Climate scientist speaks about letting down humanity and what to do about it

Professor Jem Bendell

Interview with climate scientist Dr Wolfgang Knorr by Professor Jem Bendell, July 2019.

Preamble: In June 2019 I met with Dr Wolfgang Knorr, a climate scientist with Lund University. With his dozens of peer reviewed climate papers generating thousands of citations, it is clear he has spent decades at the heart of the climate science profession. He wanted to talk about my work on Deep Adaptation, to help me understand more about how the climate science profession had been letting us down. He wanted to work out what he and other scientists like him could do now, given that real time measurements of global heating and the impacts on nature and society are so shocking. Over the coming weeks we met and corresponded. What follows is an edited version of our conversations and correspondence. It is a detailed discussion of the science and the scientific profession. As a Q&A, it…

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Important new presentation by Jem Bendell

A new and very important presentation by Jem Bendell was released on YouTube yesterday (February 14, 2019). Jem’s view is that a climate induced societal collapse in our way of life is inevitable, and in the near term (less than 10 years). By ‘societal collapse’ he means the uneven ending to our current means of sustenance, shelter, security, entertainment and identity.

This presentation, to 300 people in Bristol, UK, was his first recorded lecture on Deep Adaptation. Using a more informal format than a University lecture, the Professor of Sustainability Leadership at the University of Cumbria, invites the audience to explore forms of action additional to drawing down carbon from the atmosphere – actions associated with personal and collective preparedness for coming disruption. Accompanying him was Toni Spencer, a poet and facilitator who works on Deep Adaptation and Transition.

“We need to move beyond the idea that this is taboo and this is counter-productive, and, actually, have far more honest, expansive, open-minded, and open-hearted conversations about what that might mean and about what we might do.”

At one point in his presentation, he asks people to stand up if they feel anxiety, shock, skepticism, anger, sadness, grief, or motivation. It was very striking that most people stood up for the word ‘motivation.’ This, it seems, would confound his critics who argue that he should not talk this way because people will throw up their hands and give up.

He also discusses some of the obstacles: denial, I’m too busy, it’s too difficult, etc. As well, he offers a few immediate actions we can take now: Don’t panic. Don’t process alone. Don’t blame. Do expect a change in priorities. Do join or organize groups. Do act locally and politically. Do combine mitigation, adaptation and joy. He also makes a number of policy suggestions, all well-considered.

He is a member of Extinction Rebellion (XR) but thinks that XR would do well to include in its thought and action a place for deep adaptation. I agree with him on this, for to disregard or minimize our deepest emotional needs would be calamitous.

The presentation concludes with poetry readings by Toni Spencer, adding a human depth that is difficult, perhaps impossible, to attain by any other means, for, as Paul Tillich says,  “art allows us to participate in a level of reality which we otherwise can never reach.”

Please watch the video all the way through as the mental, emotional and psychological support comes after the ‘bad news’ is presented and discussed.