In his recent contribution to the Extinction Rebellion handbook This Is Not a Drill, Jem Bendell (author of Deep Adaptation) laments the failure of his life’s work:
“Having worked for over twenty-five years in environmental sustainability, I find it hard to accept that my career has added up to nothing; my sense of self is shaken because I had believed humanity would win in the end.”
But, he now realizes, “We had been walking up a landslide.” The efforts he was able to make were not enough to counteract the overall motion of the deteriorating situation. And now we are in free-fall; the boulder has tumbled over the edge of the cliff.
Bendell’s acknowledgement of defeat is what gives the Deep Adaptation philosophy its value. If we dwell in denial, pretending that our situation is not terminally dire, then any thoughts we have, and any actions we take, are futile, self-defeating, and counterproductive. We must acknowledge our loss before we can do anything worthwhile about it. We must figure out how to lose graciously.
We are not used to losing, here in the West, especially not in America. The British and American empires have been incredibly successful at subduing the world and extracting material treasures, at the cost of untold human misery and lethal environmental degradation. Patriarchy and white supremacy are the death-moans of a failed spirit of evil which has conquered the world, only to lose it. Civilization has failed. Capitalism has failed. Democracy has failed. The oil-extracting, bomb-building, innocent-killing white men have won. We are done!
What then shall we do? What does it mean to lose graciously, in the context of a worldwide climate apocalypse that will end life as we know it?
As a matter of first principles, our refuge is “Love.” What does this mean in practice?
- Discover within yourself the root of all being, and see that it is love.
- Reach out to other people, open yourself to their experience, and respond with love.
- Find work that you can do in the world to nurture love.
Will any of these actions change the evident results of climate apocalypse? Apparently not. But they will bring grace to our defeat. We can maintain dignity and righteousness, even as we sink beneath the filthy waves of our failing civilization.
What good will that do? We can bring peace, even if we cannot maintain life. We may pass on with a clear certainty that we have done our best, for ourselves and our fellows, in the hardest of times. ⭐️