Aug. 6, 2020

The three r's: resilience, relinquishment and restoration

The earth has been around for 4.6 billion years according to the geologic record. As a matter of fact the geologic time scale is divided into eras based on major extinction events. More organisms have gone extinct than live on the planet today. From the Great Dying to the end of the dinosaurs, earth has gone through many changes. Throughout all these changes, the earth endures.

So, a campaign slogan of Save the Earth is really a misnomer. The earth doesn’t need saving, but our own species does. For millions of years there has been a general homeostasis of the environment that provided conditions for people to flourish, but ecosystems are changing. Human activities are changing them. And though scientists are loath to overstate their findings, there is a quiet consensus that we have reached or surpassed many major tipping points. Methane is being released from warmed permafrost, Arctic ice is disappearing, sea levels are rising, coral reefs are collapsing. From extreme weather to unprecedented wildfires to soil degradation to water and food insecurity, the environment is slowly affecting our ability to wrangle it to our wants and desires. At some point, we will exceed the earth’s carrying capacity for our bloated 7 billion plus population through habitat degradation, toxic waste and our over use of non-renewable resources.

It is time to accept the inevitable and stop waiting for some technological innovation or magical cure to maintain our comfortable and convenient lives. Even as the pandemic affects economic disaster, add to it environmental disaster- it is fantasy thinking to believe things will go back to ‘normal.’ The change that needs to occur is a change in mindset, a total transformation of our perspectives of ecology, petro-chemical economy, nature, wildlife and the systems that sustain life as we know it. Change is the only thing one can count on, indeed, the dynamic and evolving nature of living organisms and systems, including planet earth, is the model we should be following. Static systems are not resilient.

In Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy, Jem Dendell writes from the perspective that a societal collapse is inevitable and we need to approach that with resilience, relinquishment and restoration.  Deep Adaptation:

“In pursuit of a conceptual map of “deep adaptation,” we can conceive of resilience of human societies as the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances so as to survive with valued norms and behaviors. Given that analysts are concluding that a social collapse is inevitable, the question becomes: What are the valued norms and behaviors that human societies will wish to maintain as they seek to survive? That highlights how deep adaptation will involve more than “resilience.” It brings us to a second area of this agenda, which I have named “relinquishment.” It involves people and communities letting go of certain assets, behaviors and beliefs where retaining them could make matters worse. Examples include withdrawing from coastlines, shutting down vulnerable industrial facilities, or giving up expectations for certain types of consumption. The third area can be called “restoration.” It involves people and communities rediscovering attitudes and approaches to life and organization that our hydrocarbon-fueled civilization eroded. Examples include re-wilding landscapes, so they provide more ecological benefits and require less management, changing diets back to match the seasons, rediscovering non-electronically powered forms of play, and increased community-level productivity and support.”

“We will not participate anymore in the economic systems that destroy lives and find more ways to live in solidarity and relationship.”

Video, Living in the Time of Dying: