I read Jem Bendell’s paper on Deep Adaptation in the age of climate collapse last August and it sent me into an existential panic. It took about three months and quite a few transformative conversations with folks at Sojourners and in the Watershed Discipleship movement before I moved to another response: something akin to Job’s lament but told from the point of view of the whales.
Bendell’s paper and subsequent conversations raise questions for me about what do those us of formed in Western Christianity do when humans are no longer the center of God’s creation covenant? How do we offer ceremonies in a way that seduce the Sacred presence to return? How then shall we live when no “Red Sea” miracle or Deus-ex-machina moment will save us from social collapse? Where does hope fit as a theological theme when humans are decentered?
I’m committed to staying in conversation with Bendell’s paper, my faith, and my community of Watershed disciples and act out of any wisdom that may arise. I also want to be in conversation with people whose worlds have ended before–such as displaced Indigenous communities, refugees, prisoners. They all may have practical guides and spiritual resources for how to live after the end of the world.
Above is a video with Jem Bendell. Below is an excerpt from a Vice article on Bendell’s article by Zing Tsjeng.–Rose Marie Berger
“What if I told you there was a paper on climate change that was so uniquely catastrophic, so perspective-altering, and so absolutely depressing that it’s sent people to support groups and encouraged them to quit their jobs and move to the countryside?
Good news: there is. It’s called “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.” I was introduced to it via an unlikely source—a guy formerly in advertising who had left his job to become a full-time environmental campaigner. “We’re fucked,” he told me. “Climate change is going to fuck us over. I remember thinking, Should I just accept the deep adaptation paper and move to the Scottish countryside and wait out the apocalypse?”
“Deep Adaptation” is quite unlike any other academic paper. There’s the language (“we are about to play Russian Roulette with the entire human race with already two bullets loaded”). There’s the flashes of dark humor (“I was only partly joking earlier when I questioned why I was even writing this paper”). But most of all, there’s the stark conclusions that it draws about the future. Chiefly, that it’s too late to stop climate change from devastating our world—and that “climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable in the near term.”
How near? About a decade.” —The Climate Change Paper So Depressing It’s Sending People to Therapy by Zing Tsjeng