Professor Jem Bendell

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

Posts Tagged ‘deep adaptation’

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

Posted by jembendell on April 15, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do we do? Go home?

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

elders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will not accept this mass extinction quietly.

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

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

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

 

 

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 11 Comments »

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

Posted by jembendell on April 4, 2019

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

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

brown ship steering wheel

Photo by Maël BALLAND on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Notes on Hunger and Collapse

Posted by jembendell on March 28, 2019

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

European Commission (2018c) “Short-term outlook for EU agricultural markets in 2018 and 2019”. Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development — Short-term outlook No 22. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/info/files/report-eu-agricultural-markets-short-term-outlook-autumn-2018_en

 

EDO, The Copernicus European Drought Observatory (2018) Drought in Central-Northern Europe – July 2018, JRC European Drought Observatory (EDO) and ERCC Analytical Team. Available at: http://edo.jrc.ec.europa.eu/

FAO (2016a) 2015–2016 El Niño – Early action and response for agriculture, food security and nutrition – UPDATE #10. August 2016. FAO, Rome. Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i5855e.pdf

FAO (2016b) Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, The State of Food and Agriculture. FAO, Rome. Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6030e.pdf

FAO (2018a) Building Climate Resilience For Food Security And Nutrition, The State Of Food Security And Nutrition In The World. FAO, Rome. Available at: http://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition/en/

FAO (2018b) Food Outlook: Biannual Report on Global Food Markets, July 2018. FAO, Rome. Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/ca0239en/CA0239EN.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 24 Comments »

“Grieve Play Love” short film on climate despair

Posted by jembendell on March 24, 2019

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

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

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

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

 

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

Voiceover:

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

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

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

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

And to grieve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what of our future?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alan Watts:

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

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

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

Before loss there was love.

After loss, love.

Before grief there was love.

After grief, love.

Our essence is never in danger.

When all else falls away,

Our essence can shine.

So, what does love invite of us now?

 

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

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

The Love in Deep Adaptation – A Philosophy for the Forum

Posted by jembendell on March 17, 2019

By Jem Bendell and Katie Carr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 16 Comments »

Organise Deep Adaptation Dialogues

Posted by jembendell on March 17, 2019

As acceptance of likely or unfolding collapse is spreading, we hear of people wanting to gather and discuss what it means for their own lives, communities and work. That hope is not to hear simple answers to our difficult situation, but to share a range of information, emotions, ideas and options.

With a little help from our friends, the Deep Adaptation Forum is able to financially support “Deep Adaptation Dialogues” that bring together people within a community or shared professional interest.

If you would like to organise such a gathering, with some financial support and live video presentation by Professor Jem Bendell or a colleague from the Forum, then please read on…

four people smiling grayscale photo

Photo by rawpixel.com

To enable an emergent and generative dialogue, we want to support gatherings that use the principles of Open Space Technology and are guided by an experienced facilitator. That means participants will gather in a physical location around a collapse-related theme of their choosing, and let a detailed agenda emerge from their group on the day. Prof. Bendell, or another expert from the field of Deep Adaptation, can be invited to open the gathering with a short Q&A video session, before the Open Space conversations begin. At the end of the day, if requested, Prof. Bendell or another expert will reconnect with all participants by video, to listen to summaries of what was discussed and offer some feedback.

To qualify for financial support:

  • propose the event to occur between June 1st and December 31st 2019, for a minimum of half a day.
  • each event must be facilitated by a host with confirmed experience in Open Space Technology;
  • organisers must be members of the Deep Adaptation Forum;
  • the conversation should be community- or profession-focused and be either free or with minimal fee (any fee must be specified in the application);
  • the event should take place in a cheap or free venue (equipped with a good internet connection, a computer projector and speakers, and a webcam pointing at the group participants);
  • event hosts should, when possible, submit to the Deep Adaptation Forum a harvesting of topics at the end of their event. This can take the shape of a video, write-up, or podcast.

To recap, what the Deep Adaptation Forum can offer:

  • Video participation in your event by Prof. Bendell or another expert;
  • 300 euros per event for expenses, paid after the event;
  • Help in spreading the results of your dialogue to the Deep Adaptation Forum and wider network.

To apply, please see here after applying to join the Forum at www.deepadaptation.info

Application deadline is April 25th 2019 and applicants will be informed of decisions by May 5th 2019.

Meetings can be organised in English, French, or Chinese. Applications can be submitted in any of those languages.

