Professor Jem Bendell

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

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Deep Adaptation Quarterly – Oct 2019

Posted by jembendell on October 12, 2019

Every three months, this newsletter will summarise some of the most important activities that are associated with the Deep Adaptation Forum. Did you have a conversation recently with someone about your outlook on life and society, and how things are changing for you? If they seemed interested, then you could consider forwarding them this newsletter, as their gateway into another world. They can subscribe here.

Key Commentary

Just over six months ago Professor Jem Bendell launched the Deep Adaptation Forum, including its key components of the Positive Deep Adaptation Facebook Group and the Professions’ Network on Ning. To mark that he summarised some of the activities that are happening and why.

To mark a year after the Deep Adaptation paper came out, he published a Compendium of Research on the climate emergency. He continues to blog about the latest issues. For instance, he commented on the row when the New Yorker was criticised for publishing a piece on climate pessimism. He should know, having just Interviewed climate scientist Dr Wolfgang Knorr, who believes his profession was wrong to play down the sense of alarm that the climate data called for. Jem’s latest blog supports extinction rebellion which kicked off again this month. XR’s own Youtube Channel carried a 20 minute conversation with Jem where he talked about how the movement can increasingly incorporate adaptation.

The Forum Q&A series continued with Adrian Tait, co-founder of the Climate Psychology Alliance and Deb Ozarko, author of Beyond Hope. Next up talking with Jem will be Vanessa Andriotti and then Charles Eisenstein. To attend these Q&As to pose your own questions, please join the Professions’ Network of the Deep Adaptation Forum (for free).

New Initiatives

Here are some new activities to support the movement.

Deep Listening for Deep Adaptation

A group of skilled and experienced volunteer facilitators, supported by the DA team, is launching a series of regular online gatherings, open to members of the PDA Facebook community, that will focus on the sacred art of listening. These online gatherings will provide a space for connection with other members across the world, where we can openly share our responses to awareness of a breakdown in our global climate and its increasing impacts on nature and humanity worldwide.  We have found that when we engage and talk with others who do not think that we are confused, depressed, or irresponsible to have concluded that climate change now threatens societal collapse, we find solidarity, joy and pathways for how to be and what to do in future. They may be spaces for people to articulate to themselves and one another what their fears, hopes, anxieties are in such a way that they are more capable in their local communities to raise the conversation.  The approaches we will use will encourage mindful awareness and acceptance of the range of personal and collective emotional responses to a realization of imminent collapse of civilization and our way of life.

The first of these offerings will take place on 29th October, 3-4.30pm (UK).  In time the schedule will be extended to include weekly gatherings accessible to members in all continents. Amongst us, we will offer different formats and approaches, but all will be brought with the intention of creating safe space for deep listening.

Deep Adaptation Groups Network

There is growing interest around the world to gather with others who sense that climate change is now destroying lives and threatening our way of life. People are creating groups in their communities, or on specific aspects of Deep Adaptation. To help people taking such initiative to be able to support and advise each other, we launched the Deep Adaptation Groups Network with twelve founding member groups. If you have started or might start a group, please read about this initiative, to find support.

Facilitators’ Gatherings

To support the ability of volunteer facilitators to support Deep Listening for Deep Adaptation, as well as other gatherings, we have launched a regular online ‘gather and share’ for experienced facilitators. This is for facilitators who feel drawn to share their wisdom and gift in holding online and in-person spaces to support others within their journey of becoming aware of the crisis that is unfolding. The purpose of these gatherings is to offer a space where we can share practices that are aligned with the values of Deep Adaptation, and support each other in creating and hosting regular DA groups in future. Participants are asked to commit to hosting regular gatherings, which may be themed or for a particular audience (e.g. parents’ group, country/region groups etc). The group convenes on Facebook, with updates also available in the Holistic Approaches and Guidance discussion group. 

Discussion on the Professions’ Network of the Deep Adaptation Forum

On the Ning, the various discussion groups are generating interesting ideas. Here are some of the highlights.


Holistic Approaches and Guidance

Several members have posted invitations to and feedback from related events. Justine Afra Huxley posted some valuable feedback from St Ethelburga’s second pilot retreat; Susie Peat called for participation in an Encounters Arts event around what it means to be living in this time; and Ami Chen Mills sent out an invitation to the newly-launched Free Friday Webinars.

There have been a variety of interesting conversations on and off the forum: Naresh Giangrande shared his EcoCiv podcast with Jeremy Lent on Deep Adaptation or Deep Transformation; Steve Raney shared a topic from’s Uncertain Future Future Forum; and Laure Delmas a link to Awakening to non-fear in a Climate Crisis. Valuable discussions were sparked when Prof. Bendell called for input from psychotherapists on the question of Learned Helplessness.

For anyone looking for specific tools and approaches that are useful in a DA guidance practice: Kirsty Johnsson has called for collaboration on designing a somatic practice around Deep Adaptation; Moshe Givental has offered to share his experience in The Work That Connects; Dan Vie offered an example of a workshop writeup from Hollyhock retreat that practitioners might find useful; and Kimberley Hare offered her expertise in the Three Principles.
More holistic approaches and guidance…

Narrative & Messaging

During our August gathering, we talked about the idea that DA has to be political. That’s how things get done collectively, and that’s also how we could tactically build a new system/world in the heart of the old one. Politicians should be involved — that’s how progressive movements have succeeded in Ireland — and we could even offer them psychological support when it comes to climate collapse, acknowledging that this is difficult but letting them know that as our elected officials, we need them to help build this new world. Compassion is important to communicating with the politicians and media who need to know about Deep Adaptation.
More narrative & messaging…


Some of the best recent threads in this discussion group include:
The ethics of choosing between two bad choices. Read…
Pontoon archipelago, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love collapse. Read…
Climate refugees and the issues around borders, geopolitics, responsibility, and reparations, among others. Read…
How researchers and policymakers relay information regarding societal collapse to the public. Read…
The potential rise in misanthropy in response to climate change impacts upon those least responsible for it, including the natural world. Read…
Implicatory denial as a sociological phenomenon of social inaction to climate change. Read…
Appeal for a new group on the DA Forum dedicated to climate fiction (cli-fi) and the arts. Read…
Introduction to the degrowth movement. Read…
More philosophy…

Food & Agriculture

Recognizing that good systems are highly diverse and vary widely across localities, the group has been looking for commonalities among locations and beat practices that can be easily adapted to fit local conditions.
One common goal, which can be applied everywhere with various methods, is the support of permaculture methods of tending to land, with a particular focus on promoting carbon sequestration in soil and plant life. The potential for changes in agricultural practices is enormous, both in terms of human impact (resilience of the food system, more nutritious food) and climate mitigation (calories per unit area farmed, carbon intensity).
More Food & Ag…

Check out to discover other discussion groups that focus on areas of professional interest.

Positive Deep Adaptation Facebook Group

The PDA Facebook group is huge, vibrant and growing fast. The moderators do an amazing job to keep the conversations kind and on topic. If you haven’t been on it, here is one interesting thread amongst thousands (names changed for anonymity):

I’ve only seen about 10 or so posts on this page but I’m confused. Is this group all about just giving up?
Hi, Doug. It’s about adapting. This can take many forms. As members of this group, however, we accept that ecological and social collapse are inevitable or very probable. Accepting that – how do we go forward? Yes to mitigation and activism for some – because we can still do some good, if we choose to, even though we can’t completely reverse the trend. Some of us focus on learning permaculture skills or creating community. Others work through their grief. We’re here to support each other in our personal journeys.
Not giving up, just accepting that we can’t stop collapse. There’s still a chance to avoid extinction. But I do have an issue with the dominant feeling that small actions “won’t make a difference”. Sure, they won’t stop the problems, but we don’t abandon care for terminal patients just because it won’t make a difference. Terminal care makes the most important difference that can be made.
I joined mostly to learn how others are staying sane. I plant native species for other creatures in hope they will outlive me.
For me… it’s be still, allow it all in, accept what Is in the moment, surrender to what Is, grieve, come back to stillness… then take action. If by “giving up” it means stopping the madness for a time to connect then… yeah. Life’s too short and precious to be persisting with the same old same old capitalist driven pursuits of isolated self protection, futile jobs for the Man and educating our children to pass exams. Give up what lacks Soul and start living.
Doug Thanks for the responses. Glad this group isn’t just about giving up. Just wanted to make sure.

Upcoming Deep Adaptation Events

There is now a roster of Deep Adaptation speakers and workshop leaders. Start here to request a speaker to your event. You can advertise your own events for free on either the Ning or the Facebook group.

