Deep Adaptation: Navigating Climate Tragedy

Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy

by Dr. Jem Bendell

PUBLISHED July 27, 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 social collapse due to climate change.
The approach of the paper is to analyse recent studies on climate change and its implications for our ecosystems, economies and societies, as provided by academic journals and publications direct from research institutes.
That synthesis leads to a conclusion there will be a near term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of readers. The paper reviews some of the reasons why collapse denial may exist, in particular, in the professions of sustainability research and practice, therefore leading to these arguments having been absent from these fields until now.
The paper offers a new meta-framing of the implications for research, organisational practice, personal development and public policy, called the Deep Adaptation Agenda. Its key aspects of resilience, relinquishment and restorations are explained. This agenda does not seek to build on existing scholarship on “climate adaptation” as it is premised on the view that social collapse is now inevitable.
The author believes this is one of the first papers in the sustainability management field to conclude that climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable in the near term and therefore to invite scholars to explore the implications.


“We do not know for certain how disruptive the impacts of climate change will be or where will be most affected, especially as economic and social systems will respond in complex ways. But the evidence is mounting that the impacts will be catastrophic to our livelihoods and the societies that we live within.”
“My conclusion to this situation has been that we need to expand our work on “sustainability” to consider how communities, countries and humanity can adapt to the coming troubles. I have dubbed this the “Deep Adaptation Agenda,” to contrast it with the limited scope of current climate adaptation activities.”
“If we allow ourselves to accept that a climate-induced form of economic and social collapse is now likely, then we can begin to explore the nature and likelihood of that collapse. That is when we discover a range of different views.”
“One further factor in the framing of our situation concerns timing. Which also concerns geography. Where and when will the collapse or catastrophe begin? When will it affect my livelihood and society? Has it already begun? Although it is difficult to forecast and impossible to predict with certainty, that does not mean we should not try.”
“In pursuit of a conceptual map of “deep adaptation,” we can conceive of resilience of human societies as the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances so as to survive with valued norms and behaviours. Given that analysts are concluding that a social collapse is inevitable, the question becomes: What are the valued norms and behaviours that human societies will wish to maintain as they seek to survive?”

31 responses to “Deep Adaptation: Navigating Climate Tragedy

  1. Now That is amazing. I just responded to you on the other post/comment (didn’t I?) aboout denial.

    And then your paper here (which is really not a ‘then’, but probably more ‘at the same time):

    Can professionals in sustainability management, policy and research – myself included – continue to work with the assumption or hope that we can slow down climate change, or respond to it sufficiently to sustain our civilization”

    The climate.

    One can not dissolve or argue the correlation of term-scaffolded meaning. It is self-evident.
    It would be the same as arguing against climate change of our ecosystem of the planet, to attempt to argue against the discursive correlation that is happening between this essay in between our discussion even on the other post.

    And yet there will be an automatic argument that arises to cognition which denies that there is a correlation. What we found in the 20th century was an over determination of what this correlation means: there was a reaction to the correlation is if it meant that something was wrong and had to be corrected for through reason.

    But what was wrong was not admitting it as a plain fact; which is to say, like your essay addresses here, the plain flat fact of climate change.

    There is no discussion about the good or bad the right or wrong about whether admitting to such climate change is true or false or immoral or incorrect or whatever implications of ethics that the idea of climate change, may the reality of climate change is indeed a fact.

    Does that make sense do you?

      • Lol

        That’s ok. It just goes to my point.

        In a manner of speaking, though,
        In short: the climate is changing. That’s a fact. Argument against it does nothing to the fact. But it does give context for activity. The fact of the matter has little to do with the actual discussion about it; it arises outside and yet within. For if the fact was a part of the discussion, then why could we not discuss it away?

      • Let’s see if I can be more clear:

        “…That synthesis leads to a conclusion there will be a near term collapse in society with serious ramifications for the lives of readers. The paper reviews some of the reasons why collapse- denial may exist, in particular, in the professions of sustainability research and practice, therefore leading to these arguments having been absent from these fields until now.”

        Denial of the collapse due to climate change.

        I know you do not claim to be a philosopher. So I bare that in mind.

        We have to ask what terms refer to. Say, for example ‘society’. Just as a thought experiment, what is that term referring to. Put it in you mind.

        Can you tell me or refer me to what society is without using discourse?

        Ok. Hold that feeling, that answer.

        Now, what is ‘climate’? Again, apply the same questions.

        In the philosophical discourse of climate change we have to consider all the possible meanings of climate which still refer back to this term/idea and recognize what occurs as I attempt to tell you or refer you to the climate aside from discourse. Which is to say, the assumption that is at root in the use of discourse to answer those above questions. Can you be explicit as to what such terms refer to without the assumption?

        I ponder if at some point of noticing this phenomenon of communication one must admit that given a particular clause or phase or organization of phrases if it can be referring to more than one instance of an object, which is to say the referent? That is, and mean exactly the ‘same thing’ using the same Clausal structures and subsequent avenues of explanation?

