Philip Clayton hosts a dialogue on the subject of Deep Adaptation versus Deep Transformation, with Jeremy Lent arguing in favor of the latter and Naresh Giangrande defending the former. A previous guest on the EcoCiv Podcast, Jeremy is a well-known author and a leading theorist of ecological civilization. Naresh is the co-founder of Transition Town Totnes, which was the first transition town in what is now a global movement. Philip offers a more detailed introduction of both Jeremy and Naresh, but this episode needs to be understood in the context of a wider conversation that has been taking place in recent months.
In a controversial 2018 article called “Deep Adaptation,” Dr. Jem Bendell—a professor of sustainability leadership at University of Cumbria in the UK—argued that large-scale societal collapse is now inevitable as a result of widespread environmental degradation and climate change. Having come to this conclusion, Bendell then proposed what he called the Deep Adaptation Agenda in an attempt to provide a framework that might help communities adapt to the coming planetary challenges. What is now needed, he suggests, are firstly resilient human societies that can adapt to the coming collapse. The second step Bendell recommends is relinquishment, which asks people to let go of certain behaviors and norms that could make matters worse. Finally, Bendell suggests restoration, which is about rediscovering ways of living and thinking that our fossil-fueled civilization eroded, such as changing diets to match the seasons and rediscovering non-electronic forms of play. Bendell’s increasingly impactful proposal has now influenced some members of Extinction Rebellion, and has sparked lively discussions on the subject.
Earlier this year, however, Jeremy Lent responded very critically to Bendell’s article by arguing that collapse is not at all inevitable, and that we need an alternative framework that might inspire and guide us through the challenges of the present and near future. Against Bendell, Lent argues for what he calls Deep Transformation, which is grounded in a transformative sense of hope that we might still be able to make a large-scale transition to an ecological civilization. Following Lent’s counter-proposal, Bendell responded to defend the Deep Adaptation Agenda and to challenges aspects of Lent’s argument. The ongoing conversation online between these two provocative thinkers has been widely-discussed on social media and elsewhere, and at EcoCiv, we wanted to provide a platform for this discussion to continue.
So who is right in this debate? In this important conversation, Naresh Giangrande defends Deep Adaptation, and Jeremy Lent argues for Deep Transformation. Philip asks them to explain their contrasting agendas, whether or not collapse is truly inevitable, what they mean when they talk about collapse, and how each of them thinks about hope in a time of rapid climate breakdown.
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