Deep Adaptation

I first became aware of the concept of Deep Adaptation in 2018 when I read Professor Jem Bendell’s self-published paper which, at the time, went viral. You can read more about my climate breakdown ‘awakening’ journey here.

Then in 2021 Bendell edited a book in partnership with Rupert Read titled Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos.

The book is divided into three sections:

1) The Predicament – what we already know and understand about climate change/chaos/emergency/breakdown (whatever term resonates for you) and its unfolding and predicted consequences;

2) Shifts in Being – exploration of climate psychology and opportunities for communities to cultivate different, healthier responses to the unfolding mess;

3) Shifts in Doing – the role of different sectors including leadership, education and politics as we navigate the shifting landscape.

Facing up to the realities of climate breakdown at an intellectual level is challenging enough let alone navigating the social, physical, psychological and emotional impacts on us as individuals and as a collective.

How has this book changed me, and how has it deepened my understanding of this subject? Here’s a flavour:

  • I have been reminded that seventeen of the eighteen warmest years in the 136-year record up to 2018 all occurred since 2001. Global temperatures have increased by 0.9C since 1880, coinciding with the birth of the industrial revolution.
  • The collapse of complex systems is chaotic and difficult to predict. What we do know from science is that changes in complex systems often come about in an abrupt and unpredictable fashion
  • There is a deep dissonance within our human psychology as, on the one hand huge swathes of the population recognise that the climate and ecology is breaking down; yet simultaneously many of us continue to live our lives as we’ve largely always done, seduced by the numerous trappings of modern-day consumerism and cultural definitions of what it means to be successful and live a ‘good life’
  • I can’t expect myself or others to speak about the pending risks associated with climate breakdown without getting emotional or political. This issue is existential, after all. As such this raises interesting questions and ethical dilemmas about the role of business, the public sector, and the permission/expectations we place on employees when it comes to engaging with this broad topic
  • We are social beings and our assessment of what to do about information is influenced by our culture. For example, at present we see many passionate eco-activists being penalised, arrested, jailed (even killed in some countries) for protesting and taking direct action against the ineptitude, resistance and glacial pace of reform displayed by big business and government. Such crackdowns will further discourage others from speaking their truth or voicing certain thoughts if they are perceived to go against the social norms around them and/or their social identity. It can be perceived as safer to hide one’s views and do nothing if it goes against the status quo. Therefore, I suggest that if you are reading this and you truly accept that Climate breakdown is real and happening within our lifetimes then these brave individuals need your support. We also need to find and create opportunities within our personal spheres of influence to speak to others and take action in ways that are meaningful, in line with our values and which push us to the very edge of our comfort zone. Each of us have opportunities every day to influence our culture, and to guide the nature and depth of conversations that we engage in.
  • Those in society who speak out against, and in fear of, climate breakdown have been labelled by some as ‘alarmists’ or ‘doomers’. This is a form of gaslighting. Additionally, these so-called alarmists are behaving perfectly “normally” – after all, if we live in a home it is generally standard practice, for example, to take precautions and implement strategies which reduce the likelihood of our home catching fire. Insurers and Fire and Rescue Services are not generally labelled as alarmists; we take their risk assessments seriously, we check our appliances and furnishings, we purchase furnishings that are fire retardant, we purchase insurance, we install smoke detectors and fire blankets/extinguishers, we plan escape routes, we ensure everyone in the family knows what to do if a fire occurs. We cannot guarantee we will never have a house fire, but we do our best to ensure that it doesn’t and if it does – we are prepared for it

The original Deep Adaptation paper had a profound impact on me when it was first published. The book delves deeper and considers a broader and deeper range of perspectives which has been helpful to me in considering some of the complexities and considerations involved in this urgent and important work.

One response to “Deep Adaptation”

  1. Thanks for that. Sounds a great book. Your point about gaslighting is particularly interesting. That is how climate realists and Brexit realists are treated by those who wish to drown out the call of reality. ‘Doomers’ and ‘remoaners’ indeed!


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