How to lead in the face of societal disruption

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

There is one question I often hear asked:

“Where have all the good leaders gone?”

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

Founder’s Commentary – Jem Bendell

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

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

The new website that the DA Forum will launch next month will help to show the breadth of people working on relevant activities – and means you won’t have to hear from me all the time! That is part of a shift in communications from the DA Forum. Previously we communicated with people who wanted to learn what to do and help others. However, as critics misrepresent DA and the DA communities in more mainstream media, so more people are sharing more publicly what DA involves and why it’s important. That has included articles on DA in the Ecologist and openDemocracy, from ‘collapsologists’ as well as indigenous scholars and activists. I wrote my first article on the topic, with cofounder of Extinction Rebellion, Gail Bradbrook, where we described what we do as different and complementary. I also shared via openDemocracy a summary of the main areas of disagreement and dialogue that are occurring amongst people who anticipate collapse, rather than people who wish to shut down that conversation. For instance, it includes a discussion of the limited diversity of people involved in the DA Forum at present, a key issue that a group of volunteers would welcome your help in addressing. In response to the criticisms I released an updated edition of the original 2018 Deep Adaptation paper. 

One misrepresentation amongst many is that the DA Forum is against climate action because we don’t welcome sharing news on climate science or the latest mitigation efforts. That is like saying a group discussing arable farming must be against livestock farming just because it wants to keep its own focus on arable farming. The DA Forum exists because some people accept that the worrying climate news and science is going to get worse and we want to do something about that. Most people involved want to see carbon cuts and drawdown. So the misrepresentations from critics may reflect a preference to disdain people who have views that seem too painful to agree with. Many people can’t imagine themselves being actively engaged to help humanity if there isn’t the hope of them having an impact and helping save this society. Theirs’ is an instinctively consequentialist ethics which, by definition, will become less useful during the uncertain and uncontrollable era we have entered. However, their assumptions and aversions mean we are accused of defeatism. Yet Gail and I believe the opposite is true: “It would be defeatist to think we can’t imagine how we might reduce harm during a potential collapse and transformation of societies.” Our initial research about participants in the Forum finds that many are taking initiative in their communities as a result. Perhaps they have had Rumi’s “secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard they can’t hope.” They are living ‘hopefree’ in radical presence, walking the paths that can involve imagination, activism and community support.

The newsletter indicates the creativity arising out of some people’s collapse anticipation. Below, you will read about new initiatives on diversity, spirituality, and mental wellbeing, as well as more online gatherings and a growing range of creative outputs, such as Michael Shaw’s documentary Living in the Time of Dying. I recommend taking some time to follow a number of the links and then reaching out to any initiatives that pique your interest.

Given the gravity of the situation, all this activity might seem strangely upbeat! Which brings me to the idea of ‘positivity.’ After launching the Facebook group I quickly added the word “positive” to “deep adaptation” in its name. That was because people were sharing news of the latest climate disasters and climate science, which is easier to do than sharing ideas and initiative after acceptance of a likely, inevitable or unfolding societal collapse. I wondered whether focusing on learning about and sharing the latest bad news on climate, environment and its impacts might be a way of avoiding one’s own acceptance that far worse is still to come and exploring new ways of living with that outlook. Amassing more and more information, measuring a situation even better, and wanting to be heard for shouting warnings, may all be forms of response to a situation which avoids actually processing the implications of what one already believes to be true.

Since the launch of the Facebook group, which has now climbed to around 12,000 participants, more people understand that Deep Adaptation is about dialogue and initiative by people who anticipate collapse, and so we no longer need the word ‘positive’ before deep adaptation. From today, the Facebook group is simply called ‘Deep Adaptation’. There are two reasons why this is helpful. First, the additional word ‘positive’ can reduce emphasis on how ‘deep adaptation’ is already a positive framework. Because to ‘adapt’ is to respond by changing, not giving up. Successful adaptation needs to recognise the scale, nature and pace of the problem, including which aspects are probably not solvable. The word ‘deep’ invites going deeper, asking more questions, avoiding superficial answers, making more effort, and not cutting corners. So, Deep Adaptation is ‘positive’, in a meaningful sense of that word, rather than a superficial pain avoidant usage. A second reason for dropping the word positive is that some people assume we do not welcome difficult emotions to be expressed, such as anger, fear and despair. That is not the case. Rather, all emotions are understandable and welcome as we wake up and respond to our climate predicament, so long as they are not the fuel to blame and attack others. The ways of holding space in the DA Forum are all focused on enabling people to show up with all feelings being welcome, recognising that supressing them would not help us live into this predicament. It is why we take safety and wellbeing seriously, including signposting support for that, and asking our team and volunteers to agree to our policy on it.

