Something I haven’t paid much attention to recently is the Deep Adaptation arguments. I think it originated with a paper by Jem Bendell. The reason it’s of current interest is because of a critique called the faulty science, doomism, and flawed conclusions of Deep Adaptation. There’s also a response from Jem Bendell.
Having now read the Deep Adaptation paper, I think the critique is pretty spot-on. The Deep Adaptation paper literally claims that climate-induced societal collapse is now inevitable in the near term. The justification for this includes the impact of losing Arctic sea ice, the release of methane from clathrates and hydrates, and that climate change could become non-linear. Almost all of this is either exaggerated, confused, or based on a cherry-picking of the scientific evidence.
I think this is all rather unfortunate, because I do think that we may not be paying enough attention to the possibility of there being societal tipping points. However, this should be based on considering all the available evidence, and should – ideally – be motivated by a desire to avoid these potential tipping points, or minimising their negative impact. A key thing to bear in mind is that future climate change depends pre-dominantly on future emissions (with some caveats). If we were at the stage where some kind of major societal collapse were becoming very likely, then we could still try to take drastic action to avoid this, rather than simply promoting a narrative that claims that it’s now inevitable.
In some sense, this seems broadly equivalent to the typical techno-utopian narrative; don’t worry, technology will save us, as opposed to, don’t worry, there’s nothing we can do. These narratives never seem to really grapple with the complexity of these issues, or recognise that we are still very much in a position where we can influence the outcome. We can actively do things that will allow us to better cope with the changes we are going to experience, and what we do will also determine how much climate change we will have to face. In my view, narratives that suggest that some special technology will magically save us, are no more helpful than narratives that suggest that some kind of societal collapse is now inevitable.
What I find slightly disturbing about the Deep Adaptation movement is that it appears to be associated with retreats where they
will support peaceful empowered surrender to our predicament, where action can arise from an engaged love of humanity and nature, rather than redundant stories of worth and purpose.
Not only is there little evidence to support a claim that societal collapse is now inevitable, but the people who will suffer most – especially if we do simply give up – will be those who can’t afford to spend 900 Euros to reflect on their predicament at a Greek holiday resort.