Deep Adaptation

Deep Adaptation refers to a set of ideas put forth in an academic paper written in 2018 by Professor Jem Bendell, and later expanded on with Katie Carr and others. The paper explores the personal and collective changes that help (and have helped) people to prepare for – and live with – societal disruption and collapse.

The term social or societal collapse is used here to refer 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. Deep Adaptation refers to certain responses, based on compassion, curiosity, and respect, to this predicament – which different people may view as likely, inevitable, or already unfolding.

No-one knows exactly what will happen, but within the DA Forum it is commonly understood that at the very least, disruption of the biosphere and climate is forcing people to change how they live, and may lead to the global collapse of modern-industrial societies – and also have a huge impact on other types of society. Deep Adaptation is a way of framing the current global situation, so as to help people refocus on what’s important in life whilst the social order collapses under the weight of its own consumption, pollution, and inequality. The aim is to find new ways for people to be with themselves and one another, no matter what happens.

There are two broad paths within Deep Adaptation:

  • Inner adaptation: exploring the emotional, psychological, and spiritual implications of living in a time when societal disruption/collapse is likely, inevitable, or already happening.
  • Outer adaptation: working on practical measures to support well-being and reduce harm, ahead of and during collapse (e.g. regenerative living, community-building, policy activism).

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.

The Deep Adaptation Forum (DAF)

The Deep Adaptation Forum (DAF) offers free events and online platforms for people who are seeking and building supportive communities to face the reality of the climate crisis.

The mission of DAF is “to embody and enable loving responses to our predicament”. The predicament refers to societal collapse, resulting mainly from the climate emergency and other global crises such as biodiversity loss and soil degradation.

On this website, the terms “societal collapse” or “breakdown” refer to the ending of modern ways of sustaining human life. This includes food, shelter, safety, pleasure, identity, and meaning, as well as institutions and social structures. Different people within DAF experience this as likely, inevitable, or already happening.

The DA Forum arose in response to Professor Jem Bendell’s academic paper, published in 2018 and revised in 2020. Both versions explore personal and collective changes that help some people to understand, prepare for, and live with societal disruption and collapse in as loving a way as possible. People from all walks of life are now considering what it means if it is too late to avert a global catastrophe. People are expressing fear and unease, sometimes in destructive ways. As the effects of climate chaos escalate, collective panic could bring about extreme forms of “othering,” such as xenophobia, racism, and even fascist responses.

No-one knows exactly what will happen, where, or when. But people in DAF notice that biosphere and climate disruptions are forcing people and other species to seek new ways and places to live. While all societies face collapse, racialised and Indigenous communities, and almost all non-human species, pay the earliest and highest price. The DA Forum invites participants to understand collapse from a global and historical perspective, rather than as something that has not happened yet. DA Forum participants recognise that many communities have already experienced the trauma of collapse, whether from natural causes or due to war, slavery, colonisation, or other social injustices. 

Privileged societies and economies exist today as a result of the injustices spoken of above. These injustices, the associated traumas, and their consequences are still being experienced by the global majority today. The DA Forum commits to standing in solidarity with all affected, human or otherwise, and to sharing learnings that may prevent injustices from continuing. The DA Forum recognises the need for awareness of responsibility, where and from whom acceptance is due, and the importance of reconciliation where possible.

The DA Forum currently engages about 15,000 participants from many backgrounds and countries. People connect with each other across all time zones on live video, blogs, and social media. The DA Forum creates a variety of spaces where people can freely discuss difficult things while co-creating loving responses to this predicament. People support each other, and explore what deep adaptation means to them and how they can respond with courage and compassion.

The DA Forum hosts several weekly and monthly events, both online and in person, free and by donation. Typical events and projects enable deep connection and creative collaboration, rather than just information-sharing. Newer participants frequently express their profound relief at finding a trustworthy place for connection instead of argument. Anyone at any level of collapse-awareness can seek support from our list of guides.

A Core Team of five modestly paid freelancers manages day-to-day operations. In addition, dedicated volunteers from around the world contribute a range of skills to support our community. The DA Forum’s network of online and in-person Affiliated Groups brings together geographical, language, and interest groups aligned with the DAF Charter. Anyone is welcome to join these networks for peer support, personal growth, and collaboration on projects.

The DA Forum relies on regular and generous donations of time and money to continue its work, including occasional small grants. The more financial support DAF receives, the greater the impact this social movement can have, reaching beyond borders, cultures, and social classes. The DA Forum is a catalyst for peace and positive transformation in an increasingly fragmented world.

Our fiscal sponsor: The Schumacher Institute

All funds are administered by our partner and fiscal sponsor, the Schumacher Institute, a registered UK charity.
Company No: 6606284
Registered Office: Create Centre, Smeaton Road BRISTOL, BS1 6XN
Registered charity number: 1144674

The Deep Adaptation Forum would welcome any financial support you can offer via OpenCollective.

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