Mapping the climate alarm-denial spectrum

Where are you? Where’s your community?

As the times get more confusing, mapping your situation becomes more important, and so does calibrating it. By this, I mean some kind of validation that helps you to feel that your view of your situation is realistic and appropriate. As Joanna Macy, creator of the Work that Reconnects, points out, the forces of capitalism keep telling us we’re alone and needy: we have to find our own ways of mutual support and calibration.

It’s my own desire for validation which has led me to devise the climate alarm-denial spectrum, as shown below. Although I think of my home town as a moderately progressive community, I’ve so far found only a handful of people who are in the same place as me on this spectrum.

To explore this further, you could look at authoritative views on the climate crisis, such as the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Sixth Report. There’s a widespread view among environmental groups that the gap between the level of climate response needed, and what governments, households and businesses are actually doing, is huge, and we’re rapidly running out of time to bridge the gap. The IPCC say we have to make radical, transformational changes by 2030, and there’s little sign that will happen.

All this leads me to my position on the spectrum, which I call Rational Alarm. I support the views of the Deep Adaptation movement, that we need the skills and structures to live with major disruptions which could well happen in the next few years: for example, shortages and massive price inflation for food and energy supplies, and interruptions to essential services like electricity and the internet. I’ve explored this further, and highlighted the UK Government National Risk Register as an official view on all this, in my blog on Emergency Resilience.

The kinds of adaptation we need can’t all be done by individuals and households. The scale of disruptions is such that we need collective capacity, both in sharing physical resources, and for emotional support and wellbeing in times that will become more traumatic. How do we gather groups of people willing to create such collective capacity? My guess is that they are most likely to come from existing environmental groups, such as Deep Adaptation, Transition Towns, Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth.

This kind of collective capacity could take the form of adaptive networks in existing towns and neighbourhoods, or new ‘adaptive hamlets’: I’ve explored both of these possibilities in this blog.

At present, my impression is that the Rational Alarm segment of the UK population is a small one, sandwiched between what I regard as extreme and excessive alarm on one side, and implicit denial on the other. If you share my view of what’s needed, I urge you to open a conversation about this with any environmental groups or community networks you are part of.