        So again: what climate is changing? Is it an ‘out there’ object to which the discourse refers, or is it the ‘climate’ of the discourse itself which is changing?

        In mind of this thought experiment, the question Becomes a logistical question: How do you know?

        Is it ‘obvious’? Is it because others are confirming to you what you understand ? Are you seeing what you want to see?

        Again: How do you know?

        If we understand 20th century Western philosophy, The question must to be: to what universe are we referring to when we say that the climate is changing?

        As I think you yourself have referenced,
        How am I distinguishing what, say, a “philosophical world” is compared to an ‘actual world”?

        All of these questions inform the situation at hand.

        So it is interesting to me that you are referring to an essay that is talking about people that are trying to conserve the climate, to perhaps somehow allow the climate to not change so drastically because this can change in climate has been reported by people to mean that society is going to be disrupted or somehow damaged. And the abstract even references how are we to deal with people that are in denial of this climate change.

        So it is interesting to me that it appears that you are referencing the fact that you call climate change, and you are asking or you are referring to that particular essay that is addressing people that are in denial of this climate that is changing.

        And, what I thought was interesting, that in response to your comment on the other blog, I spoke about the situation of denial so far as the difference between language and discourse.

        So this juxtaposition of apparently two different discourses within the same instance of use of language brings me to ponder what is being conserved and what society is at risk?

        Of course these terms most often referred to something that is obvious, not something that appears to obviously extended throughout human condition that every individual human being should be able to conceive of course these terms most often referred to something that is obvious, not something that appears to obviously extended throughout human condition that every individual human being should be able to conceive and Know of.

        .And I say yes, language is able to refer to these various types of specific situations that are assumed for the common humanity as a common object that we call the universe and its various manifestations, that we affect by doing various things in good and bad ways. I am not argue against that in fact agree with that very conception and organization of thinking.

        But at the same time, I understand that discourse itself organizes peoples ontological existence to refer to specific understandings of these concepts. These understandings are assumed to spill over into other human beings and reflect upon themselves for that particular being in existence automatically and cannot be ‘proven wrong’. This is to say that there is a massive coincidence of climate, and so it is possible that when people talk of climate change, they are referring to this kind of climate automatically and inherently, But then due to the denial involved with the phenomenological intentional being, many people attempt to control or otherwise prevent this type of climate change through effective denial of the relationship of them self, discourse and the world.

        It is that’s possible that the discrepancy involved in the human being being valve it is that possible that the discrepancy involved in the human being involved with the universe in this manner, which is to say in denial of such climate changing, is in fact what contributes to the climate that changes.

        Does that help?

        • a postnihilist tilt:
          “I would like to approach philosophers with that broadminded lightness that I learned from rhizomatic style – as a tool box, as Deleuze and Guattari said about philosophical concepts. Open the box, rummage around nervously, put aside the pieces that are not useful, take what might be useful to complete a passage, to make fear pass by, to open a window, and then move along with the disjointed step of a schizo craftsman.” ~BIFO in “Félix Guattari: Thought, Friendship and Visionary Cartography“, p.39.

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  3. CNN just reported what you said in this post. We have 12 years and it’s all going to Hell!

    It goes to me point: the discursive instance does not map on the what is ‘actuAl’ in an effective sense, only in an interpretive sense, in a phenomenological sense. Becuase, do you really think we are going to implement vast deep and drastic changes in 12 years to sufficiently ward of this disaster ? I don’t think so. I think what ever will happen and we will respond to it

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  5. Honestly though; when this big climate -civilization disaster occurs in 12 years, why does it matter?

    Seriously. Figure that I’m honestly naive, which I am. And hopelessly powerless.

    For all theorists that you’re posting and I could be wrong, but there seems to be some larger assumption that I’m completely missing.

    But, what is the underlying argument of all these people that are talking about how in 12 years everything is going to shit?

  6. …ok. I am a dork. You have a link that answer that question I think. …

    But feel free to summarize it for me if you like if you have the time.

      • Or, start to party like it’s 1999.

        If this is try, then why try, why continue?

        But if you think about how knowledge his functioning, how is the knowledge that God has here any different than the knowledge that his family to remove us?

        In what way did human beings create this situation any different than the knowledge that is unable to on create it, so to speak?

        I mean I look at it as understanding humanity, as understanding, coming to view of what human consciousness is actually doing, what is actually occurring.

        Because it seems to me that the world does what it does and then we make sense of it in whatever ways, whether it be ethically or constructively or do you constructively or whatever whatever since we make of it I think, or I should say I tend to see, that consciousness is always adapting to what is already occurring.

        and so it’s not so much that we need perhaps to frantically trying change something because the end of the world is coming, Which is to say perhaps it’s not so much that at first we noticed that there’s a problem and then we get more nervous as were not being able to solve it and then we get frantically upset because we can’t and then we fall back in except our faith and come up with other strategies to deal with what will inevitably happen — Of course, that is how humanity has to deal with the situation I’m not saying that that way of dealing with it is incorrect in someway.

