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

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

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

But, but, but…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

To whet your own imaginations, here is one idea…

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

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


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


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

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

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

You can hear me in conversation about these topics here.

Discussing with Skeena and Gail of XR



194 thoughts on “Hope and Vision in the Face of Collapse – The 4th R of Deep Adaptation”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      3. Continuing: “Overall, the global annual temperature has increased … at an average rate of 0.17°C (0.31°F) per decade since 1970.” [NOAA global analysis for 2017 accessed September 18, 2018] from https://www.co2.earth/global-warming-update (the NOAA website is down at this time for lacking of funding). Of the top of my head, I recall that some estimate that as much as 40% of global warming has been masked by aerosols. Assuming that this is so, if there had been no masking starting in 1970, then the average rate of warming would have been 0.238°C (0.434°F) per decade since 1970.

        This does not mean that all that heat has accumulated just above our atmosphere waiting to fall on us as soon as the masking disappears. The masking is an increase in the planetary albedo, reflecting solar radiation to disappear into deep outer space. The loss of masking would mean an decrease in albedo and an increase in the rate of warming to about 0.25°C, which could lead to a catastrophic temperature after several decades, not a matter of weeks.


        “this will result in the planet heating up within a matter of weeks–to a rise in GAST (global average surface temperature) that will result in the rapid loss of human hsbitat and, thus, death of all complex life forms.”

        Rapid heating could well happen – although it seems still difficult to assess clearly what is the extent of global dimming. Most current estimates point at a potential global temperature increase of about +0.5ºC – 1ºC. Definitely a lot. But whether this could trigger “the death of all complex life forms” (perhaps through runaway climate change) remains to be seen.

        Levy et al. (2013) “the dramatic emission reductions (35%–80%) in anthropogenic aerosols and their precursors projected by Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5 [would] result in ~1ºC of additional warming and ~0.1 mm day of additional precipitation, both globally averaged, by the end of the 21st century.”

        (Note: RCP 4.5 is an emissions scenario elaborated by the IPCC hypothesizing a radiative forcing of +4.5 W/m2 by 2100 relative to pre-industrial values. This is far from being the worst possible pathway – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representative_Concentration_Pathway)

        Storelvmo et al. (2016): “We find that surface radiation trends, which have been largely explained by changes in atmospheric aerosol loading, caused a cooling that masked approximately one-third of the continental warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations over the past half-century.”

        Samset et al. (2018): removing present-day anthropogenic aerosol emissions could “induce a global mean surface heating of 0.5–1.1°C, and precipitation increase of 2.0–4.6%”. “We have here found that the global, annual, multimodel mean temperature and precipitation response to fully removing anthropogenic aerosols is half to a third of that of a GHG-driven warming of around 1.5°C.”

        Undorf et al. (2018): increasing sulfate emissions in the 1900-74 period were correlated with a large-scale climatic cooling of the studied regions (here, Eurasian midlatitudes); and conversely, decreasing emissions (due to more stringent air quality measures) were correlated with a warming.


        Levy, Hiram II, Larry W. Horowitz, M. Daniel Schwarzkopf, Yi Ming, Jean-Christophe Golaz, Vaishali Naik, and V. Ramaswamy (2013) “The roles of aerosol direct and indirect effects in past and future climate change” JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH: ATMOSPHERES, VOL. 118, 4521–4532, doi:10.1002/jgrd.50192

        Samset, B. H., Sand, M., Smith, C. J., Bauer, S. E., Forster, P. M., Fuglestvedt, J. S., Osprey, S., & Schleussner, C.-F. (2018). “Climate impacts from a removal of anthropogenic aerosol emissions.” Geophysical Research Letters, 45, 1020–1029. https://doi.org/10.1002/ 2017GL076079

        Storelvmo, T., Leirvik, T., Lohmann, U., Phillips, P. C. B., & Wild, M. (2016). “Disentangling greenhouse warming and aerosol cooling to reveal Earth’s climate sensitivity.” Nature Geoscience, 9(March), 286. https://doi.org/10.1038/NGEO2670

        Undorf, S., M.A. Bollasina, and G. C. Hegerl (2018) “Impacts of the 1900–74 Increase in Anthropogenic Aerosol Emissions from North America and Europe on Eurasian Summer Climate”. American Meteorological Society https://doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-17-0850.s1


        “the earth will be covered with ionizing radiation. Life very likely will never exist again on our planet”

