Wicked Problems
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Tadzio Mueller: The Case for Just Collapse

Tadzio Mueller: The Case for Just Collapse

Political scientist and veteran activist on his radical turn away from "irrelevant" activism, a critique of climate tech, and to a different view of climate justice.

What if we’re too late for a “Just Transition”, and the best we can hope for is a “Just Collapse”?

What if both climate activism and climate tech innovation, as responses to imminent climate collapse, are just the “bargaining” stage of a process of grief?

Should those who put our lives into solutions dismiss people who argue that as “Doomers”, or is there a potential for common ground on things like adaptation?


started as an alter-globalisation protest leader in 1999 before embracing climate activism. But a crisis of faith led him radical shift from fighting for climate prevention to advocating for resilience and adaptation strategies amidst what he perceives as an inevitable collapse.

A spat on BlueSky with climate analyst and previous guest Ketan Joshi led to the suggestion to come on the show.

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differs on the inevitability, but this is a conversation, not a shouting match. It roams from LNG to “electric capitalism” to the and crises of faith to Michael E. Mann to Isaac Asimov to adaptation.

A bit different from our usual topics, but we hope you listen - maybe after settling in with a glass of wine. Email us at info@wickedproblems.uk to let us know what you think.

By Stefan Müller - Tadzio Müller @ #AlleFürsKlima, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83090868

Time Codes & Highlights

  • [00:00:17] - Tadzio Mueller's critique of climate tech optimism and his view on the magical thinking surrounding green industrialization.

  • [00:00:43] - Discussion on the moral and historical implications of reaching planetary boundaries, with a unique perspective on activism, societal structures, and potential futures.

  • [00:04:38] - Introduction to Tadzio Mueller, his background, and his evolution from an alter-globalization activist to a proponent of the "just collapse" theory.

  • [00:05:20] - Insights into the dynamics of climate activism, the limitations of summit protests, and the strategic shifts within the movement.

  • [00:11:04] - Mueller's personal journey through activism, including his preemptive arrest in 2009 and the realization of the inadequacies of current climate activism strategies.

  • [00:17:31] - A critical examination of the relationship between economic growth and emissions, challenging the feasibility of decoupling them in the context of climate change.

  • [00:26:59] - Exploring the psychological barriers to effective climate action, including societal repression and denial, and their impact on policy and activism.

  • [00:33:56] - Introduction to the concept of "just collapse," its implications for society, and the necessity for a reevaluation of activism and societal priorities in the face of climate collapse and rising fascism.

  • [00:54:58] - Mueller's take on the limitations of the degrowth movement and the distinction between analytical frameworks and actionable strategies in addressing climate collapse.

  • [01:07:03] - Reflections on COVID-19 as a moment of potential leverage for governments to influence capitalism and its relevance to climate activism.

Recommended Resources

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We’ll be back soon with episodes with Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe, Zenobe co-Founder Steven Meersman, and what might be a bookend to this conversation, a chat with Solitaire Townsend, author of “The Solutionists”.

PS - one of the best chaps on the internet,

gets our respect for the “Slugger O’Toole Rule”, different from Godwin’s Law.

Wicked Problems
Wicked Problems - Climate Tech Conversations (Subscriber Feed)
A show about climate tech - the intersection of people, politics, technology, and capital that will help shape the future. And whether you'd want to live in it.