Deep Adaptation Dialogue: Great Barrington, Massachusetts, USA
An intergenerational gathering to share and discuss Deep Adaptation to climate disruption, hosted by Bard College at Simon’s Rock professor Jennifer Browdy, with the participation of many local community organizations, including the Alliance for a Viable Future, South Berkshire Climate Change & Consciousness Hub and Living the Change Berkshires.

Grounding Our Work in Shared Joy, Grief, and Vision
Join us each month in creating a web-space for emotional and spiritual support for all of us working on and thinking about climate change and environmental justice. This is for those of us who have an inkling that Climate Denial might not just be a corporate and political strategy (though it is that too), but also that denial is a stage of coping with grief and fear, which we all need support with. It’s for all of us who yearn to do this work in a way which makes us more emotionally resilient and joyful. This is not a place for frontal learning or arguments about best solutions, but a time in which we’ll build upon each other’s wisdom, as we share Our Joy, Our Grief, and Our Visions.

Q & A with Vanessa Andreotti
Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti holds a Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequalities and Global Change, at the Department of Educational Studies, University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She 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. She is currently directing research projects and teaching initiatives related to social innovations that gesture towards decolonial futures.

Deep Adaptation Dialogue: Teesside Artists
This Deep Adaptation Dialogue works to extend the reach and amplify conversations around Deep Adaptation with creative arts practitioners in the Teesside area. In particular, the dialogue, through engaging with writers, artists and creative industry professionals, will disseminate Deep Adaptation connections into programmes and curatorial schedules, further reaching participants’ audiences and communities.
More upcoming events…

Dean Walker’s published these reflections on the Deep Adaptation retreat in Greece last June, led by Prof Bendell and Katie Carr. The next course that Professor Jem Bendell leads is in April 2020 in the Lake District, UK.

Recommended Reading

For those who prefer long-form intellectual nourishment, we’ve enjoyed the following books.

After Progress by John Michael Greer considers how more than two hundred years of energy abundance has meant that the notion of progress is now deep in the collective unconscious. Assuming progress is our natural destiny of progress means that we don’t imagine our society could end; we dismiss even existential threats as mere obstacles and cannot see decline for what it is, or prepare for it.

Questioning Collapse by Patricia A. McAnany and Norman Yoffee (eds). Writing largely in response to Jared Diamond’s popular book on collapse, this collection of essays comprehensively refutes most of Diamond’s case studies arguing that collapse is a poor framing for those historical events and further that by characterising them that way, we miss the real lessons of resilience of adaptation.

Who Do We Choose to Be? by Margaret Wheatley. Having accepted that decline and collapse is inevitable, Wheatley doesn’t wish to spend her time and leadership skills lobbying the political and financial elites. This thoughtful book is about leadership and making a difference at the local level where action is still possible.

So We’re Growing But Fragile

Thanks for reading this far. All these activities, and many more, are driven by dozens of volunteers around the world, who are supported and coordinated by a small team of 4 freelancers: Dorian Cave, Katie Carr, Zori Tomova and Matthew Slater. We want to keep everything growing into 2020, and not water-down our outlook or narrow our aims to suit large donors. Therefore, on Halloween we start a 10 day crowdfund campaign. You will hear from us again then. We won’t trick you so please treat us!

The list of the Founding Members of the Deep Adaptation Groups Network includes:

Adaptación Profunda Positiva #APP (Positive Deep Adaptation – Jem Bendell) For the Spanish speaking community. Contact: Aline Van Moerbeke

Adaptation radicale : un guide pour naviguer dans la tragédie climatique For the French speaking world. Contact: Julien Lecaille

Deep Adaptation Discussion and Action Group A space to discuss the four “R’s” and how these questions may be used to redesign our individual lives, livelihoods, etc. and how they may apply to us, our households and communities. Contact: Silvia di Blasio.

Deep Adaptation Hungary – Készülj & Alkalmazkodj – for the Hungarian community, to share, support, plan and move ahead, together. Contact: Balazs Stumpf-Biro

Deep Adaptation Ireland For those located on the island of Ireland. Contact: Cian Langan

Deep Adaptation Parenting A safe and nurturing place for parents to share their thoughts, emotions, ideas, and resources on the topic of raising children in this challenging time.

Positive Deep Adaptation UK Local group, focused on the concerns of people based in the UK, who have shown an interest in the Deep Adaptation paper written by Jem Bendell in 2018, and the issues it throws up. Contact: John Cossham

Deep Adaptation | Wie leben im Angesicht der Klimakrise? For German-speaking people, mostly from Germany.

Dyp tilpasning Norwegian group, open to Swedes and Danish people as our language is understandable across borders. Contact: Sigrid Haugen

PNW Positive Deep Adaptation For the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Contact: Jim Chastain

Positive Deep Adaptation Oceania – Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand etc For the respective region. Contact: Aimee Maxwell

Positive Deep Adaptation: Santa Cruz County and Monterey Bay, CA For Santa Cruz County and Monterey Bay, California, US. Contact: Ami Chen Mills-Naim

Practical PDA Focusing on practical adaptation. Contact: Sarah Bittle

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Nature Doesn’t Do Deals – why we rise on climate

Posted by jembendell on October 5, 2019

It is easy to pick holes in it. We can question tactics, timing, scope or messaging. But climate activism works. Over the past year, non-violent activism has increased awareness of climate change, so that many politicians now refer to it as the emergency that it is. Yet within a toxic economic system that requires us to borrow and grow forever, and a toxic media system that misleads us about what to blame and whom to hate, it isn’t surprising that rising awareness has not delivered change in our environmental impact. Nor has it triggered inquiry into why we got into this mess and how we might prepare as the climate gets worse for human habitation.

It is why we go again. This month, the non-violent civil disobedience campaign to demand government action on the climate and ecological emergency is calling on #EverybodyNow to take to the streets.

Some commentators in the UK, where the movement began, are asking whether now is the right time for disruptive tactics. But Extinction Rebellion has become a global movement that is rising again this month. It started in London, and Brits are playing a key role in waking up humanity, so can’t step down because of the current performance of our government. Our climate isn’t waiting for Brexit – or any political squabble. Whether wanting to leave or remain in the EU, all Britons want to eat well. After the rise of climate activism in 2019, British MPs admitted the country faces a food security crisis. Extreme weather has been damaging both domestic and foreign food production and increasing the risks that simultaneous crop failures in key exporting countries could make prices shoot up to unprecedented levels.

Extreme rainfall is another sign of the destabilising climate, with 150 flood alerts issued for the UK for the weekend before the #InternationalRebellion. More scientists are admitting publicly that they have been too cautious, partly because they were seeking to be relevant to mainstream policy makers. Climatologist Dr Wolfgang Knorr explains that such scientists should be the first to admit failure, recognise how scientists norms of communication have been counter-productive – and consider direct action to promote social and political change.

Since 1992 many thoughtful and well-meaning people have sought to find a balance between the environmental situation and the current economic system. The term for that agenda is “sustainable development” and is something I gave over 20 years of my working life to. The increasing damage to our food and property from extreme weather reminds us that nature doesn’t do deals with humanity. So while the British government huffs and puffs with pantomime patriotism, reasonable people are dropping the pretence that things can be fixed within this economic system, and taking to the streets is part of that awakening.57503072_10155958230736470_5090386915572580352_n

But climate activism works only so far. If the activism is limited to non-violent direct action, it doesn’t sink into the heart of the system, nor build the coalitions required for real transformation. In my speech at the launch of the rebellion in April 2019, I said that we should spread the rebellion into other aspects of life – including in our working lives. This month XR has backed TruthTeller to help that process. It is a platform for people working inside the system to safely and anonymously leak documents on aspects of our climate crisis to professional journalists. People working in commodities trading, insurance, re-insurance, amongst other sectors, will have access to information about how risky things are becoming, and it is time that this information is out in the open. Only then will be able to have the quality of dialogue about how to respond to a difficult future.

Whether people agree with XR or not, the future they warn us about is coming fast. This is not some distant apocalypse, but a living hell for many people whose lives are being trashed by extreme weather, and a daily anxiety for people who foresee imminent damage to our food systems and the likely ramifications. What is key is how fast we can come together to work out how to prepare for increasing disruption to food, water, finance and the international order. Writing in the Extinction Rebellion handbook, I explained that to #TellTheTruth on our climate emergency must now be warning people of these difficulties.

