If people really take this stuff to heart they really have to take it to heart. In my experience, people who go through that process do not return to denial, do not stay in despair, and they end up in a spirit of cherishing what they have. Cherishing their loved ones. Cherishing a walk in nature. And cherishing the opportunity to be open and honest about your feelings and how you see the world and stop pretending.
I felt that a lot of people in my sphere were not really able to face up to the latest climate data and the impacts on human societies and therefore question what they were doing. Because they didn’t have any kind of map at all. So that was why I decided to come up with what I’ve called “deep adaptation”.
“The study on collapse they thought you should not read—yet.” (26 Jul 2018)
The purpose of this conceptual paper is to provide readers with an opportunity to reassess their work and life in the face of an inevitable near-term collapse due to climate change.
It’s three key questions and it’s because, also, I wanted to not say there are simple answers here because we’re not in control anymore. That’s the key thing. And we will act without knowing, really, whether we’re going to be successful in this very uncertain time.
I then introduce the three R’s.
The first one is simply: What is it that we most value which we want to keep? There’s a question of really going deep into not just trying to keep things as they are, but what is it that we most value but we want to keep?
The second question is the reverse of that then: What is it that we must let go of or we’ll make matters worse. And I call that relinquishment.
The third one is: What have we lost over the last decades in our hydrocarbon-fueled fantasy civilization which we could bring back to help? I call that restoration. That could be simple things like that growing food in our back gardens and spending time with our neighbors playing games rather than just sitting in our own air-conditionned / centrally-heated flats watching telly.
I’ll just put it as three questions and to invite people beyond the progressivist framing of what comes next. So you’ll notice in that framing it’s not what do we need to invent or what do we need to do more of? It starts from a place of just breathing, letting go, and Ah, okay. Whoops. We’ve really messed up and let’s think again with less hubris about where we go from here. Because I think any attempt to offer a bright vision of the future at the moment is an exercise in delusion.
For me, I have hope that more and more people will wake up to what’s important in life for themselves and it will include things like curious, kind, and joyful connection with all life, people and nature.
And a vision would be that we find that there are many, many more people with open hearts and minds, exploring together what the hell to do next rather than being set on their worldview and proving themselves right, because they are scared of the uncertainty that we caused.
I don’t have vision or hope where it’s like a fixed way of life. It’s this process that I know that we’re all capable of but we’re also all capable of doing some awful things, because we, we’re frantic, because we’re panicked and we want to come up with excuses for ourselves for being selfish.
You can see where I’ve gone with this. It’s to go back to core existential questions about What do we value? and Why are we here? and What do we want to stand for? even if we’re ... even if we’re gonna sink.
What I’ve been doing with people who are very incredulous about this analysis is to say Yes, you should be and, therefore, I really can’t say anything other than check it out for yourself. And then say, I’ve spent a few months looking at the latest stuff and it’s there, download it, and read it, and also, when you’re reading it, accept that you don’t want to accept it. That’s normal.
Therefore, rather than postponing your view—and also that can be something else is that you think, Oh, I don’t know if I like this so I just want to look into it. So you postpone your conclusion on it. So, rather than that, accept that you don’t want to accept it and, therefore, for a thought experiment try, Well, What If this is the case? What would that mean for me?
And when you do the What If, know that many people throughout centuries, in fact millennia, and also people that we know are alive today, have said that despair is a transition. There’s a—you don’t just go into despair and stay there. So that you can have a faith that if you go into despair there will be something on the other side. And therefore you will find a new basis for understanding equanimity, meaning, and joy after despair.
This is how I invite people to really look at this stuff for themselves. Because I don’t think it would be right if they just listened to me and said Yeah, okay fine. Because that would be for such a—that means maybe they wouldn’t be taking it to heart.
This is such a massive, fundamental challenge to everything we do. Like Should we get up and go to work? Where should I live? What do I believe is the meaning of life in general and my life in particular? Am I prepared to kill someone who comes to my house to steal all my food? Or actually, do I believe in higher certain values that are more important than just prolonging my life and those of my children?
Or if people really take this stuff to heart, they really have to take it to heart, not just leave it as an interesting thing on a piece of paper. So, that’s what I’m inviting people to do. In my experience people who go through that process do not return to denial, do not stay in despair, and even if their initial instinct is survivalist and they think about buying bullet proof vests and, buying lots of tin food, they soon realize that that’s not how they wish to live. That’s not really the full expression of who they are. They end up in a spirit of cherishing what they have, cherishing their loved ones, cherishing a walk in nature and cherishing the opportunity to be open and honest about your feelings and how you see the world and stop pretending.
As the environmental constraints begin to feed through into a reduction in the quality of life and the hopes and aspirations of the general public, they become more sensitized to extremist perspectives whether that’s religious or to be right-wing. We’re seeing that happening everywhere. Global value surveys show us that people no longer believe that their children will have a better life than themselves. They don’t believe that their tomorrows will be better and they also show us that people are turning away from liberal progressive values in many countries and there’s a rise of nativism and traditional values.
This, I think, is showing that people are intuiting that something’s up. And therefore, that social contract that’s implicit, you kind of obey, you go to school, you work hard. You respect your teachers. You respect the government. You respect your boss. You save. You do the right thing. You’ll have a good life.
Once that’s breaking down—which I think it is in many people’s subconscious, if not consciously, I think we’re seeing increasingly consciously—then people start questioning everything. The people who come along and say, Well blame them over there, just listen to me I’m a big powerful guy who’ll fix it for you and I’ll give you a little bit of an adrenalin rush by making you feel great again, then that’s what’s going to happen. I think we’re beginning to see it.
We do not know whether we’re going extinct this century—the human race. I think the current science makes it an intellectually credible point of view to say that we are going extinct. To say it’s inevitable is very, very, very questionable. Absolutely. But you can have it. You can now marshal an argument that the human race is going extinct this century.
Therefore, I think it’s important that people take that on board and really think What If? That’s what I did and it it takes you to another level of grief. It invites you to another place in terms of What is it that you would believe in if you thought we were going extinct?
Then what is good is that it it can make you pay attention to things, more transcendental questions, transcendent ideas of love, compassion, kindness, beauty, etc. And also it invites you to think about, Well, humans were the potentiality of this planet and, therefore, that we value humans we also value that potentiality of this planet and something like our consciousness will come again.
So it extends that sense of identity and compassion to the natural world and therefore what kind of ancestors are we to whatever is a higher form of consciousness that comes next after humans? Because humans will go extinct at some point. Every species does.
Then it raises questions like What do we do with four hundred odd nuclear power stations? Then it means we need to take seriously when having internationally operative SWAT teams to bring nuclear power stations to cold shutdown to do something about securing the radioactive cooling pools from, in countries where there is collapse. I don’t know, the thing is that this agenda is huge. I mean, I don’t know, maybe that exists already publicly or privately. I have no idea but, it’s just once you’ve switch into this mindset of that collapse is coming, it raises, it changes what you talk about. That’s what my work is now doing. it’s inviting people to think, creat[invely,] imaginatively about what do we do if we think collapse is coming?