Welcome to the Great Unraveling: Navigating the Polycrisis of Environmental and Social Breakdown

Welcome to the Great Unraveling

Asher Miller and Richard Heinberg define polycrisis as “the tangles of global environmental and social dilemmas that are accumulating, mutually interacting, and worsening” and argue that the present polycrisis indicates humanity is entering “the Great Unravelling” in which compounding crises threaten the vital systems of human civilization. Unravelling environmental threads include global warming, biodiversity and habitat loss, soil loss and degradation, water scarcity, chemical pollution, and resource depletion. Unravelling social threads include poverty, inequality, racism and other forms of discrimination, antisocial (fractious) responses to scarcity, authoritarianism, and the impacts of technological change. To navigate the Great Unravelling, we must recognize major obstacles to change (biophysical limits, cognitive biases, entrenched socio-economic structures, and diminished pro-social agency), build personal and collective resilience (including informational, emotional-psychological, and practical competencies), and “grapple with complexity, uncertainty, and conflicting priorities…while implementing key changes in collective behavior.”


Richard Heinberg and Asher Miller

Publication Date

June 2023


Post-Carbon Institute


Welcome to the Great Unraveling

Resource Type

NGO/Civil Society Report

Uses the term polycrisis

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