What we at r3.0 are reading (6)

r3.0
7 min readAug 7, 2023

Discovering and living the pluriversal mycelium

By Ralph Thurm

Reflections on ‘Another end of the world is possible’, by Pablo Servigne, Raphaël Stevens and Gauthier Chapelle

Servigne, Pablo; Stevens, Raphaël; Chapelle, Gauthier. Another End of the World is Possible. Polity Press.

After having read Pablo Servigne’s and Raphaël Stevens first book ‘How everything can collapse’ (see our summary here) and recognizing patterns of collapse more visibly during the first half of this year, it was evident to read the sequel as well. The first book was more of an analysis of why collapse is inevitable and introducing us to #Collapsology as a new scientific discipline, the second book of the same authors focusses on the inevitable question ‘what are we going to do about it?’, when the answer is not ‘sticking our heads into the sand.’ Both books form a unity for all that look for a broad introduction into #Collapsology.

The authors set a clear intention what they’d like to contribute with this book, namely creating insight how to work with our head, hearts and hand:

“Understanding what is happening (collapse-logy), imagining and believing in other worlds (collapse-sophy) and gathering the forces of life to lead the fight against destructive powers and to build alternatives (collapse-praxis)”.

The structure of the book follows this triangulation quite nicely.

Understanding what is happening with us and in us (Collapso-logy)

Servigne/Stevens/Chapelle first focus on a continuum of awareness-raising in five stages, explain typical psychological responses, and finally how to deal with loss, mourning, grief and despair. Overall, what is the storm of emotions we all go through, before we can refocus our ‘return to life’, at r3.0 we coined the term ‘post-collapse readiness’ for that.

We learn to understand the two major problems of our civilization to deal with are

‘amnesia, because our society has sadly turned the ritual of life into the routine of existence’

and

‘anaesthesia, because the pain is too big and too difficult to manage.’

They expose optimism and hope as typical stages of denial (‘hope is in fact a curse, a bane’) and differentiate that from Joanna Macy’s notion of ‘Active Hope’, which they describe as ‘essential in order to not sink into despair or discouragement’.

Believing in other worlds (Collapso-sophy)

Two chapters describe reactions of science and storytelling to the notion of an ongoing collapse.

In the science chapter the authors describe the need for ‘inner work of the science discipline’, but especially the need for interdisciplinary sciences and stepping even further out of their comfort zone, including the rediscovery of indigenous knowledge and the development of a ‘post-normal science’, allowing the development of a pluriverse with different ontologies. An outcome of this would allow the emergence of a ‘pluriverse mycelium’, rebuilding over the ruins of capitalism. They end the science chapter with the question ‘what might a huge inter-species parliament look like?’

The storytelling chapter depict stories of progress (growth without end) and the story of competition (as the law of the strongest) as typical ‘Zombie stories’, that need to be replaced by stories of times to come, mentioning the ‘Great Turning’ (based on Joanna Macy) and Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine’s ‘Uncivilization: The Dark Mountain Manifesto’ as two examples. Also, this chapter looks at the development of ecopsychology and ecofeminism as an unravelling that offers a lot of space for future stories (recognizing their subdued past).

Build alternatives (Collapso-praxis)

The rest of the book, a good third of the total volume, then draws a broad picture of how to ‘weave connections’, the authors describe it as:

“Reconnecting with other humans, through the ability to help each other, which is deeply embedded within us; coming together again with non-human beings, who are also aware of their own way of the ‘deep time’ of life’s history on Earth; and finally getting back into contact with what we would call the sacred, […] something our ancestors and other people already knew.”

They mention E.O. Wilson and D.S. Wilson’s statement ‘Selfishness beats altruism within single groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups.’ Another remark in this chapter needs mentioning:

“While occasional serious disasters lead to the emergence of prosocial acts (solidarity, altruism, mutual help), over time, if a basic institutional structure doesn’t form between the reconstituted individuals, social chaos can easily come back and degenerate into deadly conflict.”

This sentence reminded me immediately of why we started with r3.0: how to build the necessary infrastructures in a post-collapse world? How do we create the various necessary membranes that we are dependent from, keep them porous, and discover new ones with an enlarged community of humans and non-humans?

