Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Six hard trends that drive food system breakdown – globally

An IFLAS Occasional paper analyses the trends driving the breakdown of the global food system.

Endorsing the paper, Dr Katja Hujo from the UN Research Institute for Social Development (and lead author of their Flagship Report “Crises of Inequality: Shifting Power for a New Eco-Social Contract”) notes:

“Jem Bendell’s paper (and forthcoming book) is a wake-up call that our global food systems are approaching global breakdown due to a number of interlinked hard trends, from biophysical limits of food production and climate change to growing demand and the destructive implications of our profit-oriented capitalist system. The application of interdisciplinary integrative analysis and the emphasis on economic, social, technological and ecological dimensions of the challenge ahead helps to grapple with the complexity of the issue and to avoid simplistic solutions. It is an analysis that motivates the reader to act at multiple fronts and critically engage with a topic that has a huge bearing on the future of humanity.”

The Contributing Lead Author for the UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, Scott Williams, notes:

“We are conditioned to fear disorientation and seek safety in certainty and solutions regardless of the information available to us. Breaking that protective screen, this paper adds to the weight of analysis that the collapse of food systems and societies more broadly is inevitable. But how we are in relationship with these changes is not fixed even if, as this paper argues, we are stuck. Perhaps what this paper is calling for is the spaciousness to ask new questions, to challenge habits and myths, that may then shift perceptions. Consequently, we could be in relationship differently with the inevitability of collapse, and sense the possibilities that are perceivable with renewed care, compassion and generosity to ourselves and to all life.”

Co-founder, Extinction Rebellion, Clare Farrell, notes:

“The fragility of our systems is underexplored and we need to pay attention to warnings from integrative analyses like this paper. And then act like never before, with fierce resistance on behalf of life itself.” 

The paper on food system breakdown is a preprint of a chapter in the forthcoming book by Professor Bendell, Breaking Together (Goodworks, TSI, 2023). To get notified of when and how receive a free epub version of the book, subscribe to Prof Bendell’s blog.

The book launch will be at the Glastonbury Deep Adaptation event, with Satish Kumar, Gail Bradbrook, Skeena Rathor, Rachel Donald and Indra Donfrancesco on June 18th in the UK. Information and tickets: DeepAdaptationGlastonbury.co.uk.

The preface to the paper follows below.

Download the pdf of the paper.

Preface from the author

This Occasional Paper is one output from a 2-year research project with an interdisciplinary team including an agricultural scientist, heterodox economist, and environmental journalist, as well as myself, a sociologist undertaking critical interdisciplinary research analysis on sustainable development issues. It outlines six hard trends which drive a global food system breakdown. The paper is an excerpt from my forthcoming book on the topic of societal collapse, Breaking Together, and shared now due to the urgent implications for both local and national governmental policies, philanthropy strategies, and organisational or personal decisions relating to food security.

As an academic it should come as no surprise when I claim that the scientific method is a powerful approach for understanding reality. But it should also be no surprise that an academic also recognises how the cultural, economic and institutional influences on the research process, and the ‘siloing’ of research into disciplines, constrains what specialists in specific disciplines choose to conclude and communicate. Rather than asking too much of science, we have been asking too little of it, by not interrogating sufficiently the way cultural and institutional factors, derived from systems of capital and power, are influencing questions and findings in ways that reduce the impetus for radical change.

Scientists who take these limitations seriously have been sounding the alarm for society. Two hundred of them warned of potential ‘global systemic collapse’ in a report that also explained why we do not hear such warnings so often and so clearly. "Many scientists and policymakers are embedded in institutions that are used to thinking and acting on isolated risks, one at a time," their report said [1].

That is why critical interdisciplinary research analysis is so important. First, it is driven by the intention of identifying knowledge that is salient to an issue of public interest. It identifies research publications from a variety of different disciplines that are potentially relevant to that issue and then analyses them for what might be the most important findings on that issue. Sometimes such findings are not what the original researchers focused on in those publications being analysed. The process of salience identification by a research analyst involves cross-referencing findings and claims from different subject specialisms. It is aided by a ‘critical’ approach, which stems from appreciating the many influences on any process of conducting and disseminating research. They include the financial and political pressures for remaining deferential to established ideas and institutions, the de-radicalising influence of privilege, a wish to avoid difficult emotions and the ideology of progress that can shift where the burden of proof is seen to lie when considering data.

To do critical interdisciplinary research analysis well, it can help to have experience from different cultural, professional, and disciplinary contexts. It is also useful to have training in scientific methodologies, the history and philosophy of science, the humanities, and critical literacy. The latter term refers to understanding how frames, narratives and discourse shape what is assumed, excluded or focused on, in ways that are produced by power relations and then reproduce those power relations. Without such experiences and training, when scientists generalise outside of their field of expertise, it can involve the unconsidered use of ‘common sense’ assumptions that reflect dominant culture and exclude analyses that challenge their worldviews.

By recognising the limitations of reductionist research and siloed disciplines, scholars who are interested in ‘systems thinking’ come close to such approaches but don’t always critically analyse the source material for the biases described above. Unfortunately, critical interdisciplinary research analysis is a capability that is neither taught nor resourced in scholarship, nor rewarded with opportunities for professional progression. Because such analysis can lead to conclusions beyond those made within the specific disciplines being drawn upon, and can relegate to irrelevance some of the nuance and semantic detail, it can annoy discipline-restrained scholars. When the conclusions are particularly troubling, or threatening to the establishment, then reactions can be unusually negative and seek to marginalise the people, concepts and organisations involved. Typically, that can involve accusations of sloppiness, arrogance, conspiratorial mindsets, political bias, or extremism. Unfortunately, the temptation can be high for some experts to make such accusations if they seek to position themselves as more reasonable in the eyes of the establishment (whether for their professional advancement, or their theory of change, or even a subconscious need to fawn to power in response to growing anxiety).

