Tuesday, 13 October 2020
IFLAS Ocassional paper - How do we understand and explain how we use early recollections as a research method for finding fuller meaning in the values of wellbeing we intend to promote in our practices?
Monday, 12 October 2020
"It is too late to save the society in which we live" - interview in daily newspaper by Professor Bendell
Professor Jem Bendell was interviewed for the daily newspaper 20 minutes, the Paris equivalent of the UK's Evening Standard. The translation of the interview by Laure Beaudonnet follows below, along with a short video of the interview. It marked the publication of his book in France: Adaptation Radicale, about how to respond to the coming disruptions from climate change.
"It is too late to save the society in which we live", according to Jem Bendell, author of "Adaptation Radicale" the French translation of "Deep Adaptation" which inspired Extinction Rebellion in 2018
Original article in French is here.
Every Friday, the newspaper 20 Minutes invites a personality to comment on a social phenomenon.
On the occasion of the publication of a book including the translation of Deep Adaptation, a paper that inspired Extinction Rebellion in 2018, Professor Jem Bendell, founder of IFLAS (Initiative for Leadership and Sustainability) at the University of Cumbria (Great Britain) returns to what leads him to believe that the collapse of our society is inevitable and soon.
"Collapse is the irreversible end of our lifestyles: shelter, security, health, identity, pleasure..."
This is the prophecy of Jem Bendell, environmental and sustainable development specialist and author of Radical Adaptation (published by LLL).
The original article, Deep Adaptation, became a real phenomenon when it was published in 2018. Downloaded almost a million times since it was posted online, it has inspired the civil disobedience movement Extinction Rebellion.
Q: The civil disobedience movement Extinction Rebellion was inspired by your article. What are it's links with the Deep Adaptation movement?
Jem: These are two distinct movements that arise from the same basis of the failure of environmentalism. Extinction Rebellion focuses on non-violent direct action to force governments to be carbon neutral while Deep Adaptation believes it is too late to save the society we live in. Many people are part of both movements. If you think that the general effort for the environment has failed, that there is no point in trying to reform the capitalist system in order to achieve sustainability, then it is natural to both commit to carbon neutrality and prepare for future disruptions. It is true that some key members of Extinction Rebellion have joined the movement after reading Deep Adaptation, but some co-founders had already planned their action before the publication of my paper.
"You cannot bypass sadness, if you think you can find a guide to find serenity, that would be a lie."
Q: What are the main differences between your ideas and those of collapsology?
Jem: I am not an expert in that literature. Pablo Servigne and his colleagues concluded that the collapse of society is very likely to occur after their analysis of a wide range of social stresses. I was already aware of these social stresses - our financial system, the terrible inequalities that exist, the biodiversity crisis - when I studied the climate again at the end of 2017. My conclusion that the collapse of current society is inevitable was based on knowing these other stresses, but I did not analyze them for the paper. Collapsology takes a broader approach to societal stressors while I focus on climate. This is the main difference.
Q: Is the coronavirus crisis a first step towards this collapse you are talking about?
Jem: I don't have a crystal ball. We will know how to talk about the pandemic in relation to collapse in the years to come. But if it is a first step towards collapse, it is partly linked to the climate. Climate change coupled with erosion of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems makes zoonoses [diseases from animals] more likely. If Covid-19 creates collapse, it will be through political and economic processes. We are seeing more and more people from the lower economic classes, in many countries, claiming to be anti-masks, anti-lockdown, and we look closely, the campaigns are often associated with the far right. So one of the impacts of Covid-19 could be a political destabilization of European countries.
Q: You give eight years before society collapses. How are we supposed to live with this idea?
