What Will It Really Take to Avoid Collapse?

Lent, Jeremy | January 2, 2018 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF

HOUSE of CARDS… Falling by DraconianRain | Flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0

Fifteen thousand scientists have issued a dire warning to humanity about impending collapse but virtually no-one takes notice. Ultimately, our global systems, which are designed for perpetual growth, need to be fundamentally restructured to avoid the worst-case outcome.


For a moment, the most important news in the entire world flashed across the media like a shooting star in the night sky. Then it was gone. In November, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries issued a dire warning to humanity. Because of our overconsumption of the world’s resources, they declared, we are facing “widespread misery and catastrophic biodiversity loss.” They warned that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

This is not the first such notice. Twenty-five years ago, in 1992, 1,700 scientists (including the majority of living Nobel laureates) sent a similarly worded warning to governmental leaders around the world. In ringing tones, they called for a recognition of the earth’s fragility and a new ethic arising from the realization that “we all have but one lifeboat.”

This second warning contains a series of charts showing how utterly the world’s leaders ignored what they were told twenty-five years earlier. Whether it’s CO2 emissions, temperature change, ocean dead zones, freshwater resources, vertebrate species, or total forest cover, the grim charts virtually all point in the same dismal direction, indicating continued momentum toward doomsday. The chart for marine catch shows something even scarier: in 1996, the catch peaked at 130 million tonnes and in spite of massively increased industrial fishing, it’s been declining ever since—a harbinger of the kind of overshoot that unsustainable exploitation threatens across the board.

Charts from “World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice”
Charts from “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice

 
Along with their warning, the scientists list a dozen or so examples of the kind of actions that could turn humanity’s trajectory around. These include indisputably necessary strategies such as halting the conversion of native habitats into farmland; restoring and rewilding ecologies; phasing out fossil fuel subsidies; and promoting dietary shifts toward plant-based foods. With the future of humanity at stake, why aren’t we already doing these things? What will it really take for our civilization to change course and save itself from destruction?

Ignoring climate breakdown

We can begin to answer that simply by looking at the media’s reception to this warning. With fifteen thousand scientists—including Jane Goodall, E. O. Wilson, and James Hansen—declaring a potential catastrophe at hand, you might think this would make headlines everywhere. Think again. While it led to a few short articles in select publications around the world, with the one commendable exception of CNN, it was virtually ignored by American mainstream media.

This should hardly come as a surprise. In fact, global climate breakdown—perhaps the greatest existential threat faced by our civilization—is barely considered newsworthy on American television. In 2016, the hottest year on record, when the Paris agreement was signed and presidential candidates held widely differing opinions on climate change, the entire year’s climate coverage by all network news services in the U.S. amounted to less than an hour: a paltry 50 minutes, representing a 66% drop from the previous year.

How could that be? One reason is that, as a result of decades of massive industry consolidation, the U.S. media is controlled by a few large corporations. Like all shareholder-owned companies, their overriding concern is making profits, in this case from advertising dollars. The news services, once considered a hallowed responsibility administered for the public good, have been reduced to just another profit center—and it was decided that climate change news isn’t good for advertising revenue, especially since a big chunk of that comes from the fossil fuel and agribusiness companies responsible for much of the problem.

The largest Ponzi scheme in history

Which leads us to some of the underlying structural changes that need to occur if human civilization is to avoid collapse. The fundamental problem is brutally simple: our world system is based on the premise of perpetual growth in consumption, which puts it on a collision course with the natural world. Either the global system has to be restructured, or we are headed for a catastrophe of immense proportions that has never been experienced in human history.  However, the transnational corporations largely responsible for driving this trajectory are structurally designed to prevent the global changes that need to take place.

Something that is only dimly understood outside financial circles is that the vast bulk of the wealth enjoyed by the global elite is based on a fabrication: a belief in the future growth in earnings that corporations will deliver. For example, the current P/E ratio of the S&P 500 is about 23, which means that investors are valuing companies at twenty-three times their earnings for this year. Another way of looking at it is that less than 5% of the wealth enjoyed by investors relates to current activity; the rest is based on the dream of future growth. Historically, investors have been richly rewarded for this dream. The world’s economic output is roughly twenty times greater than it was in 1950, and market valuations have increased accordingly. But this is the same growth that is driving our civilization to collapse. Today’s market values are based on a belief that the world’s economic output will triple from its current level by 2060. That implies three times as much pillaging of the world’s resources than the rate that has led to the scientists’ dire warning to humanity. Something has to give.