In the case of societal collapse, and the food crisis, the issue is so important that, as scholars, we must not be deterred by such reactions. I encourage you to interrogate the arguments in this paper for yourself, via the references provided. The paper does not provide ideas on how to respond to the crisis it identifies. There are many ideas and positive activities occurring, some of which will be covered in my book Breaking Together. This paper is an preprint of Chapter 6 of that book, and therefore refers to the book and other chapters throughout.

Jem Bendell, March 2023

[1] Scientists Warn Multiple Overlapping Crises Could Trigger 'Global Systemic Collapse': ScienceAlert. https://www.sciencealert.com/hundreds-of-top-scientists-warn-combined-environmental-crises-will-cause-global-collapse

Monday, 21 November 2022

The Influence of the Concept of Deep Adaptation in Academic Literature - by October 2022

Dorian Cavé, November 21st, 2022. 

The Deep Adaptation (DA) paper was published by the University of Cumbria in July 2018. In the following 2 years it was downloaded over a million times and inspired the creation of networks of people focused on reducing harm in the face of societal disruption and collapse. To assess the way the concept is spreading and being used in society, the Deep Adaptation Quarterly commissioned Dorian Cavé to conduct a literature review. The study used Google Scholar to discover what academic papers referenced the original DA paper. 

As of late October 2022, the DA paper is referenced in at least 295 publications, including 138 journal articles, 49 book chapters, 44 books, 42 theses (incl. BA, MA and PhD), and 22 other documents. The full list can be accessed here. In this article, summaries are provided of those papers found to offer a substantive discussion or application of the DA concept.

If you referenced the DA paper in a scholarly publication which you don’t find in the full list, please send Dorian a link to your publication and he will add it: dorian.cave@uni.cumbria.ac.uk 



1. Scholarly publications that cite the Deep Adaptation paper with a depth of discussion

NB: Items in this section with two asterisks (**) are those I find of outstanding interest, and very much relevant to the DA field. Those with one asterisk (*) are “about” deep adaptation, or focused on a theme central to the DA paper (e.g. collapse, eco-anxiety, denial, etc.). Those without an asterisk cite the DA paper, but are less directly relevant to the DA field, although still worth a look.


In July 2022, SPOOL, a peer-reviewed journal in the field of architecture and the built environment, dedicated an issue to the topic of Deep Adaptation. Here are some articles worthy of note.

Daniel Zwangsleitner and colleagues*, who teach at the Professorship of Urban Design at Technical University Munich, describe how their teaching philosophy and practice in the fields of planning, urban design, and architecture, have been heavily influenced by the Deep Adaptation Agenda. They consider the DA paper, which they assign to read in their seminars and design-studios, as a call "to enact radical action and thinking" and to "fundamentally [question] the way we live, work, move, and organise our cities" (p.61). The paper is also a foundation for the Post-Acceleration Urban Development' manifesto which is at the heart of their teaching, and which foregrounds critical and self-reflexive thinking, as well as a keen attention to the political dimensions of spatial practitioners' practice with regards to potential system change.

Meanwhile, Miller and Nay** explore how the concept of deep adaptation may constitute a methodology helping to subvert the dominant practices of 'green' design, and crisis thinking. In particular, alternative Indigenous design ontologies that are put into practice within an Oceanic context can be viewed as manifesting decolonial responses that reclaim urban spaces for the Indigenous city, and support community development through climate change adaptation and migration. These are responses that are rooted in 'deep time', as part of radically different epistemological frameworks - much better suited to an uncertain future - than those used by mainstream Western architects, urban planners, designers and educators. While the latter should refrain from appropriating Indigenous techniques and technologies, the article is an invitation for them to reconsider the universalizing nature of green design paradigms, become more meaningfully engaged with the local context of their practice, and explore the practical dimension of design as decolonial practice. As the authors stress, "Indigenous communities learned to live with environmental crisis, survived genocide, and have thrived in the resurgence of their ways of knowing. Listening and learning from Indigenous communities is an essential starting point for deep adaptation" (p.68).

Finally, Rosengren, Polleter, Sarkez-Knudsen and Mameli* present four empirical snapshots of innovative socio-spatial practices or actions taking place in northern European urban contexts - including urban gardening, commoning, intergenerational living, and learning to perceive a more-than-human urbanity. Each of these case studies engages dialectically and critically with one of the 4 "R's" of the Deep Adaptation Agenda. The authors consider that deep adaptation "should be defined less in relation to a socio-ecological 'collapse' and more through everyday occurrences in present-day urban environments" (p.5). They also articulate a critique of the Agenda, which they view as anthropocentric. Embracing Donna Haraway's ontic-epistemic approach, they recommend a deeper consideration of the agential capacities of other-than-humans in order to produce the active hope that the Agenda calls for.


