Satish Kumar is an elder within the global environmental and peace movements. Founder of the Schumacher College and Resurgence Magazine, he has played a key role in shaping conversations about the roots of the environmental predicament. In a videoed conversation with Professor Jem Bendell, he discusses themes within his new book ‘Radical Love’ and makes connections to the ‘Deep Adaptation’ ethos and movement. Over 50 people joined the discussion and some ask questions towards the end.
Satish describes how humanity has fallen out of love with the world, which is the cause of so much destruction. Topics covered include how to stay open hearted when so much is being destroyed, how loving action does not need to expect to be successful, the role of idealism when realism has failed so badly for so long, the suppression of the divine feminine in culture and religion, and the importance of starting with self love.
Because artificial intelligence software does not have real world life experiences to draw from, there should be no worry about its implications for academic assessment.
I see from my LinkedIn network that many academics are discussing what the implications from artificial intelligence could be for assessing their students. ChatGPT has even passed an MBA exam! Reading about this I was entirely unconcerned. Should I be? My lack of concern stems from how I have been designing courses and setting assignments for nearly 20 years. But rather than assume that my assessments are immune from the misuse of artificial intelligence, I thought to write up my approach and see if fellow academics can see any potential problems. If not, then hopefully me sharing my approach will be of use to others.
This is the text of a newsletter sent to people who receive my irregular updates (that go out once or twice a year)
As you registered for my irregular update, a good guess is that you are interested in sustainable development – the concept for social and environmental progress that took off since the 1992 Earth Summit. So, in opening this update (my first since March last year), I’d like to clear up something: sustainable development is a lie. It has been a successful one because it helps middle class professionals earn salaries while pretending that’s for them caring about the world. Not only does all the recent data point to the failure to improve the world by spreading one economic model, but that failure was widely predicted decades ago. People like me ignored such critique because we wanted to believe something else. Why? Not because it was good for wildlife, landscapes and the poor. We wanted to believe because it was convenient with our careers to develop, consumer lifestyles to lead, houses to buy and kids to bring up. Ouch. But I’m tired of the mix of pseudo-concern and pseudo-professionalism that surrounds me in the sustainability field. Fortunately, many of us won’t pretend anymore.
Some of the research I have been doing over the past 3 years for my forthcoming book on societal disruption and collapse seems too urgent to sit on until June this year. The poor state of public discussion about the Covid pandemic is a reason why I am sharing a section from Chapter 5 of the book. I believe my approach reflects how research analysts like myself used to approach matters of public concern before discussions became polarized (and somewhat hysterical) during the pandemic. I hope more of us will take that approach in future and then be heard, rather than shadow banned and demonised by people who used to behave better.
“As Covid is here to stay, it is worthy of some closer consideration of its impacts on society.
With a relatively low infection fatality rate in the near term, the initial impacts of the disease itself do not constitute a threat of societal collapse. However, at the time of writing, pathways have been identified for how the pandemic could contribute to such a collapse. The first of these is the nature of the virus itself and how it could turn out to be causing long-term damage to health and vitality, as well as suppressing immunity in general and even being carcinogenic. The second of these pathways is the currently uncertain longer-term effects of some novel vaccines, which have already been associated with significant negative health effects. Then there are the wider effects of the policy responses including massive disruption to government finances and the authoritarian turn of mainstream media, big technology platforms, and sections of the general public, as well as the backlash against all of that – together creating a combustible mix. As this is such a polarized and polarizing topic it’s rare that the relevant information is brought together in one place, so I will briefly attempt that here so that the nature of the risk from Covid can be appreciated.