Jem: There is no right answer. I have no legitimacy to tell someone what to do in response to this realisation. In the new book I say people should talk about it, find people with whom you can explore, share your difficult emotions, your fears, your sadness, your anger. Talk about what you could do and you will find an idea that satisfies you. I'm worried when people lock their emotions away, or when they turn to any story that helps them feel safe, or any story about blaming others. Those responses are used to manipulate, but they don't help people. You cannot bypass sadness, if you think you can find a guide to finding serenity, then I think that would be a lie.
"We have to accept that we may have to do with a lot less very quickly"
Q: For example, you say that going into exile in the middle of nowhere to seek self-sufficiency comes down to a survivalist conception of things. However, this is the idea of many people and, according to some, staying in big cities could be even more dangerous in times of collapse?
Jem: I do not discourage people from going to the countryside to cultivate their vegetable gardens and find their own source of water. I invite them to realize that that does not mean that they will survive if society collapses, because, even if we do that, we still rely on industrial society. If you live in a country like UK or France, which has over 66 million people: what will you do with your vegetables if hungry people knock on your door? The idea of going to live in nature is wonderful, but for other reasons. Living in the city could be less dangerous if the government supplies people with basic foods. You are more likely to collect them in a city than in the middle of nowhere. I encourage people to stop thinking individually and to focus on thinking about what we can do collectively. How can each country improve its food security, keeping in mind the poor cereal harvests to come in the decade? We have to accept that we may have to deal with much less very quickly.
Q: One of the main criticisms of your article is that by giving a date for the collapse, you are leaving science. How do you respond to that?
[Editor's note: the original Deep Adaptation paper does not give a specific prediction of a date for societal collapse. Prof Bendell offered his own guess in later work, that societal collapse will be happening in most countries by 2028).
Jem: For me, it's a natural question: how much time do we have left? I don't mind going beyond science on this issue. Science is a language: statistics and mathematics are languages based on specific epistemologies. They are not the only way to seek knowledge, and they are certainly not the only way we have to access knowledge. We deal with data in an infinitely complex world. People are afraid, they cling to their models of what is right and wrong and in this way they can sometimes turn away from complex assessments.
Q: That is to say?
Jem: My anticipation of societal collapse within a decade is the feeling that I got from analyzing all kinds of data and a lot of experiences. I've lived much of my life outside UK/Europe, and I've seen things change with the desire for material progress growing around the world. We have created all these high carbon lifestyles. Many people, climatologists and environmentalists, live in their European bubble. They don't understand the hundreds of millions of people who are trying to make ends meet and who, right now, need fossil fuels to do so. I don't see things changing rapidly enough.
"We must remember that many people are already suffering from our system"
Q: In two or three years, will we be talking about 2020 as the “good old days”?
Jem: We can stop thinking that we can speak for all of us. Who are we when we talk like that? There are nearly eight billion people on Earth. Is this the "we" that we are talking about? Will they look at the past and say to themselves: "2020, what a great year"? This question seems a patriarchal attempt to access universal knowledge about the human condition. And this ideology is the root of our destruction. We must recognize that each individual has a unique experience of this world. Telling people that such and such an experience is universal experience or that one has objective knowledge of people's experience is problematic. Some people will think 2020 was their best year. Other people will have died or will be stuck in depression because they will have lost loved ones in 2020.
Q: Will happiness exist after the collapse?
Jem: Yes, and in some cases even more. We must remember that many people are already suffering from our system. For instance, there are fishing villages that have always caught, ate and sold their fish, and suddenly they don't earn anything anymore because of industrial fishing, because of the appetites of people thousands of miles away, the appetite of capitalists and bankers thousands of miles away. Many lives have been destroyed by the current system. So the changes won't all be bad.
A video of a segment of the interview is available here.
You can engage on these topics via www.deepadaptation.info
Bendell's next course with Cumbria University is over-subscribed and the next opportunity to study with him is in April 2021 in the Lake District, UK.
Wednesday, 30 September 2020
Talk to mark the publication in French of Adaptation Radicale, by Jem Bendell
30th September, online, by Adaptation Radicale Groupe Francophone.
