Deep Transition, towards the synthesis of two paradigms

Deep Transition, towards the synthesis of two paradigms

In a previous article, I contrasted two of the narratives of the ongoing Transition. One, the Transition Movement narrative, with a deliberately positive vision of the future. The other, the Deep Adaptation narrative, is based on the conviction that short-term collapse is already inevitable. I now invite you to go a step further and bridge the gap between the two visions by walking the tightrope between hope and despair. The idea is to try to move, in short, towards the Deep Transition, the synthesis of these two paradigms.

On the tightrope of hope

We can call that string Active Hope (according to Joanna Macy) or Radical Hope (according to Jem Bendell).

The subject is topical in view of the imminent publication of Rob Hopkins’ latest book “From What is to What if.

In his new book, Rob, unapologetic, advocates the value of imagination, creativity and optimism as the driving force for action to make the Great Turning a reality. With this book Rob underpins the Heart-based approach that was one of the three pillars of the Transition Handbook. The other two pillars of the manual, published in 2008, were the Head and the Hands.

Squaring the circle

During a very recent Work that Reconnects workshop that I facilitated with my friends Almudena and Robert from Abrazo House, I was able to feel, once again, that it is possible to square the circle. Which is none other than to harmonise two seemingly incompatible narratives.

The hopeful narrative of the Transition, based on the belief in our ability to radically change the situation for the better. And the “defeatist” narrative of Deep Adaptation, which claims that it is already too late to avoid imminent collapse.

Towards the Deep Transition: the value of Transition

The work of transition initiatives is absolutely commendable and has intrinsic value: it builds community, increases resilience and reduces environmental impact. It also strengthens our competencies and skills and connects us to ourselves, our neighbours and nature.

But it also has an instrumental value in a world whose fragile systems can suddenly collapse. For there is no better place to deal with a breakdown than in a solidly established transitional community.

Towards Deep Transition: the contribution of Deep Adaptation

If we wanted to combine the narratives of Transition and Deep Adaptation in an even more intimate way, we could perhaps “graft” the 4Rs of Deep Adaptation (Resilience, Relinquishment, Restoration and Reconciliation) into the DNA of Transition.

We could thus create a kind of GMO (genetically modified organism) that could better resist the plague of despondency, hopelessness and nihilism that is hanging over a growing number of activists. A kind of Deep Transition.

Let’s see how:


Reconciliation is the cornerstone of the Deep Adaptation agenda that invites us to make peace with whatever and whomever we are at odds or estranged from. And it does so with a particular emphasis on “normalising” our relationship with death and the dark side of existence (Karl Jung’s Shadow).

This work is fully in line with the Inner Transition. If anything, it could be reinforced by a more systematic practice of workshops such as The Work that Reconnects, vision quests, rites of passage… And, why not, the spread of the very fashionable practice in the Anglo-Saxon world of DeathCafés, friendly and endearing encounters where we can talk serenely about our emotions and experiences around death.


Building on the solid foundations of Reconciliation practice, we could review how to consolidate Resilience, which is already in the genome of Transition, with some reinforcement coming from Deep Adaptation.

I am thinking in particular of the metaphor of the icing and the cake. In a world prone to collapse, every effort must be made to ensure that we have at hand all the ingredients of the cake that will nourish us in times of hardship. It would be better with icing, but, as the French say, à la guèrre comme à la guerre (in times of war, war economy).

Only when we have secured self-sufficiency can we distract ourselves with the expendable.


The third R, Relinquishment, does not appear explicitly in the Transition narrative, but is inherent to the concept: leaving behind everything that contributes to the destruction of our ecosystems, the depletion of resources, the accumulation of waste.

At the risk of polemicising, I would venture to recall that there is ample evidence of the enormous harm caused by the consumption of animal products.

As a committed vegan, I am surprised by the large number of transitioners who have not yet taken the step towards a predominantly plant-based diet.


Finally, the Transition could draw more decisively on the concept of Restoration in its two aspects:

  • Recovery of old habits and customs.
  • Regeneration of habitats and biotopes.

That said, it is truly admirable how much the initiatives have already done in this field.

Towards the Deep Transition, an attempt

And let us return, finally, to the beginning, to Rob Hopkins. Tied to his mast of positivism like Ulysses tempted by the sirens of despair and nihilism, he reminds us of an imperious need. The need not to let up in our efforts to make the Grand Turning a reality.

Personally, however, I think the chances of making a Grand Tour are getting slimmer and slimmer.

Therefore, I believe it is also imperative to reinforce the work of Transition with elements from Deep Adaptation.

Because, should we fail to achieve the Great Turning, it will allow us to get through the Great Unravelling as unscathed as possible and with dignity, serenity, civilisation and decency.

This is a translation of an original entry in Spanish posted in Red de Transicion on 20 October, 2019.

An experienced beginner