100s of scholars worldwide engage on collapse risk and readiness

In December 2020 over 600 academics signed an international Scholars’ Warning on societal disruption and collapse. It led to the formation of an initiative to help more scholars to engage publicly about their views on collapse risk, readiness and response. This is a quick summary of what has happened and what is in the pipeline.

The second public Scholars’ Warning letter appeared in the Independent Newspaper at the close of COP26 and was written about in a number of articles. It also appeared in French newspapers. Over 200 scholars responded within the 24 hours to sign and help the sense-making of journalists and others as the summit closed. If you agree with the sentiment of this latest letter, please share this video of some of the signatories reading it.

By registering their support for a more radical agenda on our climate predicament, including the need to discuss collapse risk, readiness and response, now journalists can find these scholars and bring these ideas to wider attention. One example is an ‘Inside Climate News’ article that interviewed a number of signatories.

Continue reading “100s of scholars worldwide engage on collapse risk and readiness”

Essentials of Life and Death – part 6 of a #RealGreenRevolution

This is the 6th in a 7-part essay on the type of policy innovations that would respond to the truth of the environmental predicament and, also, why most environmental professionals ignore such ideas to promote limited and limiting ideas instead. These ideas on a #RealGreenRevolution provide a contrast to current agendas, with the aim of encouraging a global environmental movement as a rights-based political force.  In this part of the essay, I focus on some sensitive issues about life and death, which have become even more polarised due to pandemic policy responses.

To receive each part of the essay, subscribe to my blog, using the box on the right (or right at the bottom of this post). To engage with other people who are responding to these ideas, either visit the Deep Adaptation Leadership group on LinkedIn (where I will check in) or the Deep Adaptation group on Facebook, or by following the hashtag #RealGreenRevolution on twitter. A list of previous parts of this essay is available.

Agricultural Transformation

The impacts of current levels of climate change on agriculture are already scary. The modelling of what could happen when we pass 1.5 degrees global ambient warming is much scarier. Our civilisation is based on grains, which feed us humans about 80 percent of our calories, either directly or via animal feed. With 1.5 degrees warming the risk becomes high for prolonged droughts or unseasonal frosts harming the production in multiple major grain exporting regions around the world in the same year. Therefore, our agricultural and food systems need urgent diversification in ways that do not increase, but reduce carbon emissions.

Continue reading “Essentials of Life and Death – part 6 of a #RealGreenRevolution”

Are Intergovernmental Alliances for Saving Humanity Still Possible? Part 5 of a #RealGreenRevolution

This is the 5th in a 7-part essay on the type of policy innovations that would respond to the truth of the environmental predicament and, also, why most environmental professionals ignore such ideas to promote limited and limiting ideas instead. These ideas on a #RealGreenRevolution provide a contrast to current agendas, with the aim of encouraging a global environmental movement as a rights-based political force.  In this part of the essay, I focus on financing initiatives, geoengineering (climate restoration and repair), reparations and ecocide, migrating ecosystems, nuclear power and the difficult reality of systemic work on climate adaptation – nothing much to argue about then 😉

To receive each part of the essay, subscribe to my blog, using the box on the right (or right at the bottom of this post). To engage with other people who are responding to these ideas, either engage on the Deep Adaptation Leadership group on LinkedIn (where I will check in) or the Deep Adaptation group on Facebook, or by following the hashtag #RealGreenRevolution on twitter. A list of previous parts of this essay is available.

Intergovernmental Climate Emergency funds

Over the past decades many pledges to fund climate action and other international causes, such as poverty reduction, have remained unfulfilled. Even though the pledged amounts fall short of what is required, and are peanuts compared to the bailouts for banks or spending on the military, nevertheless they are retracted when governments seek to cut expenditures on what they consider non-essential. The climate predicament is a shared global concern and therefore efforts on the whole #ClimatePlus agenda need a new global financing system. No longer must we rely on existing government budgets or the benevolence of richer nations and their future politicians. Therefore we need serious consideration of new forms of international seigniorage of monetary instruments.  

