Terms used here

The concept of collapse has been around for many years, however as the field gets busier and many people use terms to mean different things, we have provided this glossary to help understand the way we use particular terms that are not yet commonly agreed. In many cases we have provided a summary of our position, followed by a link to others who have and are codefining the new lexicon. If you see better definitions, or nuances that we might have missed, please let us know and we will review.

“A bioregion is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a biogeographic realm, but larger than an ecoregion or an ecosystem, in the World Wide Fund for Nature classification scheme. A key difference between an ecoregion and bioregion, is that while ecoregions are based on general biophysical and ecosystem data, human settlement and cultural patterns play a key role for how a bioregion is defined. A bioregion is defined along watershed and hydrological boundaries, and uses a combination of bioregional layers, beginning with the oldest “hard” lines; geology, topography, tectonics, wind, fracture zones and continental divides, working its way through the “soft” lines: living systems such as soil, ecosystems, climate, marine life, and the flora and fauna, and lastly the “human” lines: human geography, energy, transportation, agriculture, food, music, language, history, indigenous cultures, and ways of living within the context set into a place, and it’s limits to determine the final edges and boundaries.”

This is summed up well by David McCloskey, author of the Cascadia Bioregion map: “An bioregion may be analyzed on physical, biological, and cultural levels. First, we map the landforms, geology, climate, and hydrology, and how these environmental factors work together to create a common template for life in that particular place. Second, we map the flora and fauna, especially the characteristic vegetative communities, and link them to their habitats. Third, we look at native peoples, western settlement, and current land-use patterns and problems, in interaction with the first two levels.”


More here

CAPI stands for Comprehensive Authority, Power and Influence

Carrying capacity is the maximum number, density, or biomass of a population that a specific area can support sustainably.

Catastrophize: to imagine the worst possible outcome of an action or event: to think about a situation or event as being a catastrophe or having a potentially catastrophic outcome.

—Merriam Webster Dictionary


When a gradual downward trend (in biophysical health and wellbeing) goes into unstoppable decline: runaway, out of control; e.g. abrupt climate change (Michael Dowd)


Societal Collapse

  • An uneven ending of industrial consumer modes of sustenance, shelter, security, health, security pleasure, identity, meaning. (Bendell, 2018)
  • A large scale, irreversible process at the end of which basic needs (water, food, housing, clothing, energy etc.) can no longer be provided (at a reasonable cost) to the majority of the population by services under legal supervision. (Servigne and Stevens, 2015)


courage, noun
  1. the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery. “she called on all her courage to face the ordeal” 
  2. strength in the face of pain or grief. “he fought his illness with great courage”

Quote: “COURAGE is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public, to show courage; to be celebrated in story, rewarded with medals, given the accolade, but a look at its linguistic origins leads us in a more interior direction and toward its original template, the old Norman French, Coeur, or heart. Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work, a future.

To be courageous, is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of those consequences.

To be courageous is to seat our feelings deeply in the body and in the world: to live up to and into the necessities of relationships that often already exist, with things we find we already care deeply about: with a person, a future, a possibility in society, or with an unknown that begs us on and always has begged us on. Whether we stay or whether we go – to be courageous is to stay close to the way we are made.”

– David Whyte

“A recession is a reduction in GDP, one that happens accidentally, often with undesirable social outcomes like unemployment, austerity, and poverty. Degrowth, on the other hand, is a planned, selective and equitable downscaling of economic activities. Recession: unplanned and unwanted. Degrowth: designed and desired.”

“In the literature, degrowth describes a temporary downscaling of production and consumption, planned democratically to reduce environmental pressures in a way that is equitable and for the sake of improving wellbeing.

Post-growth, on the other hand, refers to a broader family of growth-sceptical ideas, ranging from critiques of GDP and pleas for wellbeing economies to more radical alternatives to capitalism.”

