The past year has seen a shift in the conversation about 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’ never refers 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?