The paradox of positivity is that the ultimate positivity, which could contain whatever might occur, is only possible after turning to consider unflinchingly what people typically view as negative about life: suffering, insecurity, and unintelligibility. That ‘ultimate positivity’ is a faith that there is a meaning beyond our meaning-making, which we abide in through a fuller engagement with all of life – pain n’ all. The “hopers” – as Rumi calls them – can access this “secret medicine” of ultimate positivity only if they allow themselves to reach conclusions they hitherto regarded as unbearable.

Highlights on The Forum

Latest Deep Adaptation Q&A’s hosted by Jem Bendell:

With XR Co-founders Skeena Rathor and Clare Farrell
With 11 year-old Elsie Luna, of #FridaysForFuture and XR
With meditation teacher Professor Henk Barendregt.

A discussion of insights from previous Q&A guests is available here.

Facilitated Online Events for Deep Adaptation (from Katie Carr):

The PDA Facilitators’ group is a community of practice for facilitators and space-holders, from a variety fields, to engage in sharing and developing practice for ‘facilitating deep adaptation’. They have already offered over 60 free gatherings for members of the DAF networks, mainly focused on the DA mission of “embodying loving responses to our predicament”, and the framework of the 4 R’s.  Look out for Deep Listening and Deep Relating gatherings in the PDA events calendar.  And coming up this month – non-violent communication, and Deep Listening for exploring racism and white fragility. If you’re a facilitator, and curious about joining to share your practice and learn from others, there will be a free online Open Space event in early October where you can meet with other facilitators who are working in the area of supporting people and groups in deep adaptation.  Join the PDA Facilitators group here.

Strategy Options Dialogue (from the DAF Core Team):

The Strategy Options Dialogue was a consultative process bringing together a vast range of ideas and input from participants throughout the DA Forum groups and platforms – including the Deep Adaptation Facebook group, the Professions’ Network, Affiliated Groups, Advocates, various volunteer circles, etc. – as well as from others who weren’t participants yet but had an interest in the Forum. More than a hundred people were involved in this volunteer-led, six-months-long effort, and this alone is a remarkable achievement for DAF, a network barely one year old and functioning on a shoestring budget! Having read the Strategy Options Paper, which gathered the key ideas to emerge from this process, the DAF Core Team published a response. This document includes an assessment of ideas we feel deserve to be most strongly promoted and supported by the Core Team given our current resources, and others which, while valuable, we wish to encourage other participants in the network to take up. Please take a look, and see if they’d like to help some of these ideas to be put into place.

Deep Adaptation Diversity & Decolonising Circle (from Sasha Daucus):

The Circle has emerged in response to #BlackLivesMatter. Our focus is to make DA spaces safer for everyone, particularly Black, Indigenous and People of Colour – actualizing the DA mission of embodying and enabling loving responses to our predicament.

Increasing Diversity and reducing separation is a vast area. We are beginning by creating opportunities for members to grow in our ability to stand as better allies to BIPoC.  The Circle is convened by enthusiastic volunteers, with the support of the Core Team and Holding Group. You can read a statement of the circle’s mission here and sign up to receiving regular updates, or get more involved, here. This team is working with outside experts to develop anti-racist and diversity awareness training, specific to the DA agenda. This training will initially be offered to volunteers, with the intention of offering it more widely later. Funding will be required to offer it to our membership. Relevant writings from Prof Bendell include: 

Will We Care Enough to Matter to Them? Climate Justice, Solidarity and Deep Adaptation.

Why do modern humans oppress and destroy life on Earth? And what to do about it?

Reconnecting with the volunteers and spirit of DA (from Dorian Cave):

On August 29th, an online open space event was organised by a small team of volunteers from the DAF, titled Us Now: Loving in the Time of Collapse. Participants from across DAF spaces were invited to: Rekindle the flames of passion that brought us to Deep Adaptation;  Reconnect to share our questions, answers, and what we’ve learned or unlearned; Re-engage to explore actions to prepare our whole selves for oncoming collapse; Reunite in the 4R community to uplift and edify ourselves and others facing this crisis.

