By this we mean the land, the water and the air. And we mean place: land is not just a transferable commodity; land is typically unique. What the land IS depends partly on where it is, and on its history. And much land is or should be a commons. It is not separate from the communities that depend upon it and that guard it.
People need land. Part of Transformative Adaptation is without doubt going to be returning land to people.
Fundamental to TrAd is an assertion of the importance of real community - which means, most importantly, actual geographic community, collectivity of people in a place - over the pseudo-individualism that dominates the popular image of our culture and is killing us. (as can be witnessed very clearly in relation to Covid, but is equally true in relation to climate).
Community requires connection; with each other, and also with the Earth and its many other beings. It requires co-liberation: our freeing ourselves, together. Ultimately, it requires common democracy: this is a crucial part of what we want to achieve (and where feasible, it is also a great way to achieve it).
The TrAd vision values tradition. It values age-old wisdom, and does not fetishise ‘progress’. But the vision is clear-seeing that we cannot now survive, let alone flourish, without transformation.
Transformation is coming; our current system and civilisation are finished and attempts to prolong them will only worsen a crash (thus bringing about a brutal transformation). The transformation that is needed is one that is intelligent, deliberate, recognising this truth about the best-before date on our current way of living. Such transformation will be about going back to the land and moving forward into a new future (a future where we will use less energy, but probably most of the energy we use will be genuinely renewable). The existing system is unlikely to facilitate such transformation. Thus, while we should aim to get transformation happening through governments, the UN, etc., we should also be realistic enough to recognise that most of it will probably have to be led ‘bottom-up’. And may well require civil disobedience to be made possible at scale.
In sum: We can only expect people to care about our shared global environment BY taking care of their fundamental needs - for meaning, for connection, for food and drink…… Ergo the need for transformation, for community, and for land! Together, the fundaments of TrAd.
With the climate starting to spin worryingly out of control in the last few years, and with far too little action even in the face of the unprecedented upsurge of extraordinary movements such as XR and FFF, there has been gradually growing awareness across the board (though still not enough) that adaptation cannot be avoided.
So the time is ripe for activists, intellectuals and citizens at large to move into this terrain - to seek to push governments and international bodies to transform the adaptation agenda that they fund.
Transformational adaptation is defined by the IPCC in clear contrast to incremental adaptation, and has a clear technical definition as “Adaptation that changes the fundamental attributes of a socioecological system in anticipation of climate change and its impacts.
The TrAd project aims at transformative adaptation that will be positive, while beginning from a recognition of hard realities. And here’s the thing: those realities get harder each year and, the longer we delay, the less positive the necessary, unavoidable adaptations are likely to be experienced as being
What we want is to face reality NOW. Let’s transformatively adapt now, so that such adaptation will be as pain-free and positive as possible.
TrAd should be seen in concert with the ‘localisation’ agenda which radically rewrites crude, Pollyanna-ish versions of ‘development’ and ‘progress’ that in reality have taken the world over the precipice while stripping out traditional, viable ways of life in the process.
We should recognise that transformative adaptation can also be a last resort, and sub-optimal.
It is only because we have failed to prevent and to mitigate, that we need to adapt. The Precautionary Principle has not been observed by humanity; that is why civilisational collapse, which transformative adaptation aims to prevent or to cope with, is now, horrifically, a realistic possibility.
What we need to do right now is to start exploring, and pushing for, a greater focus on the respects in which transformative adaptation is or is likely to be necessary, and identifying and implementing transformative adaptations that will improve human wellbeing.
Critically, the people doing, or affected by, the transformative adaptations in question need to be brought into the driving seat [and] we also need as much as possible the wider transformational changes in policy, understanding, power relations, and governance that will enable transformational adaptation to be planned and implemented in an equitable fashion.
The ‘adaptation’ part of TrAd is a ruthlessly honest admission that it is too late to think in terms of mitigation-alone, but has very positive dimensions such as the relocalisation agenda.
The ‘transformative’ part of TrAd goes beyond talk of ‘transition’ to embrace the need for system-change that can make our lives together better.
In this way, TrAd is very different from both Incremental Adaptation, which defensively tries to preserve the current system, and also from Deep Adaptation insofar as DA risks giving up on the prospect of transformation and sometimes tends to take collapse as inevitable.
The history of Transformative Adaptation is mostly yet to be written, because TrAd is mostly yet to be undertaken...