Jem Bendell has been criticized for promoting what some call “The Doomasphere,” –a dark vision of the future–though until now I couldn’t have named any of Deep Adaptation’s neighbors in that ‘hood. Is he alone? Who else occupies the Doomasphere? Is that even what he’s doing?
It turns out there are several neighbors; in fact, some very evolved and well-established ones. The premise may not in all cases revolve around a prediction of near-term collapse, but orient around the inherent fragility of modern social and technological infrastructure, which purports to be expanding and integrating continuously, thereby becoming more fragile, more volatile and less predictable. In other words, the very definition of chaotic.
Adding climate change to that mix, and especially because that continuous expansion is driving climate change, there is the recent French TV mini-series called L’Effrondrement, set in the near future and updating Jared Diamond’s Collapse, depicting how easily everything we take for granted may be swept away. It’s based on a 2015 novel promoted as a “manual of collapsologie” for present generations, upending the ideologies of sustainability, a green economy or a smooth energy transition.
Well, we already aren’t (or shouldn’t be) deluded by the notion of any smooth transitions, especially with each passing month of increasingly dire news. In fact, it’s been two decades since we passed the option of a “smooth” anything.
The pendulum of human history swings between moments of our being harmoniously embedded within natural processes and periods of population concentration, political centralization, and an urge to transcend the earth’s resource constraints. We develop economies of scale, agglomerate extractive industry on a grand scale, but ultimately overexploit our natural foundations.
The result is articulated by another occupant of the Doomasphere, David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth. In the aggregate, the primary strategies of the environmental movement have been a failure. Exxon has won. Not because they didn’t believe the warnings. They knew well before the warnings were issued. The Green New Deal, one of the most recent elaborations on the meaning of Resiliency, according to key figures in the French Doomasphere, is nothing more than a repackaging of the California technological fantasy. Also doomed to be inadequate. One of the earliest members of the Doomapshere is surely the Club of Rome, which produced a landmark report in 1972 called The Limits of Growth, in which the onset of stagnation is predicted in the 2020s. Prescient!
“We must prepare small-scale, resilient bio-regions,” on the scale of only a few thousand inhabitants. Economic circuits must be scaled to local ecosystems and resources, eschewing global supply chains. Visions of the good life that are predicated on unlimited mobility and expanding human wants must be replaced by an ethics of rootedness, the joy of living and working in a defined space.
Collapsologie shares a view of the coming world with Deep Adaptation by requiring not only a realization of our true place in the natural world, but a spiritual re-conversion to an ideology of sharing. Their view of “liberty” is also diametrically opposed to the narrow definition of Darwinism adopted by our self-appointed thought (and investment) leaders of economics and politics and the Hobbesian view of life as “nasty, brutish and short.”
While every Conference of Parties since Paris, 2015, has devolved into further finger-pointing and subversion of consensus, the narrowing of any viable environmental strategy has limited rational choices to (among other things) the escalation of resistance to further fossil fuel development, the elimination of global oil subsidies, widespread and radical rollback of income inequality and compensation for the first victims of catastrophe—the global south. All of this while preparing viable strategies to coalesce into regional resilient enclaves.
The existence of a compelling and now 10-year old conversation departing from the mythologies of ‘progress’ and ‘nature’ (why do we even have a word for nature?) resides here at the UK-based Dark Mountain Project. These conversations on the theme of Uncivilization will touch you in profound, surprising and unforeseeable ways, bouncing from head to heart to the deep somatic. There is no prescription here, but rather a litany of “hard truths to help you stay rooted in difficult times,” while building a bridge to a possible future. Dark Mountain is ambitious, illogical, arresting and most of all, real.
Finally, though I’m pretty sure he would object, Charles Eisenstein might be viewed as yet another occupant of the doomasphere simply because he views the issue of human viability as much broader than climate. In his hierarchy, pollution in all its many forms rank higher than climate change, which is about 3rd or 4th. Yet unlike any of the other inhabitants cited above except Deep Adaptation, his is A Revolution of Love, the most daunting prescription of all.