Deep Adaptation – Jem Bendell & Toni Spencer

Thank you, Alison, and thank you to Dan also for… the CLP for the invite. Clearly, they invited me here to ruin your evening. I look out and and on the one hand it’s heartening to see so many people here, but it’s also…so it’s like….it feels like a horrible topic to be so popular. And when I was, earlier this year, just plowing through different scientific papers and blogs — that kind of work is a bit tedious. And I was really wondering as I was looking more and more into it. Like, why am I doing this? Why am I spending time, precious time, doing this and I never imagined then that it would get the response it’s got and … but, but actually I’ve just come off the back of a four and a half day retreat, which Tony who’s going to facilitate some process later. She and a group of people organized and I think it’s the … the conversations we’ve been having over the last few days have really helped me realize that people are ready for a new quality of conversation that starts from a very different starting point in terms of acceptance of…. of what the science is… is telling us, so I’m … I’ve been working in sustainability since my first job in 1995 when I left Cambridge University and went to work at WWF, but in that time I had basically assumed what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was saying as the state of the environment, the state of the climate and the nature of the challenge, the time we had. But what happened was… it’s basically over the last few years, and like all of us kept seeing these really terrifying stories passing across my screens and these stories were quite similar to the kind of the most horrific scenarios that people could Imagine would possibly possible one day for way way back in 1993 when I was at Cambridge University studying climate science within my geography degree, and so I … There was this sort of dissonance between my work on sustainable business within the broad paradigm of sustainable development, which means incremental change to the current system and what I was sensing might be happening in the world and so I took time out. I took a year off university — took an unpaid sabbatical and delved deeper into where we’re at and published a paper in July called “Deep Adaptation”, which talked about our predicament… our …the tragedy of climate change and basically said that my conclusion is that now a climate induced collapse in our way of life is inevitable and in the near term and we need to stop. We need to move beyond the idea that this is taboo and this is counterproductive and actually have far more honest expansive open-minded and open-hearted conversations about what that might mean and what we might do. But I’m very new to talking about this topic in public. I haven’t actually worked out fully for myself what … what does this mean for me? I mean, I’ve … I’ve stayed one foot in academia, but I’m really questioning not just the topic I work on, but is that the right place for me? And I think the process, I mean, I’ve had quite a while to go through a process of reflection and the sort of the emotional and psychological and spiritual challenges of an awareness of impending collapse to our way of life. And so I know it’s a … it’s a tough ask just in one evening to… to actually explore that together just in an hour and a half or so, but that’s what we’re going to try and do. And it is…it is a tough subject and I want to say that at the start, because I think if we We need to recognize that in difficult emotions — sadness, grief, fear, anger, even some panic. These are very understandable emotions, and I think we need to witness them in ourselves and each other rather than try and avoid them and move into sort of the how do we fix this quick mentality , because I think that, I mean, if we don’t witness those emotions in ourselves and each other, we risk sort of going off into action, which is some kind of delusion sort of a distraction through immediate action, so… We are going to that. That’s also why Tony is going to do a process of it later with us after … after I speak and before Q&A to recognize that aspect of this … of this topic and this word. But I want to point out also that although we’re going to have some sort of — I’m going to present some difficult material, you know, none of us here are in any immediate sort of danger and so we can we can look at this and ideally hold each other and those difficult emotions, but … but recognize there’s no imminent threat to us and if anyone is having any difficult emotions then we also have the Climate Psychology Alliance represented here and they are a really great group of psychotherapists and related practitioners who are now getting together to support people with different types of, you know, whether it’s eco grief or eco trauma, and I’ll mention them at the end and I’ll ask them to stand up. So, that was a rather depressing opening. I’ve been starting to play with the idea of a number of ideas how to communicate this stuff and I’ve got this idea of there being three hard truths. The first is the nature of our predicament and summarized as “collapse is coming” and I’ll talk a bit about that. The second is, I think, the dominant narratives that I’m hearing, which I would argue form forms of denial and why we’ve succumbed to denial or fall back into it. And then the the third hard truth, which I’m calling “we have to let go” and by that I mean we have to let go of a lot of stories and ideas about ourselves, our profession, and the future in order to have a very different type of conversation about… about what to do. What do I mean by …by collapse? It’s quite a powerful word. And I… I’m …what I mean by… is an uneven ending of our current means of sustenance, shelter, security, entertainment, and identity. Other people might prefer a term like a societal breakdown or an unraveling but actually forms of collapse are underway and have been for a while and the FAO just — Food and Agricultural Organization of the of the UN reported just recently that the last three years hunger and malnutrition have been rising globally, and then also analysis of the Syrian conflict to show in the role of the … the extended drought in … in that as well. And of course, we now know that over 200 species are going extinct every day. So, there’s forms of collapse are already underway. We are within the … the sixth mass extinction. The key thing that I summarized in my paper and I think that we have to wake up to and and what’s really become clear with a range of other reports recently is the … the speed of of climate change. It’s … it’s really obvious now. Globally, the last four years were the hottest ever on record. The last 18 years, 17 were the hottest ever on record and we have a … an area of ice of