        But I am suggesting that it is possible, probably due to our ability to do now have actual data, actual historical factual record of history rather than some verbal tradition or some parked with holes story that individuals write down and on pieces of parchment.

        But it is possible that we may begin to understand what is occurring for humanity in the world.

        I’m not denying what science is finding, but I am bringing out the possibility that our perception and reaction to what science tells us might be seeing more about how consciousness of functions in the universe as a post to our successes and failures of being a particular kind of human, A particular kind of universal objects.

        • I have a post coming explaining why I continue to care/blog/study/converse, but the short answer is it is in my nature to analyze, express and seek solutions. I’m that kind of creature, and blogging etc is philosophical practice for me, and it gives me meaning. In a larger context, I’m have been reorganizing my life to be in a position to help others transition during collapse. The kind of “hospice” for civilization approach I want to take with that is about compassion not salvation. WE ARE FUCKED.

          • Well. I am glad you are trying to help. I’ll be a working counselor somewhat soon. So. …there it is.

            Too many people just want to complain. And point.

          • Do you think that it is interesting that philosophy in the past 15 years or so decided to talk about the end of history and the end of the world and the end of philosophy and all these ends and then also it just so happens that the climate of the earth is going to bring to an end something ?

  7. And if we are fucked…I’ve already been fucked once, and due to that being truly screwed, that was the only time I actually did something honestly without any view about what I would get out of doing something. So my view of being screwed is slightly different than most peoples. 🙊

  8. Hi Landzek,
    Your question. If were fucked…what’s the point? … hits the nail on the head. Being fucked is the core of it all. Birth is being fucked, sickness is being fucked, old age in being fucked, death is being fucked. Capitalism is being fucked as a way of life. The question is what are we to do with it? That’s only a philosophical question if we choose to double back on ourselves and view ourselves from a position outside of the subject object bifurcation. We can do that, of course, and pontificate from a distance (like god) Or we can knuckle down in the present moment, knowing that transcendence is possible in the ordinary act of transforming the given through work, (including our given self and world). Absolutely fucked, absolutely saved from being fucked? Out of the question!

    • I really like this Patrick. We certainly are fucked, but that is transformation. The questions now are 1) how to minimize suffering, 2) what is it that we are to become, if not extinct?

      • I think you are really talking about coming to terms with death.

        The question I tend to approach from is what if that transition has already been accepted? There is nothing that I can discuss about what that actually is or what it means because the context of my knowledge has changed. So, Then my role thus becomes to help others in their process of knowing, not to assert how mine is more correct or how they are incorrect.

        • The question of accepting death is prior to what I was referring to re: minimizing suffering and becoming.

          Objectively speaking the transition has not happened – not in our culture and not in actuality.

    • I think rather than the terrible distance, I’m wondering if there is an over determination of what is actually being presented. What about ‘scientific fact’ is informed by the ‘distanced view’ itself,but in a way that overcompsates for the distresss involved in the distance itself?

      Just because a group sees the same thing in an object does not mean that the view is informed by truth. For sure Noah thought the world was indeed ending, but we know now that it probably was only a small part of the’whole world’ that actually flooded.

      Nevertheless. The view was totoal. Making a total sense of the facts presented at the time and place. Why is now our view being informed any differently.

      For sure, I was not born fucked. But developed a cognition of my self and the world where I was fucked. But then through that fucked up state I was brought to a contradiction that allowed me to be able to engage with what is actually occurring .

      Can you describe what process of knowing allows for you to know for sure that ‘this time’ we are ‘actually’ fucked?

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  10. Hi Landzek,

    “For sure, I was not born fucked. But developed a cognition of my self and the world where I was fucked.”

    For sure you were born fucked. A place was prepared for you… even a name. To be born is to be born twice … once as a biological being, second as a social being… as body and language, an opposition already inscribed into a philosophical device for capturing the human; an amphibology of transcendent and immanent postulates, of the ideal and the empirical transposed as the All or the One identical with the postulates of Philosophy. Decidedly not a “virgin” birth but a rape of sorts: born-of-the-World-as Subject of(to)the world and apportioned a place. No excess preceded that birth, as if the “I” were not wholly a postulate of the Philosophical World, a melange of absolute and relative posits or mixtures of philosophy and psychoanalysis, philosophy and sociology, philosophy and anthropology, philosophy and the exact sciences, synthesised as Subject, Person, Individual, Agent, Psyche, etc.etc; the Worldly names that are the doubles of philosophy into which the “I” is interpellated without excess. To be born is to be made in His likeness. Even if philosophy has killed God we are still in thrall to a philosophical amphibology, a structure of subjects and predicates that is more than a grammar.

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