Feeling curious? Then have a look at the agenda wall that was compiled for the occasion, and click the ‘Harvest Document’ links to discover some of the wisdom and visions that were harvested by all of us in those different rooms. Perhaps you will find in there some new idea or inspiration? In case you missed it: the organisers are hoping to set up another event like Us Now before the end of this year.

Spirituality in Deep Adaptation (from Katie Carr):

The psycho-spiritual aspect of connecting with others on deep adaptation to anticipated societal collapse, has been one of the most valuable parts of many people’s experience within the DA Forum.  A desire for more – and more explicit – opportunities for engaging in this aspect came out strongly in the Strategy Options Dialogue, that took place earlier this year. Here is a selection of resources exploring spirituality and collapse from different perspectives:

How can you support the development of the psycho-spiritual aspect within DA networks? If you represent a long-established religious / spiritual tradition, and would like to share your wisdom with the forum as a whole, please get in touch with Katie. If you would like to offer activities or online events that provide a spiritual grounding for inner adaptation, please consider joining the PDA Facilitators’ group, and reach out to katie@lifeworth.com.

Need a Speaker? (from Zori Tomova):

In the last few months, DA has continued to respond to invitations for sharing its message in multiple communities, organisations and online media. This is possible thanks to our volunteer group of DA advocates who have had speeches, workshops and other appearances in Uppsala University, Royal College of Psychiatry, Quakers and others. During the pandemic, they have also been sharing more online (The Poetry of Predicament podcast, Living Deep Adaptation program, What Could Possibly Go Right? interview series, and an article in The Ecologist). If you are interested in finding a spokesperson for a workshop, event or other project, you can find out more about the initiative and request a DA advocate here.

Selected Upcoming Events on the DA Forum

Songs of One Breath with Jilani Cordelia Prescott – online every Friday 14:30 UK time

Sep 18, 2020 from 2:30pm to 3:00pm UTC+01. Location: online

Every Friday, explore the pure, joyful, direct experience of mysticism rooted in practice, song, body prayer and mantra. These are the practices which have brought comfort, grounding and even bliss over the millennia to humans just like us.

Education Group Meeting

Sep 24, 2020 from 8:00am to 9:30am PDT. Location: Zoom

The purpose of the meeting is to: (1) continue to get to know each other, (2) share our individual visions about what we might accomplish together as a group, and (3) continue to evolve our collective vision for the group.

PN Volunteers – New & Aspiring Volunteers Call

Sep 29, 2020 from 4:30pm to 6:00pm UTC+01. Location: Zoom

This online gathering is a space to welcome everyone who would like to try volunteering on the forum – or who has just started to do so! We will focus on introducing the Deep Adaptation Forum and the Professions’ Network, and exploring ways of contributing.

Precious Metals in Times of Collapse

Sep 15, 2020 from 11:00am to 1:00pm EDT. Location: Zoom online

Viviana Jiménez (for Business & Finance) and Terry Rankin (for Philosophy) will cohost the event. Please contact them for more information or details, for questions, concerns, etc. 

Q&A with Rupert Read, Spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, hosted by Jem Bendell

Oct 10, 2020 from 10:00am to 11:00am UTC+01 Location: Zoom

Rupert is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. He is author of eight books on a range of subjects and specialises in Wittgenstein, philosophy of film, and ecological philosophy.

Monetary Adaptation to Climate Change – Q&A with Jem Bendell & Matthew Slater

Nov 11, 2020 from 3:00pm to 4:00pm UTC0 Location: Online

A discussion to follow up the launch of a paper on monetary adaptation to climate change, involving transformations of banking and currencies.

Online Leadership course with Prof Jem Bendell

Nov 23, 2020 to Nov 26, 2020 from 11.00am to 5:00pm UTC. Location: Online

An online Deep Adaptation leadership course from the University of Cumbria, hosted by Jem Bendell, with 30% discounts for DA volunteers. Only offered online once a year.

