Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Realities of Climate Chaos
Edited by Jem Bendell and Rupert Read
Published by politybooks
Review by George F
Trigger warnings for eschatology, despair, grief, climate chaos, near-term societal collapse.
If you, bold snowflake, can make it through that opening sentence without melting into a malaise and retreating to the safe space let me attempt to relay devastation in a digestible format. Me a mere cuck, gibbering from the bedside as reality brain fucks your raw out.
PAN OUT: pry your grok away from the lurching disaster-marathon of the 21st century and the sweaty meatsicle splayed before your eyes. A traumatic synopsis emerges – the end cycle of collapsological reasoning is becoming apparent.
That last sentence also known as:
Never mind the bollocks, it’s the apocalypse.
The war in Ukraine. The entire COVID pandemic. The now-endless forest fires and ever-more-regular ‘extreme’ weather formations. Trump. Brexit. Boris and Priti. 50% of the world’s wildlife gone since 1970. Permafrost melt. Starving polar bears. Dead coral reefs. Sea levels. Britney. All of these are mere symptoms of the inevitable, near-term, in-our-life-time climate collapse as we know, as anyone alive has ever known it, imminently.
As in, now.
As in, society has evolved around the predictability of climates and weather cycles over thousands of years, and all that reliability is already going doo-lalley-bingo-bonkers since the turn of the millennium.
As in, time to face it, we’re fucked.
As in, no pensions, no retirement, no seagulls-in-Weston-super-mare. No mortgage payout. No great-grand-kids.
No happy ending.
As in, dreary Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic food riots in a ravaged radioactive supermarkets. As in every cliche dystopian sci-fi romp from Running Man to Soylent Green to Fallout. As in Threads, when they drop nukes on Sheffield and everything goes Planet of the fucking Apes in Yorkshire, previously the crown jewel of all England’s culture, now reduced to stainless steel ashes around Meadowhall. As in Hiroshima, mon amour, forever.
No get-outs. No backsies. No future. No back-to-the-land yogurt-weaving-circling-rising-up-from-the-ashes-dream. No XR green energy revolution. No Jetsons. As in no technological get-outs-of-climate-jail-free cards. No fucking Greta Thunberg Memorial Day. No Cher and Elon Musk fucking their brains out in a red Cadillac half-way short of Mars level-futility. As in no-fucking-mercy when the starvation madness cuts in, when the water cuts off, when the law and order evaporates.
As in, accept it, no matter what, we, me and you, are royally, utterly, totally fucked. We, and everyone, and everything we know, is going to die, probably in a really shit and stressful situation, with very little dignity and a lot of fear, panic and browning of the trousers. The kinds of situations where you envy the already dead.
“When we contemplate societal collapse it can seem abstract … subconsciously at least to be describing a situation to lament as we witness scenes on television or online. But when I say starvation, destruction, disease and war, I mean in your own life. With the power down, soon you wouldn’t have water coming out of your tap. You will depend on your neighbours for food and some warmth. You will become malnourished. You won’t know whether to stay or go. You will fear being violently killed before starving to death.”
SMASH CUT: UKRAINE, or Yemen, or Syria, or Tower Hamlets … or a thousand locations across thousands of years … the screaming. The bloody lamenting. The horror, the flipping horror.
That’s you that is. That’s you, with your mate watching for a bit, and then it’s them too.
And the killer being that those of us in the global north are some of the last to fucking realise it. For generations indigenous peoples across the global south this annihilation of society and culture has been the gift of privileged colonials for half a millennia. Check this article. Women and the working classes have battled against the destruction of their culture and society for twice that, through witch-finding and enclosures and the rest. Double check.
Now, the society of domination, of capitalism, of patriarchy is teetering on the brink due to the mind-shattering scale of climate chaos that is about to dump its entire load upon every single fucker on the planet, if indeed it isn’t doing so already, which it definitely is. Many of us are like the blissful-ignorants at the piss-shower, just about to realise we are getting drenched and have no umbrella.
I can’t accept it. I’m barricading myself behind hyperbole. It’s not piss it’s champagne. No kink-shaming excuse the micturation simile, forgivingly. Maybe you can look unflinchingly at the evidence, mounting before our eyes, that the tipping points are already flipped and that the end is, indeed, nigh. I choose to remain cosy in the point of writing about it. I mean, it seems fucking pertinent. Maybe we should talk about the gigantic, on fire, flooding, war-mongering, planet-crushing, elephant in the room that’s raping everyone. We’re all somewhere in the rape-elephant-queue. Once you can acknowledge that elephant, maybe we can accept what’s really true.
Then maybe you too can say, Ok, doomer.
An acceptance of this reality is the jumping off-point of the concern of the woefully and joyously academic field of research known as deep adaptation, which we can essentially summarise in the prescient words of Cypress Hill as “when the ship goes down, you better be ready”.
I wish B-Real could just fix it. But they can’t.
Jem Bendell, Rupert Read and chums somehow manage to name and state the truly, deeply, sadistically bleak climate science, sit with it, and create space to seek something beyond the unbeyondable, like submissives in a dungeon thrashed into sub-space. They enter new/old spaces of “maplessness” which my spell-check delightfully insists is “haplessness”. They acknowledge a need for movements beyond academia, beyond despair, beyond apathy. They frame a context and potential for the joy of extinction, a rejoicing in the end of evolution, indeed the end of times. They abandon all hope, and hope not to be abandoned.
FADE IN: It’s Shiva-time, baby!
Fuck off. Like IGAF. I’m all INTHE nowadays. As in, “inevitable near-term human extinction”.
And I never felt better.
“Deep adaptation” refers to the personal and collective changes that might help us prepare for – and live with – a climate-influenced breakdown or collapse of our societies. It is a framework for responding to the terrifying realisation of increasing disruption by committing ourselves to reducing suffering while saving more of society and the natural world.”
The analogy that springs to mind is the very true story of the raft of the Medusa. The Medusa was a ship voyaging on the West African coast in the 19th century captained by a withered, pale, stale male aristocrat in charge of hundreds of colonisers, who upon encountering stormy weather disembarked 127 men, women and children to a makeshift rafts as the ship went down. As the weather worsened, the gnarly captain bottled it, and cut them free from the lifeboats, leaving the raft to the wiles of the sea. 13 days later, the raft was rescued and only 13 remained. According to critic Jonathan Miles, the raft had carried the survivors “to the frontiers of human experience. Crazed, parched and starved, they slaughtered mutineers, ate their dead companions and killed the weakest.” They told tales of madness, cannibalism, the sacrifice of the sick, infirm, young, elderly … the desperation of survival in a narrowed-down world.
And whose fault was it?
Who was to blame?
When it comes to the crunch, I guess none of us know what we are capable of, but all of us can either panic and drown together, or stay calm and …
Nah, actually, we’re fucked. Hit the panic button and baton down the hatches. Get ready for the good times in dystopia.
I also have a book out about how to party through the apocalypse. You can buy it here.