Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Unlike mainstream work on adaptation to climate change, “deep adaptation” does not assume that our current social and economic system can be resilient in the face of rapid climate change. Instead, it refers to the personal and collective changes that might help us to prepare for – and live with – a climate-induced collapse of our societies.
It is sobering to consider large-scale societal breakdown as the inevitable consequence of our collective inability to respond fast enough to the current environment and climate emergency. And worse, that we choose not to prevent the ending to our current means of sustenance, shelter and security. It’s hard to say with any credibility that this doomsday scenario will never happen, faced with the uncertainty and lack of control that defines our predicament.
If you feel upset by thinking of such a prospect, then that is normal. Denial is also a typical response – and therein lies the problem. Too many people find it too hard to prepare for living through such a catastrophe. Nonetheless, the questions asked by people working on deep adaptation are just as relevant to every one of us today who recognises that we cannot return to business as usual:
Resilience - what do we most value that we want to keep and how?
Relinquishment - what do we need to let go of so as not to make matters worse?
Restoration - what could we bring back to help us with these difficult times?
Reconciliation - with what and whom shall we make peace as we awaken to our new reality?
Deep adaptation can be considered both literally and metaphorically. It is a fundamental transformation of everything around us as well as a radical transformation in our personal and collective attitudes. We can find hope by planning our recovery from widespread social and economic collapse (like the few who study "Deep Adaptation") or we can find hope by taking the initiative and mitigating future harm (like the many who are leading environmental and climate action in their communities, here and now).
I do not believe the climate crisis is inevitable. It is a choice.