Please note that currently only 5 events can be funded in 2019. If you are able to make charitable donations of over 2000 euros (or equivalent) and would like to discuss supporting us scaling up these Deep Adaptation Dialogues, please contact the Forum here. We are not in a position to handle smaller donations at this time.

To be kept in touch with online gatherings on this agenda, please join the Forum at www.deepadaptation.info

 

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

The Deep Adaptation Forum launches

Posted by jembendell on March 6, 2019

People who are alive to the likelihood of society collapsing in our lifetimes will not be alone for long. But for now, we are few and far between. Despite 200,000 people downloading my Deep Adaptation paper, in most professional circles this topic remains taboo, and certainly not a priority within strategies, budgets or meetings. This situation means people find it challenging to work on the professional implications of their concerns. Yet the longer we delay our exploration of what to do and how, the more likely it will be that organisations and societies respond poorly in future.
photo_2019-03-05_16-39-45
There are many professional fields that are relevant to our predicament, including mainstream climate adaptation, disaster risk reduction, mental health, permaculture and so on. Because a society that breaks down will affect all walks of life – and so all of us can do something to help each other prepare, whether from within our current role or a new one.

To extend the glide of our societies and soften the crash, the goal must be for every professional association, think tank, trade union, and research institute, to develop their own work on collapse-readiness. Before that happens, we can connect around the world and support each other to play a role in our professions and locations when the time arrives.

It is for these reasons that today we launch the Deep Adaptation Forum. It is the next step for those of us who accept likely collapse to work together now and thereby mark the way for our colleagues to follow in time. Through this free forum you can join regular webinars, seek advice and co-create shared resources for your field of expertise.

We concentrate mainly on:
* hosting regular video meetings among our members;
* managing jointly edited documents on relevant resources, initiatives, and knowledge needs;
* enabling in-person dialogues within local communities and professional sectors;
* and maintaining an event calendar.
The Forum is not a space for:
* debating climate science or chronicling the latest bad weather;
* disputing whether societal collapse is likely to occur;
* or arguing that near-term human extinction is now inevitable.

Such discussions occur in many other places, and instead, this Forum is solely dedicated to serving those who wish to explore collapse-readiness in all its potential forms, from the practical, to political, emotional and spiritual.

We invite a diversity of opinion, including a diversity of political approaches, so long as these do not advocate forms of fascism or violent conflict. We also invite participants, if they wish, to employ the Deep Adaptation framework. That means exploring what the concepts of resilience, relinquishment, restoration and reconciliation could mean for our profession or interest. Therefore, it will be useful if you read the Deep Adaptation paper and blog on Reconciliation before participating in the Forum.

There is no need to wait for your fellow professionals to wake up to our predicament.

There is no need to spend much time justifying yourself.

There is no need to rage against ignorance.

Instead, we can start to live our truth together now.

I look forward to connecting in the Forum.

Professor Jem Bendell, Founder of the Deep Adaptation Forum.

Note that the Forum is the place for professional collaboration. If you simply want to see the latest posts from professionals in this field, join our LinkedIn Group. If you have a general interest but don’t work on it, then join our Positive Deep Adaptation group on Facebook.

Posted in deep adaptation, Uncategorized | Tagged: | 10 Comments »

Hope and Vision in the Face of Collapse – The 4th R of Deep Adaptation

Posted by jembendell on January 9, 2019

“People need hope, Jem.”
“It’s really important to have a vision of a better future, Jem”

As someone who worked in environmental campaigning and then organizational change, I learned about the role of hope and vision in helping to align and motivate people. As someone who worked at the heart of political communications during the 2017 UK General Election campaign, I’m also aware of the power of a positive narrative when told well, consistently and authentically. In my professional world of leadership and its development, hope and vision are recognized as key. I still teach such skills to senior executives in business, politics and civil society and am proud of the way they feel empowered in their purpose as a result.

But, but, but…

Since my return to analysing climate science last year led me to conclude we face inevitable near-term societal collapse, where might we find any hope or vision?

The question used to be a quiet one, raised in private conversations. But since the unexpected impact of my paper on Deep Adaptation and the attention generated by the peaceful Extinction Rebellion protest movement, I am hearing it a lot. When faced with evidence of forthcoming collapse, people not only wonder about their personal need for hope and vision, but also what should be said to others – whether fellow professionals, kids, parents or the general public. You may have read or heard people saying we must not give up hope or destroy another’s hope: that to lose hope would undermine action that might prevent catastrophic climate change. Or you may have heard people say that we need to be able to believe in a positive vision of how life could be, whether that is averting, living through or beyond a breakdown in our society due to climate chaos.