People will respond to disruption, and their fears of it, in many ways. There is a key role for religious leaders, teachers, therapists and many other professionals to help us engage each other with compassion, curiosity and respect, rather than let populists manipulate our anxieties. It is important that climate activists involved in XR, Fridays For Future, and other movements, call for both kind and fair adaptation to the disruptions from climate change. While rage is understandable and motivating, staying connected to the love of life that is the ground from which that rage springs will be essential if emerging leaders on climate change are not to compound the suffering to come.

That is where XR provides some hope. Like any movement that challenges the establishment, it will have attracted undercover agents from the police, secret services, and mercenaries for companies threatened by its goals. Despite #ExtinctionRebellion being the Western world’s most significant non-violent civil disobedience movement in a generation, toxic media will splash any image of isolated violence across our screens. Rather, they would do well to quote the “declaration of solemn intent” that XR activists recite at meetings and actions:

“Let’s take a moment to remember why we are here. Let’s remember our love for this beautiful planet. Let’s remember our love for all humanity in all corners of the world. As we act today, may we find the courage to bring a sense of love and peace and appreciation to everyone we encounter and every word we speak. We are here for all of us.”

Seven of the ten values of XR relate to how people in the movement engage everyone (including themselves) in ways that are kind and fair. It is something we have also focused on in the activities of the Deep Adaptation Forum. Now a network of over 10,000 people, with dozens of local groups around the world, people are joining because they want to explore how to prepare both individually and collectively, both emotionally and practically, for a likely collapse in our way of life due to climate chaos. Some participants are also involved in activism to promote government action on carbon emissions and drawdown. But they don’t pretend such activism means we do not need to transform our societies to be more kind, curious and fair as things begin to fall apart. Those who engage in the Deep Adaptation agenda exist within the shadows of a painful future more than the climate activist groups – but there will be a necessary coming together over the next months. The messaging and actions of climate activists, including XR, will need to include the kinds of values we want to uphold as climate chaos spreads.

The imperative of fair adaptation to our climate tragedy must now be heard. It is where the rich will pay more and change more. It is where people who lose their jobs or savings will be helped to adjust. Where people who struggle emotionally with sensing the difficulties ahead will be held. We must discover and nourish an emergency solidarity. And reject anyone who asks us to abandon our values or shrink our worldview due to fear.

There is so much to do that it can feel daunting. Perhaps impossible. One thing is certain. None of it can wait. Because the climate isn’t waiting. Nature doesn’t do deals with humanity.

To maintain and grow its work, the free Deep Adaptation Forum will soon launch a crowd-fund to pay living expenses of its core team during 2020. To receive an update on the crowdfund, plus a quarterly newsletter on the latest developments on Deep Adaptation worldwide, subscribe here.

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | 8 Comments »

Please Don’t Shut up Mr Franzen – breaking the taboo on our climate tragedy

Posted by jembendell on September 16, 2019

The New Yorker missed out on publishing one of the biggest stories of the year in 2017, when their neighbourhood competitor, the New York Magazine, published David Wallace-Wells’ article on whether the world would become too hot for humans. Not to be outdone, they published a piece on a similar topic two years later, by the author Jonathan Franzen. He goes a bit further than Wallace-Wells by asking readers to reflect on what we might start considering if it might be too late to avert the disruption of our civilisation due to climate chaos. In doing that, he was breaking a taboo in mainstream culture, and the environmental field, that we do not talk about it being too late to avert a breakdown in the way of life of people living in the richer world. I broke that taboo last year in my own field of corporate sustainability and academia, with the publication of Deep Adaptation. It is why I found the Franzen article interesting – and the reaction to it much more so.

I read Franzen’s piece and didn’t find fault in it. One could wish for more clarity on how he concludes that we won’t keep climate change below a level that will disrupt or break down our civilisation. His main argument is that human nature and socio-political systems won’t change instantly and completely to significantly curb temperature rise. I agree. Having lived on every continent of the world (expect Antarctica), I have seen how rapidly societies have been joining the consumer industrial way of life. But I also recognise current disasters around the world as a sign that massive disruption is already under way, and that there is so much extreme weather now predetermined due to the lag and momentum of warming that even instantaneous and complete decarbonisation would not prevent massive further disruption. In July 2019 I compiled a Compendium of published research on climate change and related impacts to explain how I arrive at this view. I did that because I don’t believe that we should be asking anyone to simply believe us on such a life-changing and world-changing issue. Not many people have the privilege of time and training to do their own reading and analysis: but whoever one is, with an internet connection it is now possible to read some of the evidence for oneself.

One might ask Franzen for more ideas for implications of his view that it is too late to stop massive disruption. He focuses on a local project as his source of meaning, applauding how it combines social and environmental concerns in a practical way. That is one response. But I offered the Deep Adaptation framework as a means for people to explore all possible implications at a personal and collective level. That could be local action, or it might be political, or both and everything in between. I appreciate that Franzen mentions that any act coming from love is important as we face a terrible and unprecedented predicament.

photo of man sitting on ground

Photo by Nafis Abman on

I have been sent a range of articles that criticise his New Yorker opinion piece, or the man himself. As I don’t enjoy righteous outrage, these made for rather unpleasant reading. Rather than focusing on the individuals complaining about Franzen, I will summarise some of the types of arguments they used, as they are important to avoid in future if more of us are to engage in generative dialogue about our predicament – in order to reduce harm, save what we can, learn from the situation, and find joy in the process.

Some have implied Franzen said we should stop trying to cut emissions or drawdown carbon. Yet he said the opposite. I can relate with him on that, as I have also been misrepresented in a similar way. I wonder whether this misrepresentation might be because certain commentators are frightened of their own potential emotional pain, and a quick form of emotional defence is righteous indignation towards another person. It kills the pain faster than allowing oneself to consider the arguments for longer or attempting a nuanced unpacking of them. Perhaps the negative reaction arises also because some people do not understand how people can seek to act positively for others or nature, without knowing that it will be successful. That many people do things because they believe or know them to be right, rather than because they will achieve a particular goal, is a wonderful thing.

Franzen did not say that every additional further bit of human-induced global warming does not matter. Instead, he asked for discussions about relative priorities between attempts to slow climate change versus attempts to prepare for its impacts. He noted the importance of finding actions that both reduce carbon and help us with the consequences of the disruptions that are already beginning.

This is a sensible invitation to discussion, given that 20 times more money is being spent on reducing emissions than building resilience to the effects of extreme weather, according to the new Global Commission on Adaptation. It can be a humanitarian impulse to invite a discussion of priorities, given how the rich world’s neglect of adaptation will put millions of people in danger. Moreover, if societies collapse, so efforts at cutting carbon emissions may collapse with them.

On these two points, it was surprising to see how serious commentators were misquoting or misrepresenting him on these points. Rather than criticise such commentators individually, I prefer to quote what Franzen said on emissions and the potential for runaway climate change:

“In the long run, it probably makes no difference how badly we overshoot two degrees; once the point of no return is passed, the world will become self-transforming. In the shorter term, however, half measures are better than no measures. Halfway cutting our emissions would make the immediate effects of warming somewhat less severe, and it would somewhat postpone the point of no return. The most terrifying thing about climate change is the speed at which it’s advancing, the almost monthly shattering of temperature records. If collective action resulted in just one fewer devastating hurricane, just a few extra years of relative stability, it would be a goal worth pursuing.

In fact, it would be worth pursuing even if it had no effect at all…”

Many critics made the unfounded assertion that to say that it is too late to stop disastrous climate change means that people who hear that will stop engaging to create change. There are many holes in that view. First, that every listener matters the same as another for societal change. Most theories of social change (and common sense) indicate that certain people can lead change. The Extinction Rebellion movement is based on the idea of mobilising around 3 percent of a population. If a shocking message helps mobilise 3 percent to act through non-violent direct action, then that has significant implications for political and thus societal change. Second, some psychologists have found that if climate change is felt or experienced as a current problem, rather than a future one, then it leads to more action. Then there is the evidence of the last 30 years, where an incremental, cautious, optimistic, individualist and apolitical environmentalism has achieved nothing in terms of the trajectory of global carbon emissions or biodiversity loss. Last week the Finance Director of Extinction Rebellion was arrested at his home. Legal help for him was sourced by a coordinator in XR. Both quit their day jobs last year after reading my Deep Adaptation paper, which outlined my view that we face inevitable near-term societal collapse due to extreme weather affecting our national and international agricultural systems (and potentially our financial systems ahead of that). There are so many other stories of people changing their lives because its too late to keep pretending, and instead to live one’s truth today, whatever the consequences. That might be a bit disconcerting for career environmentalists and climate scientists, who always assumed they are the more smart, brave and ethical people in society.