Lara Stevens (2019)* considers the need for a ‘deep dramaturgy’, emphasising the relinquishment of certain attitudes and theatrical practices - and the restoration of others - in view of our global predicament. She examines examples of ‘Anthroposcenic’ performances, such as those devised by Maria Fernanca Cardoso with her Cardoso Flea Circus, and considers the extent to which these creations succeed in fostering an ecological consciousness by demanding "we surrender human exclusivity over artistic production" and "relinquish the human delusion of our monopoly over beauty, reason and aesthetic appreciation as well, more radically still, as the idea that everything beautiful in the world is for our consumption alone." (p.96) 

Phoebe Wagner (2021)** develops a theory of the environmental grotesque as a genre now emerging in contemporary literature, by studying Richard Powers' novel The Overstory (2018). She contends that contrary to previous environmental fiction, which only brought up a reactionary response (based on fear) in the reader, environmental grotesque works go further, by depicting stories of tolerance and normalisation of our broken world, and of cooperative survival in spite of the horror it may cause. In a time of collapse, "the environmental grotesque can become a transformative tactic" because "we must learn to live—and hopefully thrive—with this environmental devastation, which will require a transformation of human life as well" (p.2).

As for Susan M. Squier (2022), she looks into the narrative and aesthetic strategies of several climate change comics, to reveal how such comics may challenge climate denial. The affectively charged narratives she describes, which tend to be specific, detailed, and full of human warmth, make it easier for the reader to engage meaningfully with "hyperobjects" such as climate change or mass species extinctions.


In an incisive analysis, Veronika Bohac Clarke (2019)* reflects on two growing trends in academia, particularly in the humanities, "which separately contribute to self-censorship, doublespeak, obsessive crafting of personal brands, egocentrism, and sanitized discourse and publication output" (p.90). She uses Ken Wilber's integral theory as a lens to examine how two different academic populations (faculty and students), whom she groups in two different developmental levels, are pressured into fearful and maladaptive responses to the academic system. These responses severely limit the quality and boldness of research output, as well as its relevance to real-world issues (such as climate disruptions and mass migrations), and foster collective myopia. She considers ways in which universities might transform in order to bring the best out of people, regardless of their developmental adaptations to the complexity of the contexts in which they live.

By exploring the life narratives of residents of three European ecovillages, Pisters, Vihinen and Figeiredo (2020) analyse the transformative and transgressive dimensions of place-based learning. They find that such radical lifestyle changes tend to foster deep personal shifts, particularly with regards to relations towards self, other, the material, non-human and spirituality. Leaning into conflict and difficult emotions appear to be key avenues for personal growth and transformation towards an ecological consciousness.

Sharon Stein (2019)** considers what might be needed for higher education institutions to prepare learners for the collapse of the modern-colonial existence, which such institutions are dependent on and actively reproducing. She advocates addressing the denials that keep the modern-colonial habit-of-being in place - including the denials of systemic colonial violence, of unsustainability, and of the condition of our entanglement. She also outlines some of the deep changes that need to take place within intellectual, relational, and affective dimensions of (un)learning. Further, Stein and colleagues from the Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (2020) present a series of pedagogical cartographies, alongside reflections on the context of their development and use, as a support for people to "stay with the trouble" of decolonization in various contexts. They highlight the many difficulties of engaging in such work without reproducing colonial habits of being rooted in modern consumptive desires and entitlements.


Ian Roderick (2022)* considers the multiple ethical implications of carrying out forecasting and 'future studies' research. Particularly with regards to matters of societal collapse, impacts may range from the emotional to the political dimensions, especially within a sensationalistic media landscape. He suggests that an ethics of care and respect, cherishing humanity as part of nature, is of primordial importance.

This conclusion is shared by Jonathan Leighton and Jem Bendell (2022)*, in another paper on the ethical implications of anticipating and witnessing societal collapse. They report on a focus group conversation that took place among participants in the Scholars' Warning initiative, with the aim of exploring some of the ways that anticipating collapse might influence people's values and those of society at large, and the ways in which such conversations should take place. Their conclusions foreground the universal value of avoiding intense suffering, for both humans and other-than-humans; the need to beware of group boundaries that are often arbitrarily defined by systems of power for the benefit of a few; and the importance of relying on inclusive, participatory decision-making processes rooted in compassion, fairness and mutual respect.


In a book chapter titled "Venezuela, Oil and Climate Change: Overcoming Nostalgia" (2021)**, Cristina Margarita Carbonell Betancourt and Marcela Scarpellini deliver a thorough examination of the dire situation of Venezuela, a country "in a deep state of collapse" (p.8), and use the DA agenda to consider ways of transforming Venezuela's political, economic, and cultural ‘operating systems’. As they point out, the challenges faced by this country are both representative of those that await many other parts of the world (including displacement, conflict, malnutrition, economic collapse, etc.), but also of critical importance geopolitically. Indeed, Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world: therefore, whether it yields to the lure of extracting these reserves in a short-term bid to fix its current woes, or whether it succeeds in leaving this oil underground and seeks novel paths forward, will be crucial. The authors outline a comprehensive, biomimetic plan of action, based on the work of Elinor Ostrom and others, which would notably empower local and regional stakeholders through bioregional, polycentric governance; foster a localised, diversified, and circular economy detached from the fixation on economic growth and from the extraction of fossil fuels; as well as restore ecosystems, and promote the cultural wisdom and heritage of Indigenous populations. They point out that such deep changes could only take place on the foundation of a process enabling Venezuelans to acknowledge past and present grief, and work towards a national reconciliation process, in view of the widespread political and economic oppression that has characterised the country's history. 

