Open this .pdf to view the graphic, updated in January 2024:

4 Columns January 2024 FINAL

This graphic was created by HEART Community Group primarily as a conversation-starter.

The tool arose from seeing other peoples’ work on this kind of analysis, including Paul Chefurka, and others in the Deep Adaptation community – for which we’re grateful.

It is not meant to suggest that one column is more ‘right’ than any other – although our community group sits firmly in Column 4. This explains our core focus of Local Community Resilience.

It is not designed to shift people to the right of the continuum – although in practice it often does.  Perhaps this is to do with giving permission to even contemplate collapse?

People also often comment that their answers shifts across the different columns – depending on recent news or their mood.

Your answer to the question “Which Column are you in?” matters – because all your feelings, priorities, actions and strategies will naturally flow from your current perspective and understanding.  When creating Climate Action Plans and Strategies, most Councils have started with the following underlying premise:

“How can we reduce emissions and reach net zero?”

All their action plans and strategies understandably flow from this premise.  We invite us all to question and broaden this starting point and add this question:

“How can we prepare and adapt now to create more climate resilient communities?” which takes you to a very different place when creating plans and taking action.

There are other notional columns not expressed in this graphic.  In HEART Community Group, we sometimes talk about Column 5 as being “Collapse Accepting” as distinct from “Collapse Aware”.  In our experience, this is a very different outlook – similar to the Post-Doom space as outlined by Michael Dowd in his definition here:

“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.”

And then there’s the invisible column 6 – which might be termed NTHE (Near Term Human Extinction).

There’s also the invisible column 0 – which could be described as outright denial of anthropocentric climate change.  These days, at least in the UK, it’s quite rare to find people who admit to being in this column (unless, perhaps, they’re running in the race for a new Leader of the Conservative Party in the UK!)

We often explore the 4-Columns with Local Authorities and other Leaders across Hertfordshire.  It’s fascinating how many people when asked the question, respond with “Officially….? Column 2”.  This is true even amongst those whose day-job is addressing the various crises we face.  When pushed, with something like “Yeah, but really where are you?” they mostly say “Somewhere between Columns 3 and 4”.

This underlines HEART’s view that hardly anybody is telling the truth!

I don’t have any actual evidence or data, but my sense is that the percentage of people in the various different columns is shifting quite quickly now.  There is a noticeable move to the right of the continuum amongst the general public and those we engage with – although it’s fair to say we probably engage mostly with those sections of the community who are awake and aware.

Just recently, we’ve also noticed the opposite – especially in the political domain.  There’s a definite ‘climate crisis backlash’ happening.  I understand that many politicians have been advised to completely stop mentioning ‘net zero’ in the current cost of living crisis.  One politician has even gone public saying that “talking about the climate crisis amounts to child abuse”.

Interesting times certainly!  I’m curious how these columns might shift over the coming years as climate chaos worsens.


Kimberley Hare

HEART Community Group

July 2022