The global polycrisis emerged as a widely recognized phenomenon in 2022-2023.  Researchers had been developing the concept for at least a decade before that.

The concept is that dozens of environmental, social, technological, and economic stressors– and others as well – are interacting with increasing velocity. Their combined impact is causing more frequent and unpredictable future shocks of ever greater intensity.

Is the polycrisis really something new? Millions have lived in polycrisis conditions for millennia. Is the polycrisis new for the world as a whole? Experts differ, but most think it is new in terms of the number and intensity of intersecting forces and the chaos they are creating.

What is the polycrisis? The climate emergency, COVID-19, the Ukraine War, the Middle East War, artificial intelligence, record numbers of migrants, and deep uncertainty about the future are simply a few examples.

The polycrisis looks and feels different everywhere.  So, it won’t have a single name or explanation. Biologists speak of “the 6th great extinction.” Politicians describe “cascading crises.” In Latin America, it’s called “eco-social collapse.” The French speak of “collapsologie.” Others call it “the Great Unraveling,” “the Great Turning,” “the Great Simplification,” or “the end of the world as we know it.” 

We can’t escape the polycrisis.  Simply put, it is life as we know it in these times. We can seek to reduce the impacts of these intersecting crises and develop more positive outcomes. We can seek to bend the arc of the polycrisis toward a better world. Whatever happens, we inevitably need to navigate it.

We don’t believe everyone should focus on the polycrisis. First, most people face far more pressing challenges. Second, most environmental and social progress is made sector by sector. Third, the reality is that life goes on in the face of the polycrisis. It simply does not serve most people to focus on it.

Yet the polycrisis daily impinges more deeply into our lived reality. As these experiences add up, the urgency of taking some action – large or small – increases. We also continuously reconsider the way we make meaning out of what is happening in the world and how it affects us and those we care about.

While most people are not called to focus on the polycrisis, some of us are called to do so. We know we cannot escape the polycrisis. We also know we have to navigate it. And we know we’ll navigate better if we have prepared for what lies ahead.

A polycrisis is not just a situation where you face multiple crises. It is a situation…where the whole is even more dangerous than the sum of the parts.

Adam Tooze

Interconnected Stressors


  • Climate crisis
  • Sea-level rise
  • Ocean warming, acidification, dead zones, shifting currents
  • Changing weather patterns
  • Biodiversity loss rate 10,000 times normal
  • Toxification of all life
  • Insect Armageddon
  • Plastics pollution
  • Depletion of fish & plankton
  • Declining fresh water
  • Water pollution
  • Depleted topsoils
  • Vanishing forests
  • Ozone depletion
  • Unprecedented Wildfires 


  • Poverty
  • Racism
  • War
  • Social injustice
  • Population pressures
  • Inequality
  • Refugee crises
  • Pandemics
  • Chronic health problems at all ages
  • Fertility decline
  • Dysfunctional geopolitics
  • Failing states
  • Terrorism

Financial & Economic

  • Inflation or deflation
  • Supply chain disruptions
  • Externalizing environmental & social costs
  • The global debt overhang
  • Unparalleled quantitative easing
  • Inequality built into the global system
  • Unsustainable economic growth


  • Nuclear
  • Uncontrolled technologies: artificial intelligence (AI), nanotech & robotics
  • Mass surveillance
  • Biological weapons
  • Displacement of people by robots
  • Cyber threats, ransoms, warfare 
  • Big Data threats to democracy, privacy & human rights
  • Modification of the human germline
  • Electromagnetic frequency (EMF) pollution & catastrophic events
  • Vulnerable power grids
  • Chemical production
  • Aging infrastructure