Jason Monios and Gordon Wilmsmeier (2021)* argue that the concepts of Deep Adaptation and collapsology articulate radical alternatives to the current hegemonic order, and that they are helping to re-politicise climate change as an acute threat, in essential ways. They consider that both approaches call for a clear plan of action, based on decarbonising energy use, planning for degrowth, and relocalising key systems such as energy, food and water. The authors also view the mainstream emphasis on resilience as distracting, given the need for deep and systematic transformation of the global post-political regime. The same authors have also put forth the need for a radical, DA-inspired paradigm change and regime transition for the maritime transport sector and supply chain (2020)*.

By means of a detailed typology, encompassing various views on the seriousness of climate change, prospects for climate mitigation, and the types of mitigation measures that can be put into place, Anders Nordgren (2021) analyses a variety of pessimistic and optimistic opinions expressed in the debate on climate change. He stresses that it is problematic to speak about this pessimism and optimism in general terms, and points to the importance of uncertainty in climate models, and of commenters' own political ideologies, as key factors determining their more pessimistic or optimistic views on different aspects of climate change impacts. Focusing on some of the forms of 'climate optimism' that correspond to those analysed in Nordgren's paper, Philip J. Wilson (2021) considers how attempts to shield the public from the realities of climate change, and suppressing truth in the name of positivity, can lead to climate inaction.


Susanne Moser (2020)** writes about the difficult work of "after it's too late" (to prevent dangerous climate change). As Western society approaches "both symbolic and actual death," (p.2) and is entering its final decline or at least a profound transformative process, what is to be done? Her response: politics that face into the cultural taboo of endings; continued climate mitigation; transformational adaptation; ending separation; and inner work.

Joseph TC Rehling (2021)* uses an existential lens to examine the phenomenon of eco-anxiety, a state of being that triggers concerns around issues of death, isolation, meaning, and freedom/responsibility. The author finds the approach useful as a way to inform clinical therapeutic work, based on encouraging and facilitating active engagement of people in distress with the topic of climate change, for example through group or community interventions. In his doctoral thesis (2021)*, Rehling elaborates on how mental health services might support "small-group, nature-based, eco-behavioural interventions" (p.147).

Similarly, Lewis and colleagues (2020)* discuss how climate anxiety gives rise to a myriad of dialectics in people who experience distress in view of the immensity of climate change as a problem. From a therapeutic perspective, the authors strongly recommend an exploration and transcendence of these dialectics by mental health practitioners. Instead of seeking to reduce patients' climate anxiety, following the usual approach, practitioners should help them to transform it "into relational, agentic, cognitive, and spiritual forms of adaptation to climate threats" (p.291).


Helen Etchanchu, Frank G.A. de Bakker and Giuseppe Delmestri (2021)* consider the agency of sustainability-related social movement organisations. They focus in particular on various strategies of carrying out internal and external organising, and outline key factors that may contribute to movement success. A case study of Extinction Rebellion leads them to highlight the movement's connections with Fridays for Future and the Deep Adaptation movements, and to examine the novel forms of organising that XR introduced. The chapter concludes with a call for more engaged forms of research on behalf of scholars, to help further the goals of such movements.

In his MA thesis titled The End of the World as We Know it: Hope, Despair and Action among Deep Adapters (2021)**, Chris Tröndle explores the topic of “How do Deep Adapters imagine the future?” by sharing fictional stories collected from Deep Adaptation spaces. The research questions “Which emotions follow the acceptance of collapse as a possibility for the future and how are they dealt with?” and “How does anticipation of collapse influence everyday life and activism?” are explored in more detail through ethnographic research. This research depicts various elements of the Deep Adaptation journeys of Chris and his research participants. He concludes that criticisms brought forth against the Deep Adaptation framework as disempowering and leading to apathy do not hold up with his research participants - most of whom have been inspired to undertake various new creative endeavours around the topic of collapse; and that collapse anticipation and Deep Adaptation, in fact, are essential to the environmental movement.


Bohac Clarke, V. (2019). Double Indemnity: Integral Analysis of the Culture of Fear Inside Academia and How It Fails Its Members and Its Greater Community. Cultural and Pedagogical Inquiry, 11(2), Article 2. https://doi.org/10.18733/cpi29487

Carbonell Betancourt, C. M., & Scarpellini, M. (2021). Venezuela, Oil and Climate Change: Overcoming Nostalgia. In J. M. Luetz & D. Ayal (Eds.), Handbook of Climate Change Management: Research, Leadership, Transformation (pp. 2777–2806). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-57281-5_242

Etchanchu, H., de Bakker, F. G. A., & Delmestri, G. (2021). Social movement organizations agency for sustainable organizing. In S. Teerikangas, T. Onkila, K. Koistinen, & M. Mäkelä (Eds.), Research Handbook of Sustainability Agency (pp. 197–212). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781789906035.00019

Leighton, J., & Bendell, J. (2022). Ethical implications of anticipating and witnessing societal collapse: Report of a discussion with international scholars. (Vol. 9) [Report]. University of Cumbria. https://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/6326/

Lewis, J. L., Haase, E., & Trope, A. (2020). Climate Dialectics in Psychotherapy: Holding Open the Space Between Abyss and Advance. Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 48(3), 271–294. https://doi.org/10.1521/pdps.2020.48.3.271

Miller, J., & Nay, E. (2022). Ontological Upgrade: Indigenous Futures and Radical Transformation. SPOOL, 9(2), 65–76. https://doi.org/10.47982/spool.2022.2.05