the Arctic ice cap size… the size of India that that’s missing if we compare now with the 1980s. It’s going to be a record year for carbon emissions this year. It’s going to possibly even be over 3.5 % of rays and carbon emissions this year. The IPCC, the UN body that talks about this, have changed. For many years they were talking about what would happen and how bad things would be by 2100, which sounded very futuristic, if we didn’t change. Their most recent report talked about how we are not on course at all for 1.5 degrees global — to restrict warming to 1.5 degrees, which would be if we hit 1.5 degrees. It’s they were arguing it would be catastrophic for a range of things like fisheries and food supply. We’re not on course to stay within 2 degrees, which would be definitely too catastrophic for our civilisation. Now, this is … this is a consensus of global scientists – scientists around the world. But the thing is, when I looked into this myself, It’s actually a lot worse than what the IPCC have been saying. The IPCC has always been erring on the side of caution because it’s always … always been seeking consensus. So it meant that in 2007, for example, when they issued a report, they were making predictions of sea-level rise where the lower range of their prediction of sea-level rise was actually lower than what was already being reported by satellite measurements, and that’s because they didn’t include anything if there was not consensus among scientists, so they for example were not including the amount of meltwater from glaciers and what that would do to sea level rise because there wasn’t consensus on it and so they also left out the major self-reinforcing feedback loops so what we’re seeing is quite terrifying — a problem with the melting of the permafrost around the Arctic leading to the release of methane, which is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and methane levels have been… have been increasing rapidly. And so that… there are these… there are these feedbacks, the most worrying of which is in the Arctic where it’s the… the the loss of sea ice, so when… when sunlight, as probably many of you know, when it hits ice it’s white and it’s for 95 % of the energy is reflected back into space when that’s replaced by dark ocean because of melting 95 percent of that energy is retained in the sea and so Professor Peter Wadhams, one of Britain’s top polar scientists, has concluded through analyzing the … this that when we lose the Arctic ice cap and surrounding ice in … in the Arctic zone year round that would contribute as much global heating as half of all anthropogenic or human-caused emissions as warming from from our emissions so That completely takes us over those those those those things I’ve said, you know, 1.5 or 2 degrees and puts us into a into that catastrophic scenario. We are seeing the lowest ever regrowth of ice in the Arctic and many reasonable scientists are saying that we could see an ice-free Arctic summer within the next few years. So, we are on the on the edge of something very dramatic and we’ve seen what this is already meant with the impact on the jet stream and, therefore, our weather and weather across the northern hemisphere. So, I’m going to talk a little bit about the impacts, which …which are becoming clear now. I’ll talk about it in two ways. The first is with food. So, what happens when the jet stream changes is that it changes our weather and so that summer of 2018 was unusual. It would have been great if it had just been in Britain, but it wasn’t — it was everywhere. Now we have about four to five months of grain reserves globally, and so we only need a few more years of weather like what we’ve had in 2018 to have a global food shortage. There are already 800 million people hungry today. But what we’re looking at is this problem expanding massively and impacting on people like ourselves quite soon because of these disruptions. We’re also seeing the likelihood of an El Nino weather phenomenon returning in Asia much sooner than it should do and that will also crash rice output in in a few in about a year’s time. The second area where I see these climate impacts affecting us is through the world of finance in that we might be able to, through organizing in various ways, to reduce the impact of these climactic disturbances to our agriculture, to our sea levels, and so on but we have a … our very means of payment transacting with each other is based on a banking system, which is connected to confidence in … in global markets and so there’s a … there’s a real risk that our …. as awareness of this predicament spreads and pervades the markets, and it’s definitely really scaring the insurance markets at the moment, that will then lead to problems with our means of payment. So that’s … that’s another area where this could…could rapidly move through. So that’s the …my messages in my paper and my work is that collapse is coming, but I’m finding … I found it in myself, but also in other people I talked to that it’s obvious that … that denial exists, because we don’t know how to deal with this information. It feels very deeply troubling and we we we fear the pain of looking at this with open eyes and so what I’m hearing is…the first thing I keep hearing is we can do it. So people hear this news and think yeah, because because this … because I’m hearing this we must try harder. Redouble our efforts at cutting carbon emissions and that so it’s this idea of with greater effort within the existing system we can have some sort of eco-modern future that we can reform capitalism. We can reform consumerism and our current way of life will somehow persist. Other people think well, no, that’s not likely. Capitalism and consumer society is is is going to fall apart. It’s ove,r but we can … we can turn to each other in community and grow our own and grow our way out of this. Now, I think it’s really important to have a renaissance at community community agriculture and community support and transition towns and others have been doing a lot of good work on that, but in itself it is not going to be a response — a robust enough response to this predicament we face. The third form of denial is where people’s point to technologies and say well somehow someone extremely smart in a university somewhere will save us, but when you actually look at the proposals for geoengineering they are not particularly credible. I mean it’s about putting mirrors in space or quite counterproductive ideas such as putting sulfur into the high atmosphere which could really mess with a lot of a … lot of weather patterns. There is one area of geoengineering that I’ll mention later, which I think is interesting, which is marine cloud brightening but most of them aren’t and the the the direct air capture of carbon