Accepting collapse and self-empowerment

by Robert Hall, Suderbyn Ecovillage

Many of the events of the past couple of years have forced me to re-orient myself to the fact that a societal collapse is not only approaching but is already here. I have had to shelve lofty 30-year building plans for ecovillage development and re-think what is really needed of me in these historic times. Despite the obvious signs around us, often in the news every day, few in the current power structures want to acknowledge this overhanging reality. Even my ecovillage is poorly prepared for failing human and/or natural systems that we depend on.

I was anyway surprised at the GEN Gathering in Denmark to see a filmed interview I did several years ago before the pandemic where I mentioned societal collapse. I think the concept of collapse has always been with us in the ecovillage network, definitely since 2015 and the dawn of collapsology. But I would suggest that even earlier, like the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or the 1972 release of the Club of Rome’s The Limits of Growth. Collapse is woven deep into the tissue of the ecovillage movement. And if we consult many of the leading collapse gurus, they recommend us to basically do what GEN has been promoting for the past quarter century.

This slightly edgy topic is obviously of interest to many of us in GEN. In the face of many other workshop offerings, the organizers of this summer’s Gathering did make space for a workshop on this topic offered by my Suderbynian colleague Vivi Straub and myself. More revealing was the audience response to the morning session of Dougald Hine, the Swedish-based British writer and co-founder of the Dark Mountain Project. Dougald looking to the deep past let us feel into the future where everything would be different and we would have to move forward into the unknown. This is obviously something that hit home with the participants at the Gathering. We have already been preparing ourselves mentally for huge changes that will be coming in what Joanna Macy calls the Great Turning. And there is a collective desire to get deeper into this topic.

I think we have lots of help from our friends from Deep Adaptation – actually very concrete help from the Deep Adaptation Forum in handling the emotional repercussions of recognizing the impending collapse. Accepting collapse is the first step to being able to re-empower oneself, to get back personal agency, and it is through our conscious actions that we best deal with rampant eco-anxiety. Accepting collapse should actually be joyous and celebratory as we are now on the cusp of creating a life-sustaining civilization. Unfortunately, it is challenging to be positive when we understand that collapse means such huge suffering for many living beings.

Our ethical values of GEN will become ever so important, yet questioned and tested. The proliferation of love-based, empathetic, inclusive, and nature-grounded communities is essential to help humanity step into the new civilization. In which direction do we go? Simply down, puncturing holes right through the floor of the Capitalistic extractive industrial global system. Putting our roots down deeper, downcycling more, “localizing” to meet all our daily needs, continuing our needed personal growth, fully embracing place-based living with global consciousness and enjoying the rich life we can achieve in the community.