Monios, J., & Wilmsmeier, G. (2020). Deep adaptation to climate change in the maritime transport sector – a new paradigm for maritime economics? Maritime Policy & Management, 47(7), 853–872. https://doi.org/10.1080/03088839.2020.1752947

Monios, J., & Wilmsmeier, G. (2021). Deep adaptation and collapsology. In F. Carrillo & G. Koch, Knowledge For The Anthropocene (pp. 145–156). Edward Elgar Publishing. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781800884298.00023

Moser, S. C. (2020). The work after “It’s too late” (to prevent dangerous climate change). WIREs Climate Change, 11(1), e606. https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.606

Nordgren, A. (2021). Pessimism and Optimism in the Debate on Climate Change: A Critical Analysis. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 34(4), 22. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-021-09865-0

Pisters, S. R., Vihinen, H., & Figueiredo, E. (2020). Inner change and sustainability initiatives: Exploring the narratives from eco-villagers through a place-based transformative learning approach. Sustainability Science, 15(2), 395–409. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-019-00775-9

Rehling, J. T. (2021). Exploring psychological responses to climate change using an existential framework: What hurts, what helps, and implications for mental health services [PhD Thesis, University of Essex]. https://repository.essex.ac.uk/31346/1/Thesis%20final%20-%20J.%20Rehling.pdf 

Rehling, J. T. (2022). Conceptualising eco-anxiety using an existential framework. South African Journal of Psychology, 00812463221130898. https://doi.org/10.1177/00812463221130898

Roderick, I. (2022). Ethics in research for resilience and societal collapse. In R. Iphofen & D. O’Mathúna (Eds.), Ethical Evidence and Policymaking—Interdisciplinary and International Research (pp. 240–271). Policy Press. https://bristoluniversitypressdigital.com/view/book/9781447363972/ch013.xml

Rosengren, M. R., Polleter, F., Sarkez-Knudsen, J., & Mameli, F. A. (2022). Urban Space and Everyday Adaptations: Rethinking commons, co-living, and activism for the Anthropocene City. SPOOL, 9(2), 5–24. https://doi.org/10.47982/spool.2022.2.01

Squier, S. (2022). The Narrative and Aesthetic Strategies of Climate Change Comics. In L. Campos & P.-L. Patoine (Eds.), Life, Re-Scaled: The Biological Imagination in Twenty-First-Century Literature and Performance. Open Book Publishers.

Stein, S. (2019). The Ethical and Ecological Limits of Sustainability: A Decolonial Approach to Climate Change in Higher Education. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 35(3), 198–212. https://doi.org/10.1017/aee.2019.17

Stein, S., Andreotti, V., Suša, R., Amsler, S., Hunt, D., Ahenakew, C., Jimmy, E., Cajkova, T., Valley, W., Cardoso, C., Siwek, D., Pitaguary, B., D’Emilia, D., Pataxó, U., Calhoun, B., & Okano, H. (2020). Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures: Reflections on Our Learnings Thus Far. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education (NJCIE), 4(1), Article 1. https://doi.org/10.7577/njcie.3518

Stevens, L. (2019). Anthroposcenic Performance and the Need For ‘Deep Dramaturgy’. Performance Research, 24(8), 89–97. https://doi.org/10.1080/13528165.2019.1718436

Tröndle, C. S. (2021). Hope, Despair, and Action among Deep Adapters [MA Thesis, Freie Universität Berlin]. https://www.teotwawkipaper.com/

Wagner, P. (2021). Embracing the Environmental Grotesque and Transforming the Climate Crisis. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, isab086. https://doi.org/10.1093/isle/isab086

Wilson, P. J. (2021). Climate Change Inaction and Optimism. Philosophies, 6(3), Article 3. https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies6030061

Zwangsleitner, D., Carnelli, E., Boucsein, B., & Fettahoglu-Özgen, E.-S. (2022). It’s too late for pessimism: How the Deep Adaptation Agenda is relevant for teaching in the spatial disciplines. SPOOL, 9(2), 57–64. https://doi.org/10.47982/spool.2022.2.04

Mushrooms near the Ambleside Campus, University of Cumbria, October 2022

Monday, 7 November 2022

Cumbria University Professor hosts discussion of localised heat reduction at COP27 UN climate conference

The 27th UN climate conference, this time in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, is underway. On November 7th at COP27, University of Cumbria Professor Dr Jem Bendell, hosted a presentation by the founder of the MEER Framework. Dr Ye Tao presented the crucial need for more options for cheap, local, ground-level and safe solar reflection systems. "These are not the grand schemes of venture capitalists or billionaires, but simple tools that might help the poor to cope with extremes of temperatures" explained Professor Jem Bendell. "They need urgent testing and refinement, as without them, progress towards netzero could have a really hot twist in the tale for the urban poor when the dimming effects from dirty fuels are reduced." 

The video of the presentation by Prof Bendell and by Dr Tao is online at Facing Future TV. Scroll to the end for the video. 

At the end of the session, in the Press Room of COP27, Professor Bendell read out the Scholars' Oath to the Future for the first time. Already 165 scholars from 34 countries have endorsed it, and it is now open for wider support. 

The following are the remarks made by Professor Bendell during the session. 

