Friday, 22 February 2019

Deep Adaptation Concept Unlocks Conversations Worldwide on our Climate Tragedy

The release of the Deep Adaptation paper by IFLAS in July 2018 has generated significant attention worldwide. It has been downloaded over 200,000 times, mentioned in media around the world (from Bloomberg to the New York Magazine), and inspired a new generation of climate activists, including some leaders in the Extinction Rebellion movement. Given that impact, Professor Bendell was one of the first academics to sign a public letter supporting the launch of the non-violent rebellion - one of the Guardian's most shared letters ever.

In his paper, Professor Jem Bendell reviewed the latest climate science as well as the pace of response to conclude that humanity now faces inevitable collapse of our societies due to disruptive climate change. He invites readers to explore what an acceptance of that situation could mean for our life and work. He created Deep Adaptation as a framework to aid that exploration. It differs from the mainstream agenda on adaptation as it is premised on the belief that we will not be able to maintain our current systems and way of life in the face of disruptive climate change. Bendell explains "the concept of Deep Adaptation has been unlocking conversations on our climate tragedy because it helps make it slightly more acceptable to discuss our fears about how bad things are and what to do about that."

In the past months Prof Bendell has given some speeches and interviews about this topic. These included a public lecture to 300 people in Bristol, UK in December, then an interview with Scientists Warning TV.

Jem was also interviewed by Extinction Radio and the Future is Beautiful podcast. In 2019 he will be speaking about Deep Adaptation at a range of events, listed here. The topic will also be explored in the leadership course he tutors this summer, over 4 days in the Lake District, UK. He is also now supervising doctoral researchers who are linking their work to the Deep Adaptation agenda.

Given the reaction to the paper, Professor Bendell provided further reflections in a blog on hope and vision in the face of climate-induced collapse. He will be discussing these psychological aspects at the Climate Psychology Alliance event in London in April.

To help the wide range of professionals who want to explore this agenda but are finding their colleagues too incredulous to engage, Bendell is launching a free Deep Adaptation Forum in March. This will enable closer collaboration than the 1000+ Deep Adaptation group on LinkedIn (join that to receive the information on the forum launch). 

Transformative Societal and Professional Learning in Troubling Times - researching aspects of Deep Adaptation to Environmental Breakdown

At IFLAS our cohort of doctoral researchers has expanded. While the topics are diverse, all relate to how we learn in ways that could transform our lives and societies; especially in difficult circumstances. Professor Jem Bendell is their lead supervisor, bringing a methodological emphasis on action research with critical consciousness and an invitation that we explore Deep Adaptation to potential environmental breakdown.

The doctoral students who have joined IFLAS this academic year are Dorian Cave, Cecilie Smith-Christensen and Jason Hocknell-Nickels. From France, Dorian is studying the learning of activists participating in online networks. From Norway, Cecilie is studying the professional learning on Deep Adaptation in the international cultural sector. From the UK, Jason is studying his practice as a coach enabling professional learning within the civil service. Summaries of their research follow below.

Dorian, Cecilie and Jason join existing IFLAS PhD students Jo Chaffer (studying leadership development and sustainability), Aimee Leslie Bogantes (studying the circular economy and sustainability), Christophe Place (studying currency innovation and sustainability), Arianna Briganti (studying leadership in international development) and Sonia Hutchison (studying leadership in social work). Their supervision teams are comprised of Professor Jem Bendell, Dr David Murphy, Dr Kaz Stuart, Dr Darrell Smith, Professor Jack Whitehead, Dr. Marie Huxtable and Dr Nicoletta Policek.

Cecilie Smith-Christensen is researching World Heritage, Deep Adaptation and Sustainable Exchange Systems. She summarises her work thus:

