As we see news of a breakdown in our global climate and its increasing impacts on nature and humanity worldwide, it is painful. Opinion surveys report on how many of us now experience climate anxiety. People fortunate enough to have avoided direct harm from climate-related disasters, now fear there will be a breakdown in their own societies, affecting their own families. After the shock and grief, many people remain bewildered about how to respond that realisation. What to do in our professional lives? What to do in personal lives? In this bewilderment we risk paralysis and reverting to denial. We risk going back to the same narratives and tactics for incremental change, with the festering worry that we are lying to ourselves about the nature of the crisis.
In early March 2019, my team and I launched the Deep Adaptation Forum (DAF), as an attempt to connect people who are exploring these questions, and many more besides. A small group of colleagues, private donors, and over two dozen volunteers have provided precious assistance in making this happen.
The DAF now exists to embody and enable loving responses to our predicament. Its fundamental aim is to reduce suffering, while saving more of society and the natural world.
The DAF is an international space to connect people, online and in person and in all spheres of life — to foster mutual support, collaboration, and professional development in the process of facing societal collapse. More than anything, it is a place for generative dialogue that starts from a perspective of accepting that societal breakdown due to climate chaos is now likely, inevitable or already unfolding.
With the DAF, we want to support caring and creative ways of engaging with our predicament, so that when the realisation of likely societal breakdown spreads into the mainstream, there will be more ideas, tools, people and systems ready to help.
Six months have gone by already. It is time to take stock of what has happened.
One of the DAF’s main purposes is to build community, both online and offline. On this front, the results have gone beyond our wildest expectations.
Since March, our three main platforms – on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Ning – have grown to gather a total of over 10,000 participants. Each of these spaces has a focus of its own, including mutual emotional support (FB); professional outreach (LinkedIn); and the co-creation of resources and collaboration within professional interest groups (Ning).
Besides these platforms, we have just launched the Deep Adaptation Groups Network, with geographical or language specificities, to enable peer support. The twelve founding groups, bridging 10 countries and 5 languages. are the start of a network that will hopefully grow to hundreds. If you are starting a local DA group where you live, or are considering to do so, please let us know, and we will help you join this new network.
These networks and online communities, which are all accessible for free, are being enabled and supported to promote the emergence of new participant-led projects, both online and offline.
While providing spaces and opportunities for interpersonal communication, the DAF has also been organising or supporting a number of events, online and offline:
- Several online Q&As, attended by hundreds of people, which featured such remarkable speakers as Carolyn Baker, Joanna Macy, Gail Bradbrook and Deb Ozarko.
- Financial support to six Deep Adaptation Dialogues, i.e. gatherings enabling local communities to engage in an open-ended discussion on Deep Adaptation themes, following an Open Space Technology format. More gatherings will take place in the coming months.
- Nearly two dozen online gatherings of professional interest groups were organised by forum volunteers on our professionals’ platform; and over a dozen more were hosted and facilitated by the DAF team. This has helped us refine and develop a set of general guidelines for such gatherings, based on the spirit of loving kindness at the heart of Deep Adaptation.
- In June 2019, the first Deep Adaptation Retreat took place in Greece, facilitated by Katie Carr and Prof. Bendell. Seventeen people from across Europe and North America gathered to explore responses to the most challenging issue of our time. This week-long series of processes was designed to invite participants to explore ways to nurture their resilience and wellbeing in the light of the climate emergency, by means of a journey through the four ‘R’s of Deep Adaptation.
The many testimonies we have received from participants in these events speak to their transformative potential:
“I felt more peaceful and inspired after watching your Q&A with Joanna Macy. Yes, this is a deeply meaningful time in human history.” – Email to Prof. Bendell after the Q&A
“This was excellent! Thank you. The facilitation was really good. The presentation at the beginning [was] really powerful and really made me take time to think more deeply. The opportunity to come together with so many interesting people and have conversations was much needed – interesting topics and engaged discussion. I had my listening head on and learnt a lot!!” – A participant from the June 15 Deep Adaptation Dialogue in Edinburgh
“The deep adaptation workshop was truly an extraordinary experience. While I have participated in many intensive workshops none had the impact on my life that the week in Greece with 16 extraordinary participants had. Jem and Katie put together an experience that was authentic, deeply moving and most importantly critically important to the future that all of us on this planet are likely to face.” – A participant in the June 2019 Deep Adaptation Retreat in Kalikalos, Greece
Finally, we have been providing a number of activities and services, including speeches, media interviews, as well as research and development, public information and strategic advice to relevant organisations as diverse as Extinction Rebellion and the European Commission.
The latest development in this regard was the launch of the Advocates project, which makes it possible for event organisers and journalists to easily contact or hire speakers with in-depth knowledge of the Deep Adaptation philosophy and projects.
We don’t intend to stop here, of course. Indeed, we have many plans for the future – no matter how bleak or dreadful it may seem.
Thanks to the widespread demand for conversation and mutual support around the topic of societal collapse, and our success in gathering people around these platforms, activities, and services, we believe we have a chance to reach a critical mass, and make Deep Adaptation blossom into a genuine social movement with far-reaching impacts, beyond borders, cultures, and social classes.
