I hope you are having, or had, a good Easter weekend. I’m here to tell you that my magnum opus is available for pre-order! “Breaking Together – a freedom-loving response to collapse” is out as an e-book on May 9th and paperback on June 16th ahead of a launch event you could attend in Glastonbury Town Hall (June 18th 2023). If you are subscribed to this blog then you will receive a link for the book as a FREE epub in June, to download from the Schumacher Institute website. But why wait? If you use a kindle, then order it now in USA or in the UK or worldwide (by typing ‘breaking together’ into your ‘national’ amazon site).
From the back cover:
“This is a prophetic book.” Satish Kumar, founder, Schumacher College
“This book shows that instead of imposing elitist schemes and scams, regenerating nature and culture together is the only way forward.” Dr Stella Nyambura Mbau, Loabowa Kenya
“This book is part of a healing movement that extends beyond what we normally think of as ecological.” Charles Eisenstein, author, Climate: A New Story
Have you ever wondered where the term ‘piggy bank’ came from? Like me, some of you probably saved your spare coins in them when children. I didn’t give it a second thought until I stumbled across an actual living piggy bank in Bali. Midway through a cycling tour, we had stopped in a traditional village, and invited into a family compound. It was the kind where multiple generations all live in small houses next to each other, with a temple at the front, and some animals at the back. That is where I saw pig sty with a half dozen pigs. “The older women here don’t like putting money in a bank, so they buy a pig and feed it as their way to save,” my guide told me. A sensible store of value, I thought, especially with interest rates so low at the time. After the trip, I looked up the origin of the term piggy bank. Some historians guessed the name came from jars being made of a clay that was sometimes called ‘pygg’ in Germany and England, and that was the theory on Wikipedia at the time (it was 2015). But I had seen in the Indonesian national museum a piggy bank that was around 400 years older than when the word pygg was being used in Europe for a type of clay. Maybe I am a bit strange, but the piggy bank origin story had me. I dug deeper to discover that the earliest known pig-shaped money containers date to the 12th century in Indonesia.[i]
This is the text of a newsletter sent to people who receive my irregular updates (that go out once or twice a year)
As you registered for my irregular update, a good guess is that you are interested in sustainable development – the concept for social and environmental progress that took off since the 1992 Earth Summit. So, in opening this update (my first since March last year), I’d like to clear up something: sustainable development is a lie. It has been a successful one because it helps middle class professionals earn salaries while pretending that’s for them caring about the world. Not only does all the recent data point to the failure to improve the world by spreading one economic model, but that failure was widely predicted decades ago. People like me ignored such critique because we wanted to believe something else. Why? Not because it was good for wildlife, landscapes and the poor. We wanted to believe because it was convenient with our careers to develop, consumer lifestyles to lead, houses to buy and kids to bring up. Ouch. But I’m tired of the mix of pseudo-concern and pseudo-professionalism that surrounds me in the sustainability field. Fortunately, many of us won’t pretend anymore.
The COP27 climate conference announcement of a new fund, of unknown quantity, for the loss and damage occurring due to climate chaos, means it might appear that politicians and bureaucrats are finally getting real about how bad the situation is. So could they be catching up with the ‘Deep Adapters’? Unfortunately, no fund will ever be able to recompense the loss and damage that is being suffered – and will be suffered – from the impacts of climate and ecological breakdown. No international currency, bank, or payment system will likely survive the extent of disruption when impacts of global heating really kick in. I am just back from my first and last climate conference, and not only experienced it as an exercise in denial but one that is made impenetrable by the numbers of people and resources maintaining it in myriad ways. Even critics of COP27, and climate policies more generally, have their budgets, wages, skills, and status tied to the story of ultimate salvation from climate chaos. A consequence of this denial is not looking at the root causes of our predicament. Which might also be a reason for the denial. So let’s go there…
In the run up to COP27 climate conference, The Economist magazine declared it has become impossible to limit global warming to an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Many analysts of the relevant science have said as much for a few years. We were dismissed as too negative and so our ideas on what to do were therefore marginalized. Sadly, warming beyond 1.5C means that climate change will become far more damaging to societies. Even worse, due to a range of amplifying feedbacks that are impossible to have certainty about, no one can credibly claim anymore that human actions to cut and drawdown carbon, while still important, will certainly work to stop or reverse the changes. When people take that situation to heart, it can challenge the societies and systems that brought us to this point. For many, it is a fundamentally radicalizing realization. Although The Economist cited my views in one of their articles, rather predictably it didn’t provide space for the kind of criticism of capitalism and the global order that can ensue.
