Pollyanna or Cassandra?

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Pollyanna:  a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything.  That’s been me my whole life. To the extent that others have often told me I’m naïve, over-trusting, or ‘don’t live in the real world’.

61 years later, I now find myself morphing into a Cassandra.  Based on the ancient Greek myth, Cassandra was gifted and cursed by the God Apollo.  The gifts were foresight and prophecy.  The curse was that nobody believed her.  Her valid alarms were ignored and disbelieved.

I’m talking about the climate and ecological crisis.

Since early June this year I have woken up to the emergency, and become what Professor Jem Bendell calls “collapse aware”.  I have read countless books, and scientific papers.  I have watched 100’s of videos.  I have participated in many webinars and zoom calls with the Deep Adaptation community around the world.   I have joined many forums, and subscribed to many newsletters.

After my four days with Jem in July, I came back home fired up with a deep and profound ‘calling’ to take some action.

This was no longer about mitigation, you understand.  (See my last blog “Looking into the Abyss”)


Deep Adaptation is about coming to terms with the probable or inevitable societal collapse by 2030, and preparing to adapt to it – and to live well as we face into that.  Deep Adaptation is about community resilience.  It’s about the 4R’s of Resilience, Relinquishment, Restoration and Reconciliation.

This isn’t fiddling while Rome burns.

It is about what Buddhists call the Bodhicitta – reducing suffering, supporting each other towards awakening, empathy, and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings.  It’s about presence, love and creativity – and is centred in the idea of community.

So, one of my new projects was to set up and co-create a community resilience group – a kind of ‘wisdom council’ if you will.  I even got my local Tory MP to agree to come and listen to our proposals and recommendations.

After trying many things to get people interested, I’ll admit to being ‘stuck’ on this one.  The table below explains why.  The small number of people who are interested in joining me are mostly (currently) in Column 2, with a few in Column 3.  To date, I can’t find any people in my local area who are already in Column 4.  That makes total sense, if I’m right about the percentages in the final row of the table.

Climate Change – Responses and Paradigms

Climate Response Column 1 Mainstream
Business as Usual
Column 2
Business as Usual but Greener
Column 3
Column 4
Collapse Awareness
Paradigm Yes, it’s a problem but not perceived as an emergency. Incremental policy making. Small carbon capture projects. Some mitigation attempts, e.g. sea walls Carbon capture and geo-engineering projects. Paris Agreement targets. Policy changes imposed by governments. Carbon emitters taxed and fined. Non-incremental. Civil disobedience and rebellion until climate is protected. Extinction Rebellion, School Strikers, Earth Movement, etc. Mitigation and Adaptation Too late for mitigation due to locked-in warming and feedback loops. Prepare now for community resilience. “Deep Adaptation”. Minimise suffering and Psycho-Spiritual approaches.
Political and Economic System Predatory Capitalism and Growth Accountable Capitalism EcoSocialism System and Societal Collapse
Chance this scenario will happen 95% until first BIG catastrophe that affects people where they live 5% for 2030 5% for 2050 80% by 2030
95% by 2050
Likely outcome Per-capita carbon emissions remain steady or shrink by a tiny amount Per-capita carbon emissions shrink by 1.5% per year Per-capita carbon emissions shrink by 3% per year 2100 world population = 500m
How many people adopt this paradigm? (August 2019) 95% 4.8% 0.2% 0.0001%

I know all the theories about social change – that you have to start where people are.  (One of the many books I’ve read recently is “Climate Psychology – On Indifference to Disaster” edited by Paul Hoggett.)

I know that, for the vast majority of human beings at this stage in our consciousness, it is just too hard psychologically to accept Column 4.  It feels to me like the whole world (with a few exceptions) is carrying on with business as usual; singing la-la-la-la-la with their fingers stuck in their ears.

Do I have the right to pull people into Column 4?  Even with their consent?

I’ve already done this on a small scale with a few people I love dearly – and I have seen and felt the grief and despair it seems we must all go through as we come to terms with collapse awareness.  It really hurts.  Them and me.

Or do I just leave people where they are – and shut up about it all?  Can I even do that?

Love this by Martha Postlewaite:

“Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose.

Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life and wait there patiently,

Until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it.

Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worthy of rescue.”

Should I come back to my Pollyanna roots?

For me, this looks like engaging in some Column 3 actions, continuing with waking people up to being fully alive through my coaching and workshops.  Living in the present moment, and just enjoying the hell out of my life.  Let the chips fall where they may.

I feel strongly that, as Charles Eisenstein says, courage comes from love – and I certainly have oodles of that.

What would love do?

Pollyanna or Cassandra?  Or something else entirely?

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One thought on “Pollyanna or Cassandra?

  1. Su Bray says:

    Perhaps all we can do, no, the best we can do, is to rest/stand in these spaces that are emerging, like this one you’re creating…

    “Until the song that is your life falls into your own cupped hands and you recognize and greet it.

    Only then will you know how to give yourself to this world so worthy of rescue.”

    I notice a greater sense of pain and overwhelm when my mind projects forward to how our societies and world will respond, and I start wondering how to prepare for it. Yet, when I remember that, at my best, I’m a vessel to receive insights that originate from beyond my logical linear mind, then I don’t need to follow these thoughts. Something way way better, more gracious, steeped in a deeper wisdom, will come through. Not thinking is hard. Waiting is hard. But it seems to me, in this space, and informed by this knowledge, it may be the best thing to do. Until we know…