Atopos is a Greek word, meaning “out of place”.
This describes perfectly my experience of life at the moment. With the exception of my husband, a few dear friends, the Deep Adaptation community and a couple of Facebook groups that I moderate, I feel completely out-of-step with the society that I live in.
I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I want you to wake up!
As a Three Principles facilitator, and somebody who has spent decades immersed in spiritual development, I know where my experience is coming from (thought in the moment), and I know that I (the ‘big’ I) is profoundly OK no matter what’s happening in my circumstances.
But, although I realise we are spiritual beings having a human experience, for the moment I reside in the material, physical, world-of-form.
And this world is going to shit, folks.
2020 has seen a large amount of new science being published. If you want links to these resources, e-mail me.
Even for those of us who are awake to the emergency, the conclusions from this latest science force us to go beyond our usual narratives about the planetary predicaments we face.
The challenge is by no means limited to reducing carbon emissions. There are many other, related issues – including mass species extinction, eco-system collapse (both on land and in oceans), climate-created refugees, and likely future Zoonotic virus pandemics.
That doesn’t mean we should panic, or give up. There are many things we can begin doing now that will help us to prepare and adapt.
“Fighting to turn things around” in the face of a rapidly deteriorating situation can be highly stressful and exhausting. I work with many activists and change-makers who are suffering from burnout and depression, and I’m grateful that I’m able to help them through and past that. Yet we are closer to the edge of the cliff than ever.
9 of the 15 known global climate tipping points that regulate the state of the planet have already been activated, and we are racing towards the others.
Speaking personally, as I’ve come to accept that collapse is likely, inevitable and already unfolding – I have discovered an even deeper wellspring of peace, courage, resilience, creativity and love.
I haven’t ‘given up’. I’m still totally engaged and doing meaningful work. But this is no longer, for me, about mitigation – although we need to still keep doing things so as not to make matters worse.
ADAPTATION is now just as, or even more important than MITIGATION. See my previous blog about Deep Adaptation here:
And the crises are not even limited to the planet and eco-systems.
We have political crises all over the world – have you noticed? We have an upswing in conflict and social injustice everywhere we look. Normally polite and decent people have taken to spreading hate-messages on social media. Neo-liberal capitalism gone completely bonkers. I read just the other day about a teenager who committed suicide because they couldn’t afford a particular pair of branded trainers.
It’s just not working any more, folks.
Or, at least, it’s only working for a very small minority of billionaires and elites.
(There is also good news to be found – of course there is!)
And yet, most people seem asleep to all of this.
Listen to the “Today” programme on BBC’s Radio 4, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that none of this is happening. Yes, they report on problems – this morning it was about the row over ‘A’ Level results, or the need to quickly find an effective vaccine that will save us from Covid-19. There was one brief report about extreme weather and the fact that the Arctic hit over 100 degrees Fahrenheit this summer, but hardly anybody bats an eyelid. “…. and now, in Sports news….”
So, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s not that bad.
As a species, we are notoriously psychologically poor at paying much attention to issues that aren’t right in front of our face. The current pandemic is a good example of this – and we’ve all seen what can be achieved by governments and by communities when there is an obvious emergency.
Professor Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate, has observed that if you were to design a problem that the human mind is not equipped to deal with, climate change would fit the bill perfectly!
John Cook, an expert in climate change communications, uses graphics and cartoons to show how we’re psychologically hard-wired to take immediate action if we are faced with an immediate threat – like a bear running at us (or a deadly virus!) Show us a series of graphs about the future, however – even if the implications of those are catastrophic – and most people tend to look away and get on with cooking the tea.
And then if you combine that with the billions of dollars globally that have been spent on professional climate change denial by vested interests (like fossil fuel companies) over the years, it becomes even more challenging to really wake up to the facts.
So, you could be forgiven. But you’d be wrong. Most experts agree we’re going to start feeling much more severe impacts of climate change in this coming decade. Professor Jem Bendell asserts that social collapse is likely in the next 5 – 10 years. Other parts of the world are already being severely impacted of course – and climate change is already the direct cause of mass starvation, multiple refugee crises, and wars over scarce resources.
This collapse will be patchy, messy, and take different forms in different places. It won’t happen all at once, but there will be sudden, unpredictable crises that we’re nowhere near prepared for currently.
Here’s a very recent (July 2020) documentary called “Living in the Time of Dying”
You might be thinking: “Yes, but we need to protect people from this kind of bad news. Society won’t be able to handle it. Everybody will become incredibly depressed – even suicidal. There may be riots, violence, hoarding. Telling people the truth will bring on any potential collapse much sooner”.
I really do see your point. But it’s not been my experience – or the experience of the now 10,000+ people in the Positive Deep Adaptation community that I’m a part of. When people see that this emergency is close to home, and now, they’re way more motivated to do something about it.
Governments have been kicking the can down the road for 40 years about this, and carbon emissions are still rising every single year.
People often say to me “Wasn’t it great during the lockdown as pollution came down, and carbon emissions slowed, and you could hear the birds sing again”. Well yes it was.
But figures suggest the global downturn in emissions was just about 14% – during a global shut-down! Even the cautious IPCC says that we have to reduce emissions by that much again, every single year, from now on, if we are to reach our targets. No Government on Earth is willing, or able, to take the necessary dramatic action needed.
I realise this is an unpopular message. But there are things we can and should now be doing to prepare and adapt to what will be a very different way of life. If you’d like to know what these things are, drop me an e-mail.
I’ll leave you with the words of Jem Bendell, whose 2018 paper “Deep Adaptation: Navigating the Climate Tragedy” is the most downloaded academic paper of all time. The paper has been downloaded more than a million times, and has been translated into more than 10 languages. He’s just published an update in July 2020 which you can read here
“Millions of people are already suffering. It’s worse than we’ve been told. We are now in danger. We must do all that we can to try and slow the problem down. But we must also now do all that we can to help each other through this.”
There’s a song I love called “May I (Stand Unshaken)?” Weirdly, it comes from a popular video game called Red Dead Redemption 2, set in the Old Wild West. The words really resonate with me at this time. As I come to terms with my own “Atopos”, I found myself moved to change a few of the words. This is my hope now – to stand unshaken in the face of whatever comes our way, and to support others to do the same.
It’s a beautiful piece of music – I recommend you listen to the music as you read the words:
May I stand unshaken
Amid a clash of worlds
May I stand unshaken
Amid the crash and burn
Did I hear a thunder?
Did I hear you break?
I can’t quite remember
Just what guided me this way
The trees, they often whisper
No tongue can tell
He who drinks from the deep water
May he know the depths of the world
Oh traveller, what have you seen?
Were there crossroads, where you’ve been?
I once was standing tall
Now I feel my back’s against the wall
The morning light, when it comes to me
Reminds me of beauty, and hope overcome
I live in ‘Atopos’, at home with Truth
But out of place with the human world
The other side of the bone-shaking grief
I found love, strength and peace
My calling now is to be a guide
For others on their journeys
I’m curious about your experience through all this. Do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org