Hello, I’m Jem Bendell. I’m pleased to be able to offer some comments to mark the publication of my first book on Deep Adaptation, which is available in French and is being published in France by a publisher whose name I won’t try and say in French, but I love the translation into English. They’re called “the bonds that free us.” I’d like to thank the translator Elise Roy, as well as the team at the publisher, also Pablo Servigne who encouraged me to collaborate to make this happen. He also writes the foreword. Also I’d like to thank the volunteers at the Deep Adaptation group in France, including Julian, who have been helping coordinate some outreach about the book.
So, what I’m going to do is offer about five minutes of reflections to help put the book in context. The book is a compilation of writings for people who are already open to the idea that the collapse of our way of life within an industrial consumer society is now either likely, or inevitable, or already occurring. I think the book is suitable for a French audience because since 2015 when Pablo Servigne and Raphael Stevens published their book on what they called ‘collapsology,’ the discussion and level of dialogue in France is more advanced than in many other countries - particularly the countries that I know about because they’re English-speaking.
Both in France and around the world we are hearing from people who are critical of those of us who are having these conversations. In response, I would suggest one way of talking to them would be to show them this graph, which just came out from a member of the Breakthrough Institute, which shows simplified emissions pathways for climate targets. This is based on Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) data and analysis, but it removes the suggestion that we can roll out carbon capture technologies which would strip carbon using direct air capture from the atmosphere.
You see the carbon emissions and how rapidly they have increased over the last 20 years. The red line shows that if we wanted to achieve a 50 percent chance, only a 50 percent chance, of staying under 2 degrees we would need, over the next 20 years, to reduce our carbon emissions as rapidly as we have been increasing them over the previous 20 years.
So that’s not like slamming on the brakes of a car heading towards a wall, that’s actually slamming it into reverse and immediately going at the same speed in the opposite direction. We should recognize here that our carbon emissions prior to 2020 have been increasing in terms of the rate of increase. In fact, one scientist has suggested that it looks like an exponential curve of carbon emissions. So we all know that if you do that with a car that just damages the engine and isn’t actually possible with the current technologies to just suddenly slam a car into reverse like that. There is obviously a lot of inertia in our hydrocarbon society.
So what’s happening when people criticize those of us who want to talk about preparing for collapse, whether in the collapsology field or in the Deep Adaptation field, or other fields, they’re telling us that we have the burden of proof on us to say that the red line is not the future path for our carbon emissions let alone the safer lines. Really, we should be aiming for at least the green line. I believe that the burden of proof really should be on them to show us, against all evidence, how we’re going to go down any of these simplified emission pathways to reach these climate targets. I think they can’t prove that this is happening, or will happen, because it’s not been happening.
It’s almost like these conversations at the intergovernmental level and within the scientific community on climate change are trying to maintain credible myths about what is possible, in order to take us away from actually staring at the trouble directly ahead of us.
Over the last couple of years I’ve been humbled and inspired by so many people from around the world who have engaged creatively with this anticipation of societal collapse. People are doing amazing things, many of which I could not have imagined. People bringing meditation and mindfulness practices into schools. People working together on community gardening. People deciding that they will give up their freedom to peacefully protest against governments on climate inaction. Scientists who are giving up their old career in order to look at new things such as designing mirrors that will float in the Arctic ocean to try and replace the albedo effect. People who are learning about how to hold online death cafes so that people can share their very difficult painful emotions around the predicament we find ourselves in. There’s such a great diversity and I know that this is a field where people, many people, will have quite strong opinions and some of the things I’ve just mentioned they may be confused or annoyed at. But for me it’s all welcome if it’s with an open mind and open heart. Because nobody has the answers. We’ve never been in this kind of situation before as a species.