"The Guardian reported today that the word 'scary' is on the lips of many scientists. It’s difficult to be scared all the time. But emissions are up. Atmospheric carbon is up. Temperature, sea levels and hunger are all rising. We all know it. But we also know something more incriminating. The talks and agreements at the UNFCCC over the past decades have not managed to change any of it. Instead, they consistently move the goal posts. Back in May 1992 when the UNFCCC was formed, member states agreed to cut emissions to stabilise atmospheric carbon at 354 parts per million by 2000. 22 years ago. But annual emissions have climbed 65% since then. Then the world’s top climatologists stated in 2009 that if global emissions had not peaked by 2020, we would face inevitable catastrophic changes. But annual emissions reached a record high last year. They might continue to move the goal posts, but we can’t play games with nature. Nature will always win, because nature owns us, not the other way round. And that’s despite the stories we tell ourselves about which one of us owns which bit of nature for now.


Faced with the bad news some experts ask us all to calm down. They finally admit that ‘OK it’s already worse than we had thought, but don’t worry, it won’t be as bad as we had thought’. They say we just need all societies on the planet to throw their emissions into high-speed reverse, have the negative emissions technologies defy independent analysis to actually work properly, and be blessed with a lot of climate luck from the ecosystems that we have already disturbed. Opinion surveys show us that vast numbers of people believe that won’t happen. Especially young people and increasingly people in the global south. In response, we see the professional talk-shoppers criticize folks for being ‘too negative’. But people losing their livelihoods or being displaced from their homes do not benefit from such stubborn optimism of the professional classes. Rather, ‘climate brightsiding’ where we are made to doubt what we can see with our own eyes is limiting our agenda. It means we don’t support disaster risk reduction, adaptation and reparations as much as we might. It means we don’t support rapidly deployable technologies that could help people who will suffer the most and the soonest. It means we don’t question the power structures that are sending our children into a hellscape. It means we don’t abandon our old ideas to become more radical.


It’s difficult to be scared all the time. Complete climate honesty is painful, but necessary to try to reduce harm. Today we will hear from Dr Ye Tao about some of the awkward science on climate change and a new initiative that seeks to reduce the growing suffering.


When working at the Rowland Institute of Harvard University, Dr. Ye Tao was beginning to realise just how bad the climate crisis is. In 2020 he founded the MEER Framework after grasping the accelerating and ultimate consequences of the climate crisis on Earth's delicate web of life. Educated as a biochemist, physicist, material scientist, and custom instrumentation developer, he brings the benefits of a multidisciplinary background in engineering and science to the climate crisis."

Then Dr Ye Tao made his presentation, which will be available soon at Facing Future TV. After the presentation, Professor Bendell highlighted the problem that Dr Tao had explained. 


"Thankyou Dr Tao for helping us to see that there is a 'netzero paradox' that’s dangerous to people living in big cities in the Global South. On the one hand, the netzero paradox is that global dimming from aerosol pollutants masks how the global average temperature would probably be already one and half degrees celsius higher than in 1890. On the other hand, this netzero paradox is most concerning for how the race to zero carbon will cause deadly temperature spikes in major cities due to the heat island effect and lack of access to local cooling systems. So we need complete climate honesty. An answer must be found immediately and at the very least, in low-to-zero carbon cooling solutions made rapidly available in cities.

Fortunately, in recent months we are seeing more scientists calling for more climate honesty, which includes attention to the bad-to-worst case scenarios. In the journal paper “Climate Endgame: Exploring catastrophic climate change scenarios”, an interdisciplinary team of eminent scientists concluded “There is ample evidence that climate change could become catastrophic. We could enter such “endgames” at even modest levels of warming… Facing a future of accelerating climate change while blind to worst-case scenarios is naive risk management at best and fatally foolish at worst.”

In the journal paper “Climate change and the threat to civilization” other scientists concluded that: "There is, in sum, no solid basis at present for dismissing the broken world and global collapse as too unlikely to merit serious consideration.” In the journal paper “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2022” a group of eminent climate scientists write that “The consequences of global heating are becoming increasingly extreme, and outcomes such as global societal collapse are plausible and dangerously underexplored.”

These studies echo a public call of over 500 scholars issued 2 years ago for COP25, entitled the “Scholars’ Warning on Societal Disruption and Collapse”. It requests not only to study collapse scenarios, but also be straight with the public and policy makers than this is a plausible future and so we must begin to prepare for it.

These scientists and scholars also admit how the last decades of climate science 'consensus' failed to predict the levels of volatility and damage from current global heating. The most concerning analyses were side-lined, and yet are proving to be closer to reality than the previous 'consensus.' The reasons why that 'establishment climatology' failed to prioritise the communicating of bad-to-worse scenarios must be learned from as we enter more turbulent times. That learning must include scientists, science communicators and other environment professionals reflecting on the past choices they and we have made. Then a new approach would be beneficial, which does not hide behind claims of pure objectivity or wish to project confidence about future scenarios or the human capacity for controlling outcomes. The risk that massive new funding may distort this learning process, as well as future science, communication and policy-making, needs to be recognised. More radical and less-corporate approaches are needed to generate the kind of creative ideas that humanity urgently needs. Over 150 scholars who work on climate issues in 34 countries have therefore endorsed a Scholars' Oath to the Future, which I will read publicly for the first time today."

You can see a Q&A between Prof Jem and Dr Tao here

Saturday, 5 November 2022

Scholars' Oath to the Future

At the COP27 climate summit of the UNFCCC, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, the Scholars' Oath to the Future is launched. Within the oath, scholars apologise for their past caution and promise to all young people who face a climate-damaged future that they will be bolder and more engaging in future. 

