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

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