Like any Ponzi scheme, this global growth frenzy is based on maintaining the illusion for as long as possible. Once it becomes clear that this rate of growth is truly unsustainable, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down. We saw in the 2008 financial meltdown a relatively tame dress rehearsal for what a full-scale financial collapse would look like.

This is what the global power brokers don’t want anyone to think about. It’s ultimately why the media obsesses with Donald Trump’s latest tweets rather than the devastation caused by climate breakdown-induced hurricanes. Like passengers moving deckchairs on the Titanic, much of the world’s population has been hypnotized by a daily onslaught of celebrity spats and political feuds—anything to avoid the realization that we are all heading for collapse in order to keep the affluent in luxury. It is a testament to their success so far that, in the words of Slavoj Žižek, it is “easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”

Imagining the end of capitalism

However, the only thing that will truly avert collapse will be a radical restructuring of the economic system that is driving us ever more rapidly to that precipice. This will only come about when enough of us are ready to jettison the consumer values that pervasive mainstream culture foists on us. In their place, we need to find other sources for meaning in our lives: growing the quality of our experiences rather than our consumption, building our communities together, and reconnecting with the natural world.

On that basis, we’ll be better equipped to join in the struggle to save humanity—and the rest of the earth—from the plundering envisaged by the perpetual growth frenzy of global corporate capitalism. There are plenty of alternative paths available to us—we just don’t hear about them because they never get the media’s attention. Most Americans, for example, are completely unaware that the little country of Costa Rica, with a GDP per capita less than one-fifth of the U.S., boasts a higher average life expectancy and scores far higher in levels of wellbeing—while producing 99% of its electricity from renewable sources.

There is valuable work being done around the world in visualizing a future based on different principles than the current Ponzi scheme. Well-developed plans to avert climate breakdown include a state-by-state and nation-by-nation pathway to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050, and a Climate Mobilization Victory Plan to restructure the U.S. economy in a manner similar to what FDR accomplished after Pearl Harbor.

There are radically different ways for a society to function effectively that could apply to nations around the world if given half a chance. A flourishing future might involve more cooperative ventures, protection and expansion of the commons, and enhanced global governance with strict penalties for those who destroy ecological wellbeing. Collapse isn’t the only future in store for humanity—it’s merely the one we’re headed for unless and until we change course. Since the mainstream media isn’t going to get the word out, it has to be up to each of us who cares about the future of the human race. So, let’s get to it.


Jeremy Lent is author of The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning, which investigates how different cultures have made sense of the universe and how their underlying values have changed the course of history. He is founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute, dedicated to fostering a sustainable worldview. More info: jeremylent.com.


The MAHB Blog is a venture of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. Questions should be directed to joan@mahbonline.org

MAHB Blog: https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/avoid-collapse/

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  • César Valdivieso

    Hi Jeremy! This is an idea that you might like:

    A VIRTUAL SUSTAINABLE CITY TO SAVE HUMANITY
    Despite the high quality of life that some of the so-called developed nations have achieved, the truth is that the world, considered as a group of countries located in a fragile and geographically limited biosphere, is threatened with extinction due to human conflicts and the depredation of the environment.
    Notwithstanding the good and very important actions taken by groups and individuals in favor of a better world, deterioration at all levels continues to increase dangerously.
    After more than thirty years dedicated to these matters, and since “an image is worth a thousand words” we have come up with a novel idea of designing a model city that has all the characteristics of infrastructure and organization inherent to the peaceful and sustainable society that we want for ourselves and our descendants, whose representation in the form of scale models, animated series, feature films, video games and theme parks, would constitute a model to follow to generate the necessary changes.
    The prototype that we present has some characteristics that are opposed, sometimes in a radical way, to the religious, economic, political and educational traditions and customs that have been transmitted from generation to generation, yet are the causes of the aforementioned problems, and therefore must be transformed.
    If you are interested in knowing about this project, or even participating in it, we invite you to visit our website https://elmundofelizdelfuturo.blogspot.com/ (written in Spanish and English), where we are working in that sense.

  • Elelei Guhring

    The Earth has had long periods in its past without polar caps. But there were no humans then. We can probably adapt to living without polar caps but will likely lose a significant portion of our global population, which is many billions too high already, not just for the carrying capacity of the planet but for our level of technology. No one thinks about what our technology can do, or what the environment can provide. It might actually be a good thing that climate change will wipe out, say a billion people. That’s probably preferable to a global conflict where those billion kill another billion by trying to find good.

