This is the Editorial of the final Deep Adaptation Quarterly of 2022.
The COP27 climate conference announcement of a new fund, of unknown quantity, for the loss and damage occurring due to climate chaos, means it might appear that politicians and bureaucrats are finally getting real about how bad the situation is. So could they be catching up with the ‘Deep Adapters’? Unfortunately, no fund will ever be able to recompense the loss and damage that is being suffered – and will be suffered – from the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown. No international currency, bank, or payment system will likely survive the extent of disruption when impacts of global heating really kick in. I am just back from my first and last climate conference, and not only experienced it as an exercise in denial but one that is made impenetrable by the numbers of people and resources maintaining it in myriad ways. Even critics of COP27, and climate policies more generally, have their budgets, wages, skills, and status tied to the story of ultimate salvation from climate chaos. A consequence of this denial is not looking at the root causes of our predicament. Which might also be a reason for the denial. So let’s go there…
In my reflections on the COP, I focused on how nearly everyone publicly avoids discussing how capitalism accelerated the disaster, ruined the response, and looks set to make things even worse from here on. Yet, privately, people admit that both the cause of the problem and the lack of significant response is the ‘power complex’ of professionals, institutions, resources, rules, and cultures that is produced by – and reproduces – capitalist systems. I believe this lack of attention to capitalism is a key issue and challenge for those of us interested in Deep Adaptation – that is, of reducing harm in the face of societal disruption and collapse. Because the ‘power complex’ is beginning to warp humanity’s response in a new era of unfolding disasters. If we aspire to reduce harm, we cannot immediately turn our backs on activism on systemic issues. Instead, it is an open question – what kind of political activism makes sense when we anticipate a collapse of societies in the near term?
For some of us, collapse acceptance will involve resisting the power complex and its increasing harms. Some people rightly identify such work as emotionally painful because it is complex, involves personal risk, and is unlikely to show significant results, especially given the likely short time frame of unfolding civilizational breakdown. However, that emotional difficulty is not a reason not to engage in such efforts. Because tough emotions are inevitable as problems, disruptions, and breakdowns increase in the months and years to come. Instead, we can seek to become more aware of our aversions to burdensome emotions and more capable of allowing them, without them determining our choices. That will help us notice when we might be telling ourselves stories to feel better for a time. For instance, focusing on local impact can feel more rewarding, but that won’t avoid the pain when local successes are washed away in a future wave of environmental disruption or state aggression. Instead, we can find ways of not being attached to a desired outcome and less driven by an aversion to difficult emotions. That will help us in all our decisions, not only those on how to put our time towards positive collective outcomes within a more widely deteriorating situation.
Representatives of those communities that have been suffering most from oppression and destruction, as well as recent climatic changes, are instructive on this matter of resilient activism. They continue to articulate their truth, because it is right to do so, whether or not it will succeed in changing the juggernaut of global capitalist destruction. Solidarity means active engagement with grassroots groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network. At the COP they released a report that challenged both practical and ideological implications of the dominant ecomodernist and capitalist approach on climate adopted by most of the world’s leaders today. It is time for concerned people in privileged positions to grapple with their exacting analyses and avoid any pale imitations.
I know from my essay a year ago, titled “Is Deep Adaptation Adding Up to Much?,” that some people respond negatively to the argument that there is an activist agenda from the starting point of a deeper adaptation to future or present breakdowns. I haven’t seen much political activism emerge yet from current participants in Deep Adaptation networks. Instead, the focus seems to be mostly on emotional support between participants. But guess what? Licking your wounds eventually makes you sick. Many people only find vitality again through working in service of a greater goal. So I believe we will soon see a new wave of post-progress activism from people who no longer believe we can avoid the breakdown of modern societies. Regardless of whether this emerges from groups of people who have found the concept of Deep Adaptation useful, it is going to happen soon.
As an antidote to the general ignoring or demonising of collapse anticipation by mass media, in this issue of the Deep Adaptation Quarterly we explore how this outlook, ethos, and framework is being taken seriously within academia. In a review commissioned for this issue of the Quarterly, Dorian Cavé looked at the last few years of research papers on the topic. There is a wide range of subject areas that are now citing collapse anticipation or even delving into it. According to Google Scholar, as of late October 2022, the original Deep Adaptation paper was referenced in at least 295 publications, including 138 journal articles, 50 book chapters, 44 books, and 42 research theses. This includes work in urban planning, architecture, philosophy, psychology, political science, sociology, education, arts, and literature. In July 2022, a peer-reviewed journal in the field of ‘architecture and the built environment’ even dedicated an issue to the topic of Deep Adaptation.
This research reminds us that the breakdown of modern societies touches on all aspects of life. That breadth makes a Quarterly newsletter quite a challenge to put together. I am grateful for the work of Dan Vie on previous issues and the continued work of Jessica Groenendijk. I believe you will find the summaries and links to be of value. Please take a moment to forward this newsletter to a few people you think might benefit from seeing how this agenda is evolving. Thank you!
Professor Jem Bendell
Publisher, Deep Adaptation Quarterly
The Deep Adaptation Quarterly offers a summary of recent opinion and activity in the field of deep adaptation. This independently-produced, free publication explores collapse risk, readiness, and response. We take a critical perspective on the culture and systems that led to our predicament, and celebrate the solidarity amongst people in response.