Continue reading “Are Intergovernmental Alliances for Saving Humanity Still Possible? Part 5 of a #RealGreenRevolution”

We Can’t Live on Borrowed Freedom Forever – part 4 of a #RealGreenRevolution

This is the 4th in a 7-part essay on the type of policy innovations that would respond to the truth of the environmental predicament and, also, why most environmental professionals ignore such ideas to promote limited and limiting ideas instead. These ideas on a #RealGreenRevolution provide a contrast to current agendas, with the aim of encouraging a global environmental movement as a rights-based political force.  In this part of the essay, I focus on the impossible yet essential matter of governance reform. It is something made even more difficult by the recent capture of public space to global tech platforms, which most politicians choose to ignore.

To receive each part of the essay, subscribe to my blog. To engage with other people who are responding to these ideas, either engage on the Deep Adaptation Leadership group on LinkedIn (where I will check in) or the Deep Adaptation group on Facebook, or by following the hashtag #RealGreenRevolution on twitter. A list of previous parts of this essay is available.

Governance Reform

The past decades have witnessed similar political trends across many countries, involving market deregulation, privatisation, foreign ownership and increased financialization. The way such trends have occurred worldwide is an indication of the lack of sovereignty of individual nations. Instead, global financial institutions provide the intellectual resources and talking points via professional institutes, media, universities and thinktanks, and exert a disciplinary force via the government bond and foreign exchange markets. In each country there is a particular packaging for this agenda, and a story told about how it is a result of the leadership of a particular politician or political faction. But the global trend reveals as a complete fraud the story in mainstream media that individual politicians are leaders rather than administrators of the interests of national and international capital, however knowingly or not, and the sales assistants for the ideas that advance those interests. Many politicians are actually trained in such sales techniques, including public relations professionals, actors, presenters and celebrities.

Continue reading “We Can’t Live on Borrowed Freedom Forever – part 4 of a #RealGreenRevolution”

Tax Carbon Not Income and Reform Markets – part 2 of a #RealGreenRevolution

This is the 2nd in a 7-part essay on the type of policy innovations that would respond to the truth of the environmental predicament and, also, why most environmental professionals ignore such ideas to promote limited and limiting ideas instead. These ideas on a #RealGreenRevolution provide a contrast to current agendas, with the aim of encouraging a global environmental movement as a rights-based political force.  In this essay I focus on that sexy topic of taxation, and how to transform it to provide the price signals and funds to radically alter behaviours in fair ways.

To receive each part of the essay, subscribe to my blog, using the box on the right. To engage with other people who are responding to these ideas, either engage on the Deep Adaptation Leadership group on LinkedIn (where I will check in) or the Deep Adaptation group on Facebook, or by following the hashtag #RealGreenRevolution on twitter. The introductory Part 1 provides context.

Global Carbon Energy Tax Treaty

In 1997 one of the key ideas being discussed for how to help the whole planet reduce its carbon emissions was a taxation on carbon emissions. Using taxes to influence behaviours through market systems was something most governments had experience of and could be trialled quite easily. However, under the then US Vice President Al Gore, the delegation from the United States stopped that initiative and instead advanced the idea of creating markets for carbon permits. The resultant Kyoto Protocol started that process whereby we have witnessed polluters being given permits which they could then sell. Many environmental experts regurgitated the arguments of corporate public relations, that a cap-and-trade system would be better for the climate by identifying specific limits. Such carbon pie in our overheating sky was gobbled up by financial elites. The cap-and-trade systems have done little to nothing on carbon emissions, which have continued to rise ever faster around the world. I mention this history, as it is an example of how the mundane everyday influence of people working for corporations and governments focused on corporate interests can produce results that are ‘omnicidal’. That word means the killing of all life, and I use it because 1997 was the last chance humanity had to create a framework that could have slowed climate change sufficiently to avoid a manmade catastrophe for life on Earth. I don’t blame you Al, but the fact you are quoted with respect and excitement by environmentalists today suggests how ill informed, uncritical, timid and sycophantic to power the green movement and sector has become.

Continue reading “Tax Carbon Not Income and Reform Markets – part 2 of a #RealGreenRevolution”

This is what a #RealGreenRevolution would include

This is the first in a 7-part essay on the type of policy innovations that would respond to the truth of the environmental predicament and, also, why most environmental professionals ignore such ideas to promote limited and limiting ideas instead. It provides a contrast to current agendas, with the aim of encouraging a global environmental movement as a rights-based political force. This introduction provides context and a #ClimatePlus framework, with the policy proposals coming in the subsequent parts.

