EDITORIAL for the Deep Adaptation Quarterly, Issue 10, April 7th 2022.
Over the past months, a few new terms have appeared in the news as pundits seek frameworks to explain what is happening around the world. I have read that we are in a period of polycrisis, or permacrisis, or even World War 3. There are various reasons offered for why more of us are experiencing tougher and increasingly anxious circumstances. Since the pundits work for legacy media organisations, the explanations we hear are anything other than the death throes of global capitalism as it hits natural limits. And since they speak from within the ‘Overton window’ of respectable conversation, neither do we hear that our situation can be described as the beginning of the breakdown of industrial consumer societies. Instead, a superficial, distracting, and sedating hope of returning to something more ‘normal’ is a compulsion for them. So I am pleased to greet you here in this Quarterly, outside that narrow scope of perception.
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!
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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.
I ignored it for a while. But as a Prof, it was time to submit to Google Scholar and let their algorithms pass judgement on my work. So I’ve an h-index of 20 and an i10-index of 35, from over 2000 citations. Have I lost you yet? Well at least most of my publications are now in one place. My latest thoughts are on the “Impasse in Western Leadership” which I presented at a conference on leadership in Asia in January.
I continue to work with Dr Neil Sutherland and Richard Little on a collection on leadership and sustainability that arose from the Leading Wellbeing Research Festival last summer. On April 9 the team at IFLAS are hosting a reunion in Ambleside, which will be a great weekend to share relevant initiatives. These ideas relate to our new MA in Sustainable Leadership Development, which is designed to fit around the work of busy leaders. It kicks off with a week in the Lake District this September.
I now work part time with the University of Cumbria, and am adapting what I know to offer wilderness retreats for leadership development. Working with Georgia Wingfield Hayes, our first Leading Wild retreat is in Costa Rica in January next year. We conceived the Leading Wild retreats because we know the most powerful learning is difficult to enable in typical corporate formats. I like hosting learning where we are ready to let go of what brought us success and think afresh about the situation we face. A wilderness retreat invites that approach. 25% of revenues will go into forest conservation. It’s also 25% off if you book now!
Somewhat sooner, if you are in London on April 13th, please join us near the Docklands for a lecture by the founder of the Positive Money campaign, Ben Dyson. At 530pm he will talk about how government issuance of digital cash could kick start the UK economy and pay down the debt. It’s an opportunity for participants in our free online course on Money and Society to gather. Over 120 are currently completing this MOOC that I developed with Matthew Slater (Global Ecovillage Network) and 8+ will study our Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange in April. This will be co-tutored by Leander Bindewald, whose PhD at IFLAS on the (misleading) discourses of money is getting interesting. I’ll be sharing some of our ideas in a keynote at the Guild of Independent Currencies conference in Liverpool on April 20th.
In February I visited Melbourne to work with my colleagues at Trimantium Capital. They ran an event at Parliament House on the future of superannuation (pension) investments for a more sustainable Australia, and introduced tech investors from Silicon Valley to a range of Australian start-ups. En route back to the UK, I visited the Indian Institute of Directors, to discuss with board directors how we can encourage cultures and systems for firms to seek disruptive innovation for sustainable development. In 2016 I will be doing more work on “impact investing”, to promote the necessary transition to a better economy.
I’ve listed my future event attendance below… maybe see you in London, Lancaster, Lake District, Kuala Lumpur, Geneva, Tokyo, Brisbane, Melbourne, or Boston?
I have started producing quarterly updates… yep 4 emails a year on what Im doing. In each on Ill be linking to written outputs and forthcoming events. You can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/beciEb
Here is the text of the latest update:
I want to update you on the festival we are organising this summer on the shores of England’s largest lake. The full programme, which includes over 80 experts, plus lots of outdoor activities is now out: download here. As it is during the summer holidays, we are providing a free children’s programme of professionally run outdoor activities – and babysitting. Half the places have now gone, so book now if you are interested.
In the past months I’ve been on secondment to the UN, and as I’ve been in Geneva I presented my research at a couple of events. In April I presented to the UNECE about the monetary cause of the house price crisis that is affecting many cities. I explained, based on my work in ‘Healing Capitalism’, that the more consolidated a nation’s banking system is, the more their lending is focused on real estate, and so this leads to the asset price inflation of housing. Solutions must involve re-balancing the process of new money creation by commercial banks. That can be achieved by promoting more local banks that focus on lending to businesses (e.g. breaking up RBS) and introducing credit guidance so we move away from a situation where over 80% of new credit creation is for real estate. Other options include removing from commercial banks the priviledge of creating money. Given that, according to research, most politicians dont even realise that commercial banks create over 90% of a nations’ money supply, we have some way to go before sensible policies even begin to be considered. I wrote about these issues in Open Democracy.
In May I presented my research on currency innovation to UNRISD. I drew upon a paper that was published earlier this year where we provide a case study of a local currency created in a slum in Kenya that has already boosted trade by over 20% without indebting anyone nor requiring foreign aid. I noted how the current Financing for Development discussions at the UN have completely overlooked monetary issues and currency innovation. As a result of the discussions, recommendations for including complementary currencies are being submitted to UNDESA.
We had a great response to the Money and Society free online course (a “MOOC”), with over 300 people registering and around 100 completing all assignments and graduating to the alumni forum. Some of the participants joined us on the Certificate of Achievement in Sustainable Exchange in London. The next offering of the free online course starts on August 23rd and runs for 4 weeks, taking about 5 hours of work time per week. Read more about it, and the accredited course, here. Sign up for the MOOC via firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of my research to develop this MOOC led me to look at trends in financial technology (fintech). In March, I was asked to speak about ethical implications at the main annual conference on fintech in the City of London. I warned that as we move to a cashless society, we risk becoming dependent on oligopolies that have shown themselves to be susceptible to political pressure. I argued that the issues are so important to the future of democracy that the UN, via the ITU, should be involved, not only banking regulators. I wrote up my speech here.
I was out of the country for the UK election, but followed it with interest. As the results came in, I wondered what some contemporary management theories might imply for the future of the opposition parties. So I shared an idea for a Liberal Green Alliance in Open Democracy.