Right now, people are seeking to frame the future and the meaning of our activism on climate. So although I am still working things out for myself, perhaps unendingly, I want to share my current and provisional thoughts on the topic of hope and vision. In so doing, I will offer a new “R” to my framing of Deep Adaptation – reconciliation – and invite feedback on this and related ideas (in the comments below).

The subject of my following reflections is one that has been explored for millennia and across cultures. In comparison to that, my level of intellectual inquiry, experiential reflection and lived practice is a bit like a skin cell on the floor of a crowded temple. I feel some embarrassment writing about these things. But our current predicament means that none of us should postpone finding our provisional answers to existential questions, and we might help each other with that by sharing things in writing. So here goes…

When exploring this matter, I recommend you do not follow people who say that people like me look at the world in an overly pessimistic or defeatist way. The suffering of this world today and to come, and in ourselves, is something to be witnessed, but, with intention, I am beginning to sense that we can feel and realize peace and happiness through it all. That will not happen through a desperate belief in stories of personal or collective salvation in this world or the next. Instead, we can turn away from frantic chatter or action, relax into our hearts, notice the impermanence of life, and let love for this momentary experience of life in all its flavours flood our being and shape our next steps. Expressing that aspiration in our words, actions and inactions may invite people who are fear-driven to put down their microphones for a time and join people living from love. It is with that sentiment I share the following ideas.

ON HOPE

If we say to a terminally ill person that they should not give up hope then that could become cruel. If by that we mean hope that they could survive, or that they could live while forgetting their situation, then it reflects unresolved and pathological fear of death. It suggests the person spend their last days in struggle and denial, rather than discovering what might matter after acceptance.

I’m not saying the human race has a terminal diagnosis in the near term. But we do in the long-term. Many hominids have gone extinct and so will homo sapiens one day. When that will be is another question – a difficult one, and I am not currently convinced of the arguments for near term human extinction. But I have concluded that our way of life has a terminal diagnosis. Because rain-fed agriculture will continue to breakdown over the next decade. Unless we immediately build massive irrigated greenhouses, and plan for compulsory plant-heavy diets and food rationing, we will see malnutrition in the West and resultant civil unrest, lawlessness and a breakdown in normal life.

One problem with hoping things will be OK is that it means we give up our agency. We assume someone will fix things. That is what some call “passive hope.” Meanwhile, any unrealistic hope steals possibility, by wasting the precious time we have to attempt to reduce harm and save humanity. So the problem with proponents of the hope that “we can fix this” is that it makes taboo the needed conversations about what to do given that we can’t fix things. That is what we could call “magical hope”, as it often comes with an overt or implicit suggestion that we can make the reality evolve according to moments where we are choosing to hope (as an aside: if we are co-creating our reality through our consciousness then it is through every moment of attention, not just those moments when we choose to pull ourselves together and do some magical hoping). In distinction to passive hope some have called for an “active hope” where we drop mainstream or received ideas of hope and instead face what we think is reality and construct a new hope based on what we believe in. That is a powerful rethinking of what hope means, as it makes us realise that hope involves actions to make it real. But I don’t think it is a sufficient reworking of the concept of hope. Because it can downplay whether we really think our actions will add up to the outcome we are actively hoping for. Instead, the emphasis is on intention, without being precise about the nature of intention, such as love, compassion, forgiveness, and so on. Therefore, people who speak of “active hope” may actually be practising magical hope, and avoiding either deeper inquiry into the intentions they value or into the implications of the futility of their actions.

In my work I have begun to invite people to explore what a radical hope may look like. In my Deep Adaptation paper, I explain how this was inspired in part by how some Native Americans responded to a realisation of the inevitability of the destruction of their way of life. Some elders decided that they had to let go of all their existing hopes and construct a new one that was possible. In comparison to their past way of life, this form of hope would seem more like a horror, but in comparison to complete annihilation, it was chosen by some tribes. Radical hope is a form of hope that’s consciously chosen after denial. It is a form of hope that is empowered surrender to a situation. It accepts difficult realities about what is happening as well as one’s capabilities to influence things, but still connects with deeper values and requires action to make it real.

