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Invisibilised voices on 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.”

(Formerly on the) DAF website

Since the release of the original paper, written by Jem Bendell in 2018, Deep Adaptation Forum have recognised that our previous definition of societal collapse or breakdown (i.e. the uneven ending of the “current means of sustenance, shelter, security, pleasure, identity, and meaning”) is rooted in privilege.

The current means of sustenance and security that some of us experience, and which we previously referred to, have not been equal or even existent for most of the world. In fact, they are built upon centuries of injustices that have led to the cyclical collapse of societies. The global majority has repeatedly experienced societal collapse in one way or another.

The current disruption of the biosphere and climate, in addition to persistent injustices mentioned above, is forcing people to adapt, flee, and change their ways of life en masse. Hence, the impetus to listen to those with centuries of experience is greater than ever before.

Today, as we evolve in our understanding, we want to give a platform to those invisibilised voices (the global majority), to acknowledge their histories of collapse, to listen to their views, and to learn from their experience, survival, and rebuilding post-collapse.

We invite you to use Deep Adaptation to listen and learn with compassion, curiosity, and respect. We will update this page with new content as it becomes available.


Pat McCabe, a Diné (Navajo) mother, grandmother, activist, artist, writer, ceremonial leader, and international speaker, speaks at the DAF Interfaith panel on collapse

YouTube video here

Deep Adaptation Forum’s Business and Finance group & Interfaith circle carried out this interfaith panel to discuss the intersection of economic justice, our relation to each other as part of mother earth, ecological collapse, and how our business and financial systems contribute and are impacted. Pat McCabe spoke about our interconnectedness with all species, indigenous science, humans as the youngest members of life, and the need to receive instruction from our elders (other living species) on how to live on the planet.

Viviana Jiménez and Natalia Naranjo from Red Mujeres y Sostenibilidad on collapse

YouTube video here

Mujeres y Sostenibilidad is a learning experience, to unearth stories that have been repressed. The scientific worldview tends to “invisibilize” understandings that do not correspond to a linear way of thinking. Much wisdom, however, lives in the experience of women, who tend to bear most of the burden of keeping community together, especially in times of emergency.

In Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk is interviewed by John N Neihardt to share his story on the collapse of Native American societies (Lakota)

… The voice spoke like some one weeping, and it said: “Look upon your nation.” And when I looked down, the people were all changed back to human, and they thin, their faces sharp, for they were starving. Their ponies were only hide and bones, and the holy tree was gone….

When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.

And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, – you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no centre any longer, and the sacred tree is dead”

Chinua Achebe in Things Fall Apart writes about the collapse of community life in Nigeria

Read more here.

The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Chief Chevez of the Lenca people in El Salvador on learning to be good ancestors

Read more here.

“You will be the ancestors to future generations. What stories will they tell about you? Be those ancestors, like my past ones who predicted the coming ice age (11,000 years ago), and planned for it. Somehow, humans survive. You have made it this far. In 1,000 years, if someone asks you, ‘what did you do?’ what will be your answer? We need to do something if we can, while we can. What are the key talents that we are here to develop?’”

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