I’m sitting here in my little house on an organic farm in Cornwall, and this is where this blog starts.
Having designed it, I sat here for a few days wondering where to start. Then tonight I suddenly started writing.
What has been hovering around in my psyche this last few days is a rather big issue. For better or for worse I’m tuned in to global-scale matters and always have been, since my teenage years and the days of Silent Spring and A Hard Day’s Night.
My friend Alan sent me a paper about ‘deep adaptation’, and it talked of things I’ve been rattling on about too. It’s all about adaptation in response to climate change, and it’s by by Prof Jim Bendell of the University of Cumbria, UK. It’s refreshing when someone comes up with similar ideas. We come from different positions but we reach similar conclusions.
The idea is this: mitigation, or seeking to prevent or reduce climate change, is not an advisable main strategy for the future. We need to invest far more attention and resources in adaptation to climate change. That’s to say, it is already too late to try to stop it – the time for that was fifty years ago, around 1970. Yes, we do need to put work and resources into mitigation, but we need to put far more into adaptation.
I agree with much of what Bendell says – though not all. But that’s fine. For him, this is an idea he’s come upon relatively recently, and he needs to think around it some more. I (and others) have been chugging away on this for years, and we’ve had a chance to ruminate on all aspects of it – long, grinding years, and we’re well accustomed to being disregarded, disbelieved, sidelined and discredited. But now things are beginning to change. All this uestion is covered in the chapter on climate change in my latest book Possibilities 2050.
Time to get on with it
Much more attention needs to go into adaptation. People need to stop standing around arguing about whether or not climate change is happening and get on with dealing with the observable issues we have before us today – there’s enough in the way of climate extremes and weather events to get on with, and we can already see roughly where things are going. Stop arguing over theories – get on with the business.
We need to stop wasting time with avoidance and bargaining strategies – trying to persuade ourselves that things are going to be alright really, as long as we all buy an electric car – and we need to get on with really changing things. Otherwise there will be far more hardship and death than we are ready and willing to deal with – and it will affect you and me and our children, not just somebody else. Have you taught yourself yet how to deal with hunger, or what to do if there’s no electricity? The Tibetans used to say, “How can you call yourself civilised if you cannot sleep on a rock?“.
This is big. It concerns resilience, multilevel resilience – the practical and psychological ability to deal with whatever gets thrown at us. Yes, renewable energy and recycling are fine, but this is deeper and bigger. It involves social change. It involves serious change of our life-patterns. Socially it involves cooperating on a profound level, and consensus, and befriending strangers. It involves agreeing, supporting and behaving.
It isn’t about regulations and restrictions: it’s about changing our lives so that we do the right thing. It involves psycho-spiritual change – yes, for the last 50 years the social mainstream has believed it can avoid this, but psycho-spiritual change will not be an optional extra, more a core survival strategy. It concerns how we deal with the fact of sleeping on a rock and making the best out of a tough situation.
End of an era
That’s one reason why we’re seeing such outbursts today of Trumped-up uncooperativeness, nationalism and small-mindedness in many countries (especially declining ones) – Brexit, polarisation, building barriers, brazen competitiveness, callous social behaviours, right-wing politics, inequality, a splintering into a myriad minorities, and mutually-assured victimhood. All to justify keeping the show on the road while that show is careering drunkenly toward a cliff-edge. We’re at the end of an era, and these knotty issues are a symptom of it. A symptom of underlying fear.
These are all symptoms of something deep coming up and, for many, it’s scary. What’s coming up is a global-scale imperative to cooperate and hang together, if we wish to survive and to avoid a catastrophic carve-up of everything and everyone. It’s an imperative to get real, to get off our screens, out of our bubbles, and look after each other. It’s about faith and things much bigger than ourselves. That’s really scary.
In my 2050 report I sketch out four conceivable scenarios for the world: manageable, difficult, disastrous and transformative. The conclusion I come to is that we’re heading not for a manageable but for a difficult scenario. In the report’s conclusion, I describe a difficult scenario to be like this:
We might see more loss, deprivation, sacrifice, crisis and detriment than we prefer, and it could involve engaging in something like a ‘war effort’, with rationing, evacuations, mandatory labour and obligatory sharing. It could be an all-hands-on-deck scenario. Or it could be chaos and everyone-for-themselves.
This sounds threatening but, if faced with such a reality, humans have a tendency to get on with what they are presented with, when there is no alternative. Ahead of a crunch, anticipations wax large and things look worse than they land up being after the crunch. When reality strikes, a rapid shake-out happens and much changes. It’s not at all easy, but life goes into a different gear.
At times and in places people could be faced with extreme emergencies. There could be tragedy, horror and destitution, as some people experience today, but more so and in more places. Much could go wrong – biodiversity loss, climate change, economic stress, food and resource shortage, social disintegration, geopolitical disarray and uncomfortable levels of hardship, cruelty and death.
A difficult scenario could see the overwhelming of social and government services, uprooting of populations, social unrest, conflict, piracy, armed convoys, intense climatic extremes and weather events, currency breakdowns, dictatorships and mad regimes, terrible moral dilemmas, battles over control of weaponry and strategic assets, technology breakdowns and a host of other problems.
In such circumstances, the bit we can change is the way we deal with these issues: much depends on human responses, at street and village level, across civil society and in government.
Leaving it there
You’ll see more about this issue here in future. My book about it, Possibilities 2050, is a readable, balanced, comprehensive, non-preachy, non-thundering report on the world’s future. I believe so, at least. It’s free, with no strings – just download it.
This blog will dip into a far wider and deeper range of subjects. But this is where it looks as if it has started. And there’s some good news about the future coming too, later on. Some transformative thoughts to help you see that we are already in the future. It’s happening.