Negotiating the Surrender
Negotiating the Surrender
Evening public talk: Dartington June 6, 19.30 to 21.00
(followed by an informal gathering with drinks available until around 23.00)
The past year has seen a shift in the conversation around climate change, a new urgency and a new sense of what is at stake – from the IPCC 1.5° report and the UN Secretary General’s ‘sounding the alarm’ speech, to the impact of Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation paper, the emergence of Extinction Rebellion and the international school strikes movement.
In mainstream political and media debate (and in the framing of international negotiations), climate change is still treated as something manageable and solvable: an obstacle that we might find our way past and continue on some pre-existing trajectory of development, progress and/or growth. Yet this story is under strain from multiple directions. What happens when it reaches a breaking point?
If ‘sustainability’ tends to end up meaning ‘sustaining our current way of living’ – where ‘our’ has never referred to more than a fraction of the global population – then what if the challenge now is to negotiate the surrender of that way of living? What can we learn from understandings of ‘surrender’ in military strategy and peace negotiations, but also in spiritual traditions and addiction treatment programmes?
Follow-on workshop: Dartington Friday June 7, 09.15 to 16.00
…And at the heart of surrender is loss: the willingness to give up, to let go of stories of our own invincibility and self-reliance, to recognise that we find ourselves at the mercy of a power which has proven itself greater than our own. In this workshop, I want to invite us into the territory of loss and grief, on the understanding that there may be possibilities for transformation here that went unmarked on the maps of how to change the world that we inherited from the recent past.
Ten years ago, in the Dark Mountain manifesto, Paul Kingsnorth and I wrote: ‘We believe it is time to look down.’ To face the dark realities of an age of ecocide, the destruction that is already written into the story, the foolishness of the rhetoric with which this knowledge is held at bay.
Having spent a decade holding a space to which it is safe to bring doubts and fears, darknesses and despair, we now find ourselves in a moment where a similar process is underway on a much larger scale. From the Extinction Rebellion movement to the reaction generated by Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation paper, a paradox that we have lived with for years is playing out on a public stage: in looking into the abyss together, willing to abandon hope, there can arise a strange relief, a hidden reserve of courage and an ability to come alive in the face of our own mortality.
To surrender is to give up, to be humbled, perhaps humiliated, but with a chance – not a guarantee – that we may live to tell the tale.
Set the scene…
Those interested in joining us for this event may also value looking at Professor Jem Bendell’s recent talk on his widely shared 2018 IFLAS Occasional Paper Deep Adaptation – also available as a PDF here, and Vanessa Andriotti’s 2018 Climate Existence keynote, Beyond the House that Modernity Built, for two perspectives on the context within which this discussion takes place.
should you happen to be in Cornwall on June 5th, join Dougald at Falmouth University as part of the Negotiating the Surrender series.
More info and booking