dioxide’s technology does exist now and it and it is being mentioned by the IPCC as essential if we are to avert catastrophe, but which basically sucking CO2 out of the air, but in a paper I saw on it, it meant that the … the current capabilities for that have to be scaled up two million times right now. So it … we’re not we’re not there. The technology is not there. So it is a form of denial to think it will stop the climate disrupting our way of life. So, I can see what you might be thinking right now. If I mean, I have … it’s been … it’s been a tough year for me, I mean, to have these conversations. I have these conversations with my friends, with my family, and there’s been tear, and yeah, it’s it’s an immense agenda. You don’t really know where to start. So I want to honor that. What I’m going to ask you to do is stand up if you’re feeling different types of emotions just so that we can recognize them and move through through them to the next part. So, I’m going to tell you what the emotions are. Okay. Stand up if you’re feeling anxiety right now. You can look around at each other if you want. Keep standing if you’re feeling shock. Not too much shock. Okay good. Stand up if you’re feeling skepticism. Good. I think I should send you my paper and debunk it and I’ll be super happy if I’m wrong. Next: Anger. Stand up if you’re feeling anger. Okay. Sadness. Stand up if you’re feeling sadness, and stand up if you’re feeling grief. Okay, and finally stand up if you’re feeling motivation. Interesting. Please have a check at who’s standing up right now. Have a look around so you get a sense of that, because I’m often accused now of my critics … by my critics of demotivating people. Jem you can’t talk like that. It’s not going to help. So, hard truth 3 — we have to let go. We could respond to … if we have an acceptance of this, we could respond by thinking it’s too difficult. I don’t know how to work on this. I don’t know how to integrate this in my life. To be honest, that’s where I was for two years. I didn’t know what to do. And you know, we’re all bus. We all got responsibilities. We all want to get along. So yeah, it’s too difficult. Don’t know what to do. Just stick your head in the sand. Another way of responding is related to that is keep busy. So, for example, the environmental movement, what I’m seeing is, you know, having likely the Greek myth of Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill only for it to fall down again for eternity. But getting really good and really muscley at how to put that boulder at the top of the hill, picture that — it’s a bit like them contemporary environmental NGOs. They’re really good at telling you what thing to buy that’s greener than the other thing, and they’re doing a stunt again, the press, but really is it a form of denial? I’m suggesting a third way of response, which could be broadly defined as … as get ready, and it’s to have conversations premissed on an acceptance of imminent collapse, but with a faith that through talking with each other open heartedly and open mind with open hearts and open minds. We can … we can work out what to do and it doesn’t mean that we’re gonna succeed. When I say ‘succeed’, obviously, succeed in what? Well, it doesn’t mean that we’re gonna stave off some form of catastrophe. It doesn’t mean that a lot of people are going to die young. It doesn’t mean there’s you know, there’s gonna be … there’s gonna be difficulty along the way, but… but we can at least look at ways of reducing harm, and I would even go as far as saying unless we have those conversations now we face losing crucial time to actually help get some form of… of society into and through this moment. We don’t know whether we can, but we lose that chance, because we …if we’re too afraid and we want to stay in denial and not have these conversations. So, this is my paper. It was called “Deep Adaptation”, and basically, because I’m a business academic, we like to come up with models, but I… and the paper is now about a hundred thousand downloads. If… when I wrote this, I thought I was walking away from my profession. There was basically writing a paper that’s concluding that my whole work is pretty much redundant now the incremental change of capitalism, the idea of sustainable development, sustainable business, and so on, and it’s … it’s but it’s gone. It’s …it’s exploded in … in the consciousness of many people. It seems to have resonated with what many people were feeling and thinking already and carrying as a bit of a shadow with them. It’s thrown some light on that, and so I just want to say something about the deep adaptation model. I basically don’t offer answers because I’m very new to this topic. I’m an expert in how my expertise is now irrelevant. No expert in collapse. This is a new to me and so all I’m doing is inviting people to have a conversation and I’m … I’m suggesting those conversations start with …with in the paper, three questions. First is, well, what is it that we most value that we want to keep and how? So, I call that resilience. The second one is relinquishment. What is it we’ve got to give up on or we’ll make matters worse? Restoration. What is it that we used to have that we could bring back? So basically, this framing is a bit of an anti-progress framing. It’s not about what we have to invent. It’s actually … it’s asking very different questions of how we think about the future. There’s also a fourth one I’m now exploring, and haven’t published on yet, which I call ‘reconciliation’ and it’s … it’s I think… we … I don’t want … I don’t… I don’t want my work to become a form… a new form of delusion. We may not be able to stop horrible things unfolding, and therefore waking up to that is an invitation to us to actually think about what is the meaning of our lives and what do we value and therefore how can we live each day in a spirit of love and compassion to ourselves and each other and part of that so, it’s being basically reconciling oneself with one’s death and the death of others and those and the society one could can contribute to. So, being more at peace with that so that there’s no sort of panic or mania in the way that we try and navigate what’s coming. So… and I’m very new to that. You know, the reason I haven’t written it up is … is that, you know, I’ve not been on a spiritual path for that long or I don’t know anything about psychology. I’m glad there are psychotherapists in the room and I’m really pleased that more and more people from all walks of life are coming to this conversation, because I’ve been having these conversations quite a lot for a year. Some do’s and don’ts. So, don’t panic. Don’t process this alone. Don’t follow a new crowd, because often we want to think I got to do something. Well, you know, there’s momentum over