  • Bob Trollman

    The problem is those in charge owe their power and wealth to the exploitative system. They use their influence to buy elections, misdirect attention, spread misinformation, create doubt in science, and eviscerate the education system so future generations will lack critical thinking skills to initiate change.
    The US media system is so busy arguing about who should be able to use which bathroom, while the ogallala aquifer drains past usefulness, the next great extinction happens beneath our noses, and millions are threatened with displacement as the ocean rises…. yet, many educated intelligent people claim global warming is not man made- including the most power man on the planet.
    We in all probability won’t be able to stop this one. It will likely take collapse, revolution and building future societies to avoid our mistakes.

  • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/42e654a064faf70b659bbca85df36f23dcd25de09d6e5392804495ee35425f11.jpg A paper by Paul and Anne Ehrlich from five years ago was the reason for a MAHB article that had a similar title to this one: “Can a collapse of globalized civilization be avoided?” (https://mahb.stanford.edu/read-of-the-month/can-a-collapse-of-global-civilization-be-avoided/). That notice and paper did not directly broach the matter of the irrationality/motivated reasoning of our species regarding CapitalismFail. This current article does focus on the irrationality of our globalized economic meme, but the posted comments have all run down the [more comfortable?] “population bomb” problem rabbit hole. Here is the conclusion of Paul and Anne’s paper:

    “Do we think global society can avoid a collapse in this century? The answer is yes, because modern society has shown some capacity to deal with long-term threats, at least if they are obvious or continuously brought to attention (think of the risks of nuclear conflict). Humanity has the assets to get the job done, but the odds of avoiding collapse seem small because the risks are clearly not obvious to most people and the classic signs of impending collapse, especially diminishing returns to complexity [28], are everywhere. One central psychological barrier to taking dramatic action is the distribution of costs and benefits through time: the costs up front, the benefits accruing largely to unknown people in the future. But whether we or more optimistic observers [17,163] are correct, our own ethical values compel us to think the benefits to those future generations are worth struggling for, to increase at least slightly the chances of avoiding a dissolution of today’s global civilization as we know it.”

    Compassionately misguided exercises in motivated reasoning, such as the 2013 paper, may be our as-good-as-it-gets. But to the degree it is, and as a scholarly expression of motivated reasoning, it is also integral to a primary reason that all human efforts at civilization have collapsed: the responsibilities integral with being a self-conscious species must be denied to mitigate the stress of such knowledge. Foresight is avoided …and even felt to be intelligent!

    The collapse that is unfolding all around us is the first implosion of a civilization that humanity has collaborated to create which is doing so on a global scale. It is a trusted motivated reasoning stupor that has created our Anthropocene. The Anthropocene’s 6th planetary extinction event, which CapitalismFail is predicated on, includes the humanity of Homo sapiens sapiens. The videos Jack has included in his comments in this comment stream are wildly optimistic/motivated reasoning. The diversity of life that constitute this planet’s biomes cannot evolve to adapt to rate of the change that is unfolding. A non-agribusiness agrarian economy, even a hunter-gatherer economy, will be all but impossible within the planet’s climate we have created through our pious and privileged hubris.

    The abrupt climate change that is integral to this transition period of the Anthropocene has a very high probability of further collapsing the human population beyond what Jack demonstrates will result from the loss of the energy-equilivant slaves. What Jack’s calculation do not include is the impact of this loss on the credit such slaves have vetted. My comments to this effect, from five years ago apply. I am pleasantly surprised to see that those comments are furthered by what is proposed in this comment. Regardless, it is modestly gratifying to see that MAHB has now more explicitly broached the matter of our blind faith in CapitalismFail, and, as I argue, our motivated reasoning.

    Denial withstanding, systemically, ‘wealth’ is the right to be responsible. IBID freedom. To consciously be the “gods” we are is simply too stressful an awareness for society to embrace relative to what the gestalt of what our social creature is evolved to be. Motivated reasoning is an evolutionary neurological adaptation that precludes our evolving further than where we are. And, it is through a trusted motivated reasoning that our very human capacity to be greedy has gained immortality: the delusional immortality of our corporate denizens. GREED-is-go[]d … and in this go[]d we trust.