“Runaway climate change is an existential threat to habitats, human civilizations and life as we know it. Despite goals set out through the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC 2016) the World is not on the track to avoid it. Based on recent studies of climate change and its implications for ecosystems, economies and societies, the paper Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy (Bendell, 2018) concludes that social collapse due to climate change is inevitable within the near future. By breaking a taboo within academia and public discourse, the Deep Adaptation approach offers a perspective to consider new perspectives and options in response to climate change.
In my research I will apply the Deep Adaptation Agenda as a meta framing of the implications of climate change and inevitable near-term social collapse on the implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1972) most known for the World Heritage List comprising 1092 cultural and natural heritage properties of Outstanding Universal Value. Many of these sites and related communities are already experiencing climate induced disruptions, forms of biological and social collapse, and even the threat of extinction.
In the face of climate change and various forms of disruption, collaboration emerges as the core mechanism to ensure survival and restoration post-collapse. The global network of World Heritage sites and stakeholders lends itself to scale collaborative efforts. However, a general challenge of applying an existing mechanism and social construct is its embeddedness in the neo-classical economic growth paradigm. A key problem is that economic growth on a limited planet cannot be sustainable, and hence even efforts towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals will be unsustainable and consequently contributing to our climate predicament.
Through action research involving a broad set of World Heritage stakeholders I aim to explore shared dilemmas in implementation of the Convention in the context of climate change, and furthermore explore how application and scaling sustainable exchange systems in and around World Heritage sites may help humanity face climate-induced disruption.”

Dorian Cave is researching how online networks enable collective mobilisation through learning. He summarises his work thus:

“The human species is living through a period of existential challenges unparalleled in history. Indeed, the planet Earth is undergoing rapid changes, caused by mankind itself, which could severely compromise human survival — including: the 6th mass extinction event; climatic disruptions; and topsoil losses. These issues are compounded by widespread systemic social and political failures, such as the economic growth imperative; entrenched fossil fuels dependence; rising inequalities; and failing democratic processes.
And yet, global efforts aiming at rising to this civilizational challenge seem scattered, piecemeal, and orders of magnitude below what would be needed; one need only look at current climate change “commitments” in the wake of the 2015 Paris Agreement. I believe that from the perspective of effectuating a global transition to a fairer and more sustainable world, insufficient attention and efforts have been devoted to the following aspects:
1. Education and consciousness-raising. A multitude of indicators point at the lack of awareness as regards our existential predicament among the general population. My hypothesis is that the reason for this is largely an insufficient understanding, especially on the direct emotional level, of what is at stake (not to mention plenty of ways to avoid having to think about it).
2. Means of connected mobilisation. Online social networks have become a central feature of our lives. These tools have been hailed by some as central to the development of new popular and democratic movements. However, when considering the multitude of grassroots initiatives that aim at creating positive social change on a particular topic, the lack of networks and other instruments specifically dedicated to federating such efforts is rather striking.

In the course of my research, I will be bringing together these two avenues of research, and thus, investigate how online networks may foster and enable collective mobilisation through learning.”

Jason Hocknell-Nickels is researching his practice as a values-based coach within the British civil service. He has created a website that chronicles his approach and findings, where he introduces his work as follows:

“Would you like to live well? By the term ‘well’ I personally don’t mean wealthy; although for you that might be part of what it means. By living ‘well’ I have in mind the idea of living authentically or living my values in real life and my professional practice. This is important to me because I work in complex change and transformation and being authentic helps my practice as a change coach. I am also interested in being authentic across my different life worlds or spaces. By this idea I mean that I desire to have a certain level of integrity in terms of my values. I am hoping that my values as actions-in-the-world can demonstrated across work, family, friends, as well as other voluntary work, and professional communities of practice, for example.
To these ends, I have decided to share my learning of the ways by which I live my life. I am hoping that I can create an account and then openly and honestly share the data that I will collect by way of evaluation. My intention is that my account will meet the criteria for a Doctorate in Living-Theory. You can read more about this approach to research here.

How do I evidence and learn from the ways by which I live my values in action? What values give rise to feelings of authenticity across my different life spaces? How do I learn? How do I communicate my learning to others?”

Our three new doctoral students add to the University’s engagement with key contemporary issues in ways that are interdisciplinary and use a variety of action research methods complemented by a philosophy of criticality. Given the significant international response to Professor Bendell's work on Deep Adaptation, he will begin a Critical Living Theory project on the practices of public intellectuals and forum convenors. Information on his engagements in 2019 is available here.

To reach the new doctoral researchers or their lead supervisor Prof Bendell, contact

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

IFLAS Open Lecture series - Spring 2019

Here at IFLAS we are delighted to announce the first three of the Spring/Summer series of Open Lectures.