Q&A with Jilani Cordelia Prescott, Sufi Elder, hosted by Jem Bendell

Nov 25, 2020 from 8:30pm to 9:30pm UTC0 Location: Zoom

Jilani is a classically trained musician, a Certified Leader and Mentor of the Dances of Universal Peace International, and a teacher in the Sufi Ruhaniat International (a Universal Western Sufi Order). She hosts Songs of One Breath for the DA Forum.

Q&A with Sean Kelly, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness, hosted by Jem Bendell

Dec 13, 2020 from 6:00pm to 7:00pm UTC0 Location: Zoom

Sean Kelly, Ph.D., is professor of Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).  He is the author of Coming Home: The Birth and Transformation of the Planetary Era. He is member of the Holding Group of the Deep Adaptation Forum.

Recommended Audio Visual content

Michael Shaw’s free hour-long documentary Living in the Time of Dying explores the emotional aspects of facing up to our predicament, and suggests we look to wisdom from a range of non-western sources, including indigenous elders. People are discussing it in the Deep Adaptation Facebook Group here.

Post-Doom Conversations with Michael Dowd “A foreboding sense of climate chaos, societal breakdown, and economic and ecological “doom” is now widespread. Acknowledging our predicament and working through the stages of grief takes one only to the midpoint: acceptance. What lies beyond? Reverend Dowd (with occasional co-hosts) invites guests to share their personal journeys along this trajectory and especially the gifts they have found on the other side of the post-doom doorway.” In recent months, two members of the DAF Core Team have been featured on this channel (Matthew SlaterJem Bendell).

Twenty three audio recordings of Professor Bendell’s writings on Deep Adaptation are available from Reverend Dowd on soundcloud here. These include:
Our Power Comes From Acting Without Escape From Our Pain (with Gail Bradbrook)
To Criticise Deep Adaptation, Start Here (long essay on openDemocracy)

If you could volunteer to curate a compilation of relevant resources every 3 months, please contact us via this form.

Further Reading

Do you speak French? LLL has just published a compilation of Professor Bendell’s writings on Deep Adaptation, translated into French. L’Adaptation Radicale can be ordered here.  

Some of the key articles from Jem Bendell over the last few months include:

The DA Groups Network

Eighteen groups have affiliated with the Deep Adaptation Forum to promote more local or theme-based engagement on this agenda. If you would like to be more active in your local area, then consider joining or starting a group here.

The newest group to affiliate is the Positive Deep Adaptation Womxn’s Group. It has been created as a place to gather together as womxn to share information on our outer and inner deep adaptation to unfolding societal breakdown due to climate change. We share information in two areas: First: on emotional, psychological and spiritual implications. Second: on our knowledge of practical means to support wellbeing ahead of (and during) social breakdowns. Those practical means may be at household, community, national, or international scales. Collective action in a spirit of compassion is particularly welcomed, rather than defensive prepping for conflict. Find out more here.

Can you support the DAF?

The Deep Adaptation Forum exists to embody and enable loving responses to our predicament of facing or experiencing societal collapse, influenced by climate chaos. All DAF platforms exist without paywall and we intend to keep it that way for all our online services for the general public. Please help us maintain that as well as coordinate a growing range of volunteers and projects, by donating something here. How we spend the money is detailed here. Our crowdfund video, explaining our approach and inviting support is still online here. Our Safety and Wellbeing policy is also available here.

Letters to critics of Deep Adaptation inviting collaboration for humanity

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

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

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

What Activism Next? Ideas for Climate Campaigners

Thank goodness for the honesty of children and youth. In the Madrid summit on climate, Greta Thunberg said, that from an emissions perspective “we have achieved nothing”. All of us who have been trying to promote change on climate change, are finding that, if we are honest, at a cumulative level, our efforts amount to little. Therefore, increasingly frustrated and anxious activists are discussing what approaches might work better in achieving significant reductions in atmospheric carbon. As I have a background in analysing and advising on social change, as a scholar, activist and consultant, and been involved in recent climate activism, I wish to offer some thoughts on those discussions about “what activism next”?
Continue reading “What Activism Next? Ideas for Climate Campaigners”

Avoiding Davos Disease as Climate Activists

cheese canapes

In announcing the theme for Davos 2020, the Executive Chairman at the World Economic Forum (WEF) explained that: “People are revolting against the economic ‘elites’ they believe have betrayed them…”

In case you didn’t realise, Professor Klaus Schwab, was not welcoming the news. He was not celebrating the uprising of people calling for a different economic system in the face of a climate and ecological crisis driven by the industrial consumer society. Instead, he was warning the delegates to Davos of the threat to the system that sustains their privilege. Continue reading “Avoiding Davos Disease as Climate Activists”

Adapting deeply to likely collapse: an enhanced agenda for climate activists?

