Thursday 19 October 2023

Is it time for climatologists to apologise to activists? An open letter from international scholars.

Seventy scholars from 16 countries have signed a public letter in support of climate activists who were undermined by senior climatologists, ahead of those activists facing persecution and prosecution. The rapidly changing climate demonstrates that the activists were closer to the truth than many of the scientists. Although it might be too late to preserve the freedom of many activists, the seventy scholars call for public apologies from senior climatologists. The text of the letter follows below, and the list of signatories below that. 

Discussing the open letter, Professor Colin Butler, of Australia National University, explained that "peril lies in understating the risk to global civilisation from unabated climate change (and other aspects of limits to growth); I call on my colleagues to show leadership and courage." Climate scientist Dr Wolfgang Knorr of Lund University (Sweden) said: "what we need of both politicians and experts is nothing more than honesty - say you don't care about the climate crisis, or act in way that does justice to the vastness of the threat."

Focusing on the unfair treatment of climate activists, Professor in Science Education, Dr Caroline Smith, from the University of Tasmania (Australia) said: "Shooting the messengers is a disgraceful state of affairs. We send congratulations and strength to those courageous scientists who continue to speak out for all our futures." In the Netherlands, Dr Lummina Horlings, Professor of Socio-Spatial Planning (University of Groningen) said: "we should be grateful to activists such as Extinction Rebellion who play an active role to stop the subsidy of fossil fuels." French Agronomist Dr Etienne-Pascal Journet (CNRS) said: "While the climatic and ecological upheaval has never been so obvious, propaganda against the wise, courageous and peaceful activists is abounding, supported by various lobbies, think tanks, the government, and opportunistic political parties." Also from France, Pierre-Henri Gouyon, Professor of Ecology (Natural History Museum, France) said: "Trying to warn humanity of the climate and biodiversity crisis should be 'haloed' not criminalised."

Reflecting how global heating threatens to disrupt everything in society, the open letter is signed by academics from many disciplines, not just climatology. It comes after the public statement issued by the co-founders of activist group Extinction Rebellion, Gail Bradbrook, Roger Hallam and Clare Farrell, about the unhelpful pressures on them from some climatologists over recent years and the need for more courageous truth telling in a world with a rapidly changing climate. Emeritus Professor Jem Bendell with the University of Cumbria in the UK said: “It’s time that more scholars back the activists who are being proven right on the climate. It’s ridiculous that bravely accurate activists like XR's Gail, Roger and Clare now face prison, while their loudly inaccurate critics in the climatology profession face just another payday.”

If you want to help amplify this message, please search social media posts for those scientists who have publicly criticised activists like Extinction Rebellion, and politely ask them for their latest opinion, now that reality shows the activists were closer to the truth than they were. For instance, on this Twitter list of scientists, the following search terms will identify those who have previously criticised or condemned climate activists: alarmism, alarmist, catastrophist, doom, doomist, doomism. If you link to this letter, that may help them to see the strength of concern. 

Climate Activists Deserve our Support

Around the world, peaceful environmental activists are being vilified by the media, prosecuted by the state and, in some countries, murdered with impunity. Worldwide, one environmental activist is being killed every other day [1], and people who seek to defend our planet are losing their freedoms to do so [2]. Sadly, a globalist-funded network of propaganda against such activists has distorted the media, social media and political responses [3]. That is despite the now rapidly changing climate proving that humanity owes climate activists our gratitude and leaders owe them an apology [4]. In this age of consequences, the appropriate response must be to gather environmental activists in dialogue with scientists and wider civil society, to explore why the activists often better assessed the risks from environmental change, why societies were so resistant to that truth, and how to enable better decision making in future. 

As researchers who signed the initial ‘Scholars’ Warning on Societal Disruption and Collapse’ three years ago [5], we have been aware of the limitations of institutionalised scientific research to provide insight into both the reality and risks in highly complex systems, such as the global environment. For instance, we knew that both the consensus and averaging requirements of the reporting from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) led to downplaying data and findings that were crucial to understanding the world’s climate [6]. The recent speed and impact of global heating demonstrates that those generalist scholars and citizen scientists associated with campaign groups like Extinction Rebellion, were better able to identify the risks to humanity, and were often better able to bring this to the attention of the public than employed climatologists.

Although hundreds of scientists have welcomed such activism [7], it is a tragedy that some senior climatologists criticised peaceful activists in recent years, inadvertently undermining their credibility with the public and encouraging draconian legislation and punishments [8]. We lament this misleading and counterproductive approach to science communication by some of our senior colleagues. Instead, we congratulate those scientists who have themselves become protestors, like members of Scientist Rebellion, and encourage others to join them [9].