    The remaining choice that I conceive us yet holding within our grasp is to maximize the non-violence that can characterize our species’ virtual extinction. Such in an honorable vocation. The feeling of honor, at least among the majority of the male gender of the ‘privileged’ of our species, can affect a homeostasis comparable to the role hopium plays in the trusted homeostasis of the paradigm of CapitalismFail. This task of walking away from a trusted homeostasis is, functionally, a re-religioning; a paradigm-shift regarding trusted but irrational motivated reasoning. And just because such re-religioning is all but impossible, isn’t it more possible than trusting the thinking that creates a problem can be used to imaging a solution to it?

    What I experienced as a key point of this current essay is the lack of news coverage climate change/abrupt climate change has been afforded in the US’ for profit press. This ‘silence’ is integral to the functional informal education that living is; that is sentient. To the degree this ‘silence’ solves a problem, what is this problem, and how can it be solved dif’rently? Isn’t the problem this: The current institutional education paradigm is not serving humanity well? Isn’t the solution, logically, a social disruption of that institution?

    This invitation is premature, but then my revisiting the MAHB site after 5 years is, perhaps, serendipitous. I did not join MAHB 5 years ago because I do not feel it is necessarily responsible to join a group with the intention of changing it. Even so, I was sorely tempted. It looked like MAHB might become a space populated by minds that would be fun to play with. In spite of this, the assumptions it was then predicated on regarding hopium were too blatantly motivated reasoning for me to be willing commit to the time necessary for being part of such a community. Perhaps things have evolved here in the interim.

    Anyway, I am in the process of doing the inane exercise of [again] reorganizing what I have learned to generate a[nother] website portal for a concept that my learning informs. The problems (klimakatastrophe), which the motivated reasoning that is integral to CapitalismFail presents humanity with, sets humanity up for a journey into voluntary – or involuntary – metanoia. Kansas is now in the rearview mirror. Poorly studied and understood geo-engineering is in the front windshield. Greed-as-fear has hold of the steering wheel.

    I just stumbled onto a potentially robust enough website hosting and creation service (which was priced right) for me to try launching the Sentience Teaching Academy for Responsibility (STAR). This portal/website/concept is imagined as an invitation to intentionally and voluntarily disrupt the social institution of education; to reintegrate formal education with what it functionally is – and has always been: our [go[]d faith] living; to re-religion; to affect an education squarely grounded in the realities of the Anthropocene; to make sentience #RedPillReal again. The STAR concept is an appeal to effect education for a non-violent future within our unfolding Anthropocene.

    I ask for engagement and invite critique. Consider what is currently created – https://www.opentoinfo-1.simvoly.com – as a pre-alpha version of the concept. There is a link on the curriculum map homepage to a more fleshed out iteration for a middle school version of this concept that can viewed at the 2002 ET Project pages. This MAHB comment and invitation is my first effort at communicating what I’m currently imagining; what I hope can be imagined together.

    A next step I have on my “to do” list is to translate my education, both formal and informal, into the portfolio construct that STAR degree plans will involve. This is what I can imagine, as a potential mentor, I can initially mentor. With the intent of making what is rational to be sentient, in spite of motivated reasoning, the framework for degree plans within the STAR construct. Such is proposed to be organized within the framework of Gardner’s seven (plus two) intelligences. Or, to be what we [would] know (sentience): education as [doing], or ‘sentience different’! 😉 Or, within the MAHB framing, there is no “foresight intelligence”, except via conscious and voluntary re-religioning; intentional education/re-education … and/or dying-while-trying.

    I note the gray hair on the pictures associated with other comments linked to this essay. If the STAR concept intrigues, here is a challenge: consider crafting a portfolio of your life’s education as a STAR degree program(s), and do so in the context of how it is expressed across the intelligences. Wouldn’t such define one’s “foresight intelligence” quotient?

    FWIW, the forecast here in the mid-Hudson Valley is shaping up to look like the maple sugaring season is arriving “early” [again] this year. As a result my progress on my imaging the STAR website into being, and the portfolio thing task, will race forward in slow motion.

    BTW, Jeremy, to accomplish the change that is advocated in this article within the timeframe defined by physics*, the US holds the [theoretical] key within its Constitution. It is in Article 1: Section 8 and concerns Congress’s enumerated power to coin money, establishing its value, and the value of foreign coin. Unconstitutionally, this power was delegated to what are now called the #2BIG2failBANKS by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. For the type of change I hear being called for, greed needs to be systemically aligned with need. A constitutional currency of sustainably coined carbon credits could be enacted concurrently with establishing the value of the “foreign coin” of the Federal Reserve at zero (which is its value!) … click the “Constitutional Carbon Credit Currency” button here – https://opentoinfo-1.simvoly.com/opentoinfo-links-webpage – and sorry for the inconvenience of the URL linking challenge work-around.

