Professor Jem Bendell

Notes from a strategist & educator on social & organisational change, now focused on #DeepAdaptation

Archive for the ‘deep adaptation’ Category

Gathering Ourselves for Deep Adaptation

Posted by jembendell on May 1, 2019

In the past few months I have attended many gatherings on Deep Adaptation to our climate tragedy. Some of them have involved a talk, followed by Q&A and discussion. One of them was a week-long retreat in Devon, UK. Another was a dinner of leaders within the Extinction Rebellion. Online gatherings using zoom have also been a revelation, with friends joining from San Francisco to Kyoto. The interest groups on the Deep Adaptation Forum have also started meeting on zoom, and the collaborations that are emerging are wonderful to witness. Each of these gatherings, whether online or in-person, has offered opportunities for people to express difficult emotions and feel into our predicament, before then moving into discussions about what to start and what to stop.

Some of these gatherings have inspired participants to go on and lead future organising. For instance, the Poetics of Leadership conference my University organised with Crossfields Institute in September last year, inspired some participants to help launch Extinction Rebellion. The retreat in Devon also helped nourish the personal connections that were carried into the International Rebellion week. I could write a roll call of names, but you know who you are, and I love you for who you are and how you have been responding to our predicament. You helped me appreciate the value of gatherings in a way I had never experienced before. Because I had lost all interest in conferences, talks, and workshops. They seemed like soulless exercises in small talk and card swapping, punctuated by pep-talks from people we were told to listen to due to their seniority. But thanks to the amazing experiences of the past 7 months, I am convinced of the value of people gathering to share their pain, confusion, insights and faith that we will find meaning and useful action.

To make the most of these gatherings on Deep Adaptation, some principles and practices of hosting and facilitation could be useful. For me, one important aspect is to welcome participants connecting with and sharing any of their emotions, however painful. Another aspect is to invite everyone’s questions as much as anyone’s ideas for answers. That is because, when facing collapse, we are in new terrain, where people who have been most confident in society-as-we-find-it today might not be the most helpful to our inquiry in future. In hosting such gatherings, there are many existing processes that can be drawn upon. Facilitators of the Deep Adaptation Deep Dive in Devon adapted a few practices from The Work That Reconnects (from Joanna Macy) and the Inner Transition, which Sophie Banks and Naresh Giangrande had developed for participants in the Transition Towns movement. Toni Spencer also used some practices for grief tending.

As my partner Katie Carr and I now design two forthcoming retreats on Deep Adaptation, I realise that many facilitators could benefit from sharing ideas on principles for hosting such gatherings as well as guidance on specific processes. Therefore, I have started a thread within the Deep Adaptation Forum on facilitating gatherings, within the Holistic Approaches interest group. If you are a facilitator, then I invite you to join us there and share ideas and experiences on hosting gatherings, whether in-person or online.

One issue will be how to scale the provision of such gatherings. Katie and I are not able to offer more than a few retreats a year, and so we are particularly interested in participants who can host future meetings and retreats. If that resonates with you, and if you are in Greece or could make it there for June, then we would welcome hearing from you. A few late cancellations mean we have 3 places available at the time of writing (click here for information and to apply). Katie and I will also be teaching leadership for deep adaptation at the University of Cumbria over 4 days in the English Lake District in July, which also has some places available. Also in July, Katie and I are hosting a free one day event on deep adaptation in Lancaster, UK.

In a few weeks I will also be able to announce the 5 free events that the Deep Adaptation Forum will be funding (around the world). If you are able to financially help the organising of such gatherings in future, please contact us.

If you are organising a gathering on the theme of Deep Adaptation, please feel free to announce it by leaving a comment below.

If you would like to promote the success of these gatherings, and the effort to help people share practices for effective hosting of them, then I’d be grateful if you could share this blog to your relevant professional networks.

My own schedule of gatherings is rather busy until the end of this year (some of them are listed here). Therefore, I will not be accepting any new invitations to speak at any event during 2019. Instead, superb thinkers, speakers and hosts can be found via the forum at www.deepadaptation.info

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Come clean or step down – speech at the Fracking Shale Gas site of Cuadrilla, Lancashire

Posted by jembendell on April 29, 2019

On April 29th 2019 Prof Bendell gave a talk at the anti-fracking demo at Preston New Road, where he called on more insiders to take inspiration from the Extinction Rebellion and take risks to Tell the Truth about our climate crisis.  The video of the talk is here on Facebook. The following is the transcript.

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It’s good to be back in the Northwest, after the launch of the international rebellion against extinction in London. There I spoke from the pink boat of truth about the need for our politicians and media to wake up to the scale and urgency of the climate emergency. Today I’m here outside the shale gas fracking site of Cuadrilla because this project was only conceivable because people were afraid to accept the truth on climate change. Afraid to see the truth for themselves, so unable to tell the truth to others and therefore unable to act as if that truth is real.

Seeing people give up their freedom on the streets of London and elsewhere sends a strong signal to people everywhere that it is time for taking personal risks in the pursuit of truth, love and transformation. Extinction Rebellion has opened the space for truth telling.

So I’m here to thank all you activists, for also helping us all to create that space. And I want to say some more about what that truth-telling could involve now.

The truth is that climate change is unfolding faster and harder than we were told was likely. Seventeen of the eighteen hottest years ever recorded have occurred since the year 2000. We have woken up to the warm dawn of dangerously hot century. The colourless blanket of carbon gases wrapping our planet is trapping so much heat that forests are catching fire and harvests failing. Already there have been more forest fires in the UK in 2019 than ever recorded. The last highest year was 2018. Also last year we saw how chaotic weather could begin to threaten our own lives. In the UK and in many European countries the production of grains and open-air vegetables fell by over twenty percent. The climate emergency is therefore about all of us, and the future of our food and water. Yet humanity is heading in the wrong direction, with carbon emissions rising last year faster than ever.

That is why it has been so important to protest fracking at this Preston New Road site. We should not be building any new fossil fuel extraction facilities anywhere. The excuse that gas is better than coal is like saying ketamine is better than heroin. We need to get off these fossil fuel drugs entirely. The fracking process can also release fugitive methane. It is a greenhouse gas many times more warming than CO2. And that’s before we consider the poisoning of our water table. To risk such poisoning at a time when the country is facing a new era of unprecedented water scarcity due to climate change, is frankly absurd.

So the only reason this fracking project can be here is because people have been lying to themselves and each other about how bad things are. So the time has come from more people to take risks in their own lives to come clean and tell the truth about what they know of our situation. It is time for people in senior jobs across our society to come clean or step down. By which I mean come clean on the scale and speed of our crisis and what that means we must now focus on now.

That includes people who care about climate change. But who are in denial about how bad things are and the risks they now need to take. It is time for more of our Climate Experts to come clean about how bad things are. In particular, the members of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), who will issue new advice later this week. They advise the government and are meant to be somewhat independent. In the past, they have justified ongoing fossil fuel development, such as fracking shale gas and airport expansion. They have ignored emissions from aviation, shipping, imports & exports. The CCC assumes that Carbon Dioxide Removal & Negative Emissions technologies will work at a huge planetary scale. That is a convenient fantasy for them but is a travesty for the children who will have to live with the reality. It is time for the CCC to tell the truth on the perilous situation we are in, and the need for emergency responses to protect food and water.

In the past 6 months we have seen some of the climate experts in established institutions be clearer on the alarming situation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC last October finally rang the alarm bells. It told us we have to cut carbon emissions by 18% a year, globally, each year for the next 12, just to have a chance of avoiding catastrophe. And soon the UNISDR will report on risks to global food production from the destabilising of our weather. But we need more experts to step forward and tell the truth, so as to build the public will for the scale of changes that are needed to reduce the harm from climate change.

Academics like me also need to tell the truth to ourselves. We work in a profession that is meant to identify knowledge and share it. Yet we get stuck in silos so have a very partial perspective on public issues. We focus on publishing in specialist journals that reach so few people. After criticism for that lack of impact, the response is now to pursue impact only in ways that can be easily documented and that government can approve of. In my case, I realised my old work in sustainable business was becoming meaningless in the face of rapid climate change. It was only when I decided to follow my concern outside of my comfort zone and publish for the goal of sharing my truth that did I have a significant impact. Instead of a handful of experts reading my paper on Deep Adaptation to our climate tragedy, now over 400 thousand downloads later, many people are reading it and waking up to the emergency we are in.

Since my paper on climate went viral, I have been contacted via email by many hundreds of people. Some of those people have been insiders in organisations with privileged information on our climate crisis. People within NASA, our Royal Navy, and food security institutes. They have told me that the information they have means that the situation is as bad as I am saying or even worse. And therefore, that I should keep going. Well I’m not a journalist or Wikileaks, so its time these people and other insiders with similar views, speak out for themselves. The climate crisis is such a risk to humanity that there has never been a greater matter of principle for which to be whistle-blower. So please, join us in telling the truth.

For years I was told by colleagues in the environmental movement that we should be positive and not be too alarmist. That we should inspire action with a positive vision and tales of success. However, decades of that green positivity coincided with humanity releasing more carbon than ever before. Although my work reflected my despair, and has triggered despair in others, that has been transformative. It has meant we have left behind our concerns with conforming with assumptions of what is appropriate and pragmatic. Our despair took us into truth and radicalised us. That is the personal story of so many of the activists in Extinction Rebellion and will make it such a resilient and transformative movement.

The success of XR has caught the attention of business people who are engaged in public issues. Some have expressed their support. But the clearest form of support would be to admit what hasn’t been working. Since the 1990s business people have been engaged in voluntary activities to promote sustainable development. Its time to tell the truth that for all the effort it hasn’t worked at achieving the changes at the speed and scale that would make a difference to either carbon emissions or biodiversity loss. To tell the truth that it was wrong to think we could achieve the necessary change within the existing system. Instead, it’s time to throw their weight behind systemic reforms, and that should include a redesign of our monetary system so that we don’t require economic growth just to keep our money circulating. Without such change, our efforts at reducing carbon are like swimming up stream.

The question of what to do is more difficult if you work in a company like this one, Cuadrilla, or other companies involved in the current problem. Everyone has bills to pay and so it is difficult to know what to do. If you are working in a fossil fuel company or a bank, or a multinational selling stuff we don’t need, then you must be wondering what to do. Perhaps the stories your CEOs have told you about how your company is doing OK are now wearing thin. So, what do you do? You could look for another job. But you could also start telling the truth in your offices and meetings. And if you need the job but can’t have those conversations, then here is another idea. Show up at work and do absolutely nothing. Let us see rebellions inside oil companies, fracking companies and banks where staff show up and spend the whole day watching youtube, reading novels, and even having fun wasting their colleagues time. Because rebellion can take many forms. And we are not in this the blame and shame but to invite everyone to find a way of participating in rebellion in their own lives.

Ultimately what XR has brought to light is that climate change is a political challenge. It is positive to see a response from politicians, both locally and nationally. But to those politicians now declaring a climate emergency, we also need to talk about telling the truth. Because declaring a climate emergency would itself be a lie if it is not backed by measures that give it meaning. Our climate emergency requires us to respond at speed and scale, across all of society, and to prepare for what’s coming. It must be recognised as a whole-of-government agenda where both reducing and adapting to climate change are central concerns of all departments, as well as a standing item in cabinet meetings. So, to the politicians declaring an emergency, I ask you to now tell the truth. The truth about the coming disruption to our food production and imports, our fresh water supply, and our essential services. About what we need to do to reduce the disruption. About how that will entail sacrifice. From us all. And that this will be hard for most of us to accept and respond to. But that this is the conversation the country has to have. And have now.

Only then will pressure build on government to take significant action. Because there is a lot to change. The UK government has given the go ahead for a new north-sea oil field that will amount to one quarter of a billion tonnes of CO2 across the life of the oil field. The UK government has also just overseen planning permission for a new coal mine. Perhaps it didn’t realise how bad our situation is? Well since the IPCC report in October there are no excuses. It said we have to make massive cuts right now, each year for the next 12 years to have a chance of avoiding catastrophe. The government has done little to nothing to respond to the IPCC report.

So this is my message to the Prime Minister. You may not care much about the environment, but climate change is now a matter of national security. It is disrupting food production and water supplies. It threatens the future of Britain as a stable and prosperous country. Its time you heard the truth and told us the truth.

For the Prime Minister, it is time to come clean or step aside.

 

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An Open Letter to Business Supporters of Extinction Rebellion

Posted by jembendell on April 25, 2019

I was fascinated to read a letter in support of the Extinction Rebellion last week, expressing support, as business people, for the aims of XR. After 24 years focused on voluntary business efforts on sustainable development, last year I abandoned that to explore different approaches to our climate disaster. That included supporting people putting together XR. Part of that was being a lead signatory of the letter from academics last October that declared our support for the forthcoming rebellion. So, I believe in the utility of expressing public support as professionals in addition to what we can do as volunteers in the range of activities needed in a social movement. But the negative reaction from some to the letter from businesses brings to light some issues that need to be explored at this critical time, so I am writing this open letter.

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I see that the letter was signed mostly by people who work in companies that are proactive on environmental issues. So that means, like me, you have been following global sustainability issues closely, and must be feeling a similar anxiety at how bad things are becoming. The confirmation from the IPCC that we are heading for imminent disaster for the human race, as well as the rest of life on Earth, really helped bring that home. Suddenly, the lives of our own families seem at risk. Then there is the deeper pain we may feel as we sense that our own choices were mistaken. We believed that we had time and techniques to reform this capitalist system towards something sustainable. It was a wonderful idea at the time, and even got its swansong with international agreement of sustainable development goals. I have experienced myself how difficult it is for that sense of personal efficacy to fall apart.

The frustration we feel at the predicament we are in means we can feel great solidarity and respect for people giving up their freedom on the streets of London to bring national and global attention to our climate emergency. I felt such an honour to have helped a bit and spoken to launch the international rebellion on April 15th.

As some of you may now have heard, the letter of support for XR from business leaders, and its suggestion of some sort of “XR Business” initiative, caused concern amongst many volunteers and convenors of XR, both in the UK and internationally. While some might think this was simply a case of uninformed negative views of businesses or business executives, that would be mistaken. There is something to be learned from the concern, which may help any potential future support from businesses, banks, celebrities or anyone with perceived power in the current unsustainable system.

Perhaps some of you have already joined in XR individually as meeting organisers, arrestables, legal observers, or the other many roles that exist in the movement. But in writing a supportive letter that identified your companies and your role as business people, you are not simply joining in as equals. You are deploying your status as people in the private sector to help add weight to this activism. We did the same as academics when we wrote that letter of support. In the case of business leaders, this raises some questions about the role of business in our current predicament and how that will need to change. While organisations and individuals from the private sector have major roles to play in responding to climate change, and in helping us cope with the massive disruptions ahead, it is important they help not hinder the power of citizens coming together for radical change.

So I am going to suggest some ideas that could be recognised by business people if considering support for Extinction Rebellion. These are only relevant after you confirm you understand what XR stands for. The group has declared a peaceful rebellion, which means inviting non-violent law-breaking as a way of rejecting the legitimacy of governments and the system they are part of. So in declaring support, you are recognising that our climate emergency means that our current political and economic system is broken and in need of transformation. After accepting that, then the following five ideas could be useful to hear from business leaders. If you may excuse the presumptuousness, I will have a go at writing it as a letter from you to XR:

Dear XR activists, as business leaders we recognise the following:

First, we failed. Although we tried to make businesses and financial institutions more sustainable from the inside, it has not stopped carbon emissions rising or biodiversity loss increasing. We work in the most funded and dynamic sector of society but couldn’t achieve the change we hoped for.

Second, we were wrong. We believed that working with existing systems of power, within market systems, was the way to deliver positive change at scale. While we do not know what could have been achieved by efforts going into other approaches towards climate stability and biodiversity conservation, we told people our approach was more pragmatic and scalable.

Third, we will learn. We believed that being business professionals gave us credibility in addressing issues of climate and biodiversity. Now we realise that some of the assumptions and attitudes we have learned in the private sector may not be that useful, so we are ready to learn from others.

Fourth, citizens need more influence than us. Although as individual executives we think we have been useful participants in dialogues with communities and governments, overall, the effect has been to prioritise the interests of profit-making over other concerns. Because businesses can fund initiatives, lobbyists and so on, as a sector we have had unfair influence over our societies. As this has coincided with the predicament we are in, it is understandable to conclude this unfair influence is at fault. Therefore, citizens and scientists need more influence than us in future on how to drawdown and cut carbon, as well as how to manage the difficulties ahead.