        I’m curious about this comment. If we consider the Chernobyl disaster, which is by far the worst nuclear catastrophe the world has ever known (about 5300 PBq of total radioactivity were released – compared with Fukushima Daiichi: 520 PBq (Lin et al, 2015).), we see that only 134 people were definitely affected by acute radiation sickness — mostly plant operators and emergency workers — only 40 of whom had died by the year 2000, 14 years later (UNSCEAR, 2000). The number of excess cancer deaths that were caused is very hard to establish, due to poor study methodology and lack of systematic research in the aftermath of the accident, but the highest estimate I’ve come across (Malko, 2008) puts the figure at 115,000. This is way higher than most other studies, by the way, as most estimates tend to impute only about a few thousand additional fatalities to the disaster. For instance:
        “Models predict that by 2065 about 16,000 cases of thyroid cancer and 25,000 cases of other cancers may be expected due to radiation from the accident, whereas several hundred million cancer cases are expected from other causes.” (Cardis et al, 2006)

        So, people do get killed by nuclear disaster, mostly from cancer. But the psychological impact (including mental health issues) is likely much worse than the physiological effects (e.g. Bromet et al, 2011). A study (Smith, 2007) even concluded:
        “The increased mortality rate of the populations most affected by the Chernobyl accident may be comparable to (and possibly lower than) risks from elevated exposure to air pollution or environmental tobacco smoke. It is probably surprising to many (not least the affected populations themselves) that people still living unofficially in the abandoned lands around Chernobyl may actually have a lower health risk from radiation than they would have if they were exposed to the air pollution health risk in a large city such as nearby Kiev.”

        Another important element: while the children of Chernobyl “liquidators” (who went to clean up the mess in the most heavily contaminated zones with very little protection) have had 7 times more genetic mutations than siblings conceived before, this effect does not seem to have persisted in time (Weinberg et al, 2001). Likewise, studies on the children of the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs have found no evidence of hereditary effects of radiation (Neel et al, 1990).

        As for the biosphere impact…
        Many plants and animals have definitely suffered and died as a result of the disaster, and genetic mutations have occurred. But some studies suggest that nature seems to have quickly recovered afterwards, and that wildlife around Chernobyl is now abundant (e.g. Wood et al, 2016; Deryabina et al, 2015).


        Bromet EJ, Guey LT, Taormina DP, Carlson GA, Havenaar JM, Kotov R, et al. (2011) “Growing up in the shadow of Chornobyl: adolescents’ risk perceptions and mental health.” Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2011a;46:393–402.

        Cardis, Elisabeth; Krewski, Daniel; Boniol, Mathieu; Drozdovitch, Vladimir; Darby, Sarah C.; Gilbert, Ethel S.; Akiba, Suminori; Benichou, Jacques; Ferlay, Jacques; Gandini, Sara; Hill, Catherine; Howe, Geoffrey; Kesminiene, Ausrele; Moser, Mirjana; Sanchez, Marie; Storm, Hans; Voisin, Laurent; Boyle, Peter (2006). “Estimates of the cancer burden in Europe from radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl accident”. International Journal of Cancer. 119 (6): 1224–35. doi:10.1002/ijc.22037. PMID 16628547.

        Deryabina, T. G.; et al. (5 October 2015). “Long-term census data reveal abundant wildlife populations at Chernobyl”. Current Biology. 25 (19): R824–R826. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.08.017. PMID 26439334.

        Lin, W. et al. (2015) Radioactivity impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident on the atmosphere. Atmospheric Environment, 102 (2015), 311-322.

        Malko M.V. (2008) Assessment of Chernobyl malignant neoplasms in European countries. Available at: http://www.physiciansofchernobyl.org.ua/eng/Docs/Malko.pdf

        Neel JV, Schull WJ, Awa AA, Satoh C, Kato H, Otake M, Yoshimoto Y (1990) “The children of parents exposed to atomic bombs: estimates of the genetic doubling dose of radiation for humans.” Am J Hum Genet 46(6):1053-72

        Smith, J. (2007) “Are passive smoking, air pollution and obesity a greater mortality risk than major radiation incidents?” BMC Public Health 7: 49. Published online 2007 Apr 3. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-7-49 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1851009/

        UNSCEAR (2000) “Exposures and effects of the Chernobyl Accident”. Available at: http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2000/Volume%20II_Effects/AnnexJ_pages%20451-566.pdf

        Weinberg, H. S.; Korol, A. B.; Kirzhner, V. M.; Avivi, A.; Fahima, T.; Nevo, E.; Shapiro, S.; Rennert, G.; Piatak, O.; Stepanova, E. I.; Skvarskaja, E. (2001). “Very high mutation rate in offspring of Chernobyl accident liquidators”. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 268 (1471): 1001–5. doi:10.1098/rspb.2001.1650. PMC 1088700. PMID 11375082.