It is neither conspiracy-minded nor disrespectful towards scientists to agree with the extensive scholarship showing us that research silos, hierarchies, and funding considerations lead to suboptimal conclusions on real world implications. There is an urgent need not to allow the same siloed and hierarchical approaches that hampered institutional climatology in the past to dominate its future in this new era of societal disruption [10]. Because there is a lot still to be done to reduce harm, despite the tragic circumstances facing us all. Life on Earth, including humanity, will not tolerate further institutionally-caused blind spots on catastrophic threats. Therefore, as signatories, we call for more efforts to bring well-researched activists together with generalist scholars and career scientists, to better understand the complex system that is the biosphere and climate.

To support that, not only do we invite new signatories for the Scholars’ Warning declaration, but also welcome public apologies from those scholars who used their status to undermine the sense of both hazard and urgency that the environmental activists were promoting over recent years. As activists are being persecuted and prosecuted right now, the time for such apologies is also right now. 

[70 scientists from 16 countries signed, with their names listed below]. 


1] The NGO Global Witness claims that, on average, somewhere in the world an environmental activist is killed every other day, with 177 known to have been murdered in 2022. 

2] In the West, peaceful environmental activists are being criminalised and prosecuted like never before. Many face custodial sentences this autumn. Even peacefully reminding juries of the law is being criminalised in Britain. “There are a number of human rights that are currently not being respected by EU states,” said Michel Forst, the U.N. special rapporteur on environmental defenders. 

3] Backed by some of the world's largest anti-environmental corporations, The Atlas Network of think tanks has successfully been promoting the demonisation of environmental activists.. 

4] Ocean and air temperature anomalies and associated impacts are frightening. See: World breaches key 1.5C warming mark for record number of days - BBC News

5] See 

6] This has been known for many years, and actively ignored by many top scientists and those that wish to align with them. From 2017, see What Lies Beneath? The Scientific Understatement of Climate Risks and Chapter 1 of Deep Adaptation on bias and limits in climatology.

7] Unfortunately criticism of climate activists and their analysis of the situation has even been expressed publicly by some scientists who previously supported them. 

8] On this problem we note the important statement from XR co-founders

9] See 

10] See the 2023 report from the Post Carbon Institute: Welcome to the Great Unraveling: Navigating the Polycrisis of Environmental and Social Breakdown

Signatories, in their personal capacity:

Dr Wolfgang Knorr, Climate Scientist, Lund University, Sweden. 

Dr. Colin Butler, Honorary Professor of Public Health, Australian National University, Australia

Dr. Lummina Horlings, Professor Socio-Spatial Planning, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

Dr. Pascal Maugis, Climatologist, LSCE, France

Dr. Carlos de Castro, Professor of Physics, University of Valladolid, Spain.

Dr. Wolfgang Nitschke, Senior Scientist, CNRS, France

Dr. Jem Bendell, Emeritus Professor, University of Cumbria, UK.

Dr. Pierre-Henri Gouyon, Professor of Ecology, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, France

Dr. Rupert Read, Emeritus Professor, University of East Anglia & co-founder Climate Majority Project

Dr. Michal Palasz, assistant researcher, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland

Dr. Deena Metzger, Teacher/Writer, Daré, USA

Dr. JP Sapinski, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Université de Moncton, Canada

Dr. Els van Ooijen, Psychotherapist, Nepenthe Consulting, Netherlands

Dr. Supot Chunhachoti-ananta, Lecturer, Srinakharinwirot University, Thailand

Dr. Tomáš J Oberding PhD, Teaching Faculty, University of Phoenix, USA

Dr. Sandra Niessen, founding member, Research Collective for Decolonizing Fashion, Netherlands

Dr. Metje Postma, Lecturer, Leiden University, Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology, Netherlands

Dr. Jörn Altmann, Professor, Seoul National University, South Korea

Dr. Heather Sullivan-Catlin, Professor of Sociology, State University of New York – Potsdam, USA/Germany

Dr. Martin Siefkes, Research Associate, University of Technology Chemnitz, Germany

Dr. Johannes Scheppach, Doctor, Charité University Medicine Berlin, Germany

Dr. Peter Choate, Professor Social Work, Mount Royal University, Canada

Dr. Noel B. Salazar, Professor in Social and Cultural Anthropology, KU Leuven, Germany

Dr. Philippe Ricordeau, public health doctor, France

Dr. Marshall Tuttle, Lecturer in Music, Retired, Langston University, USA

Dr. Ghislaine Bouvier, Assistant Professor, Bordeaux University, France

Dr. Richard Parncutt, personal, University of Graz, Austria

Dr. László A. Rampasek, CEO, OurOffset Nonprofit LLC, Hungary.