One specific membrane that we need to keep open is the time horizon. The book mentions a striking timeline to exemplify our human influence on Planet Earth:

“The Earth was formed 4.5 thousand million years ago. If the Earth was formed on 1 January, life did not appear until 26 February. Bacteria started the show, beginning to reproduce, to eat each other, to collaborate, to differentiate themselves into innumerable species, in short to invent everything needed to colonize different environments. These are the same bacteria that gradually establish alliances with all species of plants, animals, protists and fungi, and still remain the dominant form of life today, 3.8 thousand million years later (something which, contrary to popular belief, is largely to our advantage). On 3 April, something decisive happens: photosynthesis appears. This extraordinary ability to use sunlight to assemble the basic building blocks of life from water and carbon dioxide will supply a vast source of energy for everyone, and will transform the face of the Earth. The oxygen released will then become the fuel for respiration, another bacterial innovation, which makes it possible to profit from the solar energy stored by plants. We have to wait until 24 September to see the first multicellular organisms appear. On 22 November, almost two months later, the first plants appear on earth. The first forests begin to grow on 1 December, and this speeds up the diversification of animals. On 6 December, the first reptiles appear, and on 14 December, the first mammals. The primates emerge on 25 December, followed by Homo sapiens at one minute to midnight on 31 December. The industrial revolution, which matters so much to us, and which gave birth to the culture within which most of us grew up, corresponds to the very last second of this cosmic year. This second, even if it is the one that saw us born, only has meaning in the light of all that came before it, of all our common history with Earth and with all the beings and ancestors since the first molecules came together.”

How would we deal with the future of next generations given our collapse is just a blink of an eye in Planet Earth’s history? How would we give shape to intra- and intergenerational equity in the light of that timeline? What opportunities do we have left given the late stage of our human existence and the earlier collapses that have been rather local, while this collapse is global?

And lastly, covering a last important chapter, how would we grow up from what Bill Plotkin calls ‘patho-adolescence’:

“In today’s Western societies, besides the scarcity of true maturity, many adult people suffer from various adolescent pathologies — disabling social insecurity, confusion of identity, extremely low self-esteem, few or no social skills, narcissism, relentless greed, arrested moral development, recurrent physical violence, materialistic obsessions, little or no capacity for intimacy or empathy.”

What is necessary to get us from patho-adolescence to adulthood and elderhood? The book discusses ‘initiation’ as the overarching theme, taking away the shadows of all aspects of our lives which we find unacceptable and that we repress or deny. The authors say we need to ‘learn to dance with them’, including reconciling our masculine and feminine sides, restoring the wild by learning about the wild around us and the wild in us.

This would help us creating ’rough-weather networks’ of adult communities, listening and sharing groups. The authors comment that

‘to be able to open up, and to speak our truth with authenticity, we need to create “secure” circles or spaces, with a strong protective membrane, so that we feel confident. They need good operating rules (speaking times, confidentiality, a non-judgemental attitude, good will, etc.) and they need a reliable person to make sure the rules are followed. Very effective relationships of reciprocity and trust can arise by natural empathy from such trusting, authentic exchanges.’

The book ends with a clear statement:

‘We will simultaneously be undergoing feelings of both pain and joy. The pain of observing the collapse of life, of the places where we live, of our futures and our attachments; the joy of seeing (at last!) the collapse of the thermo-industrial world and of many other toxic things, of being able to invent new worlds, of returning to a simple existence, of recovering memory (against amnesia) and feeling (against anaesthesia), of regaining autonomy and power, of cultivating beauty and authenticity, and of weaving real bonds with the rediscovered wild. It is entirely possible to live both an apocalypse and a ‘happy collapse’.

What I appreciate about the book (and its predecessor) is that we find a seldom case of academics here that dare to go further, go beyond proof-ready information that their profession demands for academic papers and by that create that ‘Active Hope’ that Joanna Macy so eloquently asks us to have, through hard work, stretching our imagination, and dare to be outspoken about it. A breath-taking read of deep devotion to find a place for humanity after collapse, and by that adding to r3.0’s post-collapse readiness work focus.

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