Text of speech delivered at COP27, Nov 9th 2022, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, by Prof Jem Bendell. Check against delivery. The video of the speech:
“We have a communications problem. Just as political support for climate action is growing, so political resistance to climate action is also growing. The use of the hashtag #ClimateScam has exploded since July of this year. From never exceeding more than 3,000 tweets in any month up to June 2022, it has been used 70,000-100,000 times per month in the four months since. Compare that to the hashtag #ClimateJustice, which has averaged about 30,000 tweets per month for the last two years and almost hit 100,000 unique tweets in the month of COP26 in Glasgow, with all the world’s media attention. But now? #ClimateScam is being used two and a half times for every #ClimateJustice tweet throughout the last 4 months. These twitter trends are one indicator of a growing resistance to climate action.
Today I co-hosted a panel of women activists from the Global South, at COP27 in Egypt. We addressed a half-empty press conference room. I closed the session by condemning the charade that these conferences have become. As the live stream link wasn’t provided to us by the UN, I used my camera phone.
The video of my closing:
The transcript of my comments:
“It is important to remember that charity is not justice. If one side has no power, then there is no negotiation. Which can’t lead to justice. Which then can’t lead to healing.”
“This is the only Lamborghini I’ll ever want to own. I’ll tell you why in a moment. Here we are at the epicentre of blah blah blah and failure. We even hear that now from the main speeches. But we don’t hear why. As if it’s just a failure of people not knowing enough or not enough charismatic leadership. I believe something else is to blame.
This is an essay that responds critically to the widely read piece in the New York Times that appears to be calming the nerves of climate professionals at COP27 and beyond. It is a 20-minute read.
In the last couple of years some climatologists have been reassuring us that although the storms, floods, droughts, ice loss and temperature extremes are all worse and sooner than was predicted by the consensus science, the future for humanity might not be as bad as previously predicted. We are told it’s not so bad that it’s already so bad. The scientific basis for such a view was always a bit shaky, partly as it involved speculating that existing trends would not continue, while downplaying how natural feedbacks are already amplifying heating more than previously calculated. But another reason for those reassurances being shaky is that they have relied on the subjective and sometimes arbitrary choices by computer modellers, which are made within a context where colleagues, funders, bureaucrats, politicians and journalists all want to hear findings that they can work with. Instead, if we look at the geological records of past climates with greenhouse gas concentrations like today, we might expect a world average temperature rising from our current 15C to around 18C due to greenhouse gases that humanity has already added to the atmosphere. Or if we simply look at CO2 concentrations over recent years, we are tracking a graph that lands us at between 3.3C to 5.7C of warming by the end of the century, according to the cautious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC). That would mean an uninhabitable Earth for most of the children being born today.
4 years ago today, I gave a keynote speech at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Soon after, a section of the talk was featured by the campaign group Extinction Rebellion (before they became famous).
Here is a transcript of a section of that speech:
“The Sustainable Development Goals offer one framework on public need. And we will hear of a range of efforts on different SDGs from our panellists. But I’d like to invite us to consider something bolder, more urgent. Although climate change is included in the SDGs, the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change invites a reprioritisation. It implies that climate change is now a planetary emergency posing an existential threat to humanity. The artist who made this ceiling said he was inspired by a mirage in the Sahel where trees, donkeys and people all appeared to be melting up into the sky. We could take that a dramatic metaphor, in this human rights room, of the human face of climate change. So as our climate spirals away from one friendly to our civilisation, we need to face up to why we have been so incapable of changing our ways, collectively, at scale.
Having founded the Deep Adaptation Forum in 2019 to help collapse-aware people to support each other and develop helpful practices and responses, this day two years ago I left, so that it would be an initiative shaped by its participants. It was heartening, therefore, to receive an update from them today, highlighting some of the participant-led activities that are coming up. In case you don’t know about what they do, here is that update. I recommend joining something, or even proposing something. As climate anxiety grows, yet experts denigrate us for compassionate realism, it is important we give ourselves opportunities to experience how brilliant human beings can be.
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