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A call for an international research program on the risk of a global polycrisis.
Humanity faces an array of grave, long-term challenges, now often labeled “global systemic risks.”
While scientific knowledge of the individual risks spawning these crises is deep, our understanding of causal links among risks remains shallow.
The Global Polycrisis is the sum total of all stressors affecting planetary health.
We must understand these cascading crises, so we can— meet the climate crisis with deep adaptation. prioritize the most vulnerable. address the interconnected global stressors. live simply and build resilience for the storms ahead.
- The global problematique: A common term in policy circles
- Limits to growth: Focus on planetary ecological limits
- Civilizational collapse: If it happens, will it take us back 50 years, 100 years, or 1,000 years?
- Techno-optimism: The belief that technology will lead to a better future
- The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI): “A catastrophic event that destroys the existing institutions and norms of society.” (Oxford Dictionary)
- Consciousness change: The belief that spiritual or meta-cognitive shifts can change the world
- Community resilience: Focus on helping communities prepare
- Emergency planning: A universally accepted frame that can lead to exploration of the Global Polycrisis
This human predicament goes by many names. All refer to the perfect storm of global biosphere and societal stressors interacting in complex and unpredictable ways.
- Climate crisis, sea-level rise & changing weather
- Biodiversity loss rate 10,000 times normal
- Toxification of all life & insect Armageddon
- Ocean acidification, dead zones, plastics & depletion of fish & plankton
- Declining & polluted fresh water
- Depleted top soils, vanishing forests
- Ozone depletion
- COVID and future pandemics
- Many more
- Poverty, racism & injustice
- Unsustainable economic growth & debt
- Vulnerable supply chains & power grids
- Population overshoot, refugee crisis & resource competition
- Pandemic diseases & fertility decline
- Dysfunctional geopolitics & failing states
- War, terrorism & nuclear threats
- Many more
- Electromagnetic frequency (EMF) pollution
- Uncontrolled technologies: artificial intelligence (AI), biotech, nanotech & robotics
- Displacement of people by robots & AI
- Cyber threats
- Big Data threats to democracy, privacy & human rights
- Modification of the human germline and bifurcation of the population
The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.
– William Gibson
Financial / Economic Stressors
- Supply chain disruption
- Externalizing environmental & social costs
- The global debt overhang
- Unparalleled quantitative easing
- Inequality built into the global system
Good News & Real Hope
Resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing changes so as to still retain the same function, structure, identity, and feedback.