On-line, the paper has been downloaded by well over 100,000 people and there is now an audio version available. Very briefly, its conclusions are that disruption of society through the effects of climate change is now inevitable and not far away; that the old system’s days are numbered and any attempt to ‘adapt’ through such things as flood prevention schemes or carbon sequestering can do no more than marginally reduce the effects.
At the same time, he points out that those who take this idea to heart often begin to live their lives more authentically. If we consider how we would want to spend our time if that time is limited, it can bring what is really important into focus.
In January he followed the paper up with a lengthy blog post, ‘Hope and Vision in the Face of Collapse’. (Scroll down if new stuff has appeared since). The shift in his thinking over the intervening six month period is noticeable and very interesting. Rather than hoping that we can somehow avert a climate catastrophe, he introduces the idea of ‘radical hope’, that it could be possible to get through to the other side of the crisis and to take part in creating a new society with new values, radically different from the one we are currently living in.
My intention here, however, is not simply to repeat and summarise his thoughts. If you are interested, then please follow the links above. (There is also a 14-minute YouTube video that is perhaps a good place to start). What excites me is that at last a mainstream academic is saying such things; and now he is hanging out with Extinction Rebellion activists, exchanging ideas with Sufi mystics, and prominently using the word ‘love’ in his writing. Something important has clearly happened for him.
We don’t know exactly what will happen or when, and we don’t have the power to control it. What I hope is that we can start to have this conversation, the ‘what if this might actually be true’ conversation, in the community here in Glastonbury – and perhaps this could encourage the same to happen elsewhere. I will finish with a quote from Jem Bendell that seems particularly to the point:
“I am beginning to sense that we can feel and realise peace and happiness through it all. That will not happen through a desperate belief in stories of personal or collective salvation in this world or the next. Instead, we can turn away from frantic chatter or action, relax into our hearts, notice the impermanence of life, and let love for this momentary experience of life in all its flavours flood our being and shape our next steps.”