Fifth, we must be made to behave. Although it is difficult for some of us to say this, it is the natural implication of where we have got to now facing catastrophic climate change. Praising individual companies doing useful things was never enough. We need state intervention to redesign the economy so we can more swiftly decarbonise and also prepare for the disruptions ahead. That means corporate support for changes in the law, perhaps even introducing a law on ecocide by corporations.

We hope that by expressing these realisations, we can find ways for our knowledge and resources to help humanity respond to our climate emergency. That may mean supporting you from a distance as organisations, but closely as individuals. Or it may mean finding ways to support you more actively with our organisations. Perhaps we can find ways to hold space open for your activism and ideas without any influence from the private sector. We will certainly work to ensure other companies do not get in your way.

Sincerely,

Concerned executives, deeply impressed by your sacrifice.

I do not speak for XR in presenting these suggestions. However, I am aware of the sentiment of many of the lead organisers and volunteers and believe that if business executives wish to support or engage as representatives of companies, then it will help to acknowledge the need for massive change.

The XR leaders I have worked with all recognise that the difficulties we face require a great coming together of people from all walks of life and all corners of the world. They deliberately avoid blaming people or sectors, as they know we need to foster a culture of forgiveness and love, so we do not make matters worse as an unstable climate ruins our normal life. It’s an approach that I share, and what we are promoting in the Deep Adaptation Forum, which is focused on enabling readiness for likely societal collapse.

Like me, the XR leadership does not believe that one group or ideology has all the answers. To help get things started, with Rabbi Newman, I shared some ideas for the kinds of economic reforms we will need to help us decarbonise and prepare for disruption, on the XR Blog. While we will need more ideas to be shared and trialled, the options for responding to the climate emergency must not be driven by those with more time and money to shape dialogues, policies and initiatives.

I understand how deeply challenging this issue is so thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

Jem Bendell

Professor of Sustainability Leadership

Former Director of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS)

Relevant reading:

In the Company of Revolutionaries

The Love in Deep Adaptation

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The sane reaction to an impending catastrophe – my thoughts on XR in The Times

Posted by jembendell on April 20, 2019

When the UN reported that we must cut carbon emissions massively every year for the next 12 years to have a chance of preventing catastrophic climate change, what did our government do?
The sane response would be to call an emergency and convene the best minds to help decarbonise our economy.
Perhaps that did not happen because the message got lost. So allow me to translate: catastrophic climate change means harvests failing to the point where you and I could be starving. In which case, most of us won’t be going to work or obeying the rules. That’s the seeds of a societal collapse.
One might assume that action to reduce this threat would be top of the agenda in the corridors of power.
Not if you are in denial, which most of our politicians are. As more people wake up to this predicament, we demand leadership from government.
Last year global carbon emissions jumped higher and faster than they have ever done in human history.
Our climate crisis is the central political challenge of our time and requires a complete redesign of our economic system.
Some people gain a sense of personal self-worth from respecting the norms of life. Thankfully, enough think more freely and can respond.
At our demonstrations I met such people, from all generations and walks of life. They know we need to break the norms, express our fears and come together to make the best of a terrifying situation.
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Deep Adaptation Q&As hosted by Jem Bendell

Posted by matslats on April 16, 2019

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Hundreds of professionals are gathering on the Deep Adapation Forum to find each other and collaborate. A new monthly online Q&A series gives you an opportunity to put a question to a leading thinker on personal and collective responses to anticipated collapse due to climate chaos. Each session will be hosted by Professor Jem Bendell.

This year we’ll be talking to:

Carolyn Baker (May)
Watch here

Carolyn offers life and leadership coaching as well as spiritual counseling for people who want to live more resiliently in the present as they prepare for the future. Carolyn works closely with Andrew Harvey and other spiritual luminaries to live and promote Sacred Activism—the marriage of effecting change in the world with consciousness transformation. Carolyn is the author of many books on collapse.

Joanna Macy (June)
Watch here

A scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A hugely respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with five decades of activism.Her work helps people transform despair and apathy, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, into constructive, collaborative action. It brings a new way of seeing the world, as our larger living body, freeing us from the assumptions and attitudes that now threaten the continuity of life on Earth.

Gail Bradbrook (July)
Watch here

Gail has been researching, planning and training for mass civil disobedience since 2010 and is a co-founder of the social movement Extinction Rebellion (XR) which rapidly spread internationally since its launch in October 2018.

Deb Ozarko
August 7th from 3:00pm UK time

Deb is the creator and former host of the Unplug podcast and the author of “Beyond Hope: Letting Go of a World in Collapse.”

Adrian Tait
September 13th from 7pm UK time

Adrian is a co-founder of the Climate Psychology Alliance. He is retired after 25 years as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist with extensive experience in teaching and supervision in the NHS and privately.

Katherine Wilkinson
October 10th from 5:00pm UK time

Katharine speaks about climate action and gender equity. She was Senior Writer for the New York Times bestseller Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming (Penguin, 2017). The book details the 100 most substantive climate solutions and articulates a bold vision of a future without global warming.

Vanessa Andreotti
November 4th from 5:00pm UK time

Vanessa has extensive experience working across sectors internationally in areas of education related to global justice, community engagement, indigenous knowledge systems and internationalization. Her research focuses on analyses of historical and systemic patterns of reproduction of knowledge and inequalities and how these mobilize global imaginaries that limit or enable different possibilities for (co)existence and global change.

Charles Eisenstein
December 14th from 4:00pm UK time

Charles is the author of “Climate, a New Story” and other books, and it widely considered one of the world’s leading contemporary environmental philosophers.

To attend the webinars, you’ll need to join the forum!

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Our Mother Earth Says #MeToo – XR Opening Speech, London, 15 April 2019

Posted by jembendell on April 15, 2019

(The video appears at the end of the transcript)xr speech

I’m glad to be here in Oxford Circus where today we challenge the circus of lies that is our political system and mainstream media.

I am an academic, a Professor at a University. So my profession is meant to be all about finding and sharing truths. But I discovered that most of us have been too afraid to look closely at what is happening in our world and what we are doing to it.

For over 20 years I slaved away at changing business and finance to be a little kinder to people and planet. Then a couple of years ago I was invited to speak at a conference on climate change and business. As the time to speak came close I felt a rising fear. To get up on stage and give another pep talk? To say well done and let’s do more? It had begun to feel like a lie. I ditched my standard speech and told a room of climate specialists that I think it is too late to save this system. Too late for tinkering around the edges. I spoke without any idea what it means we should do now. Apart from how we must stop pretending to ourselves and to the world. And start speaking our truth.

We have come out on to the streets today to raise our voices in alarm. We knew climate change was coming, but we didn’t know how fast. 17 of the last 18 years were the hottest ever recorded. We have woken up to the warm dawn of dangerously hot century. Forests are catching fire, harvests failing, animals and insects dying off in vast numbers. The extra energy trapped from our carbon emissions is warming the oceans by as much as if six atomic bombs are going off every second. That’s an explosion of warming and turbulence that we cannot turn off. xr speech 2

Our media have failed us. When it was over 20 degrees during mid-winter most of us thought it was nice but weird and scary. But on TV and newspapers we were told how people were just happy to be basking in the warmth. The same journalists scoff at climate change when a blast of Arctic air is forced down on Britain precisely because of the breakdown of normal air patterns.

Last year we saw how chaotic weather could begin to threaten our own lives.
In the UK and in many European countries we grew a fifth less vegetables and grains because it was too hot and dry. Imagine that year on year, globally, and worse. If the authorities think today is a bit of a headache imagine if we were all hungry right now.
In the last few years we have seen more worrying information from the world’s most credible organisations. Just last month the UN’s weather organisation reported that the global sea level is rising faster and faster. That tells us that the warming of our global climate is speeding up. Which suggests the Earth has begun to heat itself because of what we have started.

So I’m sorry, our future climate is not under our control.

So what do we do? Go home?

No.

We gather and rebel not with a vision of a fairy-tale future where we have fixed the climate, but because it is right to do what we can. To slow the change. To reduce the harm. To save what we can. To invite us back to sanity and love.

The truth is we are scared and we are brave enough to say so.

The truth is we are grieving and we are proud enough to say so.

The truth is we are traumatised and we are open enough to say so.