On Tuesday 26th March we have the first Open Lecture in 2019:

Rob & Harriet Fraser: Making Sense of Here: Artful ways of reflecting on the Lake District National Park, a landscape of multiple truths.

What happens when you have a single place that’s celebrated internationally for its beauty and culture, yet has multiple and often conflicting land-use issues? Where is the common ground? How can creative practice and artful ways of thinking contribute to an appreciation of nature, and add to the debate about ways of finding balance in complex environments? Drawing on their work over the past seven years among environmental specialists, farmers and land managers, and their current project ‘Sense of Here’, Harriet and Rob put the Lake District under a ‘creative’ lens and invite you to join them on a provocative journey.

Writer Harriet Fraser and Photographer Rob Fraser work together as ‘somewhere-nowhere’. Their photography, poetry and installation work, which celebrates the beauty of nature while also exploring critical environmental issues, has been exhibited across the UK, and they work with schools and public groups with the aim of strengthening connections between people and nature. Their work frequently involves long walks and celebrates the value of slowing down and listening: meetings with experts across disciplines allows them to consider the complexity of place, and ranging from soil science to farming and forestry, environmental monitoring, hydrology and data analysis. There current project, ‘Sense of Here’, seeks out local views about the places we call home, and interconnectivity between different places, mindsets and visions for the future. Books include The Long View (shortlisted for Lakeland Book of the Year, 2018), Land Keepers and Meadow. More at

Then the next free-to-attend Open Lecture will be with Solitiare Townsend:

 How your good life goals can change the world

Individuals are as important as institutions when it comes to sustainability. For too long personal action has been neglected in the global climate and sustainability process, but with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), now calling for us all to change our behaviors to combat climate change, something is starting to shift.

Solitaire Townsend was the driving force behind the United Nations new Good Life Goals, a set of personal actions linked to each of the Sustainable Development Goals. She will explore the ways individuals can lever change at scale, and how people power is as important as powerful people to save the world.

Solitaire has been a passionate change-maker for over 30 years. As co-founder of Futerra she advises governments, charities and brands including Danone, Lancôme and Vodafone on imagining a better future, and making it happen. With Futerra offices in London, Stockholm, New York and Mexico City she admits that making the world a better place is a damn good business plan. You can watch her TEDx talks online and read her in the Guardian, Huffington Post, Forbes and more often as @GreenSolitaire. Solitaire was named ‘Ethical Entrepreneur of the Year’ in 2008 and more recently was Chair of the UK Green Energy Scheme, a member of the United Nations Sustainable Lifestyles Taskforce and a London Leader for Sustainability. Her new book The Happy Hero - How To Change Your Life By Changing The World is out now. 

Following on from this will be the third talk of the season, this time featuring Aimee Leslie:

Collaborating for Fisheries Sustainability: Perspectives from new research in Peru

Peru is mostly known for its industrial anchoveta fisheries, the biggest monospecific fisheries of the world. What people don’t know is that there are more than 44,000 artisanal fishers in Peru, and over 60% of them work in illegality. This means they have no fishing permit, no social security, there is no stock assessment of the populations they fish, continued illegal construction of new fishing vessels, and high levels of corruption in local fisheries authorities. WWF-Peru is collaborating with fishers to face these challenges by helping them set up fisheries cooperativas with sustainable business models, meet the legal requirements to get their fishing permits, denounce cases of corruption, and set up traceability systems. In this talk you will learn about about fisheries in Peru and the associated legal and sustainability challenges the sector faces, and what WWF is doing to try to address these challenges.

Aimée Leslie is doing a PhD in Leadership and Sustainability with the University of Lancaster and Cumbria. She has a Masters in Environmental Management from Costa Rica and a Masters in Education for Sustainable Development from Spain. She has been working for WWF for over 7 years, with WWF International as Global Cetacean and Marine Turtle Manager based out of Switzerland and as Director of WWF-Peru’s Marine Program since beginning of 2018. She is a member of the IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group, the IWC Scientific Committee, and the CMS Bycatch Working Group.

Each of these talks will take place at the Percival Lecture Theatre on our Ambleside campus on Tuesdays from 5.30pm and will finish around 7pm.

All of the above talks are completely free to attend, all that we ask is that you register by emailing us at stating which talk you wish to attend, along with your name, and the name of anyone else that you wish to bring along with you.