Dr. Haris Shekeris Researcher, SUCH (Sustainable Change Research Network)

Dr. Etienne-Pascal Journet, Researcher in Agronomy, CNRS, France.

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, University Hospitals Birmingham, UK

Dr. Jeremy Jimenez, Assistant Professor of Education, SUNY Cortland USA.

Dr. Sylvain Weill, Assistant professor, ENGEES, Strasbourg, France

Dr. Steven Salmony, Pittsboro, AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, USA

Dr. Stef Craps, Professor of English Literature, Ghent University, Belgium

Dr. Stephen Martin, Visiting Professor in Learning for Sustainability, University of the West of England, UK.

Dr. Stephen Sterling, Emeritus Professor of Sustainability Education, University of Plymouth, UK

Dr. Cédric Sueur, Professor, Université de Strasbourg, France.

Dr. Jake Farr, Psychologist, Leading Through Storms, UK

Dr. Dietmar Weinmann, Physicist, CNRS, France.

Dr. Dalila Bovet, Ethologist, Université Paris Nanterre, France.

Dr. Philippe Marquet, associate professor, univ. Lille, France.

Dr. Aimee Maxwell, Psychologist, Deep Adaptation Forum, Australia.

Dr. Irene Malvestio, postdoc, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain.

Dr. Hedy Bryant, Facilitator and educator, HARK Facilitation Services, Australia.

Dr. Andrew Mathewson, Biologist, University of Washington, USA.

Dr. Elspeth Crawford, retired lecturer, University of Edinburgh, UK.

Dr. Arthur Weaver, independent scientist.

Dr. Ruth Irwin, Professor of Education, RMIT University, Australia.

Dr. Martin Weinel, Research Associate, Cardiff University, UK.

Dr. Yin Paradies, Professor of Race Relations, Deakin University, Australia.

Dr. Sean Kelly, Professor and author, California Institute of Integral Studies, USA

Dr. Carr Everbach, Chair of Environmental Studies; Engineering Professor, Swarthmore College, USA.

Dr. Shawn Rosenheim, Professor of English, Williams College, USA.

Dr. Elizabeth Manchester, researcher, independent

Dr. Matt Colborn, Tutor, Alef Trust, UK.

Dr. Chong Kee Tan, Founder, Labishire Homestead Commons, USA.

Dr. Andrew Boswell, Independent Scientist & Consultant, Climate Emergency Planning and Policy

Dr. Freya Higgins-Desbiolles, Adjunct Tourism Management, University of South Australia, Australia.

Dr. Marco Massetti, Responsable técnico de energía y sostenibilidad, FUNDACIÓ FICAT, Barcelona, Spain.

Dr. Fred Rohrer, Lecturer, Pedagogical University St.Gallen, Switzerland.

Dr. Judith McNeill, Retired, University of New England, Canada.

Dr. Joel Dubin, Professor, University of Waterloo, Canada.

Dr. Cathy Fitzgerald, Founder-Director, Haumea Ecoversity, Ireland.

Dr. David Phillips, Professor, University of Southampton, UK.

Dr. Greg Lennon, Scientist, CarLen5050.

Dr. Caroline Smith, Adjunct in science education, University of Tasmania, Australia.

Dr. Shana Melnysyn, Research Grants manager, University of California Humanities Research Institute, USA.


Wednesday 26 July 2023

Creativity Beyond Hope - Prof Bendell talk at Paradiso Amsterdam

Scholars’ Warning co-founder Professor Jem Bendell gave a short presentation to attendees of ‘Free Cultural Spaces’ in Paradiso Amsterdam, where he shared some of the ideas behind his art project Kintsugi World, which accompanies his new book ‘Breaking Together’. Below you can see the video of his talk, or read a rough transcript of the first part.

Jem’s explained there is evidence that the creeping collapse of modern societies has already begun and that the modernist and conformist beliefs in 'hope' can hold us back from our creative responses to that predicament. His book is free to download from the University and there is an online interactive course in November on ‘leading through collapse’The venue he spoke in hosted #Leftfield's first ever gig in 1996 (one of Jem's favourite bands).

Check against delivery on 25th July 2023. References to all statistics and claims are available in the endnotes of ‘Breaking Together’ (published by Good Works, 2023).