Timothée Parrique


  • The largely unconscious habit of thought whereby we refuse to accept the reality of things that are bad or upsetting – or that challenge our worldview, our legacy, how we live, what is required of us, and/or our feelings of self-worth or superiority.
  • The instinctual impulse to reject or discount information that calls into question our hopes, assumptions, or expectations about the future. (Michael Dowd)

Three Types of Denial

Literal denial

“The simple, conscious, outright rejection that something happened or is happening – that is, lying.

It is tempting to attribute outright denial to individual malice or stupidity, and that may occasionally be the case. More worrying and more insidious, though, is the social organisation of literal denial of climate change. There is plenty of evidence of clandestine, orchestrated lying by vested interests in industry.”

Interpretive denial

Here, “people do not contest the facts, but interpret them in ways that distort their meaning or importance. For example, one might say climate change is just a natural fluctuation or greenhouse gas accumulation is a consequence, not a cause, of rising temperatures.”

Implicatory denial

“The third and most insidious form is implicatory denial. The facts of climate change are not denied, nor are they interpreted to be something else. What is denied or minimised are the psychological, political, and moral implications of the facts for us. We fail to accept responsibility for responding; we fail to act when the information says we should.

Of course, some are unable to respond, financially or otherwise, but for many, implicatory denial is a kind of dissociation. Ignoring the moral imperative to act is as damning a form of denial as any other, and arguably is much worse.”

Source: Walker & Leviston, 2019

1.  A normal feeling of disgust or dread upon realizing that technological progress and economic growth and development are the root of our predicament,  not our way out.

2.  A name for the anxiety and fear called forth when living in a corrupt, dysfunctional civilization causing a mass extinction.

3.  The mid-point between denial and regeneration . . .  with or without us.

“Around the world, people are dramatically changing their lives to prioritise creativity and social contribution. They are worrying less about their career, financial security, or the latest trends. They are helping those in need, growing food, making music, campaigning for change and exploring self and spirituality. Why is this shift occurring? Because they have rejected the dominant view of reality and no longer expect elites or officers of the establishment to solve the worsening problems in society. After decades of greed, hypocrisy, lies, corruption and stupid policies, they are no longer waiting for any elites to rescue anyone, let alone the planet. But they are no longer upset, numb or despairing. They are living life more fully, according to what they value. It is precisely because these people regard modern societies to be breaking down, that they are living more freely. They need neither an underground bunker nor a fairytale of a better tomorrow as they are living for love, truth and beauty today. Who are they? I call them doomsters. I am one of them. Perhaps you are too?”

That’s an excerpt from Jem Bendell’s Chapter 12 of Breaking Together

There is much discussion about ‘hope’ and many ways of framing it. Heres some:

From the book by Joanna Macy – https://www.activehope.info/

Active Hope is something we do rather than have. It involves being clear what we hope for and then playing our role in the process of moving that way. The journey of finding, and offering, our unique contribution to the Great Turning helps us to discover new strengths, open to a wider network of allies and experience a deepening of our aliveness. When our responses are guided by the intention to act for the healing of our world, the mess we’re in not only becomes easier to face, our lives also become more meaningful and satisfying.

There are many different kinds or levels of ‘hope’ – and unfortunately most hope is often a shallow avoidance response deliberately in denial of reality…
However, if, like Joanna Macy, you have the wisdom to BOTH see the reality AND then consider hope, then that is Active Hope…
“Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued . . . . by some saviour.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store, strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to discover the strengths in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts, our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose, our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity, the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence, the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.”