        Wood, Mike; Beresford, Nick (2016). “The wildlife of Chernobyl: 30 years without man”. The Biologist. London,UK: Royal Society of Biology. 63 (2): 16–19. Retrieved 27 April 2016. https://thebiologist.rsb.org.uk/biologist/158-biologist/features/1493-out-of-the-ashes

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

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

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

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

    4. Beth I would love to chat with you as I feel very inspired by your few words I just read:-)

      Peter Myers – shibui dot nelson at gee male dot com

      Thank you!!!!!!!!

  2. *Thank You* Jem.

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

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

    1. Iain, thanks. Regarding “detailed training”: I found broad outlines in Wheatley’s book, but not what I thought of as details. Do you have a reference to share?

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

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

    _Neil Winship_ __

    _01473736423 / 07768316214_

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

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

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

    1. And I like your other idea as well:

      “Three strands?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  8. Hi Jem, thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

    *CoordinatorHealth Professionals for a Healthy Climatehttp://www.hpforhc.org/ *

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

    > jembendell posted: “”People need hope, Jem.” “It’s really important to > have a vision of a better future, Jem” As someone who worked in > environmental campaigning and then organizational change, I learned about > the role of hope and vision in helping to align and motivate p” >

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

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

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

  13. There is a beautiful irony in this hopeless hopefulness.

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

    1. Long ago,in a crisis of despair, I realized I have no hope. Almost immediately I realized when I have no hope I have nothing but hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

  16. A courageous and clarifying treatment of the dimension of our predicament that conventionally receives short shrift. I commend your efforts in exploring the path of that elusive inner equanimity that apparently so eludes us in these troubled times.
    For some strange and inexplicable reason, this essay reminds me of the thrust of much of Leonard Cohen’s work in a long and illustrious career of truth and meaning-seeking.
    Just a small sample:

    “Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in”

    Thanks, Jem

  17. It has now been 5 years since I accepted the severity of the climate and extinction crises we face and it has been a rollercoaster of a journey.
    Because of being born in Aotearoa New Zealand and becoming an ocean going sailor I have had a blessed life.
    I feel a need to pay homage to the 200 species we drive to extinction and the chaos we have inflicted on the biosphere.
    My recent activism has focused on the unfolding 6th great extinction and the fact that young people have been robbed of their futures as have most if not all the other complex life in the endangered biosphere. I will be touring Aotearoa NZ with Truthout.org staff reporter Dahr Jamail in July discussing his recently released new book “The End of Ice”
    My ‘hopes’ going forward is to force the govt in Aotearoa NZ to accept the severity of the crisis and to prepare accordingly.
    In the human domain I would like to see school curriculums altered to reflect the near term reality we face and for the govt in NZ to import huge quantities of grains in anticipation of the coming collapse of the worlds grain production. Jem mentioned in a recent interview that the world has only 4 months of grain stores !!! I believe this should be an urgent focus of the Extinction Rebellion movement.
    I’ll finish with a quote from Edward Abbey the desert anarchist; “Action is the antidote to despair” and one from Professor Guy McPherson my co-host n Nature Bats Last on the Progressive Radio Network; “At the edge of extinction, only love remains”.

    1. Perhaps a forum becomes a real council when the issues are urgent and unexpected connections create community. Consequentl, i am posting my review of Dahr Jamail’s “The End of Ice”: https://www.tikkun.org/newsite/book-review-the-end-of-ice-by-dahr-jamail Jamail and i have sat in council recently as we wrestle with all the issues discussed here. Synchronistically, I came upon Deep Adaptation … some weeks after my very parallel essay Extinction Illness: Grave Affliction and Possibility began circulating widely. https://deenametzger.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/extinction-illness-grave-affliction-and-possibility-featured-essay-on-tikkun-by-deena-metzger/ . it seems we have been paralleling each other on the same list serves. Jamail and i and a small group of equally anguished and determined individuals are going to sit in council again in mid March — in order to meet extinction. I am / we are also concerned with the myriad “species we drive to extinction and the chaos we have inflicted on the biosphere.” My work in the last years has me taken away from human centered concerns and certainly away from Western and colonial thinking to other alliances and wisdom traditions. It seems clear to me that if we have in an iota of intention of slowing or reversing the rush toward extinction, we need to learn from Indigenous people and the animals.
      The conclusion of the essay is the only way to heal Extinction Illness is to reverse Extinction. Is it possible? i have no idea. I know we don’t know how and that our “best thinking” and human centeredness are taking us down this road to global destruction. Admitting we don’t know, and so entering into the unknown and entering deep listening allow us, at the least, to consider how to change our lives drastically in ways that mitigate the harm we do and benefit a future for all beings.
      I am gratified and intrigued by the parallel between the writing and work I have been doing for the last twenty years or so and the deep work and thinking evident in the remarkable “Hope and Vision…” Also gratified by this Council – unusual and sustaining and a sign, i think, of mutually arising creative visions for these dark times.
      We are currently in the process of setting up an interactive website to meet extinction – a council not unlike this – perhaps we will meet there when it is operative – as we are meeting here. http://deenametzger.net.

