Jem Bendell arrives at his assessment of existing climate conditions to conclude that near term social collapse (within 10 years) is a certainty, mid-term catastrophe is likely and species extinction is possible. That’s his core platform. He is now the principal progenitor of what is being called the Doomasphere. Yet for us to proceed as if this is the only possible scenario is silly. Each of us may come to a very different subjective assessment on the issues of collapse, catastrophe, personal impact, timeline or helplessness/hopelessness. Every person will make their own assessment, regardless of its rationale, and arrive at a personal ‘temperature’—what they expect will happen over the next 10-50 years. This will become the basis of further inquiry, examining our assumptions and refining our perspective.
Second, Bendell’s reference to collapse and catastrophe only hint at the wide range of possible differences each of us may face depending on our location, climate and social conditions. An urban dweller will face different issues from a rural farm site. I have unpacked them and created a process to look deeper at our own attitudes about these issues and to form an outlook to address these possibilities in our own communities. However, as Bendell says very clearly in his initial paper, denial gets in the way of seeing clearly and moving forward. Hence, though it’s not as simple as we might imagine, denial in its many forms must be addressed.
Third, Bendell also alludes to values several times in his video interviews. But again, he is not explicit–nor do I think he should be. We have an opportunity—perhaps an obligation—to come to consensus about what we hold most important, particularly as we might anticipate conditions that will cause conflict. This is the territory of Reconciliation, determining what principles we will hold and measures we will create to reduce conflict.
I understand Deep Adaptation to be about reducing suffering. The deeper we go into the values, intentions and objectives for developing personal and collective local responses to the advance of climate disruption, the more clear it becomes that this is the primary directive.
Finally, as Bendell also indicates in multiple communications, the possibility of extinction implies the onset of rising fatalities due to displacement, the loss of infrastructure or support systems—the possibility of mass death, being personally impacted by community or family vulnerabilities, even our own death. That possibility may be very slim for some people and quite daunting at the very least. But again, here is where denial enters the calculations.
Imagine receiving a personal diagnosis of a condition, which, if left untreated, would definitely be terminal. Beyond the initial shock and grief, what would become most immediately important to you–a commitment to the treatment, the values on which you can no longer compromise or procrastinate, defining your community, deciding how you wish to live? Humanity is being given that diagnosis. Bendell has cut though a great deal of chaff to define the territory. It is up to us to explore it. That’s what Deep Adaptation means to me—discovering how we wish to respond.