― Joanna Macy

This is the stance we take in our initiative And Now What – Facing Reality and Living the Questions

Not to be confused with Hopium, which, according to Michael Dowd, is:

– A comforting vision of the future that requires breaking the laws of physics, biology, or ecology.
– Addiction to impossible hopes.
– Irrational or unwarranted optimism that promises short-term pain relief but delivers disappointment and despair when reality inevitably bites.
– Any ‘hope’ that leads us to put off or not prioritize what matters most – individually and collectively
– Believing that the climate crisis can be ‘fixed’ or ‘solved’ by doubling down on the very things driving ecocide (Michael Dowd)
  • A comforting vision of the future that requires breaking the laws of physics, biology, or ecology.
  • Addiction to impossible hopes.
  • Irrational or unwarranted optimism that promises short-term pain relief but delivers disappointment and despair when reality inevitably bites.
  • Any ‘hope’ that leads us to put off or not prioritize what matters most – individually and collectively
  • Believing that the climate crisis can be ‘fixed’ of ‘solved’ by doubling down on the very things driving ecocide (Michael Dowd)

“The metacrisis is the historically specific threat to truth, beauty, and goodness caused by our persistent misunderstanding, misvaluing, and misappropriating of reality. The metacrisis is the crisis within and between all the world’s major crises, a root cause that is at once singular and plural, a multi-faceted delusion arising from the spiritual and material exhaustion of modernity that permeates the world’s interrelated challenges and manifests institutionally and culturally to the detriment of life on earth.”

Jonathon Rowson

We much like the definition of Nature provided by Bayo Akomolafe. His explanation follows:

“In a letter written to me by a group campaigning for a new definition of ‘nature’ in our dictionaries, I was amused by the definition offered by the highly venerated Oxford English Dictionary:

“The phenomena of the physical world collectively; esp. plants, animals, and other features and products of the earth itself, as opposed to humans.”

‘…as opposed to humans.’

Of course, the campaign rightly noticed that the perceived separateness between humans and nature – especially in the so-called Global North – has contributed in no small way to the extractive cultures that are folded into the lingering troubles of the Anthropocene.

They asked me for my own definition, which they’d hope might dislodge the centrality of the brutal humanism implied in the official descriptions of ‘nature’.

So, I offered this:

‘A theoretical, economic, political, and theological designation from the Enlightenment era that attempts to name the material world of trees, ecologies, animals, and general features and products of earth as separate from humans and human society, largely in a bid to position humans as masters over material forces, independent and capable of transforming the world for their exclusive ends.’

It’s as far as I could go without waxing poetic about nature as a colonial trope for biopolitical interventions. What felt important to say was that ‘nature’ is a performative, speculative gesture, a ritual of relations that rehearses a dissociation from the world. A subjectivizing force. A lounge in the terminal of the radioactive Human.”

Bayo Akomolafe

A population is in overshoot when it exceeds available carrying capacity. A population in overshoot may permanently impair the long-term productive potential of its habitat, reducing future carrying capacity. It may survive temporarily but will eventually crash as it depletes vital natural capital (resource) stocks. Carrying capacities are also dynamic, so a population that assumed it was sustainable might find itself in overshoot because underlying carrying capacity has been diminished (see carrying capacity)

“a time of great disagreement, confusion, or suffering that is caused by many different problems happening at the same time so that they together have a very big effect”

For example:

  • We could be on the brink of a polycrisis.
  • Researchers expect more instances of polycrisis over the next few years. (Cambridge Dictionary)
  • What opens up when we remember who we are and how we got here, accept the inevitable, honor our grief, and prioritize what is  pro-future and soul-nourishing.
  • A fierce and fearless reverence for life and expansive gratitude — even in the midst of abrupt climate mayhem and the runaway collapse of societal harmony, the health of the biosphere, and business as usual.
  • Living meaningfully, compassionately, and courageously no matter what. (Michael Dowd)
A predicament is an inextricable, irreversible and complex situation for which there are no solutions, just measures for adapting to it. This is true of incurable diseases which, in the absence of ‘solutions’, oblige us to take paths – not always easy – that allow us to live with them. Faced with a predicament, there are things we can do, but there are no solutions.

How Everything Can Collapse, p. 128 Collapsology, Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens

“Safety is not the absence of threat—it is the presence of connection.” – Gabor Maté

We use the term to describe spaces where we can have challenging Courageous Conversations about difficult topics, involving rigorous inquiry from multiple perspectives, and still hold space for “respectful belonging” where we can appreciate one another as we live the questions together.