  18. These who, like me, experienced life under the threat of sudden and unavoidable thermonuclear death, may be a bit more prepared to accept another instance of the same threat. Our generation and the newest one — people like Greta Thunberg — Are stripped off delusions. World is trying to kill us — individually and as a species — and will succeed eventually.

    However, there is no need to help it. And there is certainly no need to make other humans suffer in process, even if one’s greed and lust for power provide ample rationalization. For those people there is a special circle of hell. In deep, luxurious bunkers waiting for a lock-down command.

    We, who are designated to be left behind, we still have time to get together. To learn how to shed false animosities, imposed to keep us apart. How to look after each other. How to buy time for species adaptation to kick in. (Nobody talks about epigenetics, why? Or do I look in wrong places?) How to rebuild the world differently — in a numer of various ways.

    I am an infrastructure freak, communalist, cooperatist and open source appropriate technologist. In my area (Zagreb, Croatia, Balkans, Europe) I am working on bringing people together around this topic. With little success, so far.

    But I am keen to hear from kindred minds.

    Hope? 🙂
    As Spider Robinson wrote:

    “_This is what it is to be human: to see the essential existential futility of all action, all striving—and to act, to strive.
    This is what it is to be human: to reach forever beyond your grasp.
    This is what it is to be human: to live forever or die trying.
    This is what it is to be human: to perpetually ask the unanswerable questions, in the hope that the asking of them will somehow hasten the day when they will be answered.
    This is what it is to be human: to strive in the face of the certainty of failure.
    This is what it is to be human: to persist. _”

    Have fun. 🙂

  19. The Great Turning towards Best Solutions
    We are joining together in circles
    and in squares most everywhere by Natasha Maya*

    We/You are invited to help dream up a new, healing world using our collaborative imaginations, holistic orientations and good hearts. Now is the time for people to be gathering in circles and in squares all over the planet to ask for what we want, repeatedly, until it starts being our collective, global reality, a large inclusive, frequently joyful conversation.

    Simply said NOW is the time to call forth what you want for yourself, large or small, and then, what you want for the entire world planet and all of life. There is no one right way to dream weave, to consciously create your/our life. It can be done silently, alone, with a partner or in a group. Speaking out our desires for the better world is important. You don’t need to know HOW to get there. Go to the ocean of possibility with a big bucket…not a thimble….and dream way outside the box of rational possibility for the good of all.

    This process can be done around a dinner table, a fire pit, sitting alone in a quiet space or in gatherings most everywhere. The reality train follows the tracks of our imagination. What you put your attention on you get more of. So what do you/we want, for yourself/ourselves, for the world?….a rigorous, ongoing conversation.

    Passing around a symbol of the Earth as a “talking/listening stick” is a good idea in order that everyone has a chance to speak, or quietly/internally ask for what they want. Some people support these practices of dreaming up real, good solutions for a better world, using journals, drumming, dance, music, painting, collages, and sacred ceremonies. We are encouraged to consciously create the future using our friends/family, neighbors, our muses and our imaginations. Maybe you do it for fifteen minutes at a sitting, maybe you do it for an hour, in a circle of friends….or strangers..just waiting to be friends, maybe.

    You are encouraged with everything you say, think, and do to be in support of all of life. May we see a transformed, sustainable world unfold now. May we practice being generous, friendly and trusting of each other. May we all have enough to eat, a place to rest our heads and a community within which to belong. What Do We Want Circles, and freedom squares, become part of the new normal for a while.

    We are all family, all our brothers and sisters, you and me. Maybe this is a revolutionary, evolutionary, transformational moment in time when good things are possible and we will help mitigate some of the worst, and become awake to this sacred moment in time, the great turning. Just help things get better, forever.

    -Violence everywhere must end – in the locker room, in the skies, in our homes, in our dna. May we awaken in time to non-violently help things get better, most everyone helping, and working for the greater good for all beings, forever. It has been said that Impossible, just takes a little longer. Peace, now, all over the planet, imagine what that would look like, sound like, feel like.