The text of the oath follows below. By the day of its launch, 165 scholars from 34 countries had taken the oath. Over the coming months they will read it to their students or other young persons they work with and engage with the feedback. The list of those scholars, and who they work with, follows below. 

Scholars' Oath to the Future 

This is an apology and an oath of renewed commitment. It is an apology from me and my fellow scholars, to you, the younger generations whom we are meant to serve. It is also an oath to learn from our past mistakes as we seek to better contribute in future. 

That future is bleak. You, amongst the younger generations, are clearer on that than most older people. You know that the total pollution and devastation has exceeded the planet's capacity to cope. You know that today's dominant economies compel that destruction to continue. You have a clearer sight on the situation than most people older than you because you are less compromised in how you assess the bad news. You are less likely to assume the future will be like the past. You are less likely to keep quiet about uncomfortable ideas for fear of hurting your income, reputation, or influence. You are less likely to try to believe something because it might numb your own pain. That is because you must live in the future that will exist, not one that many older people prefer to imagine when they dismiss 'negative thinking'.

Scholars from around the world in many disciplines have known for years that the trends are in the wrong direction for humanity and life on Earth. Whatever corner of the world we live in, we have seen how our efforts to reverse worrying trends have not been working. We ignored all of that to allow credible lies to be put to policy makers, senior leaders and the general public. We justified our complacency to ourselves with a variety of explanations that put our own needs, pleasures and fears first. We blamed powerful others, rather than our own part in the charade.

Today, the rich countries, large corporations, elite institutions and mainstream media all support the credible lies that subdue us so that we do not rebel against the global economic system. These lies form the modern face of processes of domination and exploitation that have existed for centuries. But from today we promise not to compromise any more. When there is unsettling analysis, we will share it. When there is injustice, we will name it. When there is distortion by national or corporate interest, we will challenge it. If we fear a backlash, then we will both name that fear and overcome it. Then, if you within younger generations are critical of our efforts, we will respond with curiosity and seek to make amends. Because we recognise that our role is to contribute to your future. 

Myself and my fellow scholars are sorry for our own part in not helping enough in the past. We promise to learn with you about how to reduce harm, uphold universal values, and enable futures that may still be possible. Therefore, I will tell others of this apology and oath, and promote mutual support. Then every year I will publicly reconfirm this commitment to all of you.  

If you have a PhD you can take the oath here. People who take the oath will then be invited to participate in a video project and also to share their experiences of discussions with young people about making this commitment real. 

The Oath is already available in 6 languages: EnglishFrançaisEspañolPусский中文Bahasa.

The following scholars are people with a PhD and who take the oath in a personal capacity:

Rachelle Adam, Law Faculty, Hebrew University, IL

John Adams, Saybrook University, US

Jorn Altmann, Seoul National University, KR

Alexandra-Ellen Appel, Personal capacity, Greenpeace, US

Adele Aubrey, University of Manchester, UK

Susan Bailey, Edith Cowan University, AU

Nicole Bale, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, NL

Bobby Banerjee, City University of London, PT

Wolmet Barendregt, Eindhoven University of Technology, NL

Michael Bauer, Naropa University, US

David Bazett-Jones, University of Toronto, CA

Alan Bellamy, Unattached, UK

Jem Bendell, University of Cumbria, ID

Geoff Berry, International Ecopsychology Society, AU

Andreas Birgegard, Karolinska institutet, SE

Betsy Bolton, Swarthmore College, MA

Dominique Bourg, University of Lausanne, CH

Andii Bowsher, Northumbria University, UK

Elizabeth Bragg, Sustainable Futures Australia, AU

Miguel Brandao, KTH Royal institute of Technology, SE

Mark Bricca, Unattached, US

Lajos Brons, Lakeland University Japan, JP

Jennifer Browdy, Bard College at Simon's Rock, CA

Hedy Bryant, Charles Sturt University, AU

Leandro Caniglia, Unattached, AR

Hamilton Carvalho, USP, BR

Jindra Cekan, Unattached, CZ

Floriane Clement, INRAE, FR

Yves Cochet, Institut Momentum, FR

Matt Colborn, Alef Trust, UK

John Colvin, Emerald Nwetwork Ltd, UK

Mickael Coriat, IRAP - University Toulouse 3, FR

David Crookall, UCA, France, FR

Hamish Cunningham, University of Sheffield, UK

Ika Darnhofer, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, AT

Mathew Davis, Unattached, US

Todd Dean, Unattached, US

Bridget Doran, Unattached, NZ

Jeffrey Douglass, Unattached, UK

Hannah Dugdale, University of Groningen, NL

Francois Dulac, Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives, FR

Jean-Baptiste Durand, CIRAD, FR

Victoria Esteves, University of Stirling, UK

Jelel Ezzine, Ecole Nationale d'Ingénieurs de Tunis (ENIT), TN

Sherry Falsetti, Unattached, US

Blair Feltmate, University of Waterloo, CA

Tina Fields, Naropa University, US

Tobi Fishel, USC Institute for Integrative Health & Wellness, US

Rachel Forgasz, Monash University, AU

Robert Fowler, University of Adelaide, AU

Katy Fox, Mycelium Design, LU

Gudula Frieling, Unattached, DE

Tomasz Ganicz, Technical Univeristy of Lodz, PL

Dwight Gaudet, Unattached, US

Devleena Ghosh, University of Technology (UTS), AU

Susan Goldsworthy, International Institute for Management Development, UK

Anthony Goodchild, apha.gov.uk, UK

Christopher Gore, Unattached, CA

Aidy Halimanjaya, Dala Institute for Environment and Society, ID

Juan Jesus Haro Mora, Unattached, US

Hiroshi Hasegawa, The Research Institute for Saving Mother Earth, JP

Julie Hawkins, University of Reading, AU

Stephen Healy, UNSW, AU

Yogi Hendlin, Erasmus School of Philosophy, NL

John Hiemstra, The King's University, CA

Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, University of South Australia, AU