Social Field

“The social field can be defined as the source conditions that give rise to patterns of thinking, conversing, and organizing in systems, which in turn produce practical results. In this way, the social field is the social system seen not only from the outside (the third-person view) but also from within (the first- and second- person views). A social field perspective addresses the less visible levels of individual, social and relational reality creation: the dynamics, processes and particularly the levels of awareness that underlie and shape the behavior we see more readily. It is a theoretical and practical innovation with significant implications for changing practice and taking a fresh look at what is needed to shift social systems.

Awareness-based systems change, therefore, is a process of co-inquiry into the deeper structures of the social systems—the source conditions—in order to see, sense and shift them.”

Source: Journal of Awareness Based Systems Change

Solastalgia – the distress caused by environmental change

Solastalgia is a concept developed (by philosopher Glenn Albrecht) to give greater meaning and clarity to environmentally induced distress. As opposed to nostalgia – the melancholia or homesickness experienced by individuals when separated from a loved home – solastalgia is the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment.


Francis Weller, in the Foreword of Duane Elgin’s book Choosing Earth, describes Trauma as follows:

Trauma is any encounter, acute or prolonged, that overwhelms the capacity of the psyche to process the experience.”

He continues: “One of the essential practices in our apprenticeship (with sorrow) is our ability to hold one another in times of grief and trauma.

In these times, what confronts us is too intense to hold, integrate, or comprehend. The emotional charge saturates our capacity to make sense of the experience, and we feel overwhelmed and alone. Absence of an adequate holding environment, capable of supporting us in these times, generates traumatic experiences. In other words, pain itself is not traumatic. Unwitnessed pain is. This time of rapid and heartbreaking planetary change reminds us that we are in this together and we can offer one another the holding space needed to process our shared sorrows.” Francis Weller


“Trauma is not a flaw or a weakness. It is a highly effective tool of safety and survival. Trauma is also not an event. Trauma is the body’s protective response to an event – or a series of events – that it perceives as potentially dangerous.” Resmaa Meakem

“Wicked challenges are defined in the systems science literature as challenges that are hyper-complex and multi-layered. They represent an assemblage of interlocked problems, where every problem is a symptom of another problem and the solution for one problem creates problems in other layers. They also involve many unknowns and they have longer and uncertain timescales. Super-wicked challenges have extra characteristics, including the fact that time is running out, those who cause the problem also seek to provide a solution, the central authority needed to coordinate solutions is precarious, and inefficient or non-existent responses are pushed into the future due to irrational discounting and ineffectiveness of existing paradigms and practices.” (Andreotti et al., 2023, p. 81, referencing Rittel & Webber, 1974 and Levin et al., 2012).

  1. Wicked problems are difficult to define; there is no definitive formulation.
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true or false, but rather good or bad.
  4. There is no immediate and ultimate test for solutions.
  5. Every solution is a “one-shot operation”; there is no opportunity to learn by “trial-and-error”, and attempts may have irreversible effects.
  6. These problems do not have an enumerable set of possible and clear solutions.
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
  8. Every wicked problem may be a symptom of another problem.
  9. The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways.
  10. The planner has “no right to be wrong”, i.e., policymakers or planners are liable for the consequences of the solutions they generate, and the public have no tolerance or trust in initiatives that fail.”Wicked problems are socially and politically complex. They are associated with social pluralism (the multiple interests and values of stakeholders), institutional complexity, and scientific uncertainty due to fragmentation and gaps in knowledge. Institutional complexity is related to conflicting prescriptions from multiple institutional logics. Institutional complexity is widely discussed in the governance of SESs due to coordination and/or collaboration problems that give rise to conflicts where wickedness is frequently suspected. In fact, wicked problem analysis focuses on the role of stakeholder perceptions, values, and interests to explain how issues are scoped, priorities are set, and possible solutions are considered. When groups of actors are facing debatable issues, their interpretations of the environment, their definition of the problems, and their development of strategies are all related to their perceptions based on their different life experiences.” Source