    And maybe down the road from the bioregions there are gladiator spaces to express those orientations and emotions of us/them, conquest/surrender, and the strong feelings of the winner’s exclamations, within a stadium/warfare scenario. How to safety express our more difficult, confrontational emotions, the impulse to face off, to strike out, to challenge another. Remember 98% dna compatible with chimps, good to be wary of our defaults as animal beings. Can we be peaceful naked apes? May this be so.

    * Natasha Maya, and all contributors to these writings give full permission for any or all of these writings/practices to be shared freely…like seeds in the winds, so it goes.

  20. I’m probably older and certainly more cynical than most people commenting on this subject. While I genuinely applaud Professor Bendell for speaking with clarity on the predicament of environmental collapse and the emotional adjustments we all should attempt, it doesn’t seem like enough. After 20 years of studying climate change, resource depletion and environmental degradation I believe the future will turn out to be something like a Mad Max movie or some dystopian novel. Human nature being what it is, people procrastinate and do not prepare for the future. In addition, they would rather be told a pleasant lie than an unpleasant truth, thus preventing them from taking any meaningful action, either personal or societal. When the reality of our predicament becomes apparent panic and violence will be widespread. It would be wonderful if we could all sit quietly contemplating our fate but that’s probably not the reality in store for most of us.

  21. Gem, “Hope and Vision in the Face of Collapse – The 4th R of Deep Adaptation” is a wonderful post. You mentioned “I would really like to see your own ideas on visions in the comments below (but I wont grade them )” so here is my vision for your muse:

    Seeing The Future

    Human civilization now stands at the apex (utopia – dystopia) of total global awareness. The dawn of a new beginning of global knowledge is awakening the human spirit with the advent of the climate change crisis and the 4th industrial revolution and its many possibilities.

    The world is thriving with selfless human beings that desire to transform and transition the world into a better and more united future. These human beings follow the purview of biological, physical and spiritual laws. They see themselves as subjects that can determine their own fate through will, consciousness, language, reason, subjectivity, purpose, morality and a direct spiritual connection to humanity. They see what human beings have in common is more deeply embedded than what separates them. They believe that the future of humanity will be shaped by the well-being and existence of a single unified race that respects all life.

    Expanding consciousness will evolve humankind into beings of wholeness and truth. Human minds will empty fear, uncertainty, psychic phenomena and mental waste from their consciousness. The battle between good and evil will no longer polarize the human mind into false judgments as these phantasms of deception and control will soon vanish from the forefront of human thought. The infection of addiction and consumption shall also pass, as will the disbanding, fragmenting, splintering and destroying of source knowledge and wisdom. Twisted information and misguided knowledge shall no longer be used to control the human mind or spirit. Nothing shall be hidden, only known and shared for the collective well-being of humanity.

    The human mind will move into an expanding state of exploration, association and happiness within the collective wholeness of one race, one planet. Each human being shall have a true and unique identity filled with unassailable integrity that will enable all individuals to interact with any culture. Human beings shall have a great guiding light of ancestral knowledge that will enlighten every experience as the revelations of life and our understanding of the universe unfold. Human beings will accept and respect the meaning of life because they can recognize and cherish all life.

    In understanding humanity, and in accordance with the human way of thinking, and in consequence with human principles, human beings are more than a system of floating ideas or causalities of conscious beliefs and fears. As a collective, humanity now realizes that it has become a beast of competitive egos, political separatism and endless ethnic divisiveness, compounded by religion and bad governments.

    The flow of human events will soon arrive at a new destination, where human beings decide to depart from their old ways of material concern and move towards the end of global destructiveness and violence. This new realization will ripple through and change the mental circuitry of millions of minds around the world enough to correct the current flow of negative human events. Large numbers of people will become teachers of goodness and generosity through their compassionate deeds, actions and example. Filled with beliefs and passionate dreams of true hope, reason and judgment shall make peace within all unattended human passions. Individuals will become peacemakers and lovers of life, able to contribute to the inclusive reasoning of the collective to allow humanity to live through its daily rebirth and rise above the ashes of yesterday’s destruction.

    The future of humanity shall be filled with light and true hope. Human beings will realize the inextinguishable truth that will surface from a sudden paradigm shift in intellectual capital. A new balance will emerge in societies around the world, providing collective ways to create growth through means of innovation and co-operative economic parity. The reins of power shall be tightened by a more responsible and secure intellectual community as we begin to simultaneously address globalization, abrupt climate change, widespread poverty and rapid human population growth within the context of one race, one planet.

