Societal Collapse

The Disruption Nexus

Roman Krznaric explores the conditions in which crises lead to transformative societal change. He finds that transformative responses are most common in conditions of war, disaster, revolution, and disruption. The latter refers to “a moment of system instability that provides opportunities for rapid transformation” which is created by the “disruption nexus” of crisis events (typically […]

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Global Tipping Points Report 2023

Global Tipping Points is a report, led by the University of Exeter’s Global Systems Institute and funded by the Bezos Earth Fund, that identifies negative and positive tipping points with regards to ongoing global crises. According to the report, the existence of negative tipping points shows that the threats posed by the current crises we

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All Crises are Unhappy in their Own Way: The role of societal instability in shaping the past

The authors argue that the current body of research into societal crises—defined here as “periods of turmoil and destabilization in socio-cultural, political, economic, and other systems, often accompanied by varying amounts of violence and sometimes significant changes in social structure”—concentrates on a narrow selection of historical examples. Addressing this, the authors compile a database of

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Understanding Polycrisis: Definitions, Applications, and Responses

This paper compares conceptualizations of the term “polycrisis,” raising questions about the key aspects of different definitions while stressing a convergence in critical features. It conceives a polycrisis as a state in which multiple, macroregional, ecologically embedded, and inexorably interconnected systems face high – and advancing – risk across socioeconomic, political, and other dimensions. After

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The Era of Global Risk: An Introduction to Existential Risk Studies

This edited volume argues that humanity has entered a fundamentally novel era of existential risk. These risks range from global-scale natural disasters (like volcanic super-eruptions) to anthropogenic environmental destabilization (like climate change and loss of biosphere integrity), and from calamities that spread rapidly around our highly networked planet (like viruses and cyber threats) to the

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The Human Ecology of Overshoot: Why a Major ‘Population Correction’ is Inevitable

Using an evolutionary ecology perspective, William E. Rees argues that modern techno-industrial society is in a state of advanced ecological overshoot. Fossil fuels have enabled a massive expansion of humanity that constitutes the most globally significant ecological phenomena in 250 000 years of human evolutionary history. He concludes that humanity is exhibiting the dynamic of

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The Global Polycrisis Reflects a Civilizational Crisis that Calls for Systemic Alternatives

Zack Walsh argues that the current level of globalization, number of systemic risks, and continued depletion of the Earth’s resources will generate some sort of societal collapse. He details these systemic risks, defines polycrisis and existential risk, and discusses the distressing impacts of climate change on our global trajectory. “Current forecasts suggest that unless we

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Navigating Polycrisis: Long-Run Socio-Cultural Factors Shape Response to Changing Climate

Societies throughout history have faced polycrises, but the outcomes range widely from collapse to positive adaptation. The authors have developed a Crisis Database of 150 past societal crises and find that three pressures make societies especially vulnerable to environmental stresses (and consequent polycrises) by impeding collective action: popular immiseration, elite overproduction and conflict, and state

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Crude Futures

In this blog, Richard Hames discusses polycrisis, societal collapse, existential risk, and related themes. Notable entries include: · “Existential Risk and The Method of Collapsology” (23 June 2022) · “The decisive moment” (01 July 2022) · “On Staying Woke in Polycrisis Futurism” (06 July 2022) · “Attention Deficit Hyperobject Disorder” (18 July 2022) · “The Stakes of Sri Lanka”

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Decline and Fall, Growth and Spread, or Resilience? Approaches to Studying How and Why Societies Change

Daniel Hoyer examines qualitative, case study, complex system, and societal dynamics approaches to explain “historical precedents of collapse, growth, and resilience.” He explains drawbacks to each method, and stresses “the importance of developing formal (especially mathematically articulated) mechanistic theory, as only by explicating what we think drives societal outcomes in a structured, formal way can

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