there, so I’ll go over there. Don’t blame, but do expect….expect a change in your priorities. Do join or organize groups. Do act locally, but also politically, and I would say do not drop mitigation. So don’t drop this agenda of how do we cut carbon and don’t … don’t sort of move into some sort of grim survivalist mentality. So I’m saying, you know, mitigation, adaptation, and the good things of life. They’re all something to … to seek to integrate in what we do next. I have been asked more and more for policy ideas, and unconscious on the one hand, it’s a lot better to just leave this as questions right now, and I’ve seen a lot of amazing, creative thinking from people in different walks of life about what this means for them. So, I’ll just mention a couple of things. Maybe we come back to this in the QA, but I think we need a massive, irrigated greenhouse-building program. It looks like we cannot rely on rain-fed agriculture anymore in the way we have done. So, it means that, you know, we might not have bread, but we can find our calories in other ways. We’re gonna have to also look at emergency preparation — not now, but preparation. Think through what would, if there is a collapse of grain supplies in the next few years, what … what could… what are the options open to government to make sure that people are fed … people get the basic calories and that would probably mean taking over those the grain markets and it probably would mean banning certain uses of grains such as feeding them to the meat industry. We need to think about what institutions across Britain could be repurposed to actually become hubs of resilience. We need to think about what kind of skills the children need to be learning and what kind of skills they certainly don’t need to learning given what’s coming. I … and we also need to not become technophobic. I know a lot of environmentalists point to the fact that our hubris, our technological hubris, has meant that we’ve turned away … that we should just reject technological solutions to our problems, but we’ve got some serious issues around securing nuclear if… if society collapses and the the loss of the Arctic ice cap is so… it’s so important to the future of northern agriculture that we could consider localized geoengineering with marine cloud brightening there. So, that’s a few ideas but I’m new to this and so, I’m just really inviting conversations on it and suggesting that we … we should not make it taboo. We should lose the taboo and actually… actually normalize this topic and see all manner of ideas that will emerge. Now, I think awareness in 2018 really has grown, and a sense of …. a sense of urgency has grown, and so we’re seeing some interesting responses one of which was mentioned at the opening, ‘Extinction Rebellion’. and I just wanted to say a few words on it. I… I signed the letter back in October with other academics and religious leaders supporting the announcement of rebellion and…. and I do still support it; however, I think that we need to bring more into the public what’s being discussed in private amongst people who are involved in in the rebellion, which is the need to take adaptation very seriously and as seriously as mitigation. If the World Bank can do it — the World Bank have just announced that half of all their funds now in future will be for adaptation not just mitigation and they are really they’re not exactly a particularly innovative dynamic organisation, then I think Extinction Rebellion should also make adaptation part of their call call — core asks going forward. That does also mean being honest in public about the nature of our predicament and that we may not even if Britain decarbonizes within the next eight years and even if the rest of the Western world follows suit we It’s it’s very plausible. Even if you don’t completely agree with my reading of the science, It’s a very… what I’m saying is a very plausible view, and therefore we must prepare for collapse as best we can and that starts with being honest and having conversations about it. So, that’s my thoughts on on the rebellion, And I think what I’ll do now is I will stop there. We’re gonna have a QA, but first the idea is I was going to ask Tony who’s been facilitating quite deep dialogues about what do we do as people individually and collectively in groups. She’s just been doing that work with me recently, so I’m gonna ask Tony to the stage and she’s got some thoughts to share as well. And I’ve also invited Tony, because she’s a poet, to share a couple of poems, which I thought really helped us sort of get… get into some of the emotions. Thank you, Tony. There’s a reciprocal rhythm a flow between things a velocity of reciprocity that builds a village, builds a dream, built the world For you and I are kin And being kin means that I need you and you need me and the Sun and the water and the soil born of things long dead. Most of us grew up in little boxes — little boxes made of ticky tacky, and it’s like my house your house, my plate, your plate. But in the desert, there’s one plate at dinner. One plate where we all tuck in fingers first, food for all, and I want that I want you to ask me for stuff, because asking is the kind of boldness that we need. You tell me what you want and I come a little closer to you. It’s not even the yes or the no, but the asking that rocks the world to this rhythm, and the ticky tacky begins to crumble. The walls fall and we need each other all the more. There is a reciprocal rhythm, let me give you things. Don’t hold back you’re receiving, because it leaves us both bereft — bereft of the kinship that ties us — reminds us of our entwinedness as ecological beings. I cannot — I will not survive without you. Well, yeah, maybe some kind of half living but not the kind I’m worthy of and not the kind you’re worthy of and not the kind anyone else out there is worthy of. So, help me not to fix but to fill the heart. Not to trade, but to till the soil of interbeing that is all there has ever been. Help each other, help the world, help the planet, but not to fix. Help to fill the heart. Not to trade, but to till the soil of interbeing that is all there has ever been. There was a reciprocal rythm and it’s not in 4/4. It doesn’t follow straight lines. It’s a wild rhythm where I help you, and you help her, and they get to rest and he gives all he has for love. There’s a reciprocal rhythm and it is not in 4/4. (Applause) One of the people who I’ve learned a lot from is a woman called Johanna Macy, and she also talks about how kind of expressing our gratitude, expressing what we love, and it’s well, it’s a lot of cultures do that, you know, before a meal, before a celebration, at the beginning of the day in some shape or form around the world people express gratitude for life and There’s