4a. THE BREAKDOWN
“Human domination over nature is quite simply an illusion, a passing dream by a naive species. It is an illusion that has cost us much, ensnared us in our own designs, given us a few boasts to make about our courage and genius, but all the same it is an illusion.”
“The apocalpse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.”
Since we seem so committed to it, what are likely outcomes in the breakdown of our culture and socioeconomic system? From Tom McKay.
“Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn’t it? Too bad it’s not going to for much longer. According to a new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, we only have a few decades left before everything we know and hold dear collapses. According to ‘Extinction Rebellion’, we have just 12 years to make the necessary changes, and some say even less than that. Already, a 2 metre sea level rise looks fairly certain. Science will surely save us, the nay-sayers may yell. But technology, argues Motesharrei, has only damned us further.
Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.
In other words, the benefits of technology are outweighed by how much the gains reinforce the existing, over-burdened system making collapse even more likely.
The worst-case scenarios predicted by Motesharrei are pretty dire, involving sudden collapse due to famine or a drawn-out breakdown of society due to the over-consumption of natural resources. The best-case scenario involves recognition of the looming catastrophe by Elites and a more equitable restructuring of society, but who really believes that is going to happen? Here’s what the study recommends in a nutshell:
The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth.
These are great suggestions that will, unfortunately, almost certainly never be put into action, considering just how far down the wrong path our civilization has gone. As of last year, humans are using more resources than the Earth can replenish and the planet’s distribution of resources among its terrestrial inhabitants is massively unequal. This is what happened to Rome and the Mayans, according to the report.
‘… historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory’ (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).
And that’s not even counting the spectre of global climate change, which could be a looming ‘instant planetary emergency.’ According to Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Neil Dawe:
“Economic growth is the biggest destroyer of the ecology. Those people who think you can have a growing economy and a healthy environment are wrong. If we don’t reduce our numbers, nature will do it for us … Everything is worse and we’re still doing the same things. Because ecosystems are so resilient, they don’t exact immediate punishment on the stupid”.
In maybe the nicest way to say the end is nigh possible, Motesharrei’s report concludes that “closely reflecting the reality of the world today … we find that collapse is difficult to avoid.”
Writes Nafeez Ahmed at The Guardian:
“Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies — by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance — have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a ‘perfect storm’ within about fifteen years. But these ‘business as usual’ forecasts could be very conservative.”
Guido Dalla Casa writing for LTEconomy spells it out:
“There are 76 billion people on the earth with a 90 million people increase every year. Every year 100,000km2 of forest disappears, CO2 concentration in the atmosphere increases at 3ppm year after year, 30-40 species go extinct every day…clearly these phenomena, a consequence of the economic growth ideology, cannot continue much longer”.
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