I’m happy to be joining you remotely in the venue that saw the band Leftfield’s first ever gig back in 1996. It’s a reminder, if we needed one, of the importance of free cultural spaces to creativity. And it’s another reminder of why we need a great reclamation of our power from the corporations, banks and remote state institutions. A great reclamation that we can all take part in, as normal life crumbles around us.

I’d like to take this short time together to invite you to consider three things. First, that a process of the collapse of industrial consumer societies has already begun. Second, instead of believing in the delusion of a managed transition to a sustainable consumer way of life, many people have a different motivation for engaging for the good of us all. We don’t need wishful thinking to act positively today. In that sense, we don’t actually need hope to be creative, but, instead, a faith in ourselves and in life itself. Third, I see that the creative arts can help more of us recognise that reality and discover new aims in life. That’s why I am really pleased to contribute to your event today.

My new book, called Breaking Together, explains how a process of the creeping collapse of modern societies is already underway. Modern conveniences look like they are still functioning, so it’s normal to be sceptical. But the data indicates the general situation. For instance, the Human Development Index is a basic indicator. It has been declining each year since 2019 in 80% of countries, in all regions of the world. Some of that data is collected 2 years before release. So it's a decline that began pre-pandemic. Previously it had been rising, always, in richer countries since 1990.

Data on our quality of life shows a global plateauing since 2016 and that 90% of countries have a declining quality of life. In the rich OECD countries this fall has been consistent since 2016. And some of that data was also collected a few years prior. So that suggests a persistent decline starting in 2015 or earlier.

In the book, I connect these cracks on the surface of modern societies with the crumbling foundations in our economic, energy, environmental, and food systems. Climate change is an accelerator of all these fractures, as well as being a problem in itself. Although specific societies have been disrupted terribly for centuries both by natural disasters and political violence, the evidence I present in the book ‘Breaking Together’ supports a different view. Simply, we have reached a point where most modern societies, while continuing to function on the surface, are already in the early stages of their collapse.

In the book I explain how we have not been told about this process of collapse, as experts, politicians and the media hold the microphone, and they are all incentivised to believe a myth of perpetual progress. I also provide the evidence that the reason we no longer see content about this breakdown going viral, is that the bigtech executives own the mixing board that is social media and are curating what we see and don’t see. We now know they do that in league with national security agencies of the US and perhaps other countries.

When people hear the bad news about society and the environment, some react by thinking that perhaps it’s not helpful to focus so much on the bad news. That means they aren’t facing the information, and instead switching to the topic of how we relate to that information. Which is when we hear the story that hope is essential. What is meant by the word ‘hope’ and what psychology says about the topic are not often considered.

Psychological research finds that whether people act pro-socially or not has very little to do with their perception of the future. Research finds that even catastrophic imaginaries can be more motivating than not. Instead, being attached to consequentialist ethics is the Achilles heel of activism and pro-social action. That is the idea that we do something only because we know it will have a positive impact or we think it is likely. I say it is the Achilles heel, because it can lead to people giving up when they sense they can’t achieve their goals, or even turning towards violent extremism and support for authoritarianism.

The teachings of Buddhism are relevant here. They regard hope as a thought pattern that takes us away from meeting reality as we find it. The Buddha commented there are three kinds of people in the world: “The hopeful, the hopeless, and the one who has done away with hope.”

A member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council, Oren Jay Sofer explains that hoping can, I quote, “direct our longing for happiness in an unskillful way. It places our well-being on an uncertain, imagined future beyond our control, thereby feeding craving and fixation. When the wished-for outcome isn’t realized, we are crushed.”

Let’s remember that we choose neither the circumstances of our life, nor the results of our actions. What we can choose is how we relate to each other, and how we respond.

When doing that, we can tune into our intuitive sense that there is something worthwhile about being alive and keep living from our hearts, no matter what happens.

There is some similarity here in the more mystical understandings of Christian teachings. The invitation for believers to have hope, as often summarized in the statement “faith, hope and charity,” does not need to suggest that a pain free world will come to exist on Earth. Rather, it can be an invitation to expect that the ultimate rightness of existence will be experienced by each of us in the end, whether that is in this life or after death. That kind of hope is closer to a faith or trust in the universe, whatever may occur in future.

It is also important we ask what it is that people are hoping for. Is it for our way of life to continue? Despite that relying on the exploitation of the world’s resources?

As Leftfield sang back in 1996: “how many visions must they burn, until we learn?” It’s time for a wholescale rejection of what I call in my book Imperial Modernity.

