Deep Adaptation refers to a paper written in 2018 by Professor Jem Bendell. The paper explores the personal and collective changes that help (and have helped) us to prepare for – and live with – societal disruption and collapse. Mainstream work on adaptation to collapse doesn’t assume that our current economic, social, and political systems can be resilient in the face of rapid changes.
When using the term social or societal collapse, we are referring to the uneven ending to our current means of sustenance, shelter, security, pleasure, identity and meaning. Others may prefer the term societal breakdown when referring to the same process. People who consider that societal collapse or breakdown is either inevitable, likely or already unfolding, are using the term “deep adaptation” to explore responses.
We don’t know exactly what will happen, but we understand that, at the very least, disruption of the biosphere and climate is forcing us to change how we live, and may lead to global societal collapse. Deep Adaptation is a way of framing our current global situation that can help people to refocus on what’s important in life while our social order collapses under the weight of its own consumption, pollution, and inequality. We are finding new ways of being with ourselves and being together, no matter what happens.
There are two broad paths within Deep Adaptation:
Many people spend time processing the emotional implications of the coming collapse before looking outwards to find roles on the local and global levels. Others, in the wake of their grief, turn inward and learn to trust their own hearts and emotions, which can be an invitation to others to do the same.
It is time we considered the implications of it being too late to avert a global catastrophe in the lifetimes of people alive today. By July 2019, over half a million people had downloaded the Deep Adaptation paper on this subject, written by Professor Bendell (founder of the DAF and co-author of this proposal). As people from all walks of life awaken to this realisation, a sense of fear and unease is becoming more prevalent. As the effects of climate chaos continue to unfold, panic could bring about extreme forms of collective “othering,” even fascist responses.
The overarching mission of the DAF is to embody and enable loving responses to our predicament, so that we reduce suffering while saving more of society and the natural world.
The DAF is an international space to connect people, online and in person, and in all spheres of life – to foster mutual support, collaboration, and professional development in the process of facing societal collapse.
In service of this mission, we aim to create spaces for constructive dialogue and support community-building, while fostering a spirit of equality, mutual support and care around the breakdown of societies. We are acting on all channels available to us: online and in person; with individuals, professional communities, and institutions; on blogs, social media, and mainstream media; and we are both exploring and explaining the “why” (why we need to take action), and the “how” (ways to do this purposefully and with joy, courage and compassion, regardless of what the future brings).
Given that the implication of societal breakdown or collapse is such an all-encompassing agenda, and not something that anyone can claim much experience or expertise on, we have not followed the typical route of identifying a specific professional or stakeholder group to serve. Instead, we are responding to the rapidly increasing concern about the risks of climate-induced societal breakdown and Deep Adaptation by channeling it into networks of peer support. This is leading to projects that we would not necessarily have imagined at the outset.
Almost a year after its launch, the associated social networks of the Deep Adaptation Forum convene as many as 15,000 participants, with five paid freelancers and over fifty volunteers, supporting a wide range of activities, located around the world.
The Facebook and LinkedIn groups provide spaces for mutual emotional support and professional outreach, from which people join the Professions’ Network if they want to commit to collaborate with others to contribute to the creation of professional resources, such as new guides, databases, trainings, advisory services and so on. Affiliated Groups are in-person and online communities, aligned with the principles wider DA movement, with specific foci such as themes (parenting, practical preparedness, or countries/regions).
The plan is for the DAF never to charge fees for participation, so its overheads need to be carefully considered. It is currently funded with small private donations, with sufficient resources to support the existing human and IT resources until July 2021.
Our approach to enabling emergence is informed by research into networks, and extensive experience amongst core team members and volunteers in leadership for sustainability, community building, participatory planning, as well as our attention to the values we wish to promote as we face likely breakdown or collapse of societies. We are seeking to enable connection, dialogue, and generative collaboration, rather than just information sharing. We are supporting free-of-charge, open-minded, open-hearted, cross-disciplinary, multi-local, and personal (i.e. including video and in-person) interaction. Our aim is not to build a large institution. Instead, we believe that within a few years each profession in each country could have their own groups and initiatives on aspects of promoting readiness for societal breakdown and Deep Adaptation. In addition, communities around the world will have their own initiatives to cope better with a breakdown in their normal way of life.
We have been working with the support of small grants and volunteers. Given more support, we have a chance to reach a critical mass, and make Deep Adaptation blossom into a genuine social movement with impacts reaching far and wide, beyond borders, cultures, and social classes. We have the opportunity to become a catalyst for peace and positive transformation in an increasingly fragmented world.
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