Another limitation of some of his critics is that they did not specify what they mean by “doom.” By doom, do they mean for capitalism? For law and order? Or civilisation? Or billions of people? Or the entire human race? The commentators I read didn’t say. If a particular range of possibility seems threatening to one’s existing stories of world and self, then it may not be easy to look at those possibilities with an open mind to see what the alternatives might be.

The Deep Adaptation framework is inviting people to explore actions that will help soften the break-up of our normal way of life. It doesn’t require us to believe any one particular scenario of doom will come to pass. Personally, I think the industrial consumer society will break apart either everywhere or almost everywhere. I think many millions more people will die because of disruption caused by climate change, but don’t know how many – and I worry for the future existence of our species but do not feel able to make credible predictions on that.

Another problem with Franzen’s critics is that many write about a universal omnipotent WE who can choose to act and change everything. They say: WE need to change totally everywhere while WE still have the choice. The problem is there is no collective WE that has such power or choice. Instead, there are billions of people who need to give up an industrial consumer way of life and billions of people who must give up aspiring to live such a life, while existing within a monetary system that requires continual expansion of economic activity to maintain itself. This rather peculiar recourse to a universal omnipotent imaginary WE by scientists and international bureaucrats was a particularly interesting topic in my interview with senior climate scientist Dr Wolfgang Knorr, who is now helping to reveal how his profession has been misleading itself and the public over the past years.

Another criticism was the “ad hominem” attack, playing the person not the argument. Thus, we read how we should ignore Franzen as he is one of a type – those rich old white men who selfishly abandon the climate fight. Indeed, Franzen is an older white man. Yet there are many female researchers and educators who consider it now likely we cannot avert disruption due to climate chaos. These include Carolyn Baker, Deb Ozarko, Joanna Macy, Barbara Cecil and even the woman most responsible for this year’s climate awakening, Gail Bradbrook (listen to her speeches or my Q&A with her to hear that). To dismiss them on grounds of gender or age would be unacceptable. All of these women, and old white guy Franzen, seem to be responding to climate change creatively and earnestly, rather than abandoning the challenge.

The vitriol in some of the criticism of Franzen is an indicator of how deeply rooted the denial of our predicament is within some people who work on the environment. As I have written before in responses to those who say “we must stay positive,” it is difficult to discuss this topic with someone if their identity structure includes a sense that their self-worth depends on a self-image as a person with agency to make a better future. Psychologists in the Climate Psychology Alliance told me that there is little benefit of public discussion with people who pick a fight on these issues. So, it is probably sensible for Jonathan Franzen not to reply to his critics. So please don’t “Shut Up Mr Franzen,” but if you focus on developing your own ideas with sensitivity, I know many people will welcome that. Soon you will be joined by many. Because people in various sectors and professions will begin to share the evidence they have for how climate change is threatening our systems – particularly our fragile international food supply chains. As such evidence emerges, so it will be important to explore loving ways of responding to our predicament, and thoughtful voices like your own will be useful.

There will continue to be anger, blame and hatred – including some directed at people who feel it important to invite more work on adaptation to climate change. People will become scared, including those of us who choose to read and write about this topic. Top climate scientist Professor David King recently expressed his own fear. In this context, the more that we can invite ourselves into open-minded and open-hearted discussion of our feelings and thoughts as we face the predicament, the better. It is why in the new Deep Adaptation Forum, we have focused on methods for holding discussions in-person or online. In addition, this view informs the way we support the moderators of the Positive Deep Adaptation Facebook group and the initiators of local Deep Adaptation groups.

In time we will not need to discuss the arguments made against Franzen, as time itself will be the best educator. But for now, expanding the space for discussion of preparing for and transcending societal collapse will help, and needs voices like Franzens’s to do so.

Some further links:

I write about ‘collapse denial’ within the environmental professions in my original Deep Adaptation Paper, with some suggestions of psychological, professional and institutional reasons for it.

I write about the various arguments used by critics who want to silence conversations on this topic, in my blog on Barriers to Dialogue.

I write more about environmentalists who demand positivity, and how that is counter-productive, here and here.

In my Deep Adaptation Q&As I talk with psychologist Adrian Tait and writer Deb Ozarko about these issues.

I write about the matter of vision and hope after one accepts the likelihood of societal collapse, here.

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 9 Comments »

Six Months of the Deep Adaptation Forum

Posted by jembendell on September 9, 2019

As we see news of a breakdown in our global climate and its increasing impacts on nature and humanity worldwide, it is painful. Opinion surveys report on how many of us now experience climate anxiety. People fortunate enough to have avoided direct harm from climate-related disasters, now fear there will be a breakdown in their own societies, affecting their own families. After the shock and grief, many people remain bewildered about how to respond that realisation. What to do in our professional lives? What to do in personal lives? In this bewilderment we risk paralysis and reverting to denial. We risk going back to the same narratives and tactics for incrementalphoto_2019-03-05_16-39-45 change, with the festering worry that we are lying to ourselves about the nature of the crisis.

In early March 2019, my team and I launched the Deep Adaptation Forum (DAF), as an attempt to connect people who are exploring these questions, and many more besides. A small group of colleagues, private donors, and over two dozen volunteers have provided precious assistance in making this happen.

The DAF now exists to embody and enable loving responses to our predicament. Its fundamental aim is to reduce suffering, while saving more of society and the natural world.

The DAF is an international space to connect people, online and in person and in all spheres of life — to foster mutual support, collaboration, and professional development in the process of facing societal collapse. More than anything, it is a place for generative dialogue that starts from a perspective of accepting that societal breakdown due to climate chaos is now likely, inevitable or already unfolding.

With the DAF, we want to support caring and creative ways of engaging with our predicament, so that when the realisation of likely societal breakdown spreads into the mainstream, there will be more ideas, tools, people and systems ready to help.

Six months have gone by already. It is time to take stock of what has happened.


One of the DAF’s main purposes is to build community, both online and offline. On this front, the results have gone beyond our wildest expectations.

Since March, our three main platforms – on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Ning – have grown to gather a total of over 10,000 participants. Each of these spaces has a focus of its own, including mutual emotional support (FB); professional outreach (LinkedIn); and the co-creation of resources and collaboration within professional interest groups (Ning).

Besides these platforms, we have just launched the Deep Adaptation Groups Network, with geographical or language specificities, to enable peer support. The twelve founding groups, bridging 10 countries and 5 languages. are the start of a network that will hopefully grow to hundreds. If you are starting a local DA group where you live, or are considering to do so, please let us know, and we will help you join this new network.

We have also reached many thousands of people are also being reached by other means, including newsletters and an online video channel.

These networks and online communities, which are all accessible for free, are being enabled and supported to promote the emergence of new participant-led projects, both online and offline.


While providing spaces and opportunities for interpersonal communication, the DAF has also been organising or supporting a number of events, online and offline:

  • Several online Q&As, attended by hundreds of people, which featured such remarkable speakers as Carolyn Baker, Joanna Macy, Gail Bradbrook and Deb Ozarko.[1]
  • Financial support to six Deep Adaptation Dialogues, i.e. gatherings enabling local communities to engage in an open-ended discussion on Deep Adaptation themes, following an Open Space Technology format. More gatherings will take place in the coming months.
  • Nearly two dozen online gatherings of professional interest groups were organised by forum volunteers on our professionals’ platform; and over a dozen more were hosted and facilitated by the DAF team. This has helped us refine and develop a set of general guidelines for such gatherings, based on the spirit of loving kindness at the heart of Deep Adaptation.
  • In June 2019, the first Deep Adaptation Retreat took place in Greece, facilitated by Katie Carr and Prof. Bendell. Seventeen people from across Europe and North America gathered to explore responses to the most challenging issue of our time. This week-long series of processes was designed to invite participants to explore ways to nurture their resilience and wellbeing in the light of the climate emergency, by means of a journey through the four ‘R’s of Deep Adaptation.