    * assuming the economic (never scientific!) 2ºC figure, the 2020 global emission peaking it assumes, its fossil carbon budget, and its (at best) 66% chance of not being wrong … provided no natural positive feedbacks are triggered!?!

  • Greeley Miklashek

    Thanks for an interesting article. A few supporting facts: infertility in America has grown 100% in 34 years: 8% in 1982, but 16.7% in 2016. If this trend is growing exponentially, and I have reason to believe that it is, then we reach the “omega” point beyond which no further human births occur in 2102. As a physician, who has studied this problem intensely, I agree that one-child families are the ideal solution, and should bring the human population back down to the 1950 level of 2.5 billion by 2,100. Allowing women to control their own reproduction, engage in education, and work is central to a voluntary reduction in reproduction. The irony, of course, is that all living humans have very nearly the same genes: 99.9% identical genes. There is only one other mammal with the same degree of genetic identity: the blind mole rat, handsome little devils that they are! :)) This explains our extreme altruism. The 16 other species with our level of genetic identity are all social insects, all of whom have the same “queen” mother. Volcanic eruptions 73.5 and 43.5ka resulted in nuclear winters and genetic bottlenecks (aka inbreeding) within the tiny surviving populations, which may have numbered as few as 2,000. I contend that modern medical technology is preventing the dramatic population culling effect that the “diseases of civilization” would otherwise be having on us. If you want more info on my findings, just go to “Stress R Us” in the MAHB library for a free PDF. I predict the “omega” event based on long known animal crowding studies, including the work of J. J. Chrisitan, Charles Southwick, and John B. Calhoun, now rarely mentioned or studied. Thanks, again, for this fine article!

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Limit INCREASES ONLY in the total food supply for human consumption. Uncontested scientific research indicates with remarkable clarity that human population dynamics is essentially similar to (not different from) the population dynamics of other species. Therefore, from a species-wide scope of observation, human population numbers appear as a function of food supply.

  • Max Kummerow

    Advocating a two child policy might be better. A two child norm ends up 1.2-1.8 since some don’t get around to 2 and so eventually heads population down. And starting from 5 in Africa, 2 would be a big accomplishment. Ending consumption growth is a bigger deal in rich countries–but would be beneficial to most of us (longer lives, less stress, more leisure). The distribution/capitalism issues should not distract from the need to limit population and consumption. Market economy could be compatible with a “stationary state.” Everybody should read J.S. Mill’s 1848 “stationary state” essay. Also, I disagree with those who say childbearing is purely an individual decision. We are all affected by other people’s children (external costs and benefits) so economic theory says a collective solution is needed–some kind of policy to encourage population stability.

    • If we can change the socio-economic system from competition/scarcity to cooperation/abundance then people will have less stress and need for 5 children like those stuck in the past. Western (rich/abundant) citizens are having less than the 2 child rate and it’s ridiculous to impose limits on children legally. We can encourage people to have 2 but to enforce it will be unnecessary as there will be some that have 0, 1, 2, 3 and as long as it’s under 2 average that means population will go down. I know the folks spouting this population control BS see it as inevitable, as did I, but now that I know about a new socio-economic system that we can implement globally, I know that the rules of the game of life affect how many children people have, and so if we can change the rules we can change behavior without the need for some LAW!

      • Max Kummerow

        I think people get this backwards. The way to switch from conflict over scarce resources to cooperation and abundance is to reduce populations. I did a paper looking at fertility rates and violence. Taking 20 formerly violent now peaceful countries, it turned out their average fertility rate was 1.6. Fertility falling predicted the “outbreak of peace” even after centuries of violence (think France v Germany, four wars in 150 years, now sharing a common currency.) The fertility average for 20 recently violent countries was 5.0. It is growing population (and consumption) that causes scarcity and conflict. (Syria’s population tripled since 1960 and so on for Somalia, Yemen, etc..) So the path to the world we want has below replacement fertility everywhere (otherwise in the long run high fertility returns–cultural selection replaces natural selection). Population limits are not enough. Also need to change values to scorn big houses and cars and other consumption–reducing greed. There are a lot of ways to promote lower fertility. It’s a myth to think people’s reproductive behaviors come out of nowhere. They come from social norms and understandings. And you might not agree with limiting population, but the word “ridiculous” is not right. Every sensible person and society limits population, some more than others. Forty million people starved to death in China during the 1960s. Since the 2 child policies of the ’70s and the one child policy from ’79 to now, China had 10% economic growth which doubles incomes every 7 years. If the choice were a law limiting people to two kids, say with the couple paying for education costs of extra kids via fines, I wouldn’t call that ridiculous. Especially compared to several meters of sea level rise and major crop failures due to expanding populations clearing forests and burning more fuel. This is a world of limits, like it or not.