Some of that creativity, some of that collaboration, is happening within a place called the Deep Adaptation Forum which is an online community for people to connect with each other, to learn from each other, and to try and create resources that will be helpful for when there’s a much wider mass awakening and people start to engage more widely. That forum has over 100 volunteers now and engages at least 15,000 people on its platforms and so I do recommend you check out deepadaptation.info if you haven’t already.
In my experience people engaging in Deep Adaptation do not equate societal collapse with the extinction of the human race - they’re two quite different ways of understanding our situation. My understanding is that people do not become apathetic - so many people have allowed this information to transform their lives to prioritize truth and love in their lives and become very socially engaged in ways that they hadn’t before. I’m noticing that many people do not respond in an individualistic way about just simply trying to protect themselves and their loved ones. People soon realize that that is so limited and that we need to act collectively together in order to try to reduce harm, reduce suffering, and give ourselves a better chance in the face of this calamity.
Over the last couple of years I’ve come to see how important it is for us to hold space for each other’s difficult emotions - whether that’s fear, grief, sadness, or anger, in a way where we don’t then escape into stories of safety or blame, but actually just recognize that each of us are having difficult emotions because we are fully awake to the situation that we modern humans have caused.
Because as we all feel more vulnerable, we could be more easily manipulated with a simple story of safety or blame. But neither will help and instead if we can support each other to neither act from or be averse to these difficult emotions and instead keep fully present to what the situation is and keep open to new ideas and learning from each other and unlearning with each other about what on earth do we do next. Then I think we’ll see much more interesting ideas emerge and initiatives emerge and for me that is what has been happening both in collapsology and in the Deep Adaptation field over the last couple of years.
Like me many people have been on a journey of inquiry into why we caused this mess and when I say we I’m talking about modern humans. That inquiry reveals how we have othered and oppressed other humans often because they just don’t look like us or sound like us and also othered and oppressed wider life itself. So many people are arriving at a deeper commitment to uncovering mechanisms of oppression and therefore more people are prioritizing racial justice and healing as part of their work on Deep Adaptation. Many people are prioritizing work on gender justice and healing as part of their response to Deep Adaptation. And many more people are thinking about economic justice and healing as part of a comprehensive response to our climate predicament. I think that’s really important because it is quite distinct from how some people are responding, or probably will respond, when they feel vulnerable because of growing climate chaos and related societal pressures. Many people will tell us that the situation means that we just need to do ‘what’s necessary’ and they’ll come at it from a very fear-based place, not actually looking at how so much of our society is built on that fear-based place of separation and othering and oppression.
So thank you for listening, thank you for reading the book, and please consider joining the Deep Adaptation francophone group, which you can connect to on Facebook. I’ll put the link to that and any other relevant groups in French, for example the collapsology groups, in the video notes for this video. Thank you.
French translation to follow.
Some of the writing in English that went into the book is available from Jem's blog here.
An interview with Jem to mark the launch of the book is here.
Thursday, 24 September 2020
Here are some thoughts from the Founder of the Initiative for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS), Professor Jem Bendell:
As we experience increasing disruptions to our lives, with the risk of more to come, more of us are wondering how to turn things around.
There is one question I often hear asked:
“Where have all the good leaders gone?”
I have come to understand that could be the worst question for us to ask.
I mean it is unhelpful if the aim of our conversations is to determine new ways to help our friends, colleagues, and fellow citizens to address the many challenges that humanity faces today.
Because within the question itself is an assumption that does not help us to act together for significant change.
The assumption is that what is most important to positive or negative outcomes is the competence and character of the individual at the top of a hierarchy, rather than other factors. Yet those other factors are many and significant, such as the ability of people at all levels of community, society and organisation to be willing and able to learn and act for common cause. So a focus on the individual leader dumbs down our conversations about why there is so much suffering and risk in the world. It also means we don’t look at ourselves and what we might do or not do in future.