The many testimonies we have received from participants in these events speak to their transformative potential:

I felt more peaceful and inspired after watching your Q&A with Joanna Macy. Yes, this is a deeply meaningful time in human history.” – Email to Prof. Bendell after the Q&A

This was excellent! Thank you. The facilitation was really good. The presentation at the beginning [was] really powerful and really made me take time to think more deeply. The opportunity to come together with so many interesting people and have conversations was much needed – interesting topics and engaged discussion. I had my listening head on and learnt a lot!!” – A participant from the June 15 Deep Adaptation Dialogue in Edinburgh

The deep adaptation workshop was truly an extraordinary experience. While I have participated in many intensive workshops none had the impact on my life that the week in Greece with 16 extraordinary participants had. Jem and Katie put together an experience that was authentic, deeply moving and most importantly critically important to the future that all of us on this planet are likely to face.” – A participant in the June 2019 Deep Adaptation Retreat in Kalikalos, Greece


Finally, we have been providing a number of activities and services, including speeches, media interviews, as well as research and development, public information and strategic advice to relevant organisations as diverse as Extinction Rebellion and the European Commission.

The latest development in this regard was the launch of the Advocates project, which makes it possible for event organisers and journalists to easily contact or hire speakers with in-depth knowledge of the Deep Adaptation philosophy and projects.


We don’t intend to stop here, of course. Indeed, we have many plans for the future – no matter how bleak or dreadful it may seem.

Thanks to the widespread demand for conversation and mutual support around the topic of societal collapse, and our success in gathering people around these platforms, activities, and services, we believe we have a chance to reach a critical mass, and make Deep Adaptation blossom into a genuine social movement with far-reaching impacts, beyond borders, cultures, and social classes.

Time is short, and the odds are stacked against us. But with a little help from everyone else, the spirit of Deep Adaptation may yet become a catalyst for peace and positive transformation in a crumbling world.

Everything we have done in these past 6 months has been funded by voluntary work or private donations. If you are able to consider helping to fund the next year of DAF’s growth and impact, or to introduce us to donors, please contact us here.  


The DAF is driven by the many volunteers that are helping moderate the Facebook Group as well as the Interest Groups and Task Groups on our Professionals’ Platform. The volunteers are essential to our work, and we profile some in each issue of our Deep Adaptation Quarterly. In service of those volunteers and our wider activities, we are a small team of 5 freelancers. Here is some short information on what we do and who we are.

Dorian Cave, Professionals’ Platform Curator.

Dorian curates the DAF Professionals’ Platform (on Ning) on a day-to-day basis; liaises with Interest Group and Task Group leaders, including managing the process of launching either; carries out quickly-applicable research on how to design better collaborative work processes; and oversees capacity-building activities for Task Groups. Through his work, Dorian intends to help develop the Deep Adaptation Forum into the foundation of an international mass movement, focusing on peaceful responses to the climate and ecological crises we face – and the collapses that are likely to unfold. Simultaneously, he wants to develop his skills in the field of self-organised group facilitation and contribute to scholarship on the role of mutual and social learning within such processes.

Zori Tomova, Platforms Assistant

Zori has a business education, with an MSc from Warwick University. Upon graduation, she co-founded a small innovation consulting company and soon after moved into IT entrepreneurship and management, where she spent the majority of her career. She left that world in 2017 to look for a calling that was closer to her heart. Upon her first encounter with Jem Bendell and our predicament, she realised that her sense of aliveness and meaning lies in her gift and love for connection. As a consequence, she oriented her life towards creating spaces of connection with self, other and nature that bring out the most beautiful sides of our humanness. In the last 2 years, she has built a coaching business, created the Connection Playground initiative and facilitated numerous groupwork spaces, including regular Deep Adaptation gatherings online. She joined the Deep Adaptation Forum in July 2019 to support the team of volunteers moderating the Positive Deep Adaptation Facebook group. She’s also the project leader of the Deep Adaptation Groups Network, providing a space for cross-pollination and peer support between DA groups in different locations, languages and topics.

Katie Carr, Senior Facilitator

An independent trainer, facilitator and ‘host’ of collaborative learning processes, Katie has over 15-years of experience in formal and informal/community education. Katie is a skillful facilitator of ‘un-learning’, that is, creating spaces in which it is possible to connect with ways of knowing that are broader and richer than the cognitive/evaluative paradigm that is prevalent in the Western worldview. If Deep Adaptation requires responses that are effective in reducing harm, then it is essential to build awareness and bring into consciousness all of the ways that stories of separation, scarcity and addiction to progress can be manifest in our ways of relating with self and others, and create new ways of being that are characterised by love, respect, inclusivity and connection. As Senior Facilitator with the DAF, she organises online meetings and trainings for volunteers, facilitates dialogues, courses and retreats, and advises on the facilitation principles and processes we promote through the DAF. Before joining the DAF team, Katie was the Director of a UK sustainability education charity for six years, and project manager of several European sustainability projects in the fields of formal and community education. She also has expertise in participatory and alternative evaluation approaches (measuring what’s valuable, rather than valuing what’s measurable). She studied an MA in Sustainable Leadership Development from the University of Cumbria. She is trained in a variety of dialogic learning methods (including circling, authentic relating, ‘philosophy for children’, and non-violent communication), and has published her work in the field of sustainability and post-sustainability education.

Matthew Slater, General Assistant

A theology graduate and software engineer, Matthew is a leading voice on community currencies. In the financial crisis of 2008 he dropped everything to develop open source software for Local Exchange Trading Systems, cofounding Community Forge to host that software. His interests and expertise widened from there into monetary theory, monetary reform, community building, ecovillages, cryptocurrencies, and the politics of software. in 2015 he co-authored the Money & Society MOOC with Prof. Bendell. In 2016 he proposed a solidarity economy money system in a white paper entitled ‘Credit Commons’. In 2018 he took on the role of General Assistant to Prof Bendell and the Deep Adaptation Forum. Within that role Matthew supports a range of activities, including technical support and research on various themes.

Professor Jem Bendell, Founder

With a PhD in international policy, a background working for the United Nations and international charities, and over 100 publications on business and sustainable development, Professor Bendell turned to leadership development in 2012. By 2016 he was working with leading socialist politicians as a leadership and communications advisor and speech writer. He had been interested in climate change since he studied it in 1993, as part of his geography degree at the University of Cambridge. In 2017 he took a year unpaid leave from university to review the latest climate science, measurements, policies and implications. This led to the release of Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Our Climate Tragedy, which was downloaded over half a million times within a year. He now focuses on leadership for deep adaptation, through research, writing, retreats, courses, strategy consulting, short films, as well as launching and co-funding the Deep Adaptation Forum, which after 6 months already engages over 10,000 people in exploring the implications of anticipating societal breakdowns due to climate chaos.

[1] Our next Q&A events will notably feature Adrian Tait (Sept.13); Katharine Wilkinson (Oct. 10); Vanessa Andreotti (Nov.4); and Charles Eisenstein (Dec.14).


Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

Glocalising Deep Adaptation – launching the Deep Adaptation Groups Network

Posted by jembendell on September 9, 2019

Today a new initiative is launched to support people coming together to help each other as we face the unravelling of normal life in the face of the climate crisis. Twelve local or language-specific initiatives, that are using Facebook to convene dialogue, have joined forces with the rapidly growing and global Positive Deep Adaptation group to launch a system for mutual support and guidance.

gray bridge and trees

Photo by Martin Damboldt on

The Deep Adaptation (DA) framework can support us to explore with open hearts and minds the implications of a likely near-term collapse in our societies due to disruption from climate change. Five months ago we launched a Facebook group and a Professionals’ network to enable interaction and promote collaboration on deep adaptation. In the Facebook group over 6,000 participants are sharing information and support on outer and inner deep adaptation, focusing on its emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects, as well as practical means to support wellbeing ahead of (and during) social breakdowns. In the Professional’s Platform, more than 1600 people have joined to collaborate in the creation of resources to support the transformation of fields such as food and agriculture, education, community action, coaching and counselling, government and policy, business and finance and others.

Our efforts to support local gatherings have thus far been limited to financial support for community dialogues that use the Open Space method. Today we can announce a more significant step towards this ‘glocalisation’ of the new movement. We are introducing the Deep Adaptation Groups Network as a way to promote, support and provide space for cross-pollination between groups in different locations, languages and related topics. Our goals for the network are to:

  1. Raise awareness of our predicament, while promoting the Deep Adaptation culture, values and principles at a local level in thousands of communities around the world;
  2. Foster engagement on Deep Adaptation related topics via local online and offline communities, discussions, gatherings and projects;
  3. Create a common frame of guidelines, resources and online spaces to facilitate alignment with Deep Adaptation (DA) values and goals, as well as cross-pollination and co-creation between affiliated DA groups.

Some of the benefits of becoming affiliated currently include promotion of the member groups through our channels, access to a specialised group for peer support, ability to contribute and access useful resources for growing DA groups and communities, monthly video meetings, trainings, opportunities for small grants and more. In return, member groups agree to follow a set of guidelines that ensure alignment with our philosophy and one another – and to help evolve those guidelines over time.