  • Arthur Bottlesworth

    I think your coming at this from a humanist perspective

    Instead consider the psychopaths approach

    1) there is global overpopulation
    2) automation will allow the work to be done without human intervention

    The conclusion is obvious – the global population has to be reduced drastically

    I see two ways of achieving this

    1) war
    2) pandemic

    War is too polluting, so the fast quick solution will be a pandemic removing perhaps 50% of the worlds population – anything else is just messing around

    As Joseph Stalin said, one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic …….

  • Desertphile

    I did the math: we cannot avoid significant civil and social disruption without geoengineering. This will be hyper risky, but it must be done: there are no other workable options. 🙁

    • Mike Hanauer

      It must be done? NO. Perhaps civil and social disruption (or worse) is the only/best way to get our overpop reduced and get really sustainable!

  • We’ve intent to launch the first global revolution this year, there’s an intro to Common Planet, a plan to end global poverty, homelessness, nuclear weapons and war, a short read at http://www.earthvote.org. Would very much like to connect and chat with you Jeremy.

  • billdowling

    One might even suggest no action on population reduction is required?

    Or is the action that is still required a humanitarian one – to minimise the number of us that will have to suffer and die during this century?

    Charles Justice says all we need to do is voluntarily give up on fossil fuels.. That would certainly help! But this is even less likely than us choosing to have no more than 1 child..

    In any case, fossil fuels will soon give up on us! – particularly oil – which is almost our life-blood, and the most critically important fossil fuel because of its portability.and versatility and the huge amount of stored energy in it.

    Whatever you may think- we are past peak oil other than because of a short term blip back up due to fracking restoring production. This breathing space wont last long.

    We have only got to 7.6 billion people and reached our current globalized modern civilisation with all the technology that came with it on the back of fossil fuels. With only around one half the TOTAL energy from all sources that we have now being predicted to be available by about mid century and only around one fifth by the end of it – we cannot hope to feed cloth and house more than about 1.5 billion people in a much reduced quality of life in the year 2100 anyway, bearing in mind the never ending decline in non renewable resources by then, as well as soil erosion, loss of fishing, decline in aquifers, polllution, waste mounting up etc etc. .
    And dont put your faith in more Wind, Wave, Solar, Nuclea, Hydrogen, or even Nuclear Fusion energy.saving the day. They will all help ease the transition to a fossil free future that will be forced upon us all in the end If climate change doesnt get us all first!) but in the end either way a huge number of us are doomed to die off due to starvation and exposure to the elements without enough energy. The problem huge problem being ignored like so many others is taht building, servicing , maintaining, decommissioning and replacing the infrastructure for enough alternative energy sources to replace fossil fuiels needs immense amounts of fossil fuels and electricity generated by fossil fuels leading only to the even greater and more rapid demise of fossil fuels..And – the number required will also cost far more money to build than the world GDP can generate, or even print!

  • Why would anyone listen to someone advocating population decrease? It’s a non-starter. There are two big leverage points that we can do something about: Reducing Inequality and Reducing Fossil Fuel Consumption. They are leverage points because they would have the most sustainable effects with the least amount of effort. Without fossil fuels we would be forced to scale down our economies, and if we attacked inequality we could increase trust, cooperation, and human flourishing.

  • billdowling

    I agree with Jason Brent, a one child limit globally is the most important first step we have to take to stand any chance of avoiding the 6th mass extinction.
    Indeed It is the ONLY effective step we can take for all sorts of reasons.

    However one child means far fewer consumers for the big super -rich corporations and they wont like that one bit. In fact even the little businesses wont like it, because It will precipitate the end of economic growth, by reducing consumption – which is just what the planet and other species need of course – but not in anyway shape or form what any buisiness wants – declining profits!