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…
When Covid broke out in China, one of the policies in some cities was to round up and kill people’s cats, due to a worry that they can carry coronaviruses. Subsequent protests have meant this policy has always been dropped, but only to reappear at various times. In early 2022, officials in the city of Langfangs ordered the killing of all pets of anyone infected with Covid. Again, the policy was dropped after protests (Daily Mail, 2022). Echoing some of that attitude towards pets, yesterday (November 22nd) the Daily Express newspaper ran a story about the UK, with the headline: “Covid horror as estimated over 350,000 cats infected with virus which ‘can be fatal’”. The story itself was about evidence of past non-fatal infections of cats with Covid in Britain. It also mentioned that other forms of coronavirus can be fatal to cats. The story provoked comments such as: “cull all cats” (Daily Express, 2022). The same story soon appeared in other UK newspapers and websites.
Death rates are still above normal in many countries of the world. The medical experts don’t know why. It could be from the long-term complications from past Covid infections, or it could be from the impacts of novel vaccines, or it could be from the delayed treatments due to lockdowns. Or perhaps it is from a mixture of these causes, or even from some other factor altogether. Even writing those two sentences induced in me a feeling of trepidation. I find myself readying for the annoyance or even aggression from some people. Which is odd: people did not behave so stridently on public health issues before 2020. I think the decay in normal scientific dialogue and policy scrutiny is a significant lasting damage from the last few years. It is why I am not going to let it lie. Instead, I hope we can all learn more about why people became so badly informed and aggressive towards others who reached conclusions different to their own. Only then might we avoid making matters worse when future public health crises occur. And if the excess mortality does not return to normal, then we are already within an ongoing health crisis right now.
It is why in this essay I am returning to the scientific facts which prove the medical authoritarian orthodoxy on Covid has been scientifically wrong. Not just wrong in hindsight, but now more widely recognised as wrong by experts and scientists who ignored some of the earlier concerns. This recent science can’t be ignored unless someone is no longer interested in the science on public health.
In the run up to COP27 climate conference, The Economist magazine declared it has become impossible to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Many analysts of the relevant science have said as much for a few years. We were dismissed as too negative and so our ideas on what to do were therefore marginalized. Sadly, warming beyond 1.5C means that climate change will become far more damaging to societies. Even worse, due to a range of amplifying feedbacks that are impossible to have certainty about, no one can credibly claim anymore that human actions to cut and drawdown carbon, while still important, will certainly work to stop or reverse the changes. When people take that situation to heart, it can challenge the societies and systems that brought us to this point. For many, it is a fundamentally radicalizing realization. Although The Economist cited my views in one of their articles, rather predictably it didn’t provide space for the kind of criticism of capitalism and the global order that can ensue.
Text of speech delivered at COP27, Nov 9th 2022, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, by Prof Jem Bendell. Check against delivery. The video of the speech:
“We have a communications problem. Just as political support for climate action is growing, so political resistance to climate action is also growing. The use of the hashtag #ClimateScam has exploded since July of this year. From never exceeding more than 3,000 tweets in any month up to June 2022, it has been used 70,000-100,000 times per month in the four months since. Compare that to the hashtag #ClimateJustice, which has averaged about 30,000 tweets per month for the last two years and almost hit 100,000 unique tweets in the month of COP26 in Glasgow, with all the world’s media attention. But now? #ClimateScam is being used two and a half times for every #ClimateJustice tweet throughout the last 4 months. These twitter trends are one indicator of a growing resistance to climate action.
Today I co-hosted a panel of women activists from the Global South, at COP27 in Egypt. We addressed a half-empty press conference room. I closed the session by condemning the charade that these conferences have become. As the live stream link wasn’t provided to us by the UN, I used my camera phone.
The video of my closing:
The transcript of my comments:
“It is important to remember that charity is not justice. If one side has no power, then there is no negotiation. Which can’t lead to justice. Which then can’t lead to healing.”
“This is the only Lamborghini I’ll ever want to own. I’ll tell you why in a moment. Here we are at the epicentre of blah blah blah and failure. We even hear that now from the main speeches. But we don’t hear why. As if it’s just a failure of people not knowing enough or not enough charismatic leadership. I believe something else is to blame.
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