    Human rights, political participation, economic productivity and scientific development will dramatically intensify, forcing existing political and economic models to be re-conceptualized, transformed and balanced. This reset will develop a more united, globally oriented human society to form a single world administration with centralized powers that respect all cultures, languages and economies. New “share and sustain” global laws will emerge to include “control” and “management” of state raw materials, unnecessary importation and waste of materials. The primary driving force during this transition period will be the emergence of an intellectual revolution that will fuel a self-reliant cultural movement that will transcend all systemic control mechanisms and environments currently ruled by a few wealthy élites, hoarded wealth states, corrupt institutes and bad corporations.

    A global sense of purpose and belief in self-enhanced critical and creative thinking is the only true way to see the possibilities of the future beyond climate change. It is clearly a question about the natural world and the intellectual adventure of pioneering fundamental truth into a broader model more capable of appealing to the universal potentials of human life.

  22. Those who feel that the collapse of the human civilization (as we know it) is coming should read the following remarkable prophecy given to the world: The Great Waves of Change, Navigating the Difficult Times Ahead by Marshall Vian Summers.

    “People will have faith in something because to have faith is natural. If they do not have faith in God, they will have faith in something else that takes the place of God. They may have faith in their government. They may have faith in the economy. They may have faith in industry. They may have faith in themselves and their abilities. They may have faith in certain individuals. They may have faith in nature. But whatever it is, they will have faith. To be without faith is to be without relationship, and to be without relationship is to live in hell.

    The question then becomes what does one have faith in and what is the nature of that faith? Is it built upon real experience, or is it built upon ideas or philosophy? Is this faith well placed, and does it have real strength to it?

    In face of the Great Waves of change that are coming to the world, which will challenge people’s faith in themselves, in their nation, in nature itself and in God, the question of faith becomes very important. The strength of this faith and where it is placed become very significant in terms of the individual’s ability not only to function, but to be creative, discerning and competent in the face of changing circumstances.”

  23. My comment will be, I am afraid, pointless. But I need to share, sorry. I just finished reading Deep Adaption. Till three weeks ago, climate change was a topic almost unknown for me. In my country, nobody cares. Nobody knows. Nobody can suspect our world is finishing. I discovered all this randomly, speaking with a friend. Suddently. I couldnt believe at first, I started reading such articles looking for more optimistic views. The only one I found was from Trump. Actually I feel doomed. Everything I do, I feel like is the last time. With my big surprise, I found among my friends people who knew what is happening. I was expecting from them some solution. I find them hopeless. I m speaking about normal, optimistic people. I cried. Couldnt believe. I came back to visit parents this weekend. My father worked all his life as plant engineer. I asked him his opinion, without showing my despair. Again, I was surprised. He knew. He always knew. I shared my feelings, waiting for a solution. For a moment I saw some tears in his eyes, after we abrutly changed topic, speaking about bullshit. I will never have kids. I can’t tell them there is no future. Now, I wonder what I can do. I m not able anymore to go out and enjoy, everything seems useless. I m not able anymore to smile. Is still worthy living in such way, knowing all your friends, towns, lands, are dying? Just a decade, after nobody knows what will happen. Why was allowed I reached my age completely ignorant? Why I didnt know? Why in my towns nobody speak about it? I feel like an alien when I share. And now? Shall I prepear myself to apocalypse? Sadly, without laptop I dont have any skill to survive. Shall I start thinking about suicide? Shall I wait for my parents dying, hoping to follow them shortly? Thank you

    1. Mart, it is very common to live for a future, and to grieve when that future you were counting on changes.
      Life goes on when you let go of the future and live in the present. The future was never yours, but the present you own.
      At least you have people around who can help you adjust!

      1. I think is our responsability trying to change, rather than waiting for the end. I discussed with more persons in my home town, biggest part of them didn’t know anything about the topic. Who knew something, completely underestimate the sense. This is the result of low and bad information, as was in my case. According to scientific articles, we are doomed. According to news, was just an unusual warm week. I didnt read the original IPCC report. I have to do. In any case, I will try to speak as much as possible about it, with more people possible.

  24. Hundreds of people spontaneously singing and dancing? Filling their hearts with love through the end of days? I laughed out loud reading this hippy dippy nonsense. Sorry folks, as things worsen the nasty side of human nature will come out, at least in the majority. People threatened by death will not all join hands and sing Kumbayah. As resources grow scarce, war will break out, not radical love. Most of us will die in blood and fire. Sorry to burst your happy little bubble, but the survival instinct is powerful and it drives the fighting instinct.