To explore what a radical hope might be for humanity facing global breakdown, I realised it is useful to set aside discussing hope for a time and consider what I really believe in.

ON BELIEF

So we need to turn to the matter of belief. Yikes. Now I am really out of my depth. But please join me while I sink…

Some spiritual perspectives on the ‘oneness’ of oneself with the universe suggest that we have power to create our reality. That view has been misunderstood and deliberately marketed to people seeking ways to improve their lives. A more accurate insight from both wisdom traditions, contemporary physics, and current experience, is that we are co-creating our reality with others, the material and ineffable dimensions in ways that we can never fully comprehend through human thought and language. We each participate in shaping our experience of the world, but not autonomously of others or the world. Now, even with this perspective, it means that the current calamity facing humanity is one of our own mutual volition. Crikey. Why have we done this to ourselves?

Partly because what is happening, as painful as it is, is normal. Yes, the cosmic nature of things is that everything must go. Sure, we don’t like death. It hurts. But death has always been the partner of life, not its enemy. Impermanence makes everything and everyone around us totally sacred and significant. It invites our heartfelt gratitude for all that we experience. Certainly, sensing a nearer end to my own life has meant the rebirth of my ability to love being alive. The tragedy of climate chaos is also an invitation to drop our illusions of permanence. Abundant life, coming and going, shows just what the cosmos can do. While some religious buildings might be nice, it’s our whole planet that is an altar for the adoration of the creative cosmos. We can worship it in all that we do, and all that we do not do.

Climate chaos can invite us to consider the life force of consciousness that came before material organic life. And to consider the way in which aspects of our conscious being will continue after our death. Also, the way our lives may affect a universal field of consciousness and thus the future of life in whatever forms. Indeed, perhaps consciousness has chosen to experience itself in our minds and bodies at this moment and time. How else would we come to exist?

Climate chaos invites us to bring all of that into our present awareness. It may be a shock. But it can wake us up to that impermanence so that things fall away to leave us with love, curiosity, play, compassion, and creativity. Upon reflection, I wondered whether in our ‘heart of hearts’ we really do want this civilisation to continue more than anything; or even the human race to continue more than anything. I wondered if we want something else more than that. I wondered if we desire that our hearts bulge with love and we merge our consciousness with the all. And that we hope all other people might have the chance for the same experience. I wondered if in our hearts we want the planet to continue as a living organism more than we want our species to do so. I present these as musings, as I’m not going to pretend I am certain about these views. I recommend reflecting on these questions and finding your own sense of things.

I particularly like how an Extinction Rebellion leader Skeena Rathor, expressed it in her speech on Westminster Bridge in London on Rebellion Day (November 17th 2018).

“If we are honest with ourselves and look into our heart’s deep interior, if we are honest from there then this isn’t about saving humanity this is about our courage to love as we have never loved before… Let us live now at the edge of our courage to love.”

But don’t take my word for it, or Skeena’s. Rather, once you have explored what you really believe in, then stared back into the abyss of an imminent societal collapse, so you may be find a radical hope of your own.

A RADICAL HOPE OF RECONCILIATION

If you, like me, hope that through growing realisation of a coming collapse, more people will awaken to a deeper understanding of themselves and life, and live with love and compassion, then that is not an idle hope. Because it is not prediction. People respond in myriad ways when the shit hits the fan. There will be some horrible reactions. Indeed, there already are. Therefore, a radical hope of humanity awakening is one where we are actively engaged in it.

In my case, that feels like why I am putting out this blog, with my half-baked ideas on the cosmos, God and all that. Because my radical hope is that many more of us will begin to explore together publicly what “spirituality” and love are and can mean today.

To make this more explicit in the Deep Adaptation framework, I now propose a 4th R to the existing ones on Resilience, Relinquishment and Restoration. The original Deep Adaptation paper has been downloaded over 100,000 times. Like Skeena, people have told me it changed their life. What I have noticed is, however, that some people who report being woken up by that paper are now calling for anything to be done to stop collapse. That is, to attempt whatever draconian measures might cut emissions and drawdown carbon. I still think bold cuts and drawdown measures are essential. But that is not the focus of Deep Adaptation, which invites us to prepare for what is now inevitable. Therefore, to make that even more explicit, I propose a fourth question to guide our reflection on how to navigate our climate tragedy:

“What could I make peace with to lessen suffering?”