We are angry and we are calm enough to say so and invite others to join us.

And though we are uncertain, we are smart enough to say so.

We are here to demand that the government admit the truth to themselves and start the dialogue on what to do now.

As countless scientific reports emerged in the last 12 months about how dire our situation is, what has the government done to prepare us? Or even warn us? It did not say, we need to think about how to feed ourselves when other countries have no surplus to sell us. It did not say, let’s build seed banks, greenhouses, and irrigation so we can grow food whatever the weather. No, it said we are doing OK in reducing our emissions, so we can frack gas and mine coal.

Given what we know about climate, we can see that; The government is lying to us that the future of our food supply is nothing to worry about. The government is lying to us that our pensions will be worth anything 20 years from now. The government is lying to us that the economy is stronger than in 2007. The government is lying to us that our children should stay in school and study hard to get on in a global economy.

Maybe that is because they are lying to themselves. We are here to wake them up.

Since Al Gore’s film in 2006 we have been told to do our bit. I can switch off a light, but I can’t switch off the consumer society that requires us to trash more of the planet to service debts to the banks. Our climate crisis was always a political challenge. The Extinction Rebellion is now making that known.

And it has started to work. Some politicians are slowly coming on board. Last month the Labour Party declared a climate emergency and backed the school strikes. But their policy proposals will need to go so much further.

Meanwhile the government still sees climate change as a mere hindrance to economic growth. They seem to believe that the belly of Mother Earth contains unlimited fossil fuels for us to gouge out and burn. Nothing seems to shake this belief. It’s why peaceful disobedience is needed to force their attention.

And if the politicians do all come on board then the necessary changes won’t just happen. Because they don’t have any track record in pursuing the kind of systemic change we need. That means taking on the financial system. We will need to peacefully rebel again and again.

Today is the start of a broader rebellion against business as usual. Taking inspiration from today, we need to stretch the rebellion into our workplaces. Not simply to disrupt. But to risk those awkward conversations with our colleagues, so every decision might begin to align with reducing or adapting to the climate crisis. Because the changes ahead will affect all of us in every workplace and community.

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Our elders in action at Marble Arch (members of Christian Climate Action).

Today will be beautiful. But it might also be stressful, especially as the rebellion unfolds, as it will. So, I want to address our fellow humans here today and around the world who serve as our police.

Today and this week, we will have the honour of seeing mothers and grandmothers putting their bodies on the line for the defence of life itself. For the defence of your children. So I see the women protesting today as our elders. They are here for you. They are here for me. They are here for all of us.

So to our police, I say, when you lay a hand on mothers and grandmothers you will not just be doing your job. It will be your personal decision to participate today, in a process of oppressing women and their wisdom that reaches back thousands of years. An oppression that is at the root of our crisis today.

All of us, including the police, can remove ourselves from that chain of destruction. We can refrain from that act of uninvited touch. So I ask you to listen to the loving call of nature in your own hearts.

And you might hear that Our Mother Earth Says Me Too.

Our Mother Earth Says Me Too. Our Mother Earth Says Me Too.

I want to share a poem that speaks to this. It’s not a famous old poem but written by a friend. Because we are writing history right now. It’s called Galvanize, by Toni Spencer.

“The time has come
to galvanize those heaving sighs from
fraught days and spiritual malaise. From
miles and miles spent in supermarket aisles
overwhelmed by choices to the point where
we lose our voices and so silently
we loosen our ties to life.
“Oh my loves what magic we could make if we
galvanized. Realized beyond fantasized futures, the
power of our presence”
Yes. The time has come, to get together.
To claim the prize of a collective awakening:
Get off our arses. Realize our vastness and
put it to work: Stopping the shopping and stepping out in the
streets. Shop fronts. Fields.
Boardrooms. Classrooms. Living rooms.
It’s time to galvanize. To alchemize a fullness of voice.
A radical choice. To speak up for what we know
to be true.”

We will not accept this mass extinction quietly.

We will not accept the threat of our own extinction quietly.

We may not succeed in shaping the future but we can succeed in living our truth today.

And living it louder. Living it prouder. Living it together. Thank you.

 

 

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Charity in the Face of Collapse: The Need for Generative Giving not Strategic Hubris

Posted by jembendell on April 4, 2019

In recent months, I have talked privately to more third sector workers, activists, philanthropists, religious leaders and government officials who seek to be useful in the world at this difficult time. They have been reflecting on what it is they could be doing and supporting with their funds, networks and know-how.

People involved in funding charitable activities have a particular challenge, because climate change risks undermining everything. Whether you sponsor a school, human rights organisation, lifeboat, museum, donkey sanctuary or something else, it is all going to be affected by climate chaos and a societal collapse. Crucially, the threat of imminent societal collapse poses a challenge to normal notions of prudence within charitable foundations. Why only spend the earnings or a share of the endowment each year when we have such a short window for action to reduce the scale of the catastrophe ahead?

brown ship steering wheel

Photo by Maël BALLAND on Pexels.com

This topic of likely collapse is so huge and all-encompassing that it affects everybody in every part of the world in every professional practice, in their work, family, community and political lives. Last year I wrote about the various forms of collapse-acceptance and the ways I have been seeing people integrate this into their lives and the choices they are making professionally and personally. Since then I have been on my own journey. As I have a background in non-profit and foundation strategies and performance, writing a report for the UN over a decade ago, I am interested in how activists and grant makers are exploring where to focus their energies and funds. To aid your thinking, I am going to list some of the approaches I have heard people taking, before explaining why I have taken a different path with the launch of the Deep Adaptation Forum. I share these ideas because if you are someone who could provide grants for others, then you have an important role to play as the world wakes up to our predicament.

First, you could decide to attempt to reach the most powerful people in the world in terms of decision-making power and the ability to move money and seek to help them understand, decide and implement what to do to buy societies some time before a societal collapse, reduce harm during the process and plant the seeds of a new way of life. Who might such powerful people be? In my experience of working with board level executives of large organisations and top politicians, I know they are limited within what their roles allow. Therefore, some people are now looking towards engaging the billionaires and leveraging their power to promote wider change. Let’s call this the Benevolent Billionaire strategy.

Second, you could decide to reach out to those who are disproportionately affected by climate chaos, because of our concern for human rights, equality and justice. For instance, you might seek to help disadvantaged communities to become more resilient to future financial or food shocks, or the breakdown in law and order. Or you could try to increase the voice of people from marginalized groups within countries and worldwide, on policies in general and climate adaptation in particular. With this approach it also makes sense to focus on young people and helping them to prepare. Let’s call this the Solidarity Forever strategy.

Third, you could decide to begin from where you are at, and therefore look at what skills and networks you have that you could re-purpose for this agenda. You could do that even if the people and activities involved might not be the most important in terms of systemic or scalable impact. Your reason could be that you would know what you are doing and who you are talking to. So, if you are working in investment finance, you might seek to bring “deep adaptation” into your investment work. Let’s call this the Step-by-Step strategy.

Fourth, you could seek to raise awareness about impending collapse, as fast and as wide as possible, without an allegiance to any one approach to reducing harm. That might involve you joining a civil disobedience campaign, getting arrested, tweeting a lot or just having tough conversations with colleagues, friends and family. Let’s call this the Shout-it-Out strategy.

Fifth, you could take time to re-discover what it is you most love doing, now that your old stories of identity, conformity, respect for the system and for incremental change no longer hold true for you. That might mean you drop everything, sell your house and retrain as a yoga teacher, breathwork host, or documentary film maker. No, this isn’t fiction. I’ve talked to many who are exploring such a path. Let’s call this the Live-a-Little strategy.

I suggest these names for the different strategies to make it easier to discuss (for instance, leave your comments below). I have been supporting such responses in a number of ways in the months since my Deep Adaptation paper came out (downloads from the top right). But I see they all have some limitations. Benevolent Billionaires can prove elusive and once engaged tend to have their own ideas, set hard from a past of ego-affirmation. A Solidarity Forever strategy soon comes up against the realisation that while people can do some things in their local communities, they aren’t really in control of most means of resilience. And working street-by-street really doesn’t seem to match the urgency of our challenge. A Step-by-Step Strategy soon invites confusion, apathy or ridicule from people who are busy on their normal work and wondering “what’s got in to you”. After such set-backs you can begin to wonder why you are seeking to influence a profession that probably won’t exist in 10 years. I can report that the Live-a-Little strategy feels wonderful. Until it doesn’t. And you begin to desire to be doing something a bit wider. If you are that-way-inclined, then the Shout-it-Out strategy also feels wonderful. Until it doesn’t. And you begin to wonder whether waving placards, avoiding police batons and hoping government wakes up will impact much in the long run.

As I wrote at the start, this agenda affects everyone you know and all aspects of their life. That’s why I have found it difficult to give all my focus to one of those five types of response I listed above. So what should receive our attention and funding?

A typical strategic approach to grant-making is where the funder asks a person or organisation to present an argument about what is important to do for a specific target group, with a clear theory of change and mechanisms of accountability. That sounds very sensible, and far more professional than the kind of grant-making that seeks to make the donor look good (or less bad). But given the predicament we are in, I do not believe the typical approach to be suitable for all forms of philanthropy. Because to focus on that approach would reflect a hubristic view that we can predict the future, control reality, as well as the idea a donor has a better view than others. Instead, none of us really know what the heck to do right now as we face unprecedented times. Therefore, I see the importance of helping people, whose acceptance of likely collapse is affecting them deeply and transforming their approach to work and life, to find each other and co-create initiatives of all kinds. Therefore, the Deep Adaptation Forum and its associated social networks is not based on a strategy for enabling change other than helping people come together around this agenda and explore ideas from a spirit of compassion, curiosity, respect, and agency. That means we still believe that there are things that can be done to buy humanity time, reduce harm and enable learning, perhaps awakening, within these difficult times.

Within the Forum we are pursuing these aims by supporting the formation of professional groups, from coaching to schooling to farming, where people are enabled to meet by videolink. We professionally facilitate those online meetings as well as train volunteers to do so. We are also supporting in-person dialogues that use open space facilitation to respond to the issues that participants wish to discuss. We have launched monthly online Q&A sessions with relevant experts. The Forum is and will remain free and activities are produced through voluntary work and small donations that are paid direct to freelancers. Many new projects may emerge over time, from the participants themselves. To guide that emergence, we are clear about how we wish to both embody and enable loving approaches to our predicament. That might sound obvious, but on this topic some people take discussions towards preparing for violence, while others say that nothing is worth doing at all.

Aside from the Forum, what kind of philanthropic or grant-making philosophy could be useful today in the face of increasing climate-related disruptions to our way of life? If you are providing grants for specific services to the disadvantaged, such as victims of environmental catastrophes, famines or wars, then questions of efficiency and traceability are important. However, this kind of grant-making does little to address the causes or risk factors behind the such troubles. To work on that, invites us to support wider efforts at education, cultural change, governmental reform and economic reform. In that arena, my experience in giving and receiving financial funding is that the most interesting and powerful impacts and the best relations are where four things are made explicit.

First, that the funding is a gift. It is not about the funder trying to build their own profile and power or to control the recipient. It is a statement of faith in the person, their organisation (if they are within one), the general domain of action and the unfairness of our societies which create such divisions between those with funds and those without.

Second, that the funding is to empower the recipient to work on the issue domain as they determine, where the forms of action may change as the recipient learns along the way and as situations evolve.

Third, that the grantee shares the grant-makers’ philosophy of responsiveness to those with less power in society, and so does not impose their solutions on others. This leads to a form of cascading downwards accountability to push back against power injustices in society.

Fourth, that the funder and recipient agree to a means of ongoing communication which is like that of honest and critical friends, rather than one seeking to please the other. The extent of communication is agreed between the two and might simply involve a bimonthly email update and video call.

I will call this approach Generative Giving. It recognises that the wisdom is not within the funder, but is found through dialogue between the funder, funded and those affected. The likely impact is not increased by more spreadsheet entries in either the planning or reporting. Instead it is increased by basing relations in a spirit of gift, trust, empowerment and dialogue. It is the kind of approach that the freelancers of the Deep Adaptation Forum have benefited from greatly. If you share this philosophy, we would love to hear from you (via the About page).

I realise that if you work as a grant maker in a foundation then it is not so easy to fund activities in the way I have just described. In the pursuit of professionalism and accountability the field of charitable giving has been twisted into a bureaucratic process, overseen by trustees who assume a quiet life and don’t rock the boat. Well that boat is about to sink. Given that we face societal collapse due to climate chaos, the financial assets that support philanthropy will evaporate in the process. The power of the philanthropist only exists within this society and our systems. Therefore, it would be prudent to spend down an entire endowment within the next ten years to try and buy humanity time, reduce harm and seed what might come next. If that means changing the core rules of a charitable foundation, or flouting them, then so be it. Now is the time for trustees and grant-makers to rebel against a stifled approach that is not fit for our time of crisis.

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Notes on Hunger and Collapse

Posted by jembendell on March 28, 2019

Did you know that four years ago some scientists announced that their model was projecting how “society will collapse by 2040 due to catastrophic food shortages” – unless humanity suddenly changed course?
No, me neither. And I’m a Professor of Sustainability Leadership. The scientists were from Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute. The fact such warnings slip us by is why activists from Extinction Rebellion are demanding our media and politicians pay attention. Because climate change is not just about being nice to nature or to people on the other side of the world. Rather, it means more of us won’t be able to afford to feed ourselves or our families. Which means even worse, as a hungry country is an ungovernable one.
How alarmist or sensible is this shift in focus from climate to calories and the threat of chaos? It is a shift I have been promoting within the environmental movement since last year when I concluded we have entered a period of rapid climate change. Urgently we need to discuss emergency measures from national and local government, philanthropists and the private sector to help people to be fed and watered in situ for as long as possible. These measures can be informed by some of the very latest analyses from organizations like the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) but could also arise from a precautionary approach that recognizes how recent crop-damaging weather may not actually be anomalous and instead represent a new best-case scenario within a rapidly altering climate.
I am not an expert on food security, and so to write these notes on hunger and collapse means I am venturing in to areas that I am new to. There are many professionals in the food security sector who know far more than I about both the science of agronomy or the politics and economics of food distribution. But I know that some of them are sounding alarm bells within their organizations, questioning whether the models used to inform previous reviews of worst-case scenarios might not be fit for purpose. I am not going to try and become an expert in the field of food security and intend this to be both the first and last article I write on it. Rather, I am sharing ideas here to encourage those internal debates within research organisations and government agencies, that need to be had so that those of us in wider society can have honest conversations about how we reduce harm in the face of climate-induced disruption to our way of life.
In these notes on hunger and collapse, I will summarise some of what I have learned about the current situation with food security and why I think climate change now threatens food security in the West. My view doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to help. Instead, I mention a few areas where policies might be useful. I am not confident they will be adopted at scale in time, and so I still believe that a societal collapse is on the horizon. But I write these notes in the hope I might be proved wrong.
An Overview on Food Insecurity
earth desert dry hot

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

First, as an astute reader you could already be thinking that I’m ignoring how millions of people are starving already. While enough food is produced today for all of humanity to eat sufficiently, great numbers of people face crisis levels of food insecurity, requiring immediate emergency action to safeguard their lives. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO, 2018a) estimated that 80 million people in 2015 were going hungry in that way, 108 million people in 2016 and 124 million people in 2017. Therefore, for increasing numbers of people, a collapse or breakdown in their way of life is a present reality, not something to anticipate or debate. Last year the FAO identified climate change as one of the main factors for this situation of increasing hunger worldwide, although the politics and economics of distribution remain key. The bombing of Yemen can and should be stopped. But climate is not something we can fix with a peace summit, and so those FAO findings on the trends in malnutrition are deeply worrying.
Last year was an unusually hot and dry year in the Northern hemisphere. It showed clearly how grain and vegetable production is negatively impacted by climate change. Most Northern and Central European countries reported important end-of-summer declines in cereal production, with losses estimated to reach between 23.6% and 33% in the Baltic states and Finland, and between 14% and 20% in Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark and Sweden (European Commission 2018a, 2018b, 2018c; EDO, 2018). Although a 20% decline across the whole of Europe was being predicted by some farmers’ organisations at the end of the summer,  the reported fall of grain output over the past year has since been calculated as 7.2% (FAO, 2018b). Several Northern European countries were more severely affected (Masante et al, 2018), experiencing declines up to 50% in some crops (Feed Navigator, 2018). The potato harvest in Germany, the biggest European producer, was down 25%-30% compared with usual quantities (Pieterse 2018). The Lithuanian government declared a state of emergency, and Latvia acknowledged the harvest as a natural disaster (Food Ingredients First, 2018).
It is no wonder that food prices to the consumer have risen more than usual in many Western countries. But most of us aren’t malnourished. Because we buy so much food from around the world. We are dependent on a complex global industrial consumer economy. In 2018 the rest of the world helped out the West more than usual, as global food production was only down 2.4% (FAO 2018b). Most of the world’s cereals comes from a few net exporting countries like Russia, Canada, US and France and Thailand. If harvests fail, then countries often respond by imposing export bans which block the usual trade flows of food, leading to a ‘domino effect’ of price rises. Until now the hardest impacts have always been felt within import-dependent low-income countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.
It would take an even wider experience of disruptive weather than 2018 to affect global food availability. How likely is that? I have been asked this question a lot since I released my paper on Deep Adaptation last year. So I decided to have a look at what food security researchers have been saying and how they develop their views.
Food security research reports that sudden losses of food production have become increasingly frequent over the past 50 years. While some of these shocks take place due to geopolitical crises, extreme weather events are also dominant drivers – over half of all shocks to crop production systems were a result of extreme weather events. Besides, these shocks also increasingly affect crops, livestock and aquaculture simultaneously (Cottrell et al., 2019). One expert in the FAO explains “The problem is variability. Extreme weather events – cyclones, hurricanes, rainfall, hail fall, high temperatures in August in northern Europe. The unpredictability is the hardest element, and it seems that unpredictability is here to stay.”
One major influence on weather is El Niño, a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean which happens with varying magnitude every 2-7 years. Increases in the strength or frequency of El Niño are a cause for concern over future food security. The 2015–2016 El Niño was one of the strongest events of the past 100 years, leading to drought in large areas of Africa, parts of Central America, Brazil and the Caribbean, as well as Australia and parts of the Near East (FAO 2018a). In August 2016, 61.6 percent of all Vietnamese crops were very severely damaged or lost (FAO 2016a). However, that year saw plentiful monsoon rains in SE Asia which offset those Vietnamese losses. An El Niño event seems likely in 2019, but not such a strong one (FAO 2018d). If it coincides with damaging weather in the key breadbasket countries in the Northern Hemisphere, then we could see significant impacts on food supplies.Here I am describing worst-case scenarios, where many key food producing regions are hit in the same year. Current simulations of worst-case scenarios use historic lows. For instance, one was run by Global Food Security in 2015, where the worst-case scenario combined drought-related impacts on yields of maize and soybean (which happened in 1988/89) and on wheat and rice (which happened in Europe, Russia, India and China in 2002/03). The report indicated that consumers in large industrialised countries such as the US and EU, where food represents a small share of household expenditures, would be relatively unaffected (GFS, 2015a).
Like me, you may have noticed a problem with basing analyses on what has happened in the past. If we are now in the early stages of non-linear changes in our climate due to heat-reinforcing feedback loops, then it isn’t sufficient to assess future scenarios based on historic worst-case instances combined into one global event. The problem with current food security work is a reliance on existing climate modelling. From that basis the weather of 2018 is seen as an anomaly. So we are told reassurances that “weather isn’t climate” and that we can expect future years to be better. Never mind that 2019 is already more volatile. Given that temperature records are being broken every year, 2018 could become the new normal, or even a good year.
It is clear that our food system is going to be under weather pressure like never before. On top of the direct impacts of extreme temperatures, droughts and floods, there is also the secondary impact of adverse weather making plants more susceptible to disease. Crop pests pose a greater threat in an era of rapid climate change, given that more than 75% of the world’s food comes from just 12 plants and five animal species (World Economic Forum 2018). Then there is the problem of climate impacting on the biodiversity essential to our agriculture. On land, the collapse of insects presents a challenge for pollination. In the seas, the acidification from dissolved CO2 is going to reduce fish stocks. Earlier this year the FAO (2019) issued a severe warning about the threat to our future agriculture from our collapsing biodiversity, in part due to climate change.
Some professionals in the food security field are waking up to the implications of this new era of volatile weather. In IASSA they have started looking at the potential for multi-breadbasket failure, which rather worryingly now deserves its own acronym – MBBF. Their scientists are looking at how simultaneous climate extremes in our major grain producing regions could have knock-on effects of shocks on other parts of our food, economic and political systems. A famous example of a climate shock leading to food security issues and consequent social unrest, war and migration is the Arab spring.
As we look at the situation, it is worth remembering that our buffer against MBBF is not huge. Global food reserves would feed all humans for 103 days, if fairly distributed, something we have never done. We would have 249 days in reserve if people were able to east the food currently intended for farm animals (FAO 2018b). The United Nations “Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk” comes out in May this year. Given how food underpins everything, it will be interesting to see how it reports on this most systemic of risks.
If you are worried, then that is good, as it means you can join conversations about what might be done about it.
Policies to avert hunger and postpone or soften collapse 
Policy makers need to understand how global food production and distribution systems are likely to cope with declines in yields of staple crops. This requires an understanding of the food storage system and more importantly markets which determine who gets the food.
Until the past decades of neo-liberal policies, governments kept strategic grain reserves to feed their citizens. Now they prefer the greater efficiency of global markets (with the notable exception of certain countries such as China or India). A troubling aspect of this development is that sometimes the countries most in need of reserves are those least able to pay for them (Fraser et al, 2015). Reserves are controlled by a handful of corporations, which are not averse to manipulating commodity prices if it will increase profits. In the case of a global decline in food production this means that rich and poor will be trying to eat from the same pile. You don’t have to actually own the commodity in order to shift the prices. Financial speculation (in all markets) has the effect of amplifying price movements. For example, World Bank estimates on the 2008 drought reported that “up to 30 percent price increases occurred based on anticipated fallout (from drought impacts and biofuel production on corn crops) rather than the shocks themselves” (GFS, 2015b).
The global food system is made all the more vulnerable to extreme weather events as global supply chains have been optimized for efficiency, with buffer stocks reduced in line with an understanding of supply volatility that is consistent with a stable natural environment (Dellink et al. 2017). The conclusion is clear. Liberalizing the worlds agriculture and food systems, including their financing, means they are not easily adapted to increasing climate disruption and may make matters worse. So, policy makers need to think again, and fast.
Radical and detailed alternatives to the free market global food system do exist. In his 2017 book Nourrir l’Europe en temps de crise (“Feeding Europe in Times of Crisis”), the French agronomist and “collapsologue” Pablo Servigne outlined a comprehensive program for food systems around Europe and the world that would be more resilient to potential disruptions with climate and oil supply. These food systems, centered on agroecological principles, would be localized and diversified, decentralized and autonomous, circular and transparent. Servigne also suggests that urban agriculture could act as a means of bringing people together in community.
Many of Servigne’s recommendations fit with those of the FAO. In a special 2016 report on climate change, agriculture and food security, the organization recommends a focus on sustainable intensification of agricultural production (increasing the efficiency of resource use, conserving and enhancing natural resources); the use of agroecology; more efficient management of water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles; and crop diversification (FAO, 2016b).
Being new to food security, I am very aware that there are far more trained, experienced and skilful people than I who will be able to develop policy. To help their conversations, I have jotted down some initial thoughts on what they might consider:
• First, importing countries need to increase domestic production of basic foods, including through irrigation, the use of greenhouses, as well as urban and community-based agriculture.
• Second, importing countries need to geographically diversify sources of food imports rather than rely on whatever is cheapest or habit.
• Third, all countries need to diversify the range of species involved in their domestic agriculture, with a focus on a wider range of resilience to weather stress, and this be done with a holistic agroecological approach, recognizing the threat from collapsing biodiversity.
• Fourth, governments need to re-instate the sovereign management of grain reserves and prepare for requisition of private grain reserves in crisis situations.
• Fifth, a treaty and systems may be needed to help keep the international food trade going despite any future financial or economic collapse.
• Sixth, national contingency plans may be needed to prepare for food rationing so that any rapid and major price rises are not allowed to lead to malnutrition and civil unrest.
• Seventh, in the absence of significant new forms of government action on food security, local governments need to act, including through partnerships with companies that can manage food distribution.
• Eight, we should undertake controlled experiments with Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB) over the Arctic Ocean, to try and reduce the warming in the Arctic and slow down the damaging changes to northern hemisphere weather. That does not mean wider geoengineering makes sense but that MCB is important to try in this limited way, given the catastrophic potential of further Arctic warming.
Will any of these policies, or better ones, be enacted both soon and worldwide? If you think humanity will change production systems quickly to reduce dependence on rain-fed grains, while also change our commercial food system as quickly to help ensure everyone is fed, then I can understand if you think there will not be widespread societal collapse. In my experience and analysis I do not think people in political systems can respond that quickly across the world. Which is why my own conclusion, as sad and shocking as it may be, is that near-term societal collapse is now inevitable.
Collapse is Underway for the Hungry Millions
Today’s global food production largely exceeds what is needed to feed the entire world population; hunger is caused by an unequal distribution of food and artificial scarcity (Holt-Giménez et al, 2012). So our current food system that leaves 120m people in acute hunger is already dysfunctional, even murderous. A persistent decline in yields of staple foods would exacerbate those flaws, starving ever greater numbers in countries with weak economies. The global food system is dangerously and increasingly optimized for efficiency and profit rather than ensuring everyone has food. With the political will and time, we could have a much more resilient food system and thus slow down the onset of societal collapse due to widespread hunger. Our problem is that to adapt we will need a paradigm shift in policies on global food supply and distribution, complemented by a revolution in community-level food production. The latter can be developed now but the former is unlikely.
As the Extinction Rebellion brings this subject into the homes of more people, so journalists will naturally ask questions of the food security experts. What will they say? I know that behind the scenes, concerned staff are being told by their bosses to be less pessimistic. We can understand why. We know senior managers are hampered in their ability to respond to information that challenges what their organization does or how it will be viewed. If new information challenges the cultural norms that someone has been adept as displaying in order to reach the top, then they face an identity disintegration before being able to engage properly with the new agenda.
If you are someone with a senior role, you probably know what I am talking about. Perhaps you still think you might be a bit of a fraud and so do all you can to prove otherwise. Or perhaps you have gone on a leadership course and been helped to regard your power as your destiny. If either of things are true, and you work in food security, I invite you to step outside that insecurity for a moment and listen to those colleagues trying to look at our situation with fresh eyes, for the good of humanity. And then let them speak to the public, so we can have fresh conversations about deep adaptation to our climate predicament.
As I am not specialising in food security and not writing more about it, if you want to engage on these ideas, please consider the Food and Agriculture interest group of the Deep Adaptation Forum. My thanks to Deep Adaptation Forum members Dorian Cave and Matthew Slater for their research support. 
References

Cottrell, R.S., Nash, K.L., Halpern, B.S., Remenyi, T.A., Corney, S.P., Fleming, A., Fulton, E.A., Hornborg, S., Johne, A., Watson, R.A., Blanchard, J.L. (2019) “Food production shocks across land and sea.” Nature Sustainability 2, 130. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0210-1

Denkenberger, D.C., Pearce, J.M. (2015) Feeding Everyone No Matter What: Managing Food Security After Global Catastrophe. Academic Press, London.

European Commission (2018a) “JRC MARS Bulletin – Crop monitoring in Europe. August 2018” JRC MARS Bulletin Vol 26 No 8 (27 August 2018). Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/sites/jrcsh/files/jrc-mars-bulletin-vol26-no08.pdf

European Commission (2018b) “JRC MARS Bulletin – Crop monitoring in Europe. September 2018” JRC MARS Bulletin Vol 26 No 9 (17 September 2018). Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/sites/jrcsh/files/jrc-mars-bulletin-vol26-no09.pdf

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FAO (2018c) 2018/19 El Niño advisory. FAO, Rome. Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/ca2530en/CA2530EN.pdf

FAO (2019) THE STATE OF THE WORLD’s BIODIVERSITY FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE, FAO, Rome. Available at: http://www.fao.org/state-of-biodiversity-for-food-agriculture/en

Feednavigator.com (2018) “Reduction in EU grains and oilseed output forecast”. September 20, 2018. Available at: https://www.feednavigator.com/Article/2018/09/20/Reduction-in-EU-grains-and-oilseed-output-forecast (accessed 2.7.19).

Foodingredientsfirst.com (2018) “European drought: Starch supplier Avebe braces for ‘historically low potato harvest’” Available at: https://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/news/european-drought-starch-supplier-avebe-braces-for-historically-low-potato-harvest.html (accessed 2.7.19).

Fraser, E.D.G., Legwegoh, A., Krishna, K. (2015) “Food Stocks and Grain Reserves: Evaluating Whether Storing Food Creates Resilient Food Systems.” J Environ Stud Sci 5, 445–458. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-015-0276-2

Global Food Security (2015a) Extreme weather and resilience of the global food system, Final Project Report from the UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience, The Global Food Security Programme, UK. Available at: http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/assets/pdfs/extreme-weather-resilience-of-global-food-system.pdf

Global Food Security (2015b) Review of Responses to Food Production Shocks. Resilience Taskforce Sub Report, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Available at: http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/assets/pdfs/review-of-responses-to-food-production-shocks.pdf

Holt-Giménez, E., Shattuck, A., Altieri, M., Herren, H., Gliessman, S. (2012) “We Already Grow Enough Food for 10 Billion People … and Still Can’t End Hunger.” Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 36, 595–598. https://doi.org/10.1080/10440046.2012.695331

Masante, D., Barbosa, P., McCormick, N. (2018) Drought in Central-Northern Europe–July 2018. EDO Analytical Report. JRC European Drought Observatory (EDO) and ERCC Analytical Team.

Pieterse, L. (2018) “Germany: Historic low potato harvest seriously impacts seed, processing sectors until 2020.” Potato News Today, November 14, 2018. Available at: https://potatonewstoday.com/2018/11/14/germany-historic-low-potato-harvest-seriously-impacts-retail-seed-and-processing-sectors-until-2020/ (accessed 2.7.19).

Servigne, P. (2017) Nourrir l’Europe en temps de crise. Vers des systèmes alimentaires résilients. Actes Sud, Arles.

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“Grieve Play Love” short film on climate despair

Posted by jembendell on March 24, 2019

“Grieve Play Love” is a 9 minute short film by Jem Bendell, set in Bali, released in March 2019. 

The text of the voiceover follows below. A message from the filmmaker:

“In early 2018, my life changed. I studied climate science again for the first time in 25 years and discovered how bad it is. My estimation is that our complex consumer industrial societies won’t cope with the new pace of weather disruption to our agriculture. I published a paper on my conclusion, inviting deep adaptation to our climate tragedy, and was swamped with the response. Many people were and are, like me, traumatised by this realisation of a future societal collapse. I made this film for them. If that is where you are at, I hope it helps.

I made it where I was living at the time, in Indonesia, and drew on the beauty of nature and culture that still exists on this wonderful planet. You’ll see it’s a long way from a protest, political meeting or boardroom. But I hope the beauty in the film affirms once again what it is we love and stand for. How we live fully without pushing away difficult emotions triggered by awareness of our climate tragedy is going to have as many answers as there are people coming to this awareness. To help your own journey, I recommend connecting with others on this agenda at www.deepadaptation.info

 

“All great and beautiful work has come of first gazing without shrinking into darkness” John Ruskin

Voiceover:

After we accept the full tragedy of climate change, what do we have left?

Most people I meet sense that life is meaningful. Belief in a future is one way we look for such meaning. A future for ourselves and our family, our community, country, and the planet.

It is why it is so difficult to accept where we are today. What future can we believe in now? And if that isn’t possible, where can we find meaning?

I left my job as a Professor and came to Bali to sink in to those questions.

And to grieve.

I grieved for my years lost to compromise. I grieved the loss of my identity. I grieved how I may not grow old. I grieved for those closest to me, and the fear and pain they may feel as things break down. I grieve for all humanity, and especially the young.

Within this despair, something else happened. My long-held defences began to melt away. I was opening-up.

Not everyone can leave to heal in a place this. But I want to tell you my story because so many of us now grieve over climate change.

Most Balinese seem so at ease with their life. In the temples in every household, children play at the symbolic graves of their grandparents. That’s not like our modern societies where we seem to hide death away. Could feeling the impermanence of everything be an invitation to experience life more fully?

I was drawn to connect more to myself, others and nature.

Breathwork, dance, fasting, improv theatre, chanting, circling and guided meditations.

I was opening to beauty and spontaneity. To connect without expectation. To create without certainty. And to welcome what’s transcendent into my life. I see that love can be the anchor during waves of anxiety, sadness and grief.

I was reminded of how my friend with terminal cancer experiences more gratitude and wonder. And how our last meeting was more beautiful due to the ending ahead. Awareness of the finite amount of time we all have on this Earth gives more power to the choices we make.

Your own path for grieving an environmental and social breakdown may not be like mine. But there is a path and it leads beyond despair.

So what of our future?

My vision is of a world where more of us are open to curious, kind and joyful connection with all life. My hope is we will discuss ideas without a want to prove ourselves right.

Because there will be tough decisions ahead. We can make universal love our compass as we enter an entirely new physical and psychological terrain.

And so, I was ready to re-engage with my profession, but with a faith to express my truth, however difficult. Opening a conference at the United Nations, there was really only one thing for me to say.

“We now know that many self-reinforcing feedbacks have begun to further warm the planet, threatening to take the future out of our hands. So if we don’t wake up from our delusions of what is pragmatic and appropriate, then shame on us.”

“…our intention for creating things needs, more often, to arise out of our love for humanity and creation…. The technology we seek is love.”

Feeling our pain at the ongoing destruction of life, we may find relief in the idea of a divine force beyond this time and place. But if doing so, let’s not withdraw from our fellow humanity. Climate chaos invites our loving immersion with life as we find it. We can rise into, not above, these times.

Alan Watts:

“The Earth is not a big rock, infested with living organisms, any more than your skeleton is bones infested with cells. The Earth is geological, yes, but this geological entity grows people. And so the existence of people is symptomatic of the kind of universe we live in.”

We may grieve the loss of life, and feel despair or anger at how this happened. But whenever it comes, human extinction will not be the end of consciousness or the cosmic story.

There is no way to escape despair. But there is a way through despair. It is to love love more than we fear death. So ours is not a time to curl up or turn away. It’s a time to dance like we’ve never danced before.

Before loss there was love.

After loss, love.

Before grief there was love.

After grief, love.

Our essence is never in danger.

When all else falls away,

Our essence can shine.

So, what does love invite of us now?

 

Grieve, Play, Love was co-directed by Jem and Joey. It was filmed, edited and sound engineered by Joey. It was written, voiced and produced by Jem. Jem and Joey met at http://www.connectionplayground.org

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The Love in Deep Adaptation – A Philosophy for the Forum

Posted by jembendell on March 17, 2019

By Jem Bendell and Katie Carr

Many more people are waking up to the predicament we are in, where rapid climate change threatens the future of our societies – and even our species. Hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded the Deep Adaptation paper and thousands joined the Facebook group. Launching the Deep Adaptation Forum is one means of enabling that interest to become useful collaboration.love

As people begin to work with our colleagues and discuss what “Deep Adaptation” could mean (and what it doesn’t), we wish to clarify some core ideas that have been expressed in more detail elsewhere.

Deep Adaptation refers to the personal and collective changes that might help us to prepare for – and live with – a climate-induced collapse of our societies. Unlike mainstream work on adaptation to climate change, it doesn’t assume that our current economic, social, and political systems can be resilient in the face of rapid climate change. When using the term social or societal collapse, we are referring the uneven ending to our current means of sustenance, shelter, security, pleasure, identity and meaning. Others may prefer the term societal breakdown when referring to the same process. We consider this process to be inevitable, because of our view that humanity will not be able to respond globally fast enough to protect our food supplies from chaotic weather. People who consider that societal collapse or breakdown is either possible, likely or already unfolding, also are interested in deep adaptation.

Four questions guide our work on Deep Adaptation within the forum:

  • Resilience: what do we most value that we want to keep and how?
  • Relinquishment: what do we need to let go of so as not to make matters worse?
  • Restoration: what could we bring back to help us with these difficult times?
  • Reconciliation: with what and whom shall we make peace as we awaken to our mutual mortality?

These questions invite exploration of Deep Adaptation to our climate predicament in order to develop both collapse-readiness and collapse-transcendence.

  • Collapse-readiness includes the mental and material measures that will help reduce disruption to human life – enabling an equitable supply of the basics like food, water, energy, payment systems and health.
  • Collapse-transcendence refers to the psychological, spiritual and cultural shifts that may enable more people to experience greater equanimity toward future disruptions and the likelihood that our situation is beyond our control.

Uncertainty and lack of control are key aspects of our predicament; we do not know whether what we do will slow climate change and societal collapse or reduce harm at scale. It looks likely to us that many will die young and that we may die sooner than we had expected. That does not mean we do not try to extend the glide and soften the crash – and learn from the whole experience.

One thing that rapid climate change can help us to learn is the destructiveness of our delusions about reality and what is important in life. Key to this delusion is the emphasis many of us place on our separate identities. Since birth we have been invited to “other” people and nature. We often assume other people to be less valuable, smart or ethical as us. Or we assume we know what they think. We justify that in many ways, using stories of nationality, gender, morals, personal survival, or simply being “too busy”. Similarly, we have been encouraged to see nature as separate from us. Therefore, we have not regarded the rivers, soils, forests and fields as part of ourselves. Taken together, this othering of people and nature means we dampen any feelings of connection or empathy to such a degree that we can justify exploitation, discrimination, hostility, violence, and rampant consumption.

Seeking physical and psychological security and pleasure through control of our surroundings and how people interact with us is both a personal malaise and at the root of our collective malaise. Yet, as we see more pain in the world, and sense that it will get worse, it is possible that we will shrink from it. It is easier to consider other people’s pain as less valid as one’s own pain or that of the people and pets we know. But there is another way. The suffering of others presents us with an opportunity to feel and express love and compassion. Not to save or to fix, but to be open to sensing the pain of all others and letting that transform how we live in the world. It does not need to lead to paralysis or depression, but to being fully present to life in every moment, however it manifests. This approach is the opposite of othering and arises from a loving mindset, where we experience universal compassion to all beings. It is the love that our climate predicament invites us to connect with. It is the love in deep adaptation.

Therefore, in our work with others on deep adaptation, we wish to pursue and enable loving responses to our predicament. Every interaction offers an opportunity for compassion. It can seem difficult when it feels as if someone is trying to criticise your view, perhaps because they prefer to see collapse as unlikely or human extinction as certain. But to return to compassion, even if we fall away from it in the moment, feels an important way of living our truth. And it is something we can do at any time. As leadership coach Diana Reynolds recently explained, “the incredible compassionate revolution starts here, starts now.”

As this topic involves questions of mortality, impermanence, insecurity and uncontrollability, everyone who is finding themselves navigating their way through is experiencing many strong emotional responses, which may feel turbulent, overwhelming, exhausting as well as energising or enlivening. Often these emotions affect us, including ourselves and our colleagues, in ways that we may not be aware of. Therefore, in the small team working in the Deep Adaptation Forum, and the wider group of volunteers, we invite each other to consider three principles:

  • Return to compassion. We shall seek to return to universal compassion in all our work, and remind each other to notice in ourselves when anger, fear, panic, or insecurity may be influencing our thoughts or behaviours. It is also important to remember to take care of ourselves, especially when the urgency of our predicament can easily lead to burnout.
  • Return to curiosity. We recognise that we do not have many answers on specific technical or policy matters. Instead, our aim is to provide a space and an invitation to participate in generative dialogue that is founded in kindness and curiosity.
  • Return to respect. We respect other people’s situations and however they may be reacting to our alarming predicament, while seeking to build and curate nourishing spaces for deep adaptation.

We hope that all of us in the team continue to provide useful information, avoid negativity, and invite everyone to engage as peers. We also apologise in advance for any times where we do not seem to be living these principles.

If you would like to help the team financially, and have a small fund for such support, then please use the contact form.

If you would like to volunteer with us, please start by joining a relevant group within the Forum and demonstrating your commitment, effectiveness, and aligned approach within that space.

Professor Jem Bendell and Katie Carr co-lead retreats as well as leadership courses related to deep adaptation, at the University of Cumbria.

The photo is of the sculpture entitled “Love” by Ukrainian artist #AlexanderMilov and was found at the 2015 #BurningManFestival. It shows two #wireframe adults with their inner children reaching for each other, symbolizing purity and sincerity. /// photo by @teamwoodnote and used here with a creative commons license.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/designmilk/22871072820

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