  25. Dear Jem (and concerned others ),

    My name is Chris and I have been skirting around the whole question of my/our life on Earth for most of my 57 years here (this time ;)) from living a low-impact lifestyle in converted buses in the UK to escape the London sprawl, in the 80’s, (did the hippy thing) to finally setting up my family home completely off-grid on the Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spain at the end of the 90’s……and still here today but now with wifi 🙂

    I have had to meet all the sustainability issues at the most basic living levels (shelter, water, heat, sewage, etc.) and one element that I believe is a critical ingredient is community, for when I was younger I could dig the veg plot easily but as years go by and the back gets worse younger muscle is needed.

    Another element, which goes against a return to the Hunter-Gatherer concept, is that I believe we need a system of national and international transport and distribution systems for food, medicines and supplies to help others when the climate…fire, drought, pestilence, etc…affects any ability to hunt or gather or I need a deep filling or a tooth pulling, and no-one can say they don’t want/need an anaesthetic in those moments….or a multitude of other examples.

    So I have been looking at where to go with this for a long time, academically, philosophically and practically, and without wanting to give up hope and just say “there are too many of us” and “we are now too tied into the consumer pressures from advertising and the debt economy to change”, I got into education just over 20 years ago which has been a fascinating ride and an insight into how we raise our young.

    The culmination of all this has been a 2019 thesis looking at whether the Human race is Self-harming through our damage to our home environment …which is the less than hopeful pathological approach….or whether there could be a chink of light in terms of a longer evolutionary process that could offer a tiny hope for a new stage of development.

    If anyone wants to take this rambling ride you can see the thesis here:


    As adults we have our roles to play in trying to affect the embedded philosophy of the capitalist market economy and its policies but perhaps more importantly we need to be developing ways of creating new approaches in compulsory education from infants to universities that ‘design-in’ learning structures that help enable our young to be the change-makers that the future needs when we all depart.

    In my thesis I included an idea for an educational programme which would be a small beginning if schools/education authorities would let it.

    If this forum could bring together thinkers/feelers and doers who could begin to collaborate to design strategies, approaches and subsequently policy advice for the education of our global youth it would be a concrete and hope-based move to help not only other people but also our other-than-Human communities.

    Thanks Jem for your Deep Adaptation work it is focussing and might be just what was needed to join the global community of workers together, outside the confines of the UN or other official bodies. I believe we can evolve to the next stage but transitions are always the most difficult bits and so they need designing carefully…… but we need to know where we want to get to.

    1. “Another element, which goes against a return to the Hunter-Gatherer concept, is that I believe we need a system of national and international transport and distribution systems for food, medicines and supplies to help others when the climate…fire, drought, pestilence, etc…affects any ability to hunt or gather or I need a deep filling or a tooth pulling, and no-one can say they don’t want/need an anaesthetic in those moments….or a multitude of other examples.”

      Some things might require mass transportation. But I think we need to reimagine this. There is far more that could be done locally. It’s simply that slave-like labor and externalized/socialized costs have made the products of the global trade system artificially cheap, which is to say we aren’t paying for the full prices, forcing those costs onto foreign populations and onto future generations.

      For example, if we were to bring the food system back to the local level, this absolutely would require meat-eating, as most of the population lives in areas where high levels of agricultural production aren’t possible year round. To return to traditional farming would also make possible regenerative farming and holistic land management.

  26. Thanks. I have only had time the read the abstract and the bibliography. I will find time to read the thesis itself. Is the address in the survey appendix adequate to contact you if I have questions or possibly relevant comments?

  27. Ditto all the appreciations Jem re your being out there in deep, naked and collaborative reflection. Just an initial small sharing re ‘gratitude’. 30 years ago I fell asleep in my car, after a long day teaching, on my way to give yet another (in this case, evening) lecture about ‘saving the world’, at a sister university. As I fell into deep sleep I pushed my foot down further on the accelerator – the car sped up – till I hit the back of an enormous articulated truck – as I awoke I was sure I was about to die – and interestingly my only thought (and what I said aloud) was, “Life’s been so good” (there were no other thoughts!) – then the bumper bar caught between two of the double rear wheels of the truck – and this threw the car across the median strip into the oncoming traffic in the parallel road – I then thought, “Ah, this is it” (when I would now die) – and, not wanting to cause others’ deaths, I steered my car to avoid hitting their cars – having successfully done this, I suddenly realized that I was now headed towards an enormous rock face, which I then hit full on – and as I did I thought, “Ah, this is it” (when I would at last actually die) – the engine fell out of the car, the windscreen smashed, and I expected to be next – but it stopped there, and I had survived – I undid my seat belt (which had saved me), took the key out of the ignition, and got out of the car. By that time the driver of the truck had called an ambulance, which soon arrived. When it was about to take me to the nearby hospital, the police also arrived (this was in Roman Catholic Quebec) – and the policeman insisted I get off my bed and accompany him to the rock face, where he knelt down pointing up: there was an enormous heart drawn on the rock face. Several weeks later, when I had recovered (it took two years for the pain of my twisted spine to resolve), I drove to find and photograph the heart, but I was never able to find it! I have received many precious ‘gifts’ in my life, but none as precious as knowing that at my expected moment of death my only thought was ‘pure appreciation of life’! (which seems deeply related to Jem’s vision of folks being able to dance and sing together) – This appreciation has been with me moment-to-moment throughout my life – such that my partner calls me “Mr Happy” – sometimes, frustratingly, in the face of ‘crises’, adding: “Why are you always so happy?”. Needless to say, I have much more to share, but this is more than enough for now! – Go well, Stu

  28. Thank you so much for your thoughtful writing. For me your ideas help my mind span the chasm between where we are now and the time when our culture more resembles something like the visions presented in books like Megré’s «Anastasia». Beautiful! Thanks again!

  29. Back in 1975 I was eating in a hipster diner in Corvallis, Oregon and started talking to the old man at the end of the counter. He turned out to be an old Wobbly. His most trenchant comment was, “When people have exhausted every other possibility, then they will do what works.”

    Adaptation is a many-faceted concept – biological, social, political, etc. Some of us have been working on real alternatives for 50 years. The work still goes on. If you want to come out to my farm, I will teach you something. We used to be in Washington state but have fled the US for southern France. Drop me an email at wvhaugen@gmail.com. Put F.A. Farm in the subject line as I have a junkmail filter.

  30. You mention ‘Belief’ with a ‘Yikes’. But just a thought. IF these really IS a Higher Power who obviously went to a lot of effort to make this beautiful Planet, I say ‘IF’. Then would this Higher Power have an opinion about what is happening down here? Would this Higher Power ACT to save this Planet? Because WE CAN’T FIX IT OURSELVES.

  31. Ask women who have been through natural childbirth how they travelled through this liminal space for an outcome they did not know and may well cause them to die. I’m not suggesting we share the details of our birthing stories here (please no) but I think it may be useful for women who have been through this experience to revisit the process – there are important messages there for us for this time. Death and life are held in balance at this moment when we give birth. It is radical hope emodied. Can this conversation be facilitated somehow? Also experiences of death stories from those who have ‘midwifed’ people through this.

  32. I am female, 59 years old, possessing above average intelligence to the general population (plopped into classes for the “gifted” before they knew what to do with us) , mother of 2 grown children, grandmother to 2 under the age of 4 years old. I have worked as a health care provider in the field of dentistry all of my adult life.I have been intrigued with both the arts and sciences ( they are deeply related! ) all of my life. I have been following climate science all of my life. I hit my peak of despair approximately in 2010. I began “prepping” until I realize that as an individual it was not realistic in the larger scheme of what we face. I “let go”. I have been on the road to emotional recovery ever since. The Buddhist belief of “detachment from all worldly things” has helped me tremendously. I rarely speak to others about any of this as denial is prevalent around the world and have just made quiet mental lists of necessary actions in the years to come. I am grateful to have found like minded people here.
    To help others, you must provide the basics: food, shelter, water, mental/emotional comfort. The almost ideal non-perishable food item is rice; it does not spoil, requires no refrigeration, can be consumed without cooking, is easily stored and transported. Water is trickier depending upon the location. There are low tech devices that can be stored that will filter 99% of harmful bacteria from soiled water. There are also ways to utilize solar energy to decontaminate water sources. We already have an abundance of shelters, we’ll just need to encourage people to share them. Mental/emotional support may be the trickiest of all. Music, art and story telling have always been areas of comfort to humans since before recorded times. I have thought of printing laminated “how to” manuals for securing/utilizing available resources.I pledge I will do what I can to help others in whatever location I find myself in.

    1. Kay – I got your earlier email, but I was on autopilot and deleted it before I could reply. (I get lots of spam.) It sounds as if you are in the US. If you plan on visiting France, stop on by. We are in southern France in the foothills of the Pyrenees. [Let me know of your plans and I will provide an address.] Or you can send me another email to set up a communications link. My books are available on Amazon. Here is a link for the first one. There is a Look Inside feature so you can check it out.

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