This question incorporates the idea of Reconciliation with one’s death, including any difficulties and regrets in one’s life, any anger towards existence itself (or God). It also invites reconciliation between peoples, genders, classes, generations, countries, religions and political persuasions. Because it is time to make our peace. Otherwise, without this inner deep adaptation to climate collapse we risk tearing each other apart and dying hellishly. My radical hope is that more of us work together to achieve this reconciliation, in all its forms, as a basis for the fuller deep adaptation agenda that I explain in my paper.

VISIONS WANTED

Unless you are a spiritual leader, then a hope for mass awakening and reconciliation does not sound very specific. It may not immediately seem to support straightforward campaign strategies or policy development! If we are to offer a vision where our radical hope of awakening is realised, then what would that look like? From my work as a Professor of Leadership, I know a vision is meant to be tangible, relatable, credible, and relevant to the problems faced. I would really like to see your own ideas on visions in the comments below (but I wont grade them 😉)

To whet your own imaginations, here is one idea…

I envision seeing whole neighbourhoods and camps of people spontaneously singing and dancing together of their pure joy of experiencing all sensations of life, both during and between working together on useful tasks. Not because they are singing from habit, custom, obligation, or recreation, but because they are so connected to the wonder of experiencing life while serving life. I envision people feeling grateful they suddenly found there is time in their lives to sing, dance and connect with nature and each other. I envision this connection also supporting ways of production, sharing, consumption, and caring, that mean people are able to live happily with fewer resources and less certainty.

If that sounds hippy, then so be it. For me it is a highly aspirational, credible and relatable vision, one I can truly hope for and work towards. But please share your own visions below!

GETTING THERE

In the coming months and years there will be many views emerging on how to achieve change, for both cutting and drawing down emissions, as well as adapting to disruptive impacts of climate change. Some will argue for eco-socialist revolution to take over the key infrastructure, so we have the chance of everyone being fed, watered, housed and cared for as best as possible. Others will seek to harness the powers of the existing system, and turn to transnational corporations, financial institutions and international organisations. Others will continue to hope that elected representatives will be able to suddenly find within themselves the heart and boldness to act and the talent to explain sufficiently to their electorates to remain in power. Others will turn to their neighbours, local associations and local governments, to organise as best they can locally and regionally. I do not yet have a hope or vision in relation to any of those ideas, but welcome people exploring these and other ideas.

IMPOSSIBLE CONCLUSIONS

With this blog I intend to open up conversation on hope and vision rather than close it down. However, as it is a long blog, here is a summary…

We can no longer stop disruptive climate change. We might be able to slow it. We can try to reduce the harm coming from it. We can explore how to live and die lovingly because of it. But all of that we can do because we have a faith or sense that this is the right way to be alive, not because it will work. Most calls for hope that I’m hearing are from, or for, those fearful of living with death in their awareness. That’s typical, but also a recipe for discussion and action that is counter-productive to life, love and understanding. Which is exactly the opposite of the effect of those who say “don’t take away our hope”. It is time to drop all hopes and visions that arise from an inability to accept impermanence and non-control, and instead describe a radical hope of how we respond in these times. I believe it’s possible and necessary, though mutual inquiry and support, for our fears, beliefs or certainties of collapse to be brought to a place of peaceful inner and outer resourcefulness. Ours is a time for reconciliation with mortality, nature and each other.

We can develop and share a vision of more of us experiencing the invitation to live lovingly, creatively, and truthfully, in acceptance of mortality and impermanence. After all, any other hope or vision were always a tactical delusion for temporary benefit. Ultimately, many more of us may come to see that we love love more than we love life. Hopefully before too much unnecessary suffering and destruction.

You can hear me in conversation about these topics here.

Discussing with Skeena and Gail of XR

 

 

Posted in deep adaptation | Tagged: | 83 Comments »

Deep Adaptation Retreat

Posted by jembendell on October 24, 2017

EXPLORING LIFE AFTER SUSTAINABILITY, 8th-15th June 2018

The emerging realisation that climate change is becoming a destructive tragedy, not just an urgent challenge, is bringing a sense of profound disorientation for many people.  How are we to feel?  What are we to do? What might become the purpose of our lives and work if we consider disruptive climate change as now inevitable?

aléxandros 0

A view from the retreat

You are warmly invited to join us for a week of dialogue and reflection, with the aim of gaining a clearer sense of how meaning can re-emerge in full acceptance of the climate tragedy. We will explore dimensions of an emerging “deep adaptation” agenda, drawing on the lived experiences and various stories of each participant, and a range of wisdom traditions.

