Is Bendell’s Deep Adaptation wrong?

Rupert Read’s terrifiying assessment of how far we have already travelled towards destroying  the ecosphere shows Professor Jem Bendell ‘s worries about societal collapse are well founded.

Scientists Warning’ challenges this. However, I have found this support for Deep Adaptation by Open Democracy

My own layman’s misgivings on reading Deep Adaptation were that rational attempts to cope with societal collapse are pointless. The course of events will not be guided by consensual discussion, but by the actions of a few who sieze power.

One of the first symptoms in my opinion will be Martial Law – the legal right of the force still nomnally under the orders of the civil authority to shoot indivduals for what they might do. This is likely to lead to a suspension of democracy. As the causes of the crisis are unlikely to recede, this suspension will become permanent.

There are already clues as to what might happen when populations break down under intolerable conditions. Germany’s reaction to the trauma of humiliation (not necessarily the defeat itself) after the first world war,and  the barbarity, well within living memory, of the break up of Yugoslavia.

But for me, a more direct precedent is dismissed as irrelevant by most: Rapanui (Easter Island).

For most of my life I have been dimly aware that I have a different pattern of insights and blind spots from most others. It may be Asperger’s, but the cause is irrelevant. As soon as the MIT published Limits to Growth in 1972, a keystone part of the anwer was obvious to me: a universal basic income to give security as the economy contracts.

I wrongly assumed that this was obvious to everybody else. What has emerged since is the reasons why what should happen didnn’t, and that these too were missed by nearly everybody else. Only a minority saw what I think is obvious., possibly ony a tiny minority.

There needs to be a paradigm shift in attitudes to allow downsizing to be acceptable. About 200,000 years ago genetic mutations enabled a species of hominind to exploit new areas. All other hominids died out. But this involved the exponential principle: doubling in equal amounts of time. But where lactobacillus doubles in hours, and coronavirus in days, the new species only doubled after several generations. But the exponential effect was the same:

the limits to expansion were reached without warning quite suddenly.

But the new cultural patterns of behaviour persisted because they had served the new species well. Agriculture, a much more laborious form of subsistence than hunting and gathering emerged in several different places. The disastrous history of Easter Island, revealed by archaology fits this pattern.

Normal minds cannot accept that Homo Sapiens could be so stupid. Capitalism is indeed responsible for most of the threat to the ecosphere, but like agriculture, instead of accepting the Earth’s limits, expansion, on the back of new technology, could go on indefinitely. Meanwhile, population continued to increase.

There is another precedent dismissed by normal minds as not relevant to a modern complex world. According to Richard Wilkinson in his book Poverty and Progress, the Siane, a tribe in New Guinea, distingished between necessities, which were shared unconditionally, and everything else. Your status depended on your skill in playing silly games with everything else. Wilkinson explains that this bizarre arrangememnt gave

an identity of interest when dealing with ecological threats.

Rupert, Jem, Scientists Warning, Open Democracy, Greta, Attenborough, will someone, anyone please explain to me why the unconditional basic income, practiced by a primitive tribe in New Guinea should not be rolled out, word wide, urgently?

2 responses to “Is Bendell’s Deep Adaptation wrong?

  1. Dear Clive,
    As you are no doubt aware of Amory Lovins speech at the Rocky Mountain Institute where he describes the fate of the bacterium on the 99th day of of a cycle where It doubles at the rate of 24 hrs, and the chapters from Jared Diamonds book about Easter Island; I share your understanding of the end of the anthropocene . But, as one who has brewed beer and actually sailed to Rapa Nui as a response to my dread of what these realizations Imply, I am writing here to you to say: not everything behaves as it seems and the likely outcome of an extrapolation of thoughts differs from the reality we will experience in the future.
    There is no doubt that a universal basic income would serve to allow more people to share our common understanding, but the problem remains that we already have the means of survival and only some use it or see it. Even the decendents of the people who built the Moai do not understand why they were built ( carved). I think they had a good reason , though. As an example of a good “work project”, they failed in saving the island. Yet, there is something there that lives on… my experience with Positive Deep Adaptation is to experience the times in which we live without trying to fix it because fixing it leaves no time for the experience ( or something like that) I hear you! Thank you for your question. Answering you has gotten me through a difficult afternoon.

  2. Of course the reality may (often does) differ from the apparently liley outcome. but my experience is that most dismiss my suggestion (of a basic incomeh, asa primitive tribe did) as unfealistic. So I cannot object when I describe discussion of how to manage societal collapse as unrealistic.
    My weblog post next week will take this week’s fufrther. The basic income could have avoided the worst of what seems likley to me if started in 1972, when the warning was issued, but it will still make sense as a parrt of the recovery. But I want to know why it is absent from the Deep Adaptation discussion.

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