Navigating the Future

How can be best navigate a future with collapse on the horizon? There is a broad spectrum of actions and perspectives we could take, but we must first assess how we are framing the variously likelihoods related to specific scenarios. Collapse is complex and we are not necessarily rational creatures, so we should be mindful of the desire to gravitate towards actions or perspectives based on our preferred stories, versus actual data or internalized analysis.

Collapse-awareness represents both a heavy responsibility and unique opportunity. We cannot know for certain what the future holds, but our actions and choices matter, especially at a time where many of us still have access to resources and greater forms of agency. We also have a deep psychological need for purpose, meaning, and a sense of permanence or survival beyond our death. We subconsciously fear not only the immediate personal danger collapse represents, but the profound losses associated with the deterioration of the societies to which we are a part of and contribute to. These drives are important to consider as we begin exploring frames of the future.

One approach is to asses, based on current projections and the best data available, how likely or inevitable we think humanity will transition smoothly, suffer a painful collapse, or endure a catastrophic descent and potential near-term extinction. Certain actions make more or less sense depending on our assessments of these scenarios. Many in the community shift their perceptions over time, but the general consensus is currently that near-term collapse, in some form, is inevitable. What follows are some of the most relevant concepts and resources we are aware of in terms of how we can frame the future and potentially respond to the notion of collapse.

Source: Stop Fossil Fuels – From Reform to Devolution: Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation

Deep Adaptation

Deep Adaptation is a term for describing an agenda and framework for responding to collapse. The term became popular after the release of a paper in 2018, Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy, by Jem Bendell which caught the attention of readers far beyond its intended audience of sustainability professionals. It has since spawned an international social moment and online forum which aims to provide a means for people to connect with each other for dialogue, support, and initiatives based upon their anticipation of societal collapse. 

With the term ‘societal collapse’, we mean an uneven ending of industrial consumer modes of sustenance, shelter, health, security, pleasure, identity, and meaning. Rather than an environmental, economic, or political collapse, the word ‘societal’ is important as these uneven endings pervade society and challenge our place within it. The term collapse does not necessarily mean that suddenness is likely but describes a form of breakdown in systems that is comprehensive and cannot be rebounded from to return to what was before. The word ‘deep’ is intended to contrast the agenda with mainstream approaches to adaptation to climate impacts, by going deeper into the causes and potential responses, both within ourselves, our organizations, and societies.

Deep Adaptation describes the inner and outer, personal and collective, responses to either the anticipation or experience of societal collapse, worsened by the direct or indirect impacts of climate change. Framing Deep Adaptation as a series of questions in the original paper made it a call for conversation, rather than advocating any answers. 

Group Facilitation on Societal Disruption and Collapse: Insights from Deep Adaptation (2021)

By avoiding advocating for answers, the approach of Deep Adaptation manages to avoid implying we can somehow control or manage outcomes and instead provides a framework for reflection and individualized exploration.

My view is that normalizing discussions about how to prepare for and soften collapse will benefit society. Only collective preparations have a serious chance of working. Deep Adaptation to climate change means asking ourselves and our leaders these four questions.

Adapting deeply to likely collapse: an enhanced agenda for climate activists? by Jem Bendell (2020)


What do we most value that we want to keep and how?

Resilience, outside of some institutional settings or attempts to maintain business as usual, refers to the capacity of individuals and communities to adapt, survive, and thrive in the face of disruptions and uncertainties. It involves building robust systems which can withstand shocks and endure hardship or loss. It also encompasses psychological and emotional resilience, which means fostering mindsets and cultures which can enable us to cope with and respond to adversity.


What could we let go of so as not to make matters worse?

Relinquishment involves letting go of certain unsustainable behaviors and systems which have brought us towards collapse in the first place. It requires acknowledging that certain ways of living and economic systems are no longer viable in the face of our predicaments and compounding challenges. We must reduce our reliance on and engagement with unsuitable practices, consumerism, and culture values which continue to keep us disconnected from nature and reality. Doing this voluntarily, as soon as we are able, ensures the greatest possible positive impacts for the future in the form of agency and preservation.


What could we bring back to help us in these difficult times?

Industrialism has eroded the foundations not only of non-human life, but of human cooperation. Resestoration involves the regeneration of ecosystems, reconnection with ourselves and nature, and rebuilding of human communities. Rewilding landscapes, regenerative agriculture, localization, and sharing post-carbon skills are all examples of actions we could undertake to help foster better outcomes.


With what and with whom shall we make peace as we awaken to our common mortality?

Reconciliation refers to the need to reconcile with the implications of collapse and profound changes on the horizon. It involves recognizing the reality of societal collapse, including the potential loss of familiar systems, structures, and popular ways of life. It requires grief, and the cultivation of compassion, empathy, and connection with others and the natural world.

The page needs more entries

Let us know if you’d be willing to contribute. Some potential or suggested sections currently are:

  • Deep Green Activism
  • Accelerationism
  • Near-term Extinction
  • Transition Movement
  • Regeneration movement