Because a collapsing of industrial consumer societies and the ideologies they uphold will provide opportunities for significant change which might reduce some forms of suffering in some parts of the world. Given the cumulative failure of myriad forms of past social change strategies to deliver a peaceful, equitable and sustainable world, the cracking of old systems could be regarded as a painful opportunity as well as a crisis. That is a darker hope, but it is also a practical one. My view is that we will be collapsing into communities, and the thing to play for is what we will find in community when it becomes all we have.

In Chapter 12 of my book, I profile a range of people who have allowed their acceptance of future or unfolding societal collapse to transform them. Some have become activists, some have become permaculture farmers, some have become spiritual teachers, some have become community leaders, some have become innovators of local exchange and local currency systems. Seeing what they do, inspires me with a broader hope that these disruptive times will bring more of us back to fuller attention to life itself.

In the book, I call this an ‘evotopia’ where more of us are witnessing and being with reality in all its dimensions.

So I am talking about a massive shift in our assumptions about life. How might that be helped? Art can help us see our situation and stories in new ways. It can involve a warping or mixing of old descriptions of reality. It is that intention and impact that makes something artistic, rather than the tools used in the art. That is why I was happy to work with a digital artist to create the cover of my book. It’s part of a Kintsugi World art project which I will show you in a minute.

[Professor Bendell then went on to describe the reflection invited in the art on the cover of the book, made by himself and Darinka Montico, and showed the other images in the collection. You can view them in the video of the presentation. More information on the event is at]. 

Sunday 11 June 2023

Breaking Together – a freedom-loving response to collapse

Breaking Together – a freedom-loving response to collapse is published by Good Works. 

It is out in hardback, paperback, e-book, and audiobook. The paperback is directly available from the publisher in the UK

From the back cover:

“This is a prophetic book.”  Satish Kumar, founder, Schumacher College

This book shows that instead of imposing elitist schemes and scams, regenerating nature and culture together is the only way forward.” Dr Stella Nyambura Mbau, Loabowa Kenya

The collapse of modern societies has already begun. That is the conclusion of two years of research by the interdisciplinary team behind Breaking Together. How did it come to this? Because monetary systems caused us to harm each other and nature to such an extent it broke the foundations of our societies. So what can we do? This book describes people allowing the full pain of our predicament to liberate them into living more courageously and creatively. They demonstrate we can be breaking together, not apart, in this era of collapse. The author argues that reclaiming our freedoms is essential to soften the fall and regenerate the natural world. Escaping the efforts of panicking elites, we can advance an ecolibertarian agenda for both politics and practical action in a broken world.

A signpost for people made politically homeless by the craziness of the last few years.” Aaron Vandiver, author, Under a Poacher’s Moon. 

A new compass for navigating collapse.” Pablo Servigne and Raphael Stevens, authors, Another End of the World is Possible

“If you want to save some of the world but hate being told what to do, this book is for you.” Clare Farrell, co-founder, Extinction Rebellion 

You can listen to the introduction for free here.

1 Economic collapse
2 Monetary collapse
3 Energy collapse
4 Biosphere collapse
5 Climate collapse
6 Food collapse
7 Societal collapse
8 Freedom to know
9 Freedom from progress
10 Freedom from banking
11 Freedom in nature
12 Freedom to collapse and grow
13 Freedom from fake green globalists

It may seem the conclusions of the book are quite bold and contestable. So, to get a sense of the amount of research that has gone into the book, you can download a pre-released chapter on food system breakdown. Dr Katja Hujo from the UN endorsed that by explaining that my “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.”

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:

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.

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: 



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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Miller, J., & Nay, E. (2022). Ontological Upgrade: Indigenous Futures and Radical Transformation. SPOOL, 9(2), 65–76.

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.

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

Moser, S. C. (2020). The work after “It’s too late” (to prevent dangerous climate change). WIREs Climate Change, 11(1), e606.

Nordgren, A. (2021). Pessimism and Optimism in the Debate on Climate Change: A Critical Analysis. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 34(4), 22.

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.

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]. 

Rehling, J. T. (2022). Conceptualising eco-anxiety using an existential framework. South African Journal of Psychology, 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.

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.

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.

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.

Stevens, L. (2019). Anthroposcenic Performance and the Need For ‘Deep Dramaturgy’. Performance Research, 24(8), 89–97.

Tröndle, C. S. (2021). Hope, Despair, and Action among Deep Adapters [MA Thesis, Freie Universität Berlin].

Wagner, P. (2021). Embracing the Environmental Grotesque and Transforming the Climate Crisis. ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, isab086.

Wilson, P. J. (2021). Climate Change Inaction and Optimism. Philosophies, 6(3), Article 3.

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.

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