something I like about how political it is, in that it unravels us from the consumption that we’re told is the most important thing. It unravels us, it unentangles us from the industrial growth system that’s causing this, and reminds us that what we love isn’t necessary. I’m guessing not many of you said my Porsche or my Prada handbag, or my I don’t know, but yeah, it helps to un..disentangle us from what we’ve been told we should need, and what we lack, so I like the politicization of gratitude. Well that one of the things we also need to do is to hear how troubled we are and to not feel alone in that I know it’s a lot of time before I found ways to talk to others about it, there’s … there’s a sense of madness that can come upon us when we see what’s going on and we see that the majority is not doing anything about it and that’s painful to be alone with. So the next thing I’d like you to share again one person speak, one person listen, is something that troubles me about knowingness and again, whether you believe all of this, whether you’re really on board with everything that Jem says, even just some of it, even if you’re taking on that it’s a possibility that this is right — something that troubles me about this and I don’t mean you’re kind of there, you know, the kind of the nuance of the degrees but as a human being with a heart and a family and things that you care for something that troubles me about this I think in… I can’t remember how I was introduced, but I think it said that I was part of the Extinction Rebellion, which I am, and and I am because I’m interested in all of the multiple ways that we might respond in these times. and one of the ways that I’m involved in the rebellion is Kind of a little intervention called the pause And there’s something about how in the midst of our response to this and, as Jem said, some of you know it’s a really natural response for us to get busy. It’s such a natural response to get busy in whatever way that we do and in order to stay with the trouble, in order to stay with the truth of things, in order to be able to kind of listen into what we might not already know. I think there’s a great I don’t know what word it would be, but I think we need to just pause a lot. We live in a culture that is so focused on doing and being and acting and fixing and doing and being and acting and fixing and those are all great, but if that’s all there is, we miss a lot. So, I thought I’d do a little plug for the pause, and also as the preamble for this other poem. It’s called “Galvanize.” The time has come to galvanize Though is heaving sighs From fraught days and a spiritual malaise From miles and miles spent in supermarket aisles overwhelmed by choices to the point where we lose our voices And, so silently We loosen our ties to life But, oh, my loves what magic we could make, if we galvanized, realized beyond fantasized futures the power of our presence Yes, the time has come to get together To claim the prize of a collective awakening. Get off our arses Realize our vastness and put it to work Stopping the shopping and stepping out in the streets Battlefronts, shop fronts, fields, boardrooms, classrooms, living rooms. It’s time to galvanize To alchemize a fullness of voice, a radical choice — to speak up for what we know to be true and, oh, my love’s what magic we could make If we galvanize and realize beyond fantasized futures the power of our presence Let’s thank Tony again (Applause) Bristol declared a climate emergency, isn’t that right? Yeah, and… and Forest of Dean and … and Stroud and Frome Okay, and I was at a group of Lancaster councils last week Labor and Green who are working towards that there. My suggestion was that within that the notion of ‘Adaptation’ is pushed up so that, for example … example, looking at what could be done locally in … in developing food security in … in at a level like never conceived before, maybe apart from during World War II. Climate Psychology Alliance has been engaged in working around these issues for some years, but we really think this is time for us to kind of extend what we’re doing out into the world. We’re a group that are putting together a therapeutic support service for people to provide free psychotherapeutic support through groups and some individual work for… to deal with a lot of what we’ve been talking about tonight — the really complex, myriad feelings around climate change. We’ll have psychotherapists around the country willing to offer support to people. The way in which you’ve gone about the psychological dimension and … and holding this very difficult subject. I think you’re doing brilliantly, so congratulations on that. (Applause) But I wanted specifically just to pick up on that moment when Tony turned the corner from the political discussion and took it back to the personal — the “we’re all in this together” aspect. I just want to mention a neighbor of mine died on Sunday and I knew she’d died, but I was reminded the next day when it was time to take her bins, and I couldn’t see the bins back up to her house from the drive. I realized that I didn’t believe she had died, and I think that’s just one little classic — one … one example of the importance of the psychology of this subject and one thing that links us all. We … we I mean, we’re on a spectrum as far as how much of the knowing we’ve got to, but in terms of the believing, we’re all struggling with it because it’s so big and it’s so difficult, and it’s so hard to imagine. I think if we hold on to that … that that’s … that’s a really good basis for us to stay connected with each other. There’s a wonderful way to end, which is that the collapsing is also a collapsing of way of life of walking miles in aisles of supermarkets and ways that sort of damage each other and damage the environment and so the current predicament is an invitation. It could be seen as an invitation to to think again and feel again about what it is to be human and to live in community and support each other not to just trade, but ask and to give and, so yeah we could reframe collapse as not just a catastrophe, but as actually an enforced letting go of a hell of a lot of things, which didn’t make us happy anyway and, you know again the process that …that Tony took us on earlier helps us realize that. So, yes, there’s absolutely upsides to whatever’s coming, even if the upside is helping us think about what is it that we most value when we often postpone these sorts of conversations about what we value until we’ve got a, you know, a worrying health diagnosis or something. It’s kind of like a collective worrying health diagnosis — it’s like and then okay, so what do I …what do I want to live for? What do I value? So, yes, there is an upside, and thank you for asking that. We’re gonna finish now.