This retreat is for you if you:

  • work on sustainability in some form and are questioning your motivation and future,
  • want to explore implications of climate disruption in depth with supportive peers,
  • sense that a week in community and nature could support your transition.

The disorientation felt due to an awareness of our climate tragedy can lead to withdrawal and loneliness. Therefore, our intention for this retreat is to bring fellow travellers together to develop a new sense of purpose and community. Within a safely held and gently facilitated space, we hope to enable and discover insight on finding meaning, priorities and joy amidst tragedy. We anticipate you might feel inspired and supported to host future gatherings of peers on the deep adaptation agenda.

The retreat is hosted within an intentional community which lives lightly and beautifully on the verdant green and blue shores of the Aegean. The food is mostly locally sourced, all homecooked and vegetarian. A stunningly wild beach is a 20-minute walk away, while old villages are nearby through forests.

alexandros 2

The coastline near the retreat is the Mediterranean at its best

You are invited to bring a reading, practice or insight to share that is helping you to explore meaning after sustainability. You will be given pre-reading from the www.Dark-Mountain.net collection within your ‘preparation pack’ for the retreat. Its founder Dougald Hine will lead one session by video link.

The retreat centre Alexandros, part of the Kalikalos community, is less than 2 hours from the Greek city of Volos. The nearest village with a bus stop is Ag Ioannis. Buses to Volos leave from Athens and Thessaloniki, where flights arrive. Flights are also available into Volos with seasonal airlines like Small Planet and Thomas Cook. More information here. Prices and booking here.

SCHEDULE

Friday, the 1st day, is our arrival with check-in, registration and the welcome meal in the evening. Dialogue and reflection will begin after dinner with an opening circle. The 2nd day includes a welcome circle with our hosts, the volunteers of Kalikalos. From the 3rd day onward our rhythm will flow as follows:

  • 8:00am – 9:00am Breakfast
  • 9:00am – 9:15am Opening Circle
  • 9:15am – 10:15am Opening talk (30 mins) and discussion.
  • 10:15am – 11:00am Two or more participants share a resource (text, art, other) with discussion.
  • 11:00am – 11:30am Drinks break
  • 11:30am –  12:30pm Group Activity (typically in pairs, threes or fours)
  • 12:30pm – 1:00pm Closing Circle
  • 1:30pm Lunch
  • 2:30pm – 6:00pm Free time for reflection (beach, forest, villages).
  • 6:30pm Karma Yoga (supporting the community)
  • 8:00pm Dinner
  • 9:15pm – 10:30pm Optional evening activities (some activities such as Ecstatic Dance are organised at nearby centres).

On one of the days the morning session will involve a walk. The flow of the daily sessions above is indicative; actual activities will be woven organically from the programme above in response to the emergent needs and wishes of the group.

Prices: include the workshops plus full accommodation with 3 daily vegetarian meals (except for one evening out in a Taverna). One week in a tent € 470, triple room € 520, twin room € 620, single room € 770. All rooms are en suite with views and/or balcony.

Registration opens from November 2017. For more information, please contact me, Jem Bendell: drjbendell @ gmail dot com

alexandros 1

BIOGRAPHY OF YOUR HOST

Jem Bendell began offering transformational professional development courses after 20 years pursuing a variety of methods for social change. From anti-globalisation activism and sustainability consulting in the late 1990s, via senior management in large environmental organisations and research roles with the United Nations, to grassroots economics and social venture capital today. One theme throughout has been sense-making and communication, with Professor Bendell responsible for over 100 publications and a range of Masters courses worldwide. In the past few years Jem has focused his research, advice and teaching on sustainable leadership and communication, working with senior officials in business, politics and civil society. His approach to teaching is participative, experiential and focused on the whole person. A graduate of the University of Cambridge, Jem is the founder of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS).

In 2014, Jem began to sense he had been emotionally dependent since the age of 16 on a story of meaning, focus and self-worth through helping society transform in the face of climate change. This insight came from taking to heart the latest climate science and no longer resisting doubt, grief and despair. In 2016 he gave a speech to climate scientists that outlined a “deep adaptation” agenda to the climate tragedy.

j-wn2CSbMMczqXXYTG5TFemn3De1qB1wC1UgJVIKg34,5WewfNosQC6fP5dUNe-oD1hg7Icy5uBVH1QSITeVogE

Posted in climate, Talks | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »