Resilience, the Global Challenge, and the Human Predicament

| May 10, 2019 | Leave a Comment

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Media Type: News / Op - Ed

Date of Publication: March 25, 2019

Author(s): Michael Lerner

Newspaper: Kosmos

Categories: , , , , ,

By Michael Lerner, originally published by Kosmos Journal. Reprinted in Resilience. 


We face a perfect storm of environmental, social, technological, economic, geopolitical and other global stressors. These global stressors interact in unpredictable ways. The pace of future shocks is increasing. The prospect for civilizational collapse is real. We need to build meaningful resilience.

There are four questions about how to build resilience:

1.  How do we prepare ourselves and those we love?
2. How do we prepare our communities, networks, tribes, and organizations?
3. How do we prepare our states, countries, and international communities?
4. How do we prepare at a global level?

This human predicament goes by many names. The global challenge. The global problematique. Limits to growth. The end of the world as we know it. The prospect for civilizational collapse. All refer to the perfect storm of global biosphere and societal stressors interacting in complex and unpredictable ways.

Environmental stressors include:

– Climate change, sea-level rise, and changing weather
– Biodiversity loss at 10,000 times the normal level
– Toxification of all life, insect armageddon
– Ocean acidification, dead zones, plastics, and fish and plankton depletion
– Declining and polluted fresh water sources
– Depleted top soils
– Vanishing forests and many more

Social stressors include:
– Poverty, racism, and injustice
– Unsustainable economic growth and global debt
– Vulnerable financial systems, supply chains, and power grids
– Population overshoot, refugee migrations, and resource competition
– Uncontrolled technologies, including AI, biotech, nanotech, robotics, cyber threats
– Dysfunctional geopolitics, failing states, and outdated institutions
– War, terrorism, and nuclear threats—defense resources needed elsewhere, and more

Climate change is the greatest global stressor. But a single focus on climate change means other global stressors are underestimated. These stressors interact as force multipliers, increasing unpredictable future shocks and even potential civilizational collapse.

Most people don’t want to think about this. Yet the culture is filled with vivid imaginings of dystopias in books, films, television series, and games. Civilizational collapse lurks at the imaginal edge of collective consciousness. Yet mainstream media and “official” government institutions are largely silent.

People give four excellent reasons for not thinking about the human predicament.

1. It’s overwhelming.
2. I don’t see how to make a difference.
3. I want to focus on things I can change.
4. I have more immediate things to think about.

We won’t argue. We understand. Worry about this can be a poor use of psychic energy for people who barely get by day-to-day—or simply have other priorities.

Likewise, most institutions—governments, corporations, international institutions, and civil society organizations—avoid thinking about our predicament.

They don’t see how they can respond.
They focus on critical sectoral questions.
They ignore future shocks in their planning
They don’t prepare for the high probability of devastating future shocks.

We understand. But we do need a small critical mass of people and organizations who recognize the need to think about our dilemma. The reason is simple. If we prepare, we stand a better chance of surviving than if we don’t. We need to survive these future shocks—up to and including civilizational collapse—if we are to build a greener and more just world on the other side.

Read the complete article here. 

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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Steven Earl Salmony

    If we manage somehow to keep fossil fuels in the ground; reverse the relentless degradation of the environs; stop the reckless dissipation of limited resources, but then choose to willfully reject the best available ecological science of human population dynamics and thereby abjectly fail to perceive, understand, acknowledge, address and overcome the non-recursive biological problem that is ailing the human species, the overgrowth problem that is causing these ominously looming global threats to future human well being and environmental health, then we will certainly be able to lay claim to important Pyrrhic victories. That is so. But the great struggle for the future of life as we know it will have been lost. The mere chance of a good enough future for children everywhere will have been exterminated by their elders.

  • Steven Earl Salmony

    We do not know how to respond to this so-called “perfect storm” because there is no adequate understanding of why the perfect storm is fulminating now, here. Question: Why have absolute global human population numbers been continuing to explode on our watch despite the education of women, establishment of reproductive rights, contraception and declining total fertility rates virtually everywhere on the surface of Earth.

    • Steven Earl Salmony

      The Root Cause of the Perfect Storm

      Humankind is presented with a complicated, multifaceted, human-induced, global ecological predicament that is caused primarily by one problem: the human overpopulation of Earth. The seminal question before us is, Why have absolute global human population numbers been continuing to explode on our watch even though total fertility rates (TFRs) of nations virtually everywhere on the planet are noticeably declining? The best available scientific research provides an evidently unforeseen and unfortunately unwelcome answer. Homo sapiens sapiens is not exceptional with regard to its population dynamics because human population dynamics is essentially similar to, not different from, the population dynamics of other species; human population numbers appear as a function of an available food supply for human consumption, just like other species.

      Declining fertility rates (TFRs) virtually everywhere on Earth need not blind us to the undeniable, ongoing annual increases of absolute global human population numbers. Human numbers have exploded by more than 5 billion on earth in the past three score and ten years. This population growth ‘trajectory’ is patently unsustainable on a planet with the size, finite resources and frangible ecology of Earth. Please consider how the growth of human numbers worldwide is caused by the spectacularly successful production and distribution of food for human consumption. With each passing year more people are being fed and many more people are going hungry.
      Uncontested ecological science of human population dynamics indicates that the world’s human population –all segments of it– grows by approximately 2+/-% per year, including more people with brown eyes and more with blue eyes; more tall people and more short people; and more people who grow up well fed and more who grow up hungry. We may or may not be reducing hunger by increasing food production; however, we are most certainly producing more and more hungry people. The evidence shows us dramatically how the remarkably bountiful harvests from annual efforts of humankind to increase food production to feed a growing population result in even greater increase in absolute global human population numbers.

      Global human population growth is a rapidly cycling positive feedback loop, a relationship between food and population in which food availability drives population growth, and population growth fuels the misperception that food production needs to be increased. The data indicate that as we increase food production every year, the number of people goes up, too. Human population numbers, as is the case with other species, are primarily a function of food availability. That is to say, food is literally fueling the human population explosion. Although the explosion is a huge problem, we can take the measure of it and find a remedy that is consonant with universally shared, humane values.

      But how on this good Earth are we to sensibly address and overcome the monstrous, human-driven, global threats to future human well being and environmental health when virtually everyone refuses to acknowledge the root cause of human population growth? We are ‘jousting at windmills’ rather than solving the problem posed to the future of life as we know it by billions of humans overpopulating Earth; by choosing to leave unchecked the explosion of the human population worldwide.

    • Steven Earl Salmony

      The best available ecological science of human population indicates that 1) human population dynamics is essentially similar to [not different from] the population dynamics of other species, 2) the relationship between food and population numbers is a positive feedback loop, 3) food is the independent variable [not the dependent variable] in the food-population connection, and therefore 4) human population numbers appear as a function of a food supply fit for human consumption. Whether the research is acknowledged or not, the unfalsified science is there.
      Perhaps one way forward for us now, here, is to encourage open discussions by top-rank scientists in many places of all key scientific research that helps us disclose the real structure of the human condition as it relates to the patently unsustainable growth of the human species on our watch. How on Earth can anyone be expected to sensibly address and reasonably overcome the human-driven challenges to life as we know it and environmental health ominously looming before humankind, the global ecological challenges that have been precipitated by the human species, if we fail to acknowledge what is known to be real with regard to human population dynamics?

    • Steven Earl Salmony

      The best available ecological science of human population indicates that 1) human population dynamics is essentially similar to [not different from] the population dynamics of other species, 2) the relationship between food and population numbers is a positive feedback loop, 3) food is the independent variable [not the dependent variable] in the food-population connection, and therefore 4) human population numbers appear as a function of a food supply fit for human consumption. Whether the research is acknowledged or not, the unfalsified science is there.
      Perhaps one way forward for us now, here, is to encourage open discussions by top-rank scientists in many places of all key scientific research that helps us disclose the real structure of the human condition as it relates to the patently unsustainable growth of the human species on our watch. How on Earth can anyone be expected to sensibly address and reasonably overcome the human-driven challenges to life as we know it and environmental health ominously looming before humankind, the global ecological challenges that have been precipitated by the human species, if we fail to acknowledge what is known to be real with regard to human population dynamics?