49 thoughts on “Deep Adaptation – Jem Bendell & Toni Spencer

  1. Kids need to learn ecology and biology, researchers 🤔 science and understanding
    Teach them the story of our stupidity

  2. Hi, I would like to translate this performance into hungarian and to put on Youtube, after making hungarian text on video. Is it possible to get English text to make my "work" faster and easier? Via email or another way ([email protected]) THANKS

  3. Sorry, but for myself Toni's contribution was a "flowery nothing sermon" in the context of preparing practically to adapt to the inevitable crisis, and it detracted from the impact of Jem's own reality based message.

  4. A perfect Valentine's Day gift. Thank you, as always, for uploading this. It helped me feel less alone as I stare into the abyss.

  5. Jem is the British version of Dr. Guy McPherson. He's looking through the lens of the inability of biological/species adaptation in the face of an abrupt rise in global temperature leading to loss of habitat , i.e., the collapse of our civilization, which is based on the ability to grow grain at scale. I like his approach in examining the key human options in how to deal with the approaching catastrophic paradigm shift. Many Thanks for putting this on YT.

  6. Jem is just that! A priceless gift and missing bridge from our chromo decoy "business as usual" or sweet sustainabillity thinking to a clear awareness of our actual less than glamorous whereabouts. Unlike many academics he has a real heart that we can see, feel and hear in his voice. He is also relatively new to collapse thinking and so many folks coming out of our chuckle headed denial will relate and resonate with his journey and message. His kind, common sense approach takes people by the hand and we feel that we are waking and working together in kinship- even if it is into the dangerous and dark unknown. Thank you for the upload! Thank you Jem!!!


  8. I would yell "FIRE!' but our theater has no exit.  The positive feedback loops have started.  It is too late to do anything.  The Exxon scientist saw this during the 1980's.  If I was the CEO of Exxon at that time I would have done just what he did.  The best we can do is to maintain social stability as long as possible.
    The forces of nature are in place and beyond our control.  Just three too hot and or too wet or too dry springs and food for billions of people disappears.
    We humans have enjoyed @ 10,000 years of stable weather.  That window for agriculture is closing.
    Soon, world food production will fail.  When do we plant our corps?  Any culture is three days of hunger from disintegration.  
    There is no place to migrate to.  Where are you going to go?
    Scientist are not politicians, theologians, philosophers, or poets.  Their knowledge of or use of rhetoric to warn of our situation is at best poor.
    It is now clear that homo-hubris-sapiens are about to disappear.   Our society is just another about to disappear.  Nothing new here, this is quite natural.  We humans are just part of a natural cycle.  Any scientist can tell you this. But no politician will or can tell you the truth. Dictator or democrat; no politician can, will, or should tell us these obvious facts regarding our habitat.
    The human response to climate change seems like the human response on Easter Island as they were cutting down their last tree.
    They thought their gods were more important than their trees.  Then they learned that their god's could not create trees.
    We think that profit and financial growth are more important than the environment.  To the economist the  environment is extraneous to our economy.  We are about to learn that profit and financial growth can not create living organisms.  
    The gods of profit and financial growth have made us blind to the absurdity of cutting down the last trees on our island.
    I have passed through a morning period.  I am embracing my death.  I try to love all I see.  In my view it is too late to "do" anything.  Our day has passed.
    Just for the record, I have spent most of the last 25 years wandering about in the wildernesses of the Colorado Rockies, the highlands of Northern California, Maui, and my beloved Central California Coast.  I could do this because to get food all I had to do was go to town.   
    When there is plenty of wild life, living off the land is very difficult.  My hat is off to our ancestors. We are looking at the collapse of habitat for all manuals as well as fish, birds, and vegetation.  There will be no "living off the land."  I have been hungry in the wilderness.  Lethargy and weakness take over.  Every action takes great effort.  It appears to me to be a hard death.  But no more difficult a death than those who have gone before us.
    The specter of death has appeared at our party.  Everyone at the party sees it.  No one admits it at first.  A few whispers, that's about it.  A rumor of the specter begins to spread.  A rumor that everyone at the party can see and does see.  It is clear that death has not come for a particular person but has come for everyone at the party; including our pets.
    As the last grocery store closes I plan to be wandering up a unnamed stream.
    "And the band played on."  Is the attitude I am taking.  Acts of  beauty and kindness as we pass.  In an odd way it is a great honor and responsibility to be the last human actors on this stage.  How shall we finish this play?  Let's make our last days our best.  The most important thing I can do is to be true to myself.  This is our duty.
    Into the unknown I go as we all must.  

