Modern civilisation as we know it faces a number of major threats. Escalating economic inequality and an increasingly atomised society could lead to large-scale social breakdown. The depletion of natural resources is having a profound effect on the environment. As climate change continues to worsen, the ecosystems upon which human and non-human life depend are subjected to intolerable conditions. States across the globe have long since acquired the means by which to exterminate the species several times over, and given the continued plundering of natural resources in the pursuit of profit, the possibility of a nuclear war over what’s left doesn’t seem too unlikely.
These crises are often portrayed in the mass media as though they are separate from one another. They have different causes and thus, they can be dealt with in isolation. However, this approach is proving itself to be inadequate, given that these crises are continuing to deteriorate, and accumulating evidence suggests that, far from being separate, these crises are linked to one another, culminating in a ‘perfect storm’.
A study published in a journal called ‘Ecological Economics’ recently suggested that human civilisation is headed for an irreversible collapse as a result of unsustainable resource exploitation and the increasing stratification of society between the rich and the poor. Equally alarming is a more recent study, which argued that a sixth mass extinction event is likely to occur due to human activities. Furthermore,a widespread scientific consensus exists in support of the position that global climate change has been caused by human activities, as a result of fossil fuel-burning processes that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This position has endorsements from almost 200 scientific organisations worldwide.
Finite fossil fuels are heavily relied upon as a source of energy across the globe, with coal, oil and natural gas accounting for 86.9% of world primary energy consumption in 2012, whereas hydroelectricity, renewables and nuclear energy only accounted for 13.1%. Even methods of energy production that appear to be more ecologically sustainable often suffer from the same drawbacks, requiring the intensive use of fossil fuels in different parts of the production process.
Climate change and energy scarcity also have a direct impact on food production. Climate change creates harsh conditions for organisms to survive, resulting in more crop failures due to extreme weather, while current methods of agricultural production are heavily reliant on fossil fuels for fertilisers, pesticides, and the maintenance of global supply chains. Conventional perspectives on industrial carbon emissions in general often