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Collapse of civilizations, local and global

Although our excessive population density is the cause of resource shortages, it’s often downplayed in favor of other factors: greed, waste, and lack of development. It’s rare for solutions to include refraining from breeding. People might describe the future as a nightmare, but they still won’t conclude with, “So the last thing we want to do right now is bring another of us into the mess.”

Experts Fear Collapse of Global Civilisation
Stephen Leahy reports that, “Experts on the health of our planet are terrified of the future. They can clearly see the coming collapse of global civilisation from an array of interconnected environmental problems. ‘We’re all scared,’ said Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University. ‘But we must tell the truth about what’s happening and challenge people to do something to prevent it. Global collapse of human civilisation seems likely,’ write Ehrlich and his partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society. This collapse will take the form of a ‘...gradual breakdown because famines, epidemics and resource shortages cause a disintegration of central control within nations, in concert with disruptions of trade and conflicts over increasingly scarce necessities,’ they write.”
PDF of Royal Society report. Jan 11 2013

Apocalypse Soon: Has Civilization Passed the Environmental Point of No Return? Madhusree Mukerjee writes, “Although there is an urban legend that the world will end this year based on a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar, some researchers think a 40-year-old computer program that predicts a collapse of socioeconomic order and massive drop in human population in this century may be on target.” May 23, 2012

John Vidal writes in the Guardian, “Abuse of the environment has created an ‘absolutely unprecedented’ emergency, according to Blue Planet prizewinners. Celebrated scientists and development thinkers today warn that civilisation is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption and environmentally malign technologies... society has ‘no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us’. To transition to a more sustainable future will require simultaneously redesigning the economic system, a technological revolution, and, above all, behavioural change.” February 20, 2012

Paul B. Farrell, lists all the factors bringing on an impending collapse—including our population increase—and outlines many ways to ameliorate the situation, leaving out human breeding. A ‘no-growth’ boom will follow 2012 global crash. August 23, 2011

In The Onset of Catabolic Collapse, John Michael Greer barely refers to population density as a factor in collapse with, “As societies expand...”
“I’ve commented more than once on the gap in perception between history as it appears in textbooks and history as it’s lived by people on the spot at the time. That’s a gap worth watching, because the foreshortening of history that comes with living in the middle of it quite often gets in the way of figuring out a useful response to a time of crisis—for example, the one we’re in right now...
“Let’s start with some basics. The central idea of catabolic collapse is that human societies pretty consistently tend to produce more stuff than they can afford to maintain. What we are pleased to call ‘primitive societies’—that is, societies that are well enough adapted to their environments that they get by comfortably without huge masses of cumbersome and expensive infrastructure—usually do so in a fairly small way, and very often evolve traditional ways of getting rid of excess goods at regular intervals so that the cost of maintaining it doesn’t become a burden. As societies expand and start to depend on complex infrastructure to support the daily activities of their inhabitants, though, it becomes harder and less popular to do this, and so the maintenance needs of the infrastructure and the rest of the society’s stuff gradually build up until they reach a level that can’t be covered by the resources on hand.” January 27, 2011

Paul Ehrlich states that our “population surge means there is only a 10% chance of avoiding a collapse of world civilization.” 23 October 2011

George Mobus reviews William R. Catton’s Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse
“ is already too late to mend our ways and somehow avoid the collapse of civilization. Indeed the main title refers to an impending collapse of the human population. An ecological bottleneck (also called a population bottleneck) is where radical changes in the environment of a species causes a die-off of all but the most hardy of the population; hardy, that is, in terms of the selection pressures arising from the change. Of course there may be no sufficiently hardy individuals left or the ones that manage to survive cannot reproduce sufficiently to produce a new population. In that case the species goes extinct.”

In Reality vs. Wishful Thinking Tim Murray writes, “When I first encountered Chris Clugston’s work some three years ago, it came as a lightning bolt. His analysis was unassailable. Finally an analytical tool—‘Societal Overextension Analysis’—that measured overshoot in a way that ecological footprint analysis did not, rendering it almost obsolete. Now Chris has fleshed SOA out. He has inventoried 89 metals and minerals that are critical to the operation of any industrial economy, and found that 69 of them are scarce and are getting scarcer. The Green Apostles of False Hope can imagine that substitutes will be found for one or two or even a dozen of them—but not most of them, and any one shortage can bring the industrial edifice down. Industrialism is unsustainable, whether it is under capitalist or socialist management.” September 5, 2011

