Deep Adaptation, first two sections

Introduction/Locating this Study Within Academia

Prof Bendell doesn’t number his pages, so his analysis is clearly inadequate and civilization will survive after all!  Therefore, I don’t have to wrestle with any implications, which is just as well, since they all suck and I don’t want to. The lack of page numbers is going to make referencing the article difficult.  I’m going to have to approach this by sections.

I have been surprisingly floored by this paper since I read it last week.  More grief and fear than I expected; wakeful nights.  I’ve been glibly cynical and pessimistic for years, but as it turns out, I do not want to do the tasks of grief for societal collapse.  The questions are too hard, and I keep slipping back into denial.  Which is super easy, because we are all doing that together and everything that is ongoing in my life is not about near-term unavertable collapse. But today I’ve read a few more of their papers and agree with them.

In his introduction, Prof. Bendell writes about why he is writing this paper.  He was struck that his review found no academic planning for the most likely outcome.  Rather, everything we see says ‘if humanity doesn’t do this complex and unselfish task on a scale never seen before, it will really be bad’.  Of course, there is no evidence that we will undertake a complex and unselfish task at any scale, so the likely outcome is the really bad one. But even though I thought I had realized it before, seeing that explicitly laid out without the ‘absent a miracle’ step was pretty painful.

I will also say, that none of you brought me any cheer at all.  Nope.  The lot of you, including my mother, were all “yeah, we know.  Gonna be terrible.”   So, I have been in grief and anger this past week, and also switching back the dailiness of our entire surroundings, which make the whole thing easy to ignore.  I’ve thought of a few selfish, white-privilege kind of plans to help my own kid.  But half of the despair is the returning feeling that nothing on a larger scale would work even if I did it.  I would do effective things in a heartbeat, but I cannot imagine what they are. (Do not inform me about green-motivated personal austerity.)

I do want to draw parallels from the failures of world-scale climate change dialogue to the failures of California-scale water dialogue.  Prof. Bendell writes, on some fucking page:

The … field of climate adapation is oriented around ways to maintain our current societies as they face manageable climactic perturbations.

Which looks to me a whole lot like every Californian administration’s water goal of “please, what we have now for just a while longer”.  Which, I am sorry to say, is all I can detect in Crowfoot’s “portfolio approach”.  Portfolio approach TO DO WHAT?  To supply the world with cheap snacks?  To provide clean drinking water to everyone?  To have thriving rivers?  To retire 3 million acres of irrigated ag with equity and dignity?  I can apply a portfolio approach to any of those. But I am worried that the Newsom administration will stick to the default, even as climate change hits us.

We are all doomed.


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7 responses to “Deep Adaptation, first two sections

  1. scottg

    Urgent, necessary, impossible stuff.
    (Do not inform me about green-motivated personal austerity.) <— lol so much this

  2. Fig

    I drew that exact parallel when reading *SIGH*

  3. You are certainly cheery… not. Does Newsom read your comments? He seems smart, but perhaps that’s just cleverness. But is he is smart, he ought to read the paper, as convoluted as it is. But remember what cops and good reporters say: Follow the money.

  4. Yeah, we’re all doomed to die, and everything we value will eventually pass. I hate to say it, but this has been true since the moment anyone was born, due to the nature of entropy in the universe. This is Buddhism’s first noble truth, that life is unsatisfactory and suffering is inevitable.

    That said, there are a couple of solutions. One *really important one* is to learn mindfulness meditation. I started after I wrote Hot Earth Dreams when my life was destroyed by anxiety, and I try to meditate for an hour every day, first thing in the morning. Note that I’m not a skilled meditator. What I’m doing every day is the internal equivalent of holding and comforting a two year-old who’s having a meltdown at the pain and unfairness of life, except that I’m both the two year-old and the person slowly learning to be loving and calm, and to let all the pain slowly work out of the kid who didn’t ask for all this and can’t easily process it. I don’t know a better treatment than this.

    The other thing I strongly recommend is James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games. Too often life is seen as a game where the goal is to win. The problem with this is that the only way you win a game is to be on top when the game is over, and we don’t want to run the world as this type of finite game. Infinite games, one of which is life on Earth, are unending. You don’t play to these to win. The point of playing the infinite game of life (pay attention!) is to keep the game going with as many players as possible. For me as an environmentalist, most of the players aren’t human, but whichever. Notice the final clause: as many players as possible. Even if civilization is fated to inevitably collapse, there’s still a huge reason to keep playing the game, and that’s to keep as many players in the game as possible after your life is over.

    Hope this helps.

    • ralphster

      These are all great points. I think most american culture is bombarded with the idea of competition. Climate change has become another venue for sport where we feel there are winners and losers. Sure we can picture there being winners and losers but in the end we’re all winners or losers (i.e. we’re all in it together). I believe in order to find peace and in order to actually be effective, you shouldn’t frame the problem as a win-lose situation. Rather, frame it as a collaborative effort. Most climate change deniers (I personally have come across) are not as vested in the issue as most liberal environmentalists are. They mainly just hear that their life needs to change (pay more taxes, drive a prius, etc.) in order to accommodate some bigger shared-complex goal. If you’re goal is a shared goal, there shouldn’t be winners and losers for those who participate (and even those who don’t). Go into non-judgmentally. Meditation is a great tool to gaining perspective on an issue, so is putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. Try volunteering at a homeless shelter and talking to people whose main priorities are not the doom and gloom environmental issues, but are still rooted in reality. Doing something small is better than doing nothing while you contemplate how to help in a big way.

  5. Paul Helliker

    Well it’s certainly true that none of us gets out of this alive. I suppose that what happens until that certainty transpires is what’s important. In the Non-Linear World section (pp. 6-8 of the document), Bendell describes some of the changes in temperature, ice cover, sea level, etc. that have occurred and the manner in which projections are likely dramatically low. In Looking Ahead (pp 8-12), he discusses the resultant declines in agricultural productivity, coral health, and other systems, along with the carbon budget associated with a 2 degree C rise in temperature (which he claims we have already used up.) He also discusses methane emissions and how they might accelerate. He then cites a 2010 study that claims that a rapid 5 degree rise in temperature caused by Arctic warming and large increases in methane emissions would be catastrophic to life on the planet. We could presumably surmise the mechanisms that would create that catastrophe, but Bendell is not very clear on what those would be. He does project mass migrations, starvation, destruction (not clear of what), disease and war. Perhaps it is consistent with his analysis, but much of that is already happening, and I’m not sure that anyone would describe the world as being in the middle of social collapse (perhaps with the exception of war zones in Syria and the Congo). But perhaps we are coming up to a tipping point. And Bendell does pose the always important question of how to live your life in the face of such potential calamity? As Alan Watts would say, Be Here Now. Or from Carlos Castaneda – live every moment as if it were your last. Not in the sense of promoting hedonism (although that can be a response to certain doom, as in the days of the Black death in the 14th century), but in the sense of being prepared for tumult.

  6. Noel Park

    Alas, you are too correct that our water “policy” in California is a model of the world wide climate “policy” described by Prof. Bendells’s.

    I take your point about the futility of “green motivated personal austerity”. On the other hand, I see it as a comfort to feel like I have done whatever I could as the day of reckoning approaches.