Extinction Rebellion & Deep Adaptation

Last year an Extinction Rebellion handbook called “This is Not a Drill” was published by Penguin, featuring a chapter I wrote on Deep Adaptation, called “Doom and Bloom”. It has some important chapters, and you can order it here. My chapter was edited for length, and so here is the original submitted version. I release it on my blog to encourage discussions about climate activist movements, such as XR, FridaysForFuture and Sunrise, making adaptation to unfolding climate chaos a complementary focus to net carbon neutrality. Even top government advisors recognise that scale of government action on humanitarian relief, food security, disaster risk reduction, psychological support, and economic transformation, is insufficient to help us all adapt to the unfolding damage from extreme weather and its knock-on effects on our economic systems. Continue reading “Adapting deeply to likely collapse: an enhanced agenda for climate activists?”

Documentary about Children facing Climate Collapse – Oskar’s Quest

Oscar
“The global wave of school strikes for the climate over the past year has ‘achieved nothing’ because greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise, Greta Thunberg has told activists at UN climate talks in Madrid… she said that although schoolchildren had been striking around the world, this “has not translated into action” from governments… [Greta continued..] ‘We can’t go on like this; it is not sustainable that children skip school and we don’t want to continue – we would love some action from the people in power.'” The Guardian, Dec 6th 2019.

As emissions rise, impacts worsen, governments dither, and the science darkens the horizon for humanity, what is next for the FridaysForFuture movement of school strikers? What is next for young people in general? For anyone concerned about the climate emergency, this seems like one of the most important questions. Continue reading “Documentary about Children facing Climate Collapse – Oskar’s Quest”

The economics of extinction: a reason for rebellion

Jeffrey Newman sitting in the middle of a London street

Prof Jem Bendell and Rabbi Jeffrey Newman

This article originally appeared on Extinction Rebellion’s blog on March 20th 2019 and republished here for ease of access.

What would a sane society do, knowing that one of its luxury food supplies was being exhausted? Consume less perhaps? Or grow more? Japan, knowing that the Bluefin tuna is going extinct, does neither. Bluefish tuna make the most profit for fishermen the nearer they are to extinction, as their rarity endows all the more status on their consumers.

Some might think that is a quirky Japanese behaviour or an anomaly of economics, but actually the free-market system in which individuals compete for profit is resplendent with such stupidities. Continue reading “The economics of extinction: a reason for rebellion”

Forgiving the destructive tendency in everyone as climate chaos grows

Face half in shadow

One of the questions I suggested we use for exploring our responses to the predicament of disastrous climate change was:

“With what and whom can we make peace with to lessen suffering?”

I called this the fourth R of reconciliation within the Deep Adaptation framework.

Part of this “making peace” and reconciling is forgiveness.

The human race has destroyed so much life on Earth and will continue to do so. Some cultures and countries have collectively been far more destructive than others and will continue to be for some time. Some companies are more destructive than others, as are some individuals. And they may continue to be so for some time.

Anger at this situation is understandable. More than that, such anger is a sign we are awake to the situation and that we care.

But then what do we do with that anger? Continue reading “Forgiving the destructive tendency in everyone as climate chaos grows”

Inviting Scientists to Challenge or Improve Deep Adaptation

tourist binoculars against a blue sky

The ‘deep adaptation’ framing of our situation is not an easy one to take onboard. In a nutshell: because widespread and near term societal collapse is likely, inevitable or unfolding, we should begin to prepare emotionally and practically. I experienced emotional pain in allowing this possibility into my awareness, and then sharing it with my profession (the sustainability business and leadership fields) – and now with others.

Some climate scientists say my view that we seem set for uncontrollable levels of climate change is unscientific. Other climate scientists say that we may have already reached dangerous tipping points and some think we have breached some of those tipping points already. That would mean uncontrollable levels of change. Some scientists say it is unscientific to talk about near term societal collapse, and other top scientists have just started agreeing that we must have that conversation right now. Continue reading “Inviting Scientists to Challenge or Improve Deep Adaptation”