  9. I had a '98 Dodge van 8 MPG I had it crushed, and got a '99 Celica that gets 32 MPG on the road. That is 25% of the carbon I use to emit. I've decreased the huge amount of carbon generated by building a new car 3 yrs. I've stopped traveling. I've switched from grid to solar power. All else aside, MY carbon footprint has dropped by 80 to 85 percent. I know that my efforts will have no net effect on the big picture, but I did what I could. Have you?

  10. Thank you… I'm hoping to bring together some like-minded people to form a group discussion here on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, which has been inspired by my introduction to Jem Bendell and his paper 'Deep Adaptation'…

  11. Good news. Global human population growth has slowed down a bit in the last 20 years. Humans are beginning to not be able to afford feeding huge families. Less people are changing the color of their carpet and going back to hardwood floors. Bicycles are making a big comeback with DIY electric power kits.

  12. For some of us our shared mortality is coming into sharp focus and acute awareness so that our choices will become exclusively mature ones. To know as we do now that human = culture has brought us to this point we can throw our collective selves into the a beautiful funeral pyre of absolute dedication and service to the natural world of planet Earth 🌎.

  13. When I read Mike's post below I felt a wave of all those emotions Jem listed. So I am moved to say how disappointing Mike's criticism of Toni's beautiful reading. Mike's calling it a "nothing sermon" is appalling particularly in the context. I would ask Mike to engage his dignity and delete his post.

  14. In this latest presentation from Jem Bendell he discusses his July 2018 paper "Deep Adaptation" in the face of collapse. He doesn't just speak about the unfolding collapse but also the emotional responses to the knowledge and anticipatory grief.

    He mentions how he was deceived by the conservative position of the consensus driven IPCC and the predicament is much worse than they have been prepared to admit. He gives great examples of their refusal to accept 'Tipping Points' and Feedback Loops.

    Jem considers that the worst feedback of all is the loss of albedo from the diminishing sea ice.

    "We are on the edge of something dramatic".

    Importantly he makes the point with a survey of his audience, that talking about the severity of the crisis does not create paralysis but motivation and that by not accepting the severity of the crises we face we are losing time to prepare.

    This is an issue I have repeatedly brought up with James Shaw M.P. the co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa who to this day refuses to accept that we are in a climate emergency.

    I believe our governments should be stockpiling grains and our education system should be totally altered to recognise that this set of living arrangements is going away and much of the education curriculum is now irrelevant. "We must prepare for collapse and Extinction Rebellion should advocate for adaption".

    Jem will be our guest on Nature Bats Last in the May episode, it will be uploaded to the extensive archive at PRN.FM directly after broadcast. Next months episode will feature Professor Paul Ehrlich, author of "The Population Bomb".

    I've added this presentation to my blog post on Jem, Rupert Read and Paul Ehrlich's overlapping work.

  15. Peter Wadhams contends that, no, carbon capture technology is present. The problem is the political will to fund the massive scale needed. Mass mobilization is needed from everyone. Thanks for the much needed conversation about the possibilities!

  16. Bable Bable, the ecosystems decline is the cause of the 6th mass extinction we are experiencing. Everyone should be aware in his generation as I was in the 60's and 70's. Thus I created in 1978 to unite humanity to recover our planets life systems..

  17. I read Some of Jem's paper last summer, then the IPCC report was published, then my heart felt like it was breaking – what future for my children and grandchildren…? It reminded me of when my mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness…what to do? How could my rock break? How to give comfort? Keeping busy and denial just prolong the agony and depression, best just face it now and look to what useful skills we might have to pass on to the younger members of our family. I've joined the Rebellion too, not from naivety but to channel my frustration, to learn non-violent skills, to have someone to talk to who understands, to be an outlet, a pressure vent… I agree about the adaptation demands, they need to be up there on the list. Thank you Jem Bendell for pushing your cause and for being vulnerable like us but telling the truth.

  18. The one minute point made at 41:22 makes a lot of sense – we know what's most likely to happen, as things stand, and yet we struggle to let ourselves fully believe it.

  19. Bendell and McPherson aren't the only scientists speaking out about this. Peter Wadhams, David Orr, David Attenborough, James Hansen, to name a few in a list growing daily.

  20. Humans are not going top adapt. Everyone knows this even if the cannot admit it.
    So do yourself a favor and go outside and watch how many people still drive their gas guzzling cars.
    The fossil fuel industry just sells the gas. They are the dealers.
    Everyone else burns it. So stop pointing at the rich and powerful and blaming them. You don't have to buy their product.
    You think we are going to adapt but how many videos have you seen where people get into their cars and die in them during a flood? They do that because they are addicted to their living arrangements. They are addicted to their technology. They can't imagine a life without it.
    Global Warming is irreversible. That is not denial. That is fact.
    How are you intending to bring back all of the species that have gone extinct? Cloning? That is just pure fantasy. That is denial of a different sort. That is denial based on hope. It's like the person that keeps buying lottery tickets throughout their entire lives hoping that one day they will win. My parents did that and have never hit it big. It is a hope fueled delusion.
    People keep forgetting what is going to happen when the Arctic loses its ice.
    We are not talking about small changes anymore when that happens.
    We are going to see major changes to the weather, dramatic changes that has so far not been seen. This is not denial. It is fact based on scientific evidence.
    It amazes me that Stuart Scott would even post this garbage about adaptation. He is part of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group.
    There is going to be no adaptation.
    People want to eat their cake and have it too.
    You can't have both.
    Let us at least be honest right now. How many of you live in your natural habitat?
    Nobody is.
    We cheat.
    We wear clothing and build structures and fires that allows us to live in colder climates that would otherwise be impossible.
    We are the only species on this planet that does that. No other species does any of that.
    We don't live in our natural habitats and our cheats has caused Global Warming.