Time is short, and the odds are stacked against us. But with a little help from everyone else, the spirit of Deep Adaptation may yet become a catalyst for peace and positive transformation in a crumbling world.
Everything we have done in these past 6 months has been funded by voluntary work or private donations. If you are able to consider helping to fund the next year of DAF’s growth and impact, or to introduce us to donors, please contact us here.
The DAF is driven by the many volunteers that are helping moderate the Facebook Group as well as the Interest Groups and Task Groups on our Professionals’ Platform. The volunteers are essential to our work, and we profile some in each issue of our Deep Adaptation Quarterly. In service of those volunteers and our wider activities, we are a small team of 5 freelancers. Here is some short information on what we do and who we are.
Dorian Cave, Professionals’ Platform Curator.
Dorian curates the DAF Professionals’ Platform (on Ning) on a day-to-day basis; liaises with Interest Group and Task Group leaders, including managing the process of launching either; carries out quickly-applicable research on how to design better collaborative work processes; and oversees capacity-building activities for Task Groups. Through his work, Dorian intends to help develop the Deep Adaptation Forum into the foundation of an international mass movement, focusing on peaceful responses to the climate and ecological crises we face – and the collapses that are likely to unfold. Simultaneously, he wants to develop his skills in the field of self-organised group facilitation and contribute to scholarship on the role of mutual and social learning within such processes.
Zori Tomova, Platforms Assistant
Zori has a business education, with an MSc from Warwick University. Upon graduation, she co-founded a small innovation consulting company and soon after moved into IT entrepreneurship and management, where she spent the majority of her career. She left that world in 2017 to look for a calling that was closer to her heart. Upon her first encounter with Jem Bendell and our predicament, she realised that her sense of aliveness and meaning lies in her gift and love for connection. As a consequence, she oriented her life towards creating spaces of connection with self, other and nature that bring out the most beautiful sides of our humanness. In the last 2 years, she has built a coaching business, created the Connection Playground initiative and facilitated numerous groupwork spaces, including regular Deep Adaptation gatherings online. She joined the Deep Adaptation Forum in July 2019 to support the team of volunteers moderating the Positive Deep Adaptation Facebook group. She’s also the project leader of the Deep Adaptation Groups Network, providing a space for cross-pollination and peer support between DA groups in different locations, languages and topics.
Katie Carr, Senior Facilitator
An independent trainer, facilitator and ‘host’ of collaborative learning processes, Katie has over 15-years of experience in formal and informal/community education. Katie is a skillful facilitator of ‘un-learning’, that is, creating spaces in which it is possible to connect with ways of knowing that are broader and richer than the cognitive/evaluative paradigm that is prevalent in the Western worldview. If Deep Adaptation requires responses that are effective in reducing harm, then it is essential to build awareness and bring into consciousness all of the ways that stories of separation, scarcity and addiction to progress can be manifest in our ways of relating with self and others, and create new ways of being that are characterised by love, respect, inclusivity and connection. As Senior Facilitator with the DAF, she organises online meetings and trainings for volunteers, facilitates dialogues, courses and retreats, and advises on the facilitation principles and processes we promote through the DAF. Before joining the DAF team, Katie was the Director of a UK sustainability education charity for six years, and project manager of several European sustainability projects in the fields of formal and community education. She also has expertise in participatory and alternative evaluation approaches (measuring what’s valuable, rather than valuing what’s measurable). She studied an MA in Sustainable Leadership Development from the University of Cumbria. She is trained in a variety of dialogic learning methods (including circling, authentic relating, ‘philosophy for children’, and non-violent communication), and has published her work in the field of sustainability and post-sustainability education.
Matthew Slater, General Assistant
A theology graduate and software engineer, Matthew is a leading voice on community currencies. In the financial crisis of 2008 he dropped everything to develop open source software for Local Exchange Trading Systems, cofounding Community Forge to host that software. His interests and expertise widened from there into monetary theory, monetary reform, community building, ecovillages, cryptocurrencies, and the politics of software. in 2015 he co-authored the Money & Society MOOC with Prof. Bendell. In 2016 he proposed a solidarity economy money system in a white paper entitled ‘Credit Commons’. In 2018 he took on the role of General Assistant to Prof Bendell and the Deep Adaptation Forum. Within that role Matthew supports a range of activities, including technical support and research on various themes.
Professor Jem Bendell, Founder
With a PhD in international policy, a background working for the United Nations and international charities, and over 100 publications on business and sustainable development, Professor Bendell turned to leadership development in 2012. By 2016 he was working with leading socialist politicians as a leadership and communications advisor and speech writer. He had been interested in climate change since he studied it in 1993, as part of his geography degree at the University of Cambridge. In 2017 he took a year unpaid leave from university to review the latest climate science, measurements, policies and implications. This led to the release of Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Our Climate Tragedy, which was downloaded over half a million times within a year. He now focuses on leadership for deep adaptation, through research, writing, retreats, courses, strategy consulting, short films, as well as launching and co-funding the Deep Adaptation Forum, which after 6 months already engages over 10,000 people in exploring the implications of anticipating societal breakdowns due to climate chaos.