Our current estimation is that there may be hundreds of local groups being formed to address the individual and collective need for community in the face of our predicament. It is our intention that the network we are establishing will grow to include as many of them as possible.

Coming up next, we’ll be looking at ways to support local groups that do not use Facebook. If you are a creator or member of such a group, we recommend checking out the Gathering Principles including formats we have found useful for hosting online and offline DA spaces. If you choose to create a Facebook group for your community before we roll out support for non-Facebook groups, we’ll be happy to have you join our network. If you are interested in that, you can read our Affiliated Group Guidelines before reaching out to us at

If you are a grant-maker or potential donor, we would welcome support for us to help disadvantaged or under-represented communities to organise Deep Adaptation groups. If so, please email Zori.

The list of the Founding Members of the Deep Adaptation Groups Network includes:

Adaptación Profunda Positiva #APP (Positive Deep Adaptation – Jem Bendell) For the Spanish speaking community. Contact: Aline Van Moerbeke

Adaptation radicale : un guide pour naviguer dans la tragédie climatique For the French speaking world. Contact: Julien Lecaille

Deep Adaptation Discussion and Action Group A space to discuss the four “R’s” and how these questions may be used to redesign our individual lives, livelihoods, etc. and how they may apply to us, our households and communities. Contact: Silvia di Blasio.

Deep Adaptation Hungary – Készülj & Alkalmazkodj – for the Hungarian community, to share, support, plan and move ahead, together. Contact: Balazs Stumpf-Biro

Deep Adaptation Ireland For those located on the island of Ireland. Contact: Cian Langan

Deep Adaptation Parenting A safe and nurturing place for parents to share their thoughts, emotions, ideas, and resources on the topic of raising children in this challenging time.

Positive Deep Adaptation UK Local group, focused on the concerns of people based in the UK, who have shown an interest in the Deep Adaptation paper written by Jem Bendell in 2018, and the issues it throws up. Contact: John Cossham

Deep Adaptation | Wie leben im Angesicht der Klimakrise? For German-speaking people, mostly from Germany.

Dyp tilpasning Norwegian group, open to Swedes and Danish people as our language is understandable across borders. Contact: Sigrid Haugen

PNW Positive Deep Adaptation For the Pacific Northwest region of North America. Contact: Jim Chastain

Positive Deep Adaptation Oceania – Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand etc For the respective region. Contact: Aimee Maxwell

Positive Deep Adaptation: Santa Cruz County and Monterey Bay, CA For Santa Cruz County and Monterey Bay, California, US. Contact: Ami Chen Mills-Naim

Practical PDA Focusing on practical adaptation. Contact: Sarah Bittle

In the future, you will be able to find an up-to-date list of affiliated groups here.

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

A Quick Message to Lefty Intellectuals about Deep Adaptation

Posted by jembendell on August 14, 2019

I’d love to see serious discussion about what kind of economic and social justice policies are needed to reduce harm in the face of societal collapse from climate chaos. Currently, I haven’t seen much. So, in the hope of getting more decent left-wing engagement with our predicament, here is a quick invitation.

Deep Adaptation is a framework for inviting conversation on what we do if we anticipate societal collapse, or are experiencing collapse around us. It is now a movement. I coined the term in a paper I wrote in July 2018. I wrote that for a management academic audience. So where was the critique of power and of capital? Is the absence of a discussion of structural violence of capital an indication that the Deep Adaptation framework is not radical?

women holding a planet over profit sign

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.

I am told that question is being raised in some left-wing intellectual discussion boards, and I have started getting emails from left-wing academics that complain, basically, that I’m counter-revolutionary.


So, here is a quick message to left-wing intellectuals about Deep Adaptation, in which I will give some links to my past writings about how crap capitalism is for the planet… and some ideas on what to do about it.

But before I start, a bit of humble pie. Despite my disdain for capitalism, I stayed working within the system, as my heart and mind were also captured by the system. The Deep Adaptation paper was a long apology for that. But I do a fuller mea culpa in my piece in the forthcoming Letters to the Earth book.

In the Deep Adaptation paper, the power of capital in keeping us compliant is implied in the section on denial in the environmental profession. But that paper wasn’t the venue to further elaborate on that, for instance by discussing the role of capital in the social construction of the stories that kept people quiet within the environmental movement and profession. Because, I was writing for the sustainability profession. Yes, I know, I was embedded in that system.

I have written over 100 publications in my academic career, and I can’t include everything I think in one paper. But, on the topic of Deep Adaptation, I have already discussed capitalism elsewhere. In my first speech on the topic, to climate policy researchers and climate business executives at the end of 2016 (not your most Marxist audience), I said that capitalism is at fault for our predicament, but that the cause is even deeper than that. If you have gone further into post-Marxist critical theory via people like Adorno, you will understand. I said:

“My own analysis is that the West’s response as restricted by the dominance of neoliberal economics since the 1970s. That led to hyper-individualist, market fundamentalist, incremental and atomistic approaches. By hyper-individualist, I mean a focus on individual action as consumers, switching light bulbs or buying sustainable furniture, rather than promoting political action as engaged citizens. By market fundamentalist, I mean a focus on market mechanisms like the complex, costly and largely useless carbon cap and trade systems, rather than exploring what more government intervention could achieve. By incremental, I mean a focus on celebrating small steps forward such as a company publishing a sustainability report, rather than strategies designed for a speed and scale of change suggested by the science. By atomistic, I mean a focus on seeing climate action as a separate issue from the governance of markets, finance and banking, rather than exploring what kind of economic system could permit or enable sustainability.”

So, to repeat, I would really welcome left-wing and, as importantly, critical theoretical analysis of what policies and actions could help enable adaptation of any kind, or Deep Adaptation in particular. I want to spend some time working on these issues myself, but haven’t got to that point yet. When I do, will draw upon some of my past work on economic aspects of our unsustainability. Here is a short list of some of the key arguments from my past publications that I think are relevant to this discussion:

The need to move beyond the dangerous and oppressive ideology of managerialism. Here.

The need to place new duties on shareholders, at a minimum, as part of a capital accountability agenda. Here.

The need to transform our monetary system away from bank-issued debt as the basis for our money supply, in order to have any real go at either mitigation or adaptation. Here.

The need for currency innovation to free us from the poverty-inducing banking control of our money supply. Here.

The need to avoid the same corporate power dominating the new currencies. Here.

Socialist scholars are needed to engage in our climate emergency and Deep Adaptation movements. But its important to be engaged in what’s happening now. Armchair intellectuals who pontificate about ideas in ways that disparage people or ideas by using one or two articles that suit their stories of reality are wasting everyone’s time, including their own.

We face annihilation during the 6th mass extinction, and so uninformed writing that is not engaged with the current activists is misleading. If people aren’t involved in activist movements or political campaigns themselves, while writing about these issues, then they aren’t serious. Or maybe working for the spooks.

An example of that kind of uninformed debate is this piece in ISJ. It says Deep Adaptation (and I) aren’t as radical as Extinction Rebellion. Yet I’ve been involved in XR since the start, spoke at the launch of the International Rebellion, and am inputting into their strategy process, including ideas on economic justice issues. Moreover, many key people in XR came to it after reading the Deep Adaptation paper.  A quick search would have also revealed this blog on XR’s website about its potential for organising an economic rebellion, which I wrote with Rabbi Newman.

So… there’s lots of left-wing intellectual discussion to be had. If well informed, it will be useful. If you are seriously into this stuff then please join the research group on the Deep Adaptation Forum.

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 13 Comments »

Don’t police our emotions – climate despair is inviting people back to life

Posted by jembendell on July 12, 2019

“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.” Opening speech of the international rebellion of Extinction Rebellion in Oxford Circus on April 15th 2019. 57503072_10155958230736470_5090386915572580352_n

For some of us, news of our changing climate is inducing many difficult emotions, including despair. For people less fortunate than myself, the losses of landscapes, properties, livelihoods and lives, arising in part from climate change, has also been inducing sadness, anger and despair.

Last week, in my review of the year since the Deep Adaptation paper came out, I mentioned it had been a year of strong emotions – but did not explain further. Yet the emotions are so important to recognise, as when hidden or supressed they are more likely to drive our behaviours. The habits of our culture, and therefore also in me, are to engage in ways that seem intellectual and pragmatic – and to aspire to appear calm. But that can disable our ability to really know and be known. To #TellTheTruth in our time of climate emergency is to express all of our emotions about it as well.

