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We need to talk about collapse and adaptation

panel of speakers Pablo Servigne, Jem Bendell, Satish Kumar,  Virginie Raisson-Victor, Aurele Destree.
From left to right Pablo Servigne, Jem Bendell, Satish Kumar,Virginie Raisson-Victor, Aurele Destree.

In March 24, I attended a genuinely eye-opening Horizons of change retreat organised by the amazing from Schumacher sprouts with exceptional speakers; Adelaide Charlier, Virginie Raisson-Victor Satish Kumar, Jem Bendell, and Pablo Servigne. It took me a month to process this transforming experience and boil it down to a few words.

I’ve been aware of environmental issues for over 23 years - I did my thesis on the topic back in 2005, before it was even a thing. I’ve been working in climate and nature solutions since 2017 and training people on these topics since 2020. It’s been a long -and often lonely- journey. Yet, this retreat took me one giant step further on my personal journey, by allowing me to better embrace both grief and adaptation.

It was about acknowledging the grief, having a good cry and living with it, resolutely.

Transcending it through continued action, deeper connection, and adaptation.

Together with 40 likeminded people from various backgrounds and generations, we had the privilege to be immersed in the wisdom from thought leaders. These are my key takeaways.

Acknowledging collapse

We need to take stock that all social and environmental indicators are going down and the fall is accelerating (see recent record-breaking temperatures in the air, ocean and poles, biodiversity collapse or 6th mass extinction). Even though most environment professionals -including myself- want to maintain hope for a brighter future, we need to acknowledge that the current, therefore most probable scenario, leads us to environmental and societal collapse. This is not a crisis that can be solved to come back to normal, this is a collapse of some life supporting systems of our civilization.

The timeframes, extent and inevitability of societal collapse can be debated but we already know the devastating consequences of our planetary boundaries overshoot on food, water, homes, energy, social and governmental systems. Because we’ve seen them happening with increasing frequency.

I’ve stopped kidding myself that we could fix it and get back to normal. I have let go of this dream and found solace in the process.


Finding peace in being the change

The benefit of acknowledging collapse as the most probable scenario is to shape a path, at least as a precautionary principle, to resilience and adaptation.

First, we need to continue taking action to limit damage, restore what can be restored, because it’s the best way to “be the change we want to see in the world” and find peace. But as Satish Kumar wisely repeated, we need to do it in collaboration with others, without expectation of a result, out of love and to create beauty.


Accelerating our adaptation

Then, we must transcend our grief and consciously go into deeper adaptation. On that front, Jem Bendell led a fascinating workshop inviting us to think about what we can Keep, Reclaim, Let go, Restore, Reconcile, to help us adapt to the environmental and social collapse already underway and likely to increase.

4 R deep adaptation workshop, Jem Bendell
4 R deep adaptation workshop by Jem Bendell

For me this means transitioning faster, at my own professional and personal level, to a system and way of life that embodies this change I want to see in the world and creates resilience to the environmental and societal collapse unravelling.

This starts with evolving our own organisation, the C Collective, in its ways of working and its mission to be a force for regeneration. At a personal level, this entails evolving our family lifestyle to reclaim our food and energy supply towards more autonomy, and building deeper connections with communities at a local level.


More information on the speakers and organisers:

Schumacher Sprouts (Belgium)

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