Deep Adaptation Quarterly newsletter.

Thank you for listening and to the organisers for holding space for this difficult subject.”

To ask questions of Jem Bendell, Rupert Read and other contributors to the new Deep Adaptation book, sign up for the online book launch on July 7th 2021. The book is available from Polity. All editor proceeds go to The Schumacher Institute.

To study with Jem Bendell in 2021, consider the Deep Adaptation Leadership online course with the University of Cumbria, starting July 12th.

To read an academic paper on the methodologies developed for facilitating meetings on this difficult topic, and the theory behind the approach, access the full text here.

Image from Robin Hutton.

Making time to tell our stories publicly

As I have a book out on Deep Adaptation next month, some people have asked me to tell my personal story of becoming an accidental spokesperson for people responding positively to an anticipation of societal collapse. I have not prioritised that. Instead, I spent most of my last 3 years connecting people who share this anticipation (via the Deep Adaptation Forum and Scholars Warning), supporting them (through this blog and my Youtube channel) as well as studying and teaching about the implications. After I made a short film on my emotional response to the predicament, the only interview I did in that time with an English print journalist that focused on my journey on this topic appeared in the specialist publication for UK academics, the Times Higher Education Supplement. Given the silliness that has subsequently been written on collapse anticipation, and my paper and ideas, I grew more impressed with Matthew Reisz for such a sober treatment of the topic. As the possibility of environmentally-influenced societal breakdown has become more widely discussed so it is time for more scholars who work on this matter to share their personal experiences, to promote honest, vulnerable and positive responses to this situation. So, more to come…

Continue reading “Making time to tell our stories publicly”

The urgent need to slow down: ‘maplessness’ for responding to collapse

This is a guest post from Katie Carr, Senior Facilitator in the DA Forum. You can join her on a course she will co-facilitate with Jem Bendell on deep adaptation leadership, online in July, in which these ideas are further explored.

Over the last two years working to establish and nurture the Deep Adaptation Forum, I have often encountered people who express a desire for more answers, actions and impact. Given the latest news about how fast the environment is changing, and how many people and species are suffering, it feels natural to want to do something immediately. But given the depth and scale of the problem, what should we do? Might our desire for urgency and agency be both an asset and a hindrance? I believe that the predicament we face is such a challenge to our way of life and understanding the world, that there is also a clear need to slow down, to allow ourselves space and time to feel deeply into our emotional, embodied, and intellectual responses, in order to explore possibilities more fully. It is why processes for dialogue have been so central to the first years of the Deep Adaptation movement, and why volunteer facilitators have been so key to the Deep Adaptation Forum.

Continue reading “The urgent need to slow down: ‘maplessness’ for responding to collapse”

After Angry Acceptance: Fifteen Unhelpful Responses to Anticipating Collapse

Since I began to pay attention to how people respond to their anticipation of collapse, I have learned that the responses are far more diverse than I could have ever imagined before I stopped suppressing my own anticipation. After the Deep Adaptation paper came out I wrote about the myriad responses that seemed reasonable to me at the time. I shared that to encourage the idea there is not just one right way to respond to an anticipation of collapse. Over the last few years, I have become more aware of how some people are responding in less than helpful ways to their own conclusion that societal collapse is probable, inevitable or already beginning. Given that collapse anticipation triggers difficult emotions, unhelpful responses can be expected, and yet as such anticipation spreads, it will be helpful to identify problematic responses so we can invite people away from them. With that aim, I will summarise some of them in this essay, with labels for each, to enable future discussion.

Continue reading “After Angry Acceptance: Fifteen Unhelpful Responses to Anticipating Collapse”