Kerryn Higgs, University of Tasmania, AU

Mark Hixon, University of Hawaii, US

Daniel Hoyer, The Evolution Institute, CA

Ric Hudgens, Viridis Graduate Institute, US

Stasha Huntingford, Mount Royal University, CA

Justine Huxley, St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, UK

John James, University of New South Wales, AU

Robert R. Janes, Coalition of Museums for Climate Justice, CA

Nico Jenkins, Maine College of Art, US

Jeremy Jimenez, SUNY Cortland, US

Stephen Johnson, Unattached, UK

Philip Johnson, University of Hawaii, US

Mike Joy, Victoria University, AU

Sean Kelly, California Institute of Integral Studies, US

Chrislain Eric Kenfack, University of Alberta, CA

Peter Kindfield, Hilltop Education Connections, US

Bernadette Kirwan, Unattached, UK

Bartlomiej Knosala, Politechnika Śląska, PL

Paul Kreiss, Concordia University Chicago, US

Eva Lantsoght, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, EC

Greg Lennon, Unattached, US

Joel Levey, Wisdom at Work, US

Rolla Lewis, California State University, East Bay, US

Vicki Little, RMIT University, Vietnam, VN

Christian Mahieu, ANIS-Catalyst, FR

Janet Maker, Unattached, US

David Mark Welch, Marine Biological Laboratory, US

Rebecca Martin, District Council, NZ

Stephen Martin, University of the West of England Bristol, UK

Andrew Mathewson, University of Washington, US

Aimee Maxwell, Unattached, AU

Stella Mbau, LOABOWA, KE

Bill McGuire, University College London, UK

Josie McLean, The Partnership Pty Ltd, AU

Deena Metzger, Unattached, US

Susanne Moser, Susanne Moser Research & Consulting, US

Surajit C Mukhopadhyay, Amity University Chhattisgarh, IN

Maaike Muntinga, Amsterdam UMC-VU University, NL

Sandra Niessen, Unattached, NL

Wolfgang Nitschke, CNRS, FR

Diana Caroline Njama, Unattached, KE

Oluwaseun Oguntuase, Lagos State University, NG

Leif Ohlsson, Gutenborg University, SE

Sarah Ollier, Loughborough University, CZ

Adi Ophir, Visiting Professor of the Humanities, Brown University, US

Hans C. Ossebaard, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, AU

Miguel Pajares, University of Barcelona, ES

Michal Palasz, Jagiellonian University, PL

Michael Palkowski, University of East London, UK

Yin Paradies, Deakin University, AU

Ronald Parry, Rice University, US

David Pellow, University of California, Santa Barbara, US

John Phelps, Unattached, US

David Phillips, University of Southampton, UK

C. J. Pickett, Swarthmore, US

Max Pinsard, Low-tech Lab Montreal, FR

Igor Polskiy, GEN-Russia, ME

Marion Princaud, Waste Hunter, FR

Josef Rabenbauer, Unattached, DE

Terry Rankin, Retired, US

Rupert Read, UEA, UK

William Rees, University of British Columbia, CA

Eloy Revilla Sanchez, Estacion Biologica de Doñana CSIC, ES

Jane Rogers, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Fred Rohrer, Pedagogical University St.Gallen, Switzerland, CH

Amanda Root, Unattached, UK

Barton Rubenstein, Unattached, US

Daniel Ruiz, SSSUP, IT

Stephen Rush, Unattached, UK

Noel Salazar, KU Leuven, BE

Steven Earl Salmony, AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, US

Geoffrey Samuel, Cardiff University, UK

Joseph Scalia III, Unattached, US

Ginie Servant-Miklos, Erasmus University College, NL

Caroline Smith, University of Tasmania, AU

Jennie Stephens, Northeastern University, IE

Stephen Sterling, University of Plymouth, UK

Dr. Makere Stewart-Harawira, University of Alberta, CA

Ian Sturrock, Teesside University, UK

Cedric Sueur, Universite de Strasbourg, CH

Mark Swoiskin, UCSF, US

Chong Kee Tan, Labishire Homestead Commons, US

Ye Tao, Rowland Institute at Harvard, US

Rachel Taylor, Unattached, AU

Wayne Teel, James Madison University, US

Lars Tranvik, Uppsala University, SE

Elia Valentini, University of Essex, UK

Leo van Kampenhout, Utrecht University, NL

Petra Verdonk, Amsterdam UMC-VU University, NL

Marjolein Visser, Université libre de Bruxelles, BE

Linda Vogelsong, WovenStory Productions, US

Nathanael Wallenhorst, UCO, FR

Arthur Weaver, Unattached, US

Martin Weinel, Cardiff University, UK

William Welsh, Self, US

Gesa Weyhenmeyer, Uppsala University, SE

David Wheeler, Sustainable Transitions Costa Rica, CR

Sarah Williams, University of Cumbria, UK

Dominique Beth Wilson, Western Sydney University, AU

If you have a PhD you can take the oath here