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Deep Adaptation

What are the reverberations, inner thoughts, emotions and intuitions that arise when one recognises the possibility that our society will collapse – perhaps suddenly or over the coming months and years? We have been offering opportunities to experience ‘staying with’ this thought for a few hours or a couple of days.


This is not a prediction; it is rather to acknowledge the intuition that we may fail to halt or even to sufficiently slow the chaotic effects of climate change. Sufficient, that is, to preserve our current lifestyles, institutions, economies, or the relatively stable dispensations of privilege and opportunity that we know of as ‘social order’.


All this could fall apart.


What resources might we discover to cope with this? Even if there’s no hope of rebuilding it in the old way, it could be that some or all of us have valuable inner, personal resources.


It seems that is about something more shocking even than personal death. That I will fall sick or be the victim of accident or mortal attack is somehow normal and though scary, is acceptable. That this collective, this society, this culture might go – that’s appalling.


Partly so because it’s the culture by which meaning is made, by which we know what is admirable, and what deplorable. We are already getting a taste of what that means in politics and public life – how deeply unsettling it is, at least for those of us doing OK in the current structures. For many millions of people displaced by the effects of climate change, war, land-grabs and other disasters, there is no ‘old order’ worth restoring. 


From here, our futures may look dystopian and they may also hold out some glimmers of hope in a new dispensation, after a cleansing, purging collapse. Probably for most our emerging concept of social collapse moves swiftly to pragmatic aspects of coping – how to manage, how to prepare for getting by as things fall apart.


Another move is to resist: to make a stand against this intuition and to assert bold optimism and probably also some concrete actions to stymie the causes of climate change: stop flying, switch to renewables, eat vegan, disinvest from oil, coal and gas.


Our contribution at Pelumbra has been to hold both these responses to one side – important as they are (our urge to stop it happening, and to prep for it). Our events allow participants to dwell for a limited time in the space between, to ponder the realisation, the personal and collective inner experience from where might arise the vapours, tendrils, shoots of a deep adaptation.


We have been working for a while with Jem Bendell, with Alexandra Stubbings and others in the Deep Adaptation Network. A recent (and ongoing) project explores the possibilities of more productive cooperation between public, private and plural sectors (following a workshop with Henry Mintzberg, whose pamphlet on Rebalancing Society is here). We are now planning a reading and writing retreat on ‘spirituality in times of collapse’ – please contact us if interested.

You can download the full paper written by Jem Bendell here

You can find out more about Deep Adaptation on the Forum here

Connect with the like minded people on the Deep Adaptation Facebook group here

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