The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.
The Global Polycrisis is the sum total of all stressors affecting planetary health. It’s an unprecedented global systems problem. We need to understand it in order to respond as wisely as possible.
At President Biden’s inaugural speech, he invoked the polycrisis as “cascading crises”. In April 2021 the US National Intelligence Council invoked “cascading crises” as the great challenge of the next four years in its quadrennial projection.
But if you ask how many individuals and families see the polycrisis as an existential threat, the answer is different. Resilience planning or emergency preparation is a foresight extension of the survival instinct. People prepare more or less depending on circumstance, lived family or community history, & personality.
- What if pandemics remain a major force for the coming decades?
- What if cyberattacks on the grid, financial institutions, and other targets accelerate?
- What if asymmetrical conflicts continue to accelerate?
- As climate change worsens, what strategies for migrant flows will work?
- As political polarization grows, what are the consequences for sectoral work?
- 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 Greatest threat we face
The Global Polycrisis is far greater than any individual stressor.
Most institutions—governments, corporations, international institutions, and civil society organizations—avoid thinking about the Global Polycrisis.
- Don’t see how they can respond
- Focus on critical sectoral questions
- Largely ignore future shocks
- Mostly don’t prepare
Avoidance and denial
“Let’s not think about it” doesn’t solve anything.
Most people have good reasons not to think about the Global Polycrisis:
They don’t see how to make a difference.
They want to focus on things they can change.
They have more important things to think about.
We understand. We’re not here to argue. We’re here for those who choose to think about it.
In many ways, the human condition is improving. Countless efforts to build resilient communities are underway around the world.
We must meet the Global Polycrisis. It won’t go away. But there are reasons for hope.
In human history:
- We’ve faced great challenges before.
- We weren’t always profit-driven.
- We’ve lived frugal lives with joy.
- We knew the natural world to be sacred.
As we face the Global Polycrisis today:
- We can meet the climate crisis with deep adaptation.
- We can prioritize the most vulnerable people and communities.
- We can live simply and build resilience in all its forms.
- We can work on all the interconnected global stressors.
It won’t be easy. The losses of the natural world and the suffering of humanity will be immense. Our work is to save what can be saved. Our purpose is to live in harmony with nature and each other. For our children. And all life on earth. For today. And for all the tomorrows.