Mike Seccombe reviews Michael Ruppert’s Confronting Collapse.
“Think of humanity as a herd of caribou living on an arctic island with no predators and abundant sustenance. We reproduce wildly until inevitably the sustenance, the energy source, is overtaxed and collapses.
“Then we begin to die. In the case of humanity, billions of us.
“The analogy and the dark prophecy are Mike Ruppert’s. And he argues it already has begun, this great dying, and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
“For the resource that has sustained human civilization for the past hundred or so years, which underpinned the quadrupling of global population and on which our whole industrial civilization is built, is in accelerating and irreversible decline. That resource is fossil fuel, and in particular, oil.” March 5, 2010

In The coming Population Wars: a 12-bomb equation, Paul B. Farrell asks, “Can Gates’ Billionaires Club stop these inevitable self-destruct triggers?” He speculates that WWIII could be caused by overpopulation. September 29, 2009

Peter Goodchild gives a step-by-step forecast of The Imminent Collapse Of Industrial Society. May 9, 2010

Richard C. Duncan describes The Peak of World Oil Production and the Road to the Olduvai Gorge. November 13, 2000


Collapse of Earth’s biosphere

Roundup of distressing climate news Guy McPherson lists positive feedback loops which have already been triggered. January 30, 2013

We’re Scarily Close to the Permafrost Tipping Point Julia Whitty in Mother Jones reports, “Permafrost—the ground that stays frozen for two or more consecutive years—is a ticking time bomb of climate change. Some 24 percent of Northern Hemisphere land is permafrost... We really really don’t want permafrost to melt since its emissions have the potential to dwarf our own... we have the theoretical ability to control our carbon emissions but none whatsoever to stop a permafrost tipping point once it’s reached.” March 5, 2013
Another article cites a study indicating permafrost melting 40,000 years ago when temperatures were 1.5C (2.7F) higher. 21 February 2013

Earth Is Headed for Disaster, Interdisciplinary Team of Scientists Concludes. “An interdisciplinary group of 22 scientists, combining paleontological evidence with ecological modeling, has concluded that the earth appears headed toward catastrophic and irreversible environmental changes.
“Their report, in the June 7 issue of the journal Nature, describes an exponentially increasing rate of species extinctions, extreme climate fluctuations, and other threats that together risk a level of upheaval not seen since the large-scale extinctions 65 million years ago that killed off the dinosaurs.” June 6, 2012
Another article quotes from the report, “The data suggests that there will be a reduction in biodiversity and severe impacts on much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life, including, for example, fisheries, agriculture, forest products and clean water. This could happen within just a few generations.” June 6, 2012

World’s oceans in ‘shocking’ decline. Richard Black, Environment correspondent for BBC News, notes, “The oceans are in a worse state than previously suspected, according to an expert panel of scientists.” The report (pdf). June 20, 2011

Chris Hedges writes: This Time We’re Taking The Whole Planet With Us March 7, 2011

Ways humanity might involuntarily go extinct

Fred Guterl, Executive Editor of Scientific American, lists 8 Ways Humans Could Cause Our Own Extinction.
Cyber attacks
Species extinction
Disruption of weather patterns
Venus Syndrome
Nuclear War
Meteorite impact
“No single one of these issues is necessarily a world ender. It’s not like we’re going to catch a bad flu and go extinct as a species, or that the stock market will crash and the world will be plunged into a thousand years of darkness, or that the seas will rise and engulf us. But taken together, it seems as though the world is headed into a period of great vulnerability. Climate and disease and food and economics are not wholly separate things—they are intertwined. If we are pushing everything closer and closer to some tipping point, it stands to reason that we are taking a risk.” May 22, 2012

Guy McPherson describes Three paths to near-term human extinction. “About a decade ago I realized we were putting the finishing touches on our own extinction party, with the shindig probably over by mid-century. During the intervening period I’ve seen nothing to sway this belief, and much evidence to reinforce it.” November 9, 2011

A slide show of 10 roads to human extinction

A large number of links about The Apocalypse.


Books about collapse of civilizations

The Collapse of Complex Societies (1988) Joseph Tainter, archaeologist at the University of Utah

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive (2005) Jared Diamond

The Upside and Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Renewal of Civilisation (2006) Thomas Homer-Dixon

Evolution’s Edge: The Coming Collapse and Transformation of Our World (2008) Graeme Taylor

Human survival after collapse of civilization

Primitivism, how humans might survive after a dieoff which leaves only those with hunter-gatherer skills, and a population small enough sustain itself on what’s left of Nature.

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