Introduction

As humanity faces catastrophic climate change, we hear calls for ‘systemic change’, or ‘transformation’. However, the familiar policy ideas shared by politicians, business leaders, climatologists and campaigners fail to be systemic. That includes the new announcements coming from governments during COP26, on matters like forest conservation and financing coal. But it also includes many of the bolder ideas from environmental campaigners, as some uncomfortable examples will illustrate… No, banks divesting from fossil fuels is not systemic, because if it works enough to lower the share-price of international oil companies, then competitors, rich families, or sovereign wealth funds from around the world will take them over and keep the oil pumping to supply ongoing demand. That doesn’t mean that banks and pension funds are doing the right thing to invest in oil companies – they are not. But trying to change that is not a systemic aim because it won’t change humanity’s impacts at scale. Neither is calling for governments to stop focusing on GDP growth a systemic idea, if the monetary system that requires their economies to grow in order to achieve economic stability remains enthroned. Condemning the UN processes as failures as a way of calling for multi-stakeholder alliances on climate is not a transformative stance, when it ignores how corporate influence over decades destroyed the potential of those UN processes and will likewise distort the initiatives coming out of any new alliance.

So am I just being defeatist? No – otherwise I would not bother writing this 7-part essay on radical and transformative policy responses to our environmental predicament. There are many systemic policy innovations that could help humanity right now, but you won’t hear them from the professionals engaged in climate policy this month. That is because the professional classes, who are people with time to engage in the policy jamborees, have been schooled within the ideology of our time, which defers to existing power in a global capitalist system. I know because I am one of them. I lied to myself for decades as I tried to encourage significant reform through voluntary corporate sustainability initiatives. What’s worse, we professionals working on public challenges are surrounded by people with an unacknowledged narcissism, where the motivation to feel ethical, smart, and contemporary, trumps any depth of inquiry into what might be going on and might be possible. It is a strange but silver lining of the terrifying climate news that more of us are being forced out of such patterns through a dark night of the soul. It means we can consider again what might work, rather than what has been just easy stuff to tell ourselves – or our professional admirers, clients or donors.

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Reviving humanity and creativity in this time of dying

The Deep Adaptation Quarterly is out. it shows what a lot of stuff is happening under the radar of the mainstream media’s attention to social change. This is my editorial – you can also read the full newsletter and subscribe to the next.

Editorial – Reviving humanity and creativity in this time of dying

Anxiety about climate change and its impacts was discussed more widely in mainstream media in the last few months. For both children and adults, the main message coming from psychologists is that we can become more open about our feelings, rather than suppress them and pretend we are feeling fine. Although greater discussion of that in the mainstream is a step forward, it was unfortunate that a typical assumption of modern culture appeared in nearly all the reporting I read. That is the assumption that people positively engage in society because we believe we will make situations better. Instead, many people engage to make things less worse or because we believe in doing what’s good and true, whatever the situation or outcome. The dominant ideology of modern cultures, where material progress is assumed to be good and uncontestable underlies the limited ways motivation is discussed. However, just because material progress might be dying, does not mean we kill our humanity or creativity. This newsletter contains information which illustrates the wide range of creative solidarity that is emerging from people who anticipate societal disruption and collapse.

Many people want to live according to their unfolding truth, help others in bold ways, and be more creative and expressive precisely because they anticipate greater disruptions to their way of life. Creativity is one important response. An increasing amount of poetry and stories are being shared on the blog of the Deep Adaptation Forum. Music has been released that is inspired by a Deep Adaptation approach to life. I have also worked with the creative arts, to produce a multimedia art project that will raise funds for the children of Bali who have been badly affected by the pandemic. The project, called #BreakingTogether, incorporates one of my poems about climate anxiety, and includes the theme of impermanence – thus counter to the ideology of material progress.

For years the group Dark Mountain have encouraged cultural expression to help people explore what a new way of being human in a time of disruption and collapse might feel like. Moving ahead, it appears to me that artistic activity of all kinds will not only be important for personal wellbeing of the people involved, or the funds raised for charity, but also for more massive communication. Because we are entering a crucial period for sense-making about the environmental situation, as more and more people become aware of how bad the situation is becoming. That was the main theme of my recent essay reflecting on the past year since I left management of the Deep Adaptation Forum. The concern is that people could be susceptible to messages that suit the interests of corporations and incumbent power, and not get to hear about the diversity of ideas that are shared by people engaged in the Deep Adaptation conversation.