I teach and coach leadership and leadership development for people in many organisational sectors and from many countries. I believe that the first thing to learn is to better question how our assumptions of leadership and change might be limiting our imagination on how to approach today’s challenges and predicament. After that, a whole new vista of competencies arises, as well as the motivation and confidence to make changes in one’s life and work.
For the past couple of years I offer that support within the context of increasing societal disruption and likely collapse.
If that is something you are interested in, please consider joining my highly participative and transformative online course in sustainable leadership and deep adaptation this November. It takes place over 4 days, with preparatory work over the few weeks beforehand. The last cohort is still meeting every month on zoom to provide peer support as they apply their new ideas and approaches in their lives, work and communities. Here is what some of them said about the last course:
“A course not only for the brain but for the heart. Transformative in its true sense. Truly thought provoking and challenging. Respect and warmth at its core. Humbling.”
“Leadership is not something I associate with myself, so going on this course was pretty scary. It was such a relief to see the old notions and patriarchy cemented in to the expectation of leadership being thrown up in the air to land in completely new, available and inspiring ways. It was intellectually stimulating, deeply connecting and very motivating.”
“I’m so grateful to have had the chance to be a part of this module; it’s given me more confidence in my ability to navigate, and cope with, systemic and environmental change – and to be of support to others. It’s also reminded me of how to keep a focus on appreciating everyone, and everything, in every moment – even the uncomfortable ones! Thank you Katie, Jem and all the people who took part”.
We encourage diversity amongst the participants, and so on the last course were a Vice Chancellor, management consultants, school teachers, XR activists, professionals facilitators, politicians, and social workers, amongst others!
After November, it will be a year before I offer this online course again. There are 8 places left and the deadline is whenever we sell out, or October 15th 2020. Find out more and book here.
To learn more about ‘deep adaptation’ to climate chaos and the ethos it suggests for collaboration, see this introduction. To see the latest activities by people using this approach in their lives, see this newsletter. To read how the anticipation of collapse is motivating people to lead changes in their communities, see here.
Thanks, Jem Bendell (Professor of Sustainability Leadership, University of Cumbria, UK)
Monday, 8 June 2020
- McDonald, R.I, Chai, H.Y. and Newell, B.R. (2015), “Personal experience and the ‘psychological distance’ of climate change: An integrative review,” Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 44, pp.109-118
- A link to the DAF User Survey was shared with people who are engaged in the Deep Adaptation (DA) movement and reachable by the DA Forum. This included approximately 6000 subscribers to the DA Quarterly Newsletter, 10,000 participants in the Positive DA Facebook group, and 2000 participants in the DA Profession Network. The survey was open for near 8 weeks during January and February 2020 and attracted 168 respondents. The survey was designed by D. Cave & J. Bendell with advice from K. Soares and N. Maljkovic.
- A link to the University of Cumbria DA collaboration survey was shared with people who are engaged in the Deep Adaptation (DA) movement and reachable by the DA Forum.This included approximately 6000 subscribers to the DA Quarterly Newsletter, 10,000 participants in the Positive DA Facebook group, and 2000 participants in the DA Profession Network. The survey was open for 2 weeks during May 2020 and attracted 107 respondents.
Wednesday, 19 February 2020
Screengrab of Facebook false news warning
Feb 15th 2020
- West Antarctic Ice Sheet – likely tipped (i.e. irreversibly on the pathway to eventual collapse)2
- Coral reefs – likely tipped (wide-spread destruction from heat stress and ocean acidification)
- Arctic sea ice cover – likely tipped (irreversible situation arises from increasing heat provided by the darker ocean surface as summer ice disappears)4
- Amazon rainforest - likely tipped taking into account current rates of human deforestation (i.e. the loss of forest itself decreases regional precipitation rates, thus increasing the overall reduction in rainfall, further influenced by a weakening AMOC – see next point)5,6
- Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC, the ocean current that brings warm waters to western Europe) – probably not tipped, but significantly weakened7
- Permafrost carbon stores – probably not tipped, but significant carbon emissions.3