The end of civilization?

For long, individuals, NGOs and even members of governments have warned that it was two minutes to twelve in regards to the state of our planet. Others have wrongly claimed that the world would end. Now, current developments and a recent study suggest that we might indeed run out of time.

Regardless of how we look at it, the world is not what it used to be. Excessive and ever increasing environmental degradation, unsustainable resource use, social injustice, and repeated political tensions; a never-ending list of developments apparently too difficult to tackle not to mention addressing or solving them. Somehow we all realize that society and our lives are developing in a direction that can only lead into a dead end and while the consequences of climate change can already be felt by millions of people around the globe, none of the world’s governments is serious about taking measures against it. It thus shouldn’t surprise when we read that new rumours indicate the collapse of our civilization.

Of course, it has been predicted many times that the world would end. Yet, it never did. No need to pay too much attention then? Well, what is different this time is that the claimant is not some guru or esoteric group that comes with the bad news, but the authors of a well-founded scientific study. Based on a model that takes into account factors such as nature (and availability of natural resources), population (growth cycles), and society (e.g. political systems and wealth distribution) the study comes to the conclusion that if we keep track with current developments, we will face similar fate as the Mayans, Romans or the former inhabitants of Easter Island.

The authors of the “collapse[1]” study further explain that there are two ways that might bring the end to a certain society, as historical collapses confirmed: over-exploitation of natural resources or strong economic stratification. Both can independently result in a complete collapse of the affected civilization. Well, to be honest, it’s nothing new. One only needs to look at nature and predator-prey cycles which are to ecologists what dough to bakers. Excessive overpopulation of one species unavoidably leads to its collapse and we know that. It’s just that we tend to forget that we are being part of the ecosystem we live in. Or rather, we prefer to deny it and play “humans versus nature” instead of “humans as part of nature”.

Considering the above one can only ask themselves which factors will be most contributing to our future collapse, if not combined. As of today, natural resources use as much as wealth distribution are way out of balance already and there is prove that the imbalance is getting worse day by day. Not least, because wealth and natural resource use are strongly related. In a society in which inequalities increase on a daily basis without governments or politicians trying to change the course of action, (more) social tensions are only a matter of time.

To halt the fatal development, what we need most are leaders who show responsibility and who understand to protect the vulnerable instead of filling their friends’ pockets with tax-payer money. Policies that only favor the already rich and that contribute to ever bigger inequalities are doomed to fail on the long run. If however, we for example punished countries that don’t meet ambitious[2] CO2 targets by excluding them from international trade, if we shot ten men for each girl or women that have been harmed[3], or if we would restrict salaries to fit within a certain band in order to be more equal among citizens, then both problems – unsustainable resource use and inequality – could be addressed pretty fast and consequently, the risk of collapse mitigated. After all we don’t need miracles.

To conclude, if we aim for saving our civilization from collapse we need responsible polices and accordant action. If we want to save the planet, we just have to wait and watch. Eventually, Earth will free itself from its biggest problem which is homo sapiens.


[1] The study is correctly titled „Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies” and it can be found here.

[2] Of course they need to be much more ambitious that the ones in the past which were a mere farce.

[3] My apologies for the rather violent suggestion, but the kidnapping of school-girls in Nigeria and repeated gang-rapes of women in India ask for equal “random actions” against the offenders which in both cases are men.


About blaubear

Born in 1973 in a small village in rural Switzerland and into a society largely dominated by cows (not only was the human population of one-hundred-and-forty outnumbered by them, but politics were driven by unreasonable subsidies for diary products) I was connected with nature from early age on. Observing nature on one hand and the deficiencies of a dysfunctional Swiss agricultural policy with farmers that had lost connection to the land that provided their income on the other, I soon started to question society and the meaning of life. Suffering also under a farcical public education I developed curiosity to discover on my own. That was how I soon learned that little of what I had been taught was true. Skepticism and interaction with people from for me new cultures fostered my interest for the world and eagerness to leave a life shaped by federalistic layman-ship. At the age of twenty-three I hit the road for the first time, an event that later translated into passion. Traveling between cultures has since become part of my life. At the age of thirty-three I finally realized my dream and did a degree in Environmental Engineering from which I graduated in 2009, only to leave Switzerland once more for my "real home" Spain. Unfortunately, the stay was a short one: a couple of months later I was offered a job in Southeast Asia, where I worked and also lived (with some interruptions, e.g. I live in Melbourne since late 2012) ever since. Having worked for a Japanese company earlier in my life, I soon felt captured again by Asian culture and thinking which makes a lovely contrast to my European heritage. My journey through different countries and cultures has taught me that regardless of how different our thinking and values are, no matter what approaches we take, we all can learn from each other. And if we are open enough to see the common instead of pointing out the differences, then we have a chance to live in harmony and peace: Life is all about integration, not exclusion! It's an old wisdom that "knowledge is power", as such I never get tired of being around new people, having interesting talks, and reading lots of good books. I hope that my blog can contribute to the conversation.
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3 Responses to The end of civilization?

  1. Pingback: Consumption, greed and collapse. Or why the Credit Suisse punishment is a step into the right direction. | Ideas for a greener environment, a fairer society and a future driven by sustainability

  2. Pingback: Should we die for paranoid ideologies or live with noble values? | Ideas for a greener environment, a fairer society and a future driven by sustainability

  3. Pingback: Who shall pay for the climate debt of the rich? | Ideas for a greener environment, a fairer society and a future driven by sustainability

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