A new article in Vice talks about some of those difficult emotions, with the author making the dramatic claim that “climate despair is making people give up on life.” The journalist tries to build the case that experts think it is wrong to upset people about our climate predicament. That implies that people’s emotions of despair are wrong, because they are unproductive. Given the number of people drawn to lead the climate rebellion after reading my Deep Adaptation paper, I could just dismiss that perspective as uninformed. But I believe it is problematic to suggest that the many difficult emotions that arise from facing our climate predicament need fixing, or that we should avoid triggering them in others. So, here on my blog I want to be more open about those emotional situations I have experienced, and to warn of stories what is “academic” or “credible” can be used to police those emotions and those who trigger them.

And I want to make up for how my review of the year sought to be so very calm and collected! I had just published a Compendium of peer reviewed research on climate and so expressed myself in the rather subdued tones that academia has schooled me in. In my review of the year I didn’t talk about the alienation as I hide my reality from friends and family, so as not to trigger difficult emotions in them or in me. I didn’t talk about the fears I have had in discussing my view on our situation with close friends, family and colleagues. I didn’t talk about the tears I have seen and shed. I didn’t talk about my moments of panic. I didn’t talk about losing friends because they did not want to hear about our climate. I didn’t talk about the stress of experiencing how some people interact online on this emotive topic. I didn’t talk of my sense of overwhelm as people from all walks of life suddenly wanted answers from me. I didn’t talk about the difficulty of being involved in Extinction Rebellion and yet not wanting to share my perspective on collapse in the mainstream media until more systems of emotional support are in place. I didn’t talk about the confusion of not knowing what to do in my personal life. I didn’t talk about losing balance and health as a sense of responsibility meant I worked a lot on such a heavy topic, building an international network for peer support and providing advice. And I didn’t talk about the stress of being criticised publicly for sharing my perspective; or the shock of discovering how confident some humans are in deciding what is happening in the hearts and minds of others (i.e. mine). I didn’t talk about these things because I had slipped back into the habit of keeping things calm. I’m sorry – I am as bothered about all of this as you are!

There is another side to this story. In my review of the year, I didn’t say as much as I could about the unprecedented intensity of human connection that I have experienced as a result of discussing our climate predicament. I have met so many amazing people who are not hiding behind social norms; who are showing up in the world as vulnerable, loving, curious, playful, meaning-making souls.

Everyone engaging with our climate predicament will have their own emotional journey. None will be easy. The question of how to engage people is a huge one for me. It is why I have focused on how people who are awake to our predicament can help each other. My main suggestion is that we engage and talk with others who do not think that we are confused, depressed, or irresponsible to have concluded that climate change now threatens societal collapse. In those connections and conversations, we find solidarity, joy and pathways for how to be and what to do in future. If you do not yet have that in your life, or want more, then I recommend reaching out through one of the networks I list here.

As climate despair grows, so it becomes a more widely discussed topic. One of the understandable but unfortunate ways that some people respond is to criticise people who communicate the information and ideas which induce despair in some other people. Or to criticise those people who do not support means of escaping such despair through hopeful stories of fixing climate change in time to prevent societal collapse. The argument made is that to describe one’s view about impending collapse is irresponsible because of both the emotional distress caused and because it might lead to inaction. Some commentators even say that it is morally wrong to speak of the future in this way; a view with some chilling echoes of religious fundamentalists who righteously demand you believe what they do. They may also seek to claim objective truth by arguing that someone’s views are sub-standard.

The latest example of this perspective and approach appeared in that Vice magazine article. The author states that “instead of rallying us, climate despair asks us to give up.” Being involved in Extinction Rebellion, I know the opposite is true for so many people – despair has been an essential part of their process. People act because of truth and love, not because they believe that they can stop a breakdown in our way of life. It is why I spoke about that at the opening of the international rebellion. Let’s look at that claim again: “instead of rallying us, climate despair asks us to give up.” That is pure conjecture: about everyone everywhere. It is written in the passive voice, rather than being claimed by the journalist as his own opinion. I regard attempts to define others in this way as a habit of patriarchy, which we must challenge as we free ourselves from its heart-numbing conformism. Mainstream academia has been at the forefront of that patriarchal process of defining what is valid or not to feel, think or believe, so it is interesting to observe how academics might be asked to police our emotions about climate.

In making his case that it is irresponsible to share a view that societal collapse due to climate change is now inevitable, the journalist makes the claim that the Deep Adaptation paper is “widely pilloried.” A month before his article came out, I wrote to him to ask he not base such a claim on just one critic (who isn’t an academic anyway), but look into how the paper has been received, or more closely at the most recent science. I sent him a link to my reply to that critic’s claim about academic quality:

“Moving between factual evidence and personal opinion is a form of academic writing. In addition, personal experience is a form of factual evidence if one is doing an autoethnography. My paper was a conceptual paper, so I did not outline a methodology. However, it used autoethnography in the large section on denial and on looking at how people are framing our situation. Autoethnography is now widely understood in academia. I believe I was clear in the paper where I am expressing my opinions about implications. I am also clear about why at times I used emotive language to address the reader. There is no one set of “academic standards.” I’m pleased we have moved on from the dominance of positivism in social science.”

The Vice journalist also quotes the anthropologist Joseph Tainter, in saying that my paper was irresponsible. Recently I have been researching the range of scholarship on societal collapse, including that from Tainter, and will release that in a couple of months, as part of a workshop plan for how we can learn from past collapses (in order to slow them down). To try to draw conclusions for our current situation from the study of ancient societies is interesting, but should be handled with care. To my knowledge, Joseph Tainter isn’t engaged in climate change or the communities of scholarship relevant to understanding our current predicament, such as food security, human security, catastrophic risks, extinction risks, and disaster risk reduction. However, if he does look at the current situation and draw on these relevant fields, then his engagement could be a valuable one.

Critiquing what is covered by one paper is also a way of not looking more closely at the issue. In my email to the Vice journalist a month before his article came out, I wrote:

“Since the paper came out both myself and others have been saying more about how climate change will, or might, cause societal collapse. The focus is on agricultural impacts. For instance here. And also my own summary of the food security field. IPPR have started doing work on this as well. UCL are launching a project on it. Meanwhile, UNDRR are encouraging a sea change in our approach to risks arising from climate change. So collapse-readiness in the face of climate chaos will become a less unusual topic in the near future. Sadly.”

To move beyond a focus on the one paper and its limitations (or mine) one reason why I released the compendium of peer reviewed science that has been published over the past year. Given that our issue here is so troubling, being sceptical of scholarship is important. But scholarship is still useful, especially if being clear about the boundaries of expertise and the limitations of one’s methods or approach. Therefore, quoting scholars on topics outside of their areas of expertise should always come with caveats. Some famous climate scientists speak about the implications of climate change with little or no mention of expertise on psychology, communications, economy or politics. For instance, the Vice article quotes climate scientists making claims about psychology, such as the effects of despair and motivation, yet this is a different domain than their expertise. This is something I explained to someone putting together a roster of experts for a forthcoming Citizen’s Assembly. A climate modeller, or polar climate scientist, may be great at their job and clear and courageous when expressing their conclusions, but that does not mean that they know how to frame issues, or the psychological implications or possible policy implications. Rather, as academics we are often handicapped by specialisations, if we have not developed our understanding of different fields of knowledge and ways of knowing. In addition, research shows that the more successful one is within existing institutions, it is likely the more conservative one is in one’s views. I mention that in my Deep Adaptation paper, where I explored in detail the processes leading to collapse-denial within the environmental professions, so I recommend looking at that if you are curious.

A difficulty for our ability to consider our predicament head on is that we live in a culture that is averse to impermanence, uncontrollability and death. That means our culture is also averse to the possibility of the absence of hope in a materially better future that can be shaped by us. Yet there is a way of being incredibly passionate and engaged about reducing harm and suffering and living your truth, without the belief that we will create a materially better future. Those who wish to frame collapse-awareness as wrong, and seek to fix our difficult emotions, may actually be trying to avoid looking at their own inner world. In discussing this issue with therapists at the Climate Psychology Alliance, I was advised that it is impossible to engage publicly with people who think they need to believe in a hope and feel threatened by others who say otherwise. I was told that this is because the issue of hope is not one of evidence and opinion but is about people’s deeper structures of identity and ego. Basically, a subconscious fear of not existing anymore.