    And the big business corprations really do run the world now – not the politicians . They effectively “buy” governments, their MPs/senators/officers and at the very least they powerfully influence if not dictate their policies -if only because it is often these people who are rich enough to own shares in their businesses.and theyse sharehoolders wont want to see their income and value drop.either will they?

    So, dont think for one minute that stopping this hugely corrupt, unjust and unfair gravy train arising out of this capitalist ponzi scheme will be easy.

    And It is no good a few of us trying to cop out of the system eaither, even if we can or could. There are more than enough remaining people still hoping to benefit from it as well as those at the top % who are already benefitting from the scheme who collectively have more than enough greed, money, wealth, power and stupidity to drag us plenty fast enough towards the 6th mass extinction along with them.
    Unfortunately, globalistation on top of many years of interdependance on a complex highly developed civilisation before that, has made us all extremely ill-equipped to survive in small remote rural communities.
    If you want to try this, while it not a bad idea, do make sure you know who your friends are in it and dont forget you will need a safe water suply and a position you can defend and the guns and bullets to do so when the ponzi scheme collapses, chaos ensues , social order breaks down, the police are powerless and the urban marrauders come to get what little you have got.that they want..
    No, right now the very best solution is a near global voluntary pledge by every human on the planet (male or female) to reproduce no more than one new human in their lifetime – to save both themselves, their one descendant, and the planet – and above all, teach these consumer hungry behemoths and greedy and selfish extremely wealthy people a short sharp lesson in basic ecomomics in the real world – which has to function within environmental limits.
    Regardless of what we chose to do now . In the long term that is exactly what it will do in the end – with or without any human survivors..

  • Thank you Jeremy Lent, You have part of the picture correct. 1) bad trajectory 2) driven by growth

    However, you are still underestimating the problem and thus your proposed solutions will have little affect on the injuries you outlined or the larger injuries others project e.g. 8-10 billion deaths by starvation and conflict this century.

    Due to energy supports dropping, more than 90% this century, the human load earth will soon be 100 to 200 times too big.

    There is nothing wrong with your — no growth –redefining the commons — different social contract, perspective. However, it won’t begin to work until the overshoot, present or expected, is reduced to zero.

    Jack

    PS: Here are a couple of 10 minute videos to put overshoot into the process of addressing the human predicament.

    Losing Our Energy Slaves http://youtu.be/QfYCrLq1DJU

    and

    Underestimating Overpopulation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdksoUuAXDc

    I, like you, am working on a plan that helps humankind exist on earth see:

    Unwinding the Human Predicament

    http://www.skil.org/position_papers_folder/PlanForUnwindingThePredicament.html

    Jack Alpert PhD Director:
    Stanford Knowledge Integration Laboratory http://www.skil.org
    (C) 913 708 2554 alpert@skil.org skype: SKILdog
    13617 W. 48th Street Shawnee, KS 66216

  • martin naylor

    I have already asked a few people including MAHB,for help. What is needed is a world wide movement, starting with an international website that combines the research of web sites developed by all countries who allow there states who allow there regions who allow there communities to start websites to discuss, there personal issues and the top 20 catastrophic events facing humanity and the solutions to those events which are available, though not the will. The primary problem is how to change the self, that solution is also available.
    There is no other solution
    thank you
    martin

  • Jason G. Brent

    The only action that will save humanity from extinction before the year 2100 is to immediately commence rapid population decrease by limiting birth to one child per couple over the entire planet. jbrent6179@aol.com

    • And even one child per family is not fast enough!

      • nabashalam

        You are right…. It would take to long, several generations, for it to make a difference… We don’t have time…

      • Elelei Guhring

        It depends on where you are. In the west populations have been mostly declining since the early 1970s, if you do not factor immigration. In the rest of the world their growth has been far to rapid for their level of technology and resources to support in the long term. In Europe and Canada for example, governments should subsidize the cost of having children (which are now a liability and not an asset, children contribute nothing to family incomes anymore) so that immigration is not required. Don’t forget that immigration is bad for the environment, the ecological footprint, and so forth. Africa’s growth is so rapid, another 3 billion before 2100 for a total of 4 billion by then, that even zero children from now until then will still result in widespread famine by the late 2040s. Meanwhile without immigration Europe and Canada produce about 1.5 children per family, which is a very desirable decline in that region that will allow people to alter their lives and economies without serious negative complications.