    We are in a real mess of our own making. We are not going to adapt because we are addicted to our cheats.

  21. The days after 911 we all sensed the weather had changed. Now we are close to natural caused destruction and unprecedented climate change events. We were extremely clever in our denial. Yes we have lost and the only smart thing to do now is accept. If we have a decade left, I consider that a blessing. Governments need to be ready for exponential change. Possibly as early as this summer. Short of some quantum miracle we've had a great run.

    I have shared your lecture and your paper, a geographer! As an undergrad I too studied climate change and I was in denial until 2003 when I read William Ruddiman, Climate Past and Future. Still remember being kicked out of academic offices.

    Thank you.

  22. Shocking, even though I always knew something about society was deeply flawed, still, I believed in our leaders and scientists ability to prevent this. At the same time, I can hope for at-least 15 years of preparation, with that time, used wisely, I believe humanity can survive. Not everyone, but the smart ones.

  23. Memetic protocols and imperatives dictate that we no longer have agency. This is an existential reality with no adaptation and no mutation. Briefly we have the prospect of psychological mitigation but really we have the certainty of extinction. Radical honesty is what we need, radical and brutal and unpleasant.

  24. By its nature we can't really prepare for collapse. Touchy feely reciprocating 'grateful' people will be spread on toast as hors d'oeuvres by the people who have perpetrated this emergency . But they won't have long either.

  25. Fossil fuels are our civilization's Great Filter. Without them, no Industrial Revolution but their unrestricted use put a hard limit on how far we could advance. No Star Trek for us.

  26. Be sure some Saudi or Russian or American billionaire will try geoengineering, probably injecting particulates into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight. They're planning it now. May be too late. But recycling won't do it. If geoengineering doesn't work, and there's no reason to think it will, I see no way out. Humans are too stupid to do what is required. Doomed by greed and religion.

  27. I've been feeling upset for a long time with how humans are, and how we are living. I've been uncomfortable with my place in this world, and I feel like I've been shaking off a role and views enforced upon me by this culture and society.

    Is hard to explain how the events of the last 2 years came about or why, harder still to explain what I experienced and the understanding I came to.

    I'm feeling like my journey is becoming easier and that my path is becoming clearer, my steps regaining their purpose.

    I'm feeling wierdly ready for this unknown and unpredictable future, but weirdly I am comfortable with it and feel I will be able to be at peace with it.

    The attached video resonated with me so strongly. I've been feeling so upset by my thoughts on this life, at a loss to know what to do, and how to move forward feeling the way I do about everything.

    I'm realising my feelings are justifiable and that it's probably right to be feeling like this.

  28. I agree with the gentleman who perceived the difference between knowing and believing – that our deeper Knowing Mind (Gnosis, the Kingdom Within, the Jewel in the Heart, our Higher Selves – whatever you want to call it) has no problem accepting Reality for what it is, and actually isn't scared, whereas our intellects and vaporous beliefs are fragile and fickle. Going forward those who rely on their beliefs, or are even stuck in their beliefs, will have a hard time doing the adapting that is required. Of course, they will need assistance, but who will provide it? Some of us need to stay strong amongst the turmoil. How will we build that strength, without a connection to our core inner resilience? I have found the 'Steps to Knowledge – book of Inner Knowing' (free online & self-study) to be invaluable in becoming stronger and beginning to make the necessary preparations to be a source of contribution as we go forward into these uncertain times.

  29. Oh my loves what magic we could make if we galvanised. A collective awakening. A fullness of voice.

  30. Some of Jen’s suggestions are terrifying. Relying on governments to control the production and ban uses of the production, government deciding who gets the production brings visions of Animal Farm to mind.
    There is no hope in authoritative governments controlling the future, the is only suffering, pain and ultimately death to the common man to the benefit of a few elites. Why would the future be any different than the present or the past. Big government accelerated the problem, big government will not be part of the solution.

  31. Co-operatives may be the answer, and for that reason I have been collecting links, guides and resources for people willing to ACT in the FIRST PERSON! Register if you would be interested in being put in touch with others in your area willing to meet-up and expore the options listed there.

  32. Nobody officially talks about population growth, or the need of its restriction. So, nature has to, and will, do it for us. This will happen via starvation, usually or war, famine and civil unrest leading to breakdown of ordered society.

  33. Wiser and smarter men than me have gone before: and

  34. This is turning into an internet enabled mass-hysteria craze. Collapse will only occur if vacuum-heads like XR manage to topple governments. To manage a transition from a fossil fuel based world economy to some other economic model (as yet undecided) takes organisation and it takes society as a whole to change. The anarchy that XR pushes for is obviously going to make things worse not better.

    The doom-merchants in this video just drive ordinary folks into the arms of idiots like XR, that won't help anything.

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