Because the Deep Adaptation paper and concept has become widely known, it might seem to some commentators like the journalist from Vice that I am promoting doom. Yet I wrote the paper for my professional community in sustainable business studies, and to call out my colleagues for not looking at how bad our situation has become. As it went viral, I turned down mainstream media interviews and major publishers, to prioritise helping connect those who are deeply affected by their view that we face societal collapse; or who are already experiencing it. My writing, talks and interviews have been focused on those who are already on the path of “collapse acceptance”. One of the most powerful means of support has been the Positive Deep Adaptation Facebook group. With over 4000 people a few months after launch, it is the venue for intense sharing of emotions and ideas about what we might do now. People join it if they believe that a climate-induced societal collapse is either likely, inevitable or already underway. We call it “positive” Deep Adaptation, because being collapse-aware does not need to lead to hedonism, nihilism, apathy or negativity. On the group all ideas about the implications of our predicament are welcome, so long as they are not violent. Many ideas are shared about how to prepare both practically and emotionally. I don’t see many people giving up, but read about people discovering life in new ways, including climate activism.

But it is only a Facebook group! To help each other as we experience difficult emotions is a huge task. It is why I will be taking some time to engage the education, psychotherapy, coaching, community development and religious communities over the coming months. If you are interested in such work, please join the Deep Adaptation Forum. We have been helping people meet in-person, often for free, to experience gatherings where our difficult emotions are welcomed and shared before moving into any talk of action.  We have also started offering retreats to help climate activists recharge while also learning how to host such gatherings.

The Vice article is a reminder to me that the denial I explained in my paper will persist for years to come, even as things begin to breakdown around us. Although its discussion of emotions is an important one, it exhibits some of the “Nit-Picking” and “Moral Superiority” forms of response that I highlight a year ago in my analysis of barriers to dialogue on Deep Adaptation. To evidence a different perspective than that article, I recommend this piece in the FT which explores how Deep Adaptation ideas have been inspiring people to take action. Also, I recommend seeing XR’s Skeena introducing my speech to launch the International Rebellion. You could also look again at some of the latest science. As part of my review of the year, I published a compendium of 23 peer-reviewed studies which I assessed add weight to the underlying analysis of my Deep Adaptation paper.

One hope I have for my own life and those I engage in person is that we may find greater equanimity about our predicament. I once confused that state with either calm or serenity. Now I realise that equanimity is a state of being accepting, even of our own difficult emotions, like grief, anger and despair. Serenity, like calm, is an emotion which comes and goes. With equanimity we can observe such moments of serenity and welcome them, cultivate them, but not become attached to them nor think they are superior states of being. Rather, being alive at this time will mean we ebb and flow with various emotions.

I have benefited from talking with people who I consider spiritual elders. One such person is Joanna Macy, who I interviewed recently. She reminded me that if we connect with our transcendent essence, our souls, then the current moment is an exquisite time to be alive. Because, an awareness of impending collapse is an invitation to ask ourselves deep questions of meaning that we typically postpone – and some of us never even get to. Climate despair is inviting people back to life.

This brings me to a good conclusion to this addendum to my review of the year. I have become more certain that the way through despair involves experiencing oneself as part of a greater whole and surrendering to the mystery of creation. Yes, that is not a new idea! Yet it is so often loaded with culturally specific baggage that leads to ignorance and division. But now the climate crisis invites us to engage with the mystery of life with fresh eyes and open hearts.

Wow. Joanna is right.

But it isn’t easy. Here is a list of some ways of seeking emotional support on this topic.

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Deep Adaptation dialogues

Posted by matslats on May 17, 2019

In the Deep Adaptation Forum we have convened 700 people so far from around the world who want to collaborate around different adaptation themes. But Deep Adaptation implies learning and coordination at the local level perhaps more than the global level. It requires building real working relationships, understanding the local sentiment, local risks and local government. Therefore the Forum made available some funding and support for several local events called Deep Adaptation Dialogues.

We invited Forum members to submit their ideas, and are proud to announce the following 6 events, all of which are either free to attend or low cost. They will use the Open Space approach to participatory dialogue. To attend these events you should join the forum and click ‘Going’ on the relevant event page.

Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Tipperary, Ireland, Jun 8, 2019 from 10:00am to 4:00pm
Cloughjordan Ecovillage / Cultivate / Extinction Rebellion Ireland (XRI)
Many of us in Cloughjordan Ecovillage now feel that Extinction Rebellion and adapting for imminent societal hardship and collapse will be the most appropriate focus for our own livelihoods. We see the Ecovillage being a sort of life-boat destination in the coming years and feel that Deep Adaptation thinking is absolutely needed to ensure the most support can be offered to the existing and future community. To register.

Edinburgh Scotland, Jun 15, 2019 from 1:00pm to 4:30pm.
Edinburgh Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace EH1 2JL.
Climate Psychology Alliance & Green House think tank
Both the CPA and Green House have been discussing and communicating about facing up to the reality of climate change and impacts for some time. We have close links with: Extinction Rebellion (Edinburgh and UK), Transition movement, Scottish Green Party, Adaptation Scotland and the Scottish Government, the Centre for Climate Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University and various practitioners and academics in Scotland interested in transformational change, resilience and adaptation. We sense the interest, desire and need for engaging in the kinds of conversations that this event will make possible. We would like to see a community of interest form around these topics that works to shape policy and action in Scotland. Scotland is different to England/UK in that citizens are closer to government/politicians so there is greater potential to influence change. To register.

Lancaster, Jul 14, 2019 from 9:30am to 5:00pm (at University of Cumbria)
Hosted by Jem Bendell & Katie Carr. This is an Open Space dialogue, convening peoppe from the NW of UK. Register here.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada (date to be decided)
Convene group of individuals concerned about collapse to discuss what this means for our lives and work. NOTE:  This is in an early stage of planning so details to follow.

Cape Town, Nov 7, 2019 to Nov 8, 2019
Yes and no: Africa Clockwise/Harlequin Foundation for eMzantsi community-building project/Diversatile
We will spend two days frankly analysing the local context and model respectful and nurturing ways of interacting with emphasis on inclusivity and representation from outset. We will take stock of our strengths as a collective and share expertise and ideas. We will lay the foundations of a wide trust-network, ready to face of a crisis such as Day Zero or Cyclone Idai. Registration info to follow.

USA, Great Barrington MA, Oct 13, 2019 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm EDT
Bard College at Simon’s Rock
We want to build connections in our local community around ways to support emotional, spiritual, and practical well-being in these challenging times. While one of the focii will be regenerative and sustainable agriculture as we live in an agricultural area, we are interested in supporting deep adaptation on many levels. We welcome all voices in our community to these very significant conversations. This is a coalition effort, including three local initiatives in addition to the college: Living the Change, the South Berkshires Climate Change and Consciousness Hub, and Alliance for a Viable Future. Registration info to follow.

Stockon-upon-Tees, Sep 14, 2019 from 2:00pm to 5:00pm
University of Sunderland
Stockon-upon-Tees is an area of relative urban deprivation with a high concentration of artists, writers and creative professionals from working class backgrounds. We will bring together 15-20 such people to create a dialogue around Deep Adaptation themes while provided with a meal, so we can particularly think about food security and sustainability in areas of relative deprivation. This will take place in the SEEK Bakery, an environmentally-focused, bicycle-run artist/artisan food project that works to make links between food, ecology, art, feminism, trauma and mental health. Registration info to follow.

Read more about the dialogues, and about our approach to facilitation of gatherings.

In addition to these free dialogues, Prof Bendell is also leading a course in the Lake District in July. Information here.

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Versions of the Deep Adaptation paper

Posted by matslats on May 15, 2019

Read the original blog containing the original PDF.
MP3 Audio
Apple Book (epub)
Kindle (mobi)

Completed translations

Deutsch PDF by Carsten Zwolferschritte
French PDF by Marc Boyer, with the help of Sophie Leader & Julien Lecaille
Greek PDF by Tryfon Farmakakis
Hungarian PDF by Emese Orosz et al with Kata Visy
Italiano PDF by Emanuele Coluccia & Pierfilippo Pierucci
Polish PDF by Arkadiusz Wierzba
Portuguese PDF
Spanish PDF by Fernando García Ferreiro, Rebeca Robles, Julio James, César García Valderrama
Thai PDF by Wanchat Theeranaew

Ongoing translations

Translations of the DA Paper are alledged to be in process for the following languages:

  • Africaans
  • Brazilian Portuguese
  • Czech
  • Chinese
  • Dutch
  • Norwegian
  • Swedish/li>
  • Urdu

To check on the state of advancement of these translations, or to collaborate with other translators, please see here.

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

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

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