When collapse-anticipation does get discussed in the mainstream media, even now it is lampooned, or labelled as unhelpful ‘doomism’. In my most recent academic article I analyse the evidence-base of the claims that people who anticipate disruption and collapse are unhelpful for either enabling social change or public mental health. From both a sociological and psychological basis, I conclude those claims are not robust. Therefore, they may reflect the desire of the authors to negatively frame and marginalise people with opinions that make them feel uncomfortable. That’s something worth naming to make it easier to discuss – adaptation delayism. The paper is also available in a 1 hour audio format here.

Reviewing the paper, the former financial coordinator of Extinction Rebellion (XR), Andrew Medhurst explains how his own acceptance that massive disruption had become inevitable shook him out of his day job and into full time activism. Something similar happened for XR founder member Skeena Rathor, who, yesterday, shared her reflections on a summer of bad climate news. She argues that we need more people in the public eye talking about compassionate responses to disaster, to offer an alternative to the rise of authoritarianism. It is an important invitation for the environmental movement to consider,  articulate and uphold key values, as more people in both national and intergovernmental processes wake up to the peril (at COP26 and beyond).

The widespread inability to be present to what is happening in the world andcommunicate about it is why we are in the current predicament. That inability is partly the result of our systems of media, money, economy and politics. The same processes that drove the calamity continue now as societal disruption spreads. Therefore misinformed aggression towards people in ways that worsen problems and ignore root causes, will be an aspect and accelerator of societal collapse. So I am not under any illusions. Our attempts to respond to calamity and vulnerability in positive ways that reaffirm human dignity are not likely to have a significant effect when faced with the ongoing communication dominance from incumbent power and the habits from modern culture. But many of us will try anyway, because it is both right to try and it is part of our own self-respect and self-actualisation. With that in mind, I anticipate a lot more radical creativity in the coming months and years. Let’s go for it!

Right now, I invite you to watch the 3 minute video of the making of the multimedia art project #BreakingTogether, as well as browsing the many initiatives in this newsletter (our next issue will be at the end of the year).

Prof Jem Bendell, University of Cumbria, UK
Distinguished Fellow, The Schumacher Institute
Managing Editor, Deep Adaptation Quarterly

For all the granddaughters

A poem written today, day 7 of my Covid-19 experience.

For All the Granddaughters

If you believe that our situation is terrible

So do I

If you experience emotions that seem unbearable

So do I

If you want some ways to escape the grief and anxiety

So do I

If you want to save your granddaughters

So do I

If you want to justify yourself as a good guy whatever may come

So do I.

If you respond to all of that by being defensive

Not so I

If you argue we must drop values of justice, kindness and equity

Not so I

If you dismiss people who disagree with you as naive

Not so I

If you pretend that your country has the power to enforce its survival above others

Not so I

If you won’t think of granddaughters other than your own

Not so I.

We grew up in a culture telling us we are naughty kids

Waiting for a strict daddy to come sort us out

And discipline the ones who stray

But we also grew up with families and friends

In a different reality

Never perfect and never the same

But where each of us has some dignity

and infinite possibility

for kind and wise action.

My pumping neck and jutting jaw doesn’t need an enemy anymore.

Neither does it need fixing with false hope

It just is.

Neither a wisdom to act from or a feeling to run from

It’s just there.

An aspect of me and perhaps everyone from now on.

While I do not wish to dysregulate

Surfacing stuff will splash those near

So please excuse my poetic expression

And holding love for granddaughters everywhere

Go fuck fascism.

Photo by Eva Elijas on Pexels.com

The Deep Adaptation Quarterly – March 2021

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Editorial from Jem Bendell

Although lockdowns have warped my sense of time, and perhaps yours too, it is actually more than 3 months since the last Deep Adaptation Quarterly. There was a hiatus, as I focused on new work after leaving the Deep Adaptation Forum at the end of September, and the Forum team re-organised for their post-Jem era. It has been great to see volunteers step up to now join the small Core Team of organisers, with Kat Soares becoming the new coordinator of the Forum. She is in a team of 4 freelancers working part time to coordinate over a hundred volunteers around the world to support people with finding meaningful ways of living creatively from their collapse anticipation. As they need to cover their basic costs, it would be useful if you can chip in now, as any donations given to them by the end of March will be matched by a donor.

Continue reading “The Deep Adaptation Quarterly – March 2021”

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

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

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

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