Leading in a time of dying – notes for talk at ILA 2020

Below are are notes I prepared for a talk at the International Leadership Association 2020 conference on ‘Leading at the Edge’ (9th November 2020).

Also on the panel was Miguel Alejandro Naranjo Gonzalez of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). He responded to my presentation in a very open and constructive way, demonstrating how we should be exploring things together without prejudice:

“Both focusing on the mitigation side, reduction of emissions… and the work… on Deep Adaptation are complementary. We will definitely need to face impacts of climate change… All over the world people are already suffering because of the impacts of climate change and this… is only going to become… more difficult. So, the approach that Jem [Bendell] presented on helping individuals deal with the difficult situations they are going to be living is definitely very important. It is of course beyond the level that we usually deal with in the climate change secretariat… The Deep Adaptation is deeply personal… so speaking from a personal point of view, I completely agree and appreciate that kind of work.”

Here are the notes for my presentation:

Deep Adaptation is an agenda, framework, and community, for people who anticipate societal collapse in their lifetimes, and want to stay engaged and useful rather than returning to avoidance. It came about after a paper I wrote on Deep Adaptation (DA) in July 2018 went viral and has been downloaded now over a million times. Launched in April 2019, the Deep Adaptation Forum (DAF) now involves a small team of staff engaging over 100 volunteers from around the world, who are supporting interaction, for free, of over 15,000 participants. Many initiatives are underway, created by the volunteers, to help people process emotions and find new ways of living kindly, creatively, wisely, and accountably, in this time of increasing turbulence.

Continue reading “Leading in a time of dying – notes for talk at ILA 2020”

When the Methane News Stinks – let’s not forget to Breathe then Act

There has been a news report from climate scientists working in the Arctic right now, about their observation of the release of methane gas from frozen deposits on the sea floor. That is a process which, if confirmed as true, is likely to continue and worsen, and lead to rapid heating of the atmosphere at rates not seen since pre-historic mass extinction events. Which, if confirmed as true, means the collapse of societies will occur sooner and harsher than I, and many others, have anticipated. It would also mean we might be struggling to survive as a species in the decades ahead.

Truly, this is a harrowing situation and piece of news. If true, it means we could reconsider everything in our lives, like some people do when they receive a terminal diagnosis. If not necessarily true, or not necessarily as bad as some scientists conclude, it nevertheless means we can consider what if it is true, a bit like when people are awaiting results from a scan or biopsy.

Continue reading “When the Methane News Stinks – let’s not forget to Breathe then Act”

How do we disentangle from destructive ideology? The cosmos remedy

One of the things I have been considering over the last few months is the matter of how I, and the people I engage with, might be more systematic about disentangling ourselves from the dominant ideology that has enabled the oppression of people and destruction of nature. That ideology is reproduced by our habits of thought, six of which I believe are key, and give rise to the acronym I use to describe that ideology: e-s-c-a-p-e. As I described in my blog on that destructive ideology, those habits of thought arise from our sense of separation and the anxieties that it causes.

So how do we disentangle from it?

Continue reading “How do we disentangle from destructive ideology? The cosmos remedy”

Co-liberation for white guys like me facing climate chaos

I had lunch with a Swedish friend last week. Over coffees and his cigarettes, we talked about my upcoming conversation with an anti-racism trainer. He told me of a time when he was in a restaurant waiting to meet his psychologist. Prior to that, he had only talked to her on the phone. After waiting about half an hour he thought that she wasn’t coming. Then a black woman he had not given much attention to, came up to him and asked if he was her client. Telling me this story, it became clear that my friend views his unconscious biases with a mix of embarrassment and comedic self-deprecation, contained by an enthusiasm for learning and changing. During lunch he was in a non-judgemental space, where it felt fine to admit he would probably always have unconscious biases, and therefore it is useful to be open to discovering more about them. After all, this is a man who was married to a black woman, while ignoring his psychologist in a restaurant because of the colour of her skin. We agreed that, like most people, we might always be exhibiting unconscious racial bias. 

Continue reading “Co-liberation for white guys like me facing climate chaos”

How to lead in the face of societal disruption

As we experience increasing disruptions to our lives, with the risk of more to come, more of us are wondering how to turn things around.

There is one question I often hear asked:

“Where have all the good leaders gone?”

I have come to understand that could be the worst question for us to ask.

I mean it is unhelpful if the aim of our conversations is to determine new ways to help our friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens to address the many challenges that humanity faces today.

Because within the question itself is an assumption that does not help us to act together for significant change.

The assumption is that what is most important to positive or negative outcomes is the competence and character of the individual at the top of a hierarchy, rather than other factors. Yet those other factors are many and significant, such as the ability of people at all levels of community, society and organisation to be willing and able to learn and act for common cause. So a focus on the individual leader dumbs down our conversations about why there is so much suffering and risk in the world. It also means we don’t look at ourselves and what we might do or not do in future.


Continue reading “How to lead in the face of societal disruption”

Deep Adaptation Quarterly – with Rumi’s Secret Medicine – Sept 2020

Every three months, we summarise new activities and resources in the field of Deep Adaptation. (subscribe here). Scroll down for forthcoming events, useful videos, and news on new initiatives within the Deep Adaptation Forum.

Founder’s Commentary – Jem Bendell

“There is a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard they can’t hope. The hopers would feel slighted if they knew.” ~ Rumi

As collapse anticipation grows slowly but surely around the world, so people can react in broadly two different ways. We can seek to preserve our current way of life, status, identity and kin, or we can go on a deeper journey to reconsider our life and what matters. The former path involves the kind of ‘prepping’ that gets the news media attention, with bunkers, guns, gold and such like. It will probably lead to support for authoritarianism and some risky geoengineering efforts. The latter path is far more complex, diverse, and unpredictable. It doesn’t avoid despair, while being more open on what to keep, let go of, bring back or reconcile with. That is the path of many paths that a growing number of people are now walking, with some of us describing it as our ‘deep adaptation’ to anticipated or experienced societal breakdown. The Forum I helped launch last year enables people to come together for the journey on that second ‘path of paths.’ With a small team of coordinators, limited but sufficient financing, and over 100 volunteers, now is a good time for me to step back from daily involvement. Because it is important that ‘collapse anticipation’ is not seen as being about somebody in particular. Rather, it is a reasonable and important aspect of being an informed human in the 21st century. The brilliant ideas that emerged from the Strategy Options Dialogue shows us that the Deep Adaptation (DA) community and movement will generate a range of ideas and initiatives over time. I will support the community and movement by providing advice from the Holding Group, and offering learning via courses and retreats. One of my courses on leadership is offered online this November by the University of Cumbria and gives DA volunteers a discount.

Continue reading “Deep Adaptation Quarterly – with Rumi’s Secret Medicine – Sept 2020”

Letters to critics of Deep Adaptation inviting collaboration for humanity

In July there was an essay published by critics of Deep Adaptation, which was then republished and promoted by some communicators on the environment and climate change.

That criticism led to some responses. In the Ecologist, Transition Towns cofounder explained how Deep Adaptation is not based on faulty science. In Open Democracy a group of scholars in ‘collapsology’ explained how Deep Adaptation is an important new field of research and action. Other writers chipped in, such as Richard Heinberg in Resilience. One of the world’s leading climate scientists, Professor Peter Wadhams, responded in forthright terms in an interview where he condemned as unscholarly the approach of the authors and the people who helped and promoted their work.

Continue reading “Letters to critics of Deep Adaptation inviting collaboration for humanity”

Deep Adaptation is Up to You as Founder Transitions

In the year-and-a-half since we launched the Deep Adaptation Forum (DAF), I have been impressed with the creativity, compassion and wisdom of a wide range of volunteers from around the world. People have come together because they feel moved by the possibility of being together differently, of speaking truth courageously, of exploring ways of being in pain together, of not turning away from the horror and grief of the shitstorm that modern humans have created for ourselves and the rest of life on Earth. Continue reading “Deep Adaptation is Up to You as Founder Transitions”

Debating the Pros and Cons of Deep Adaptation? Start Here with a New Edition of Original Paper

Two years after the original 2018 Deep Adaptation paper was released, an updated version is now available. 

It is only one paper within an increasing field of academic scholarship on dangerous climate change and societal collapse. However, given that it is so widely referenced by proponents and critics, an updated version may be helpful. 

This blog summarises the key changes, a participatory means for future discussion of its strengths and weaknesses, and some advice on generative dialogue on collapse-relevant scholarship.  Continue reading “Debating the Pros and Cons of Deep Adaptation? Start Here with a New Edition of Original Paper”

The Creativity and Agency of Collapse-Anticipation

The Deep Adaptation agenda, framework and Forum is offered for anyone with any level of anticipation or experience of societal collapse. Whether people consider such a breakdown to be possible, probable, inevitable or already occurring, there is clearly a need to hold the space open for creativity and action from that basis. Since its launch in early 2019, the Deep Adaptation Forum aims to provide ways for people to explore together what they want to do with their awareness that industrial consumer societies will breakdown (or already beginning to). The emphasis is on enabling emergence, without imposing any ideas on what is most important to do now. Some people become active in climate campaigns, while others become focused on local resilience, others work on decolonisation and social justice, others on humanitarian action, others on politics, while others work on psychology, spirituality and beyond. All ideas and feelings are welcome, so long as we engage in ways that are kind, curious and respectful – and where we seek to return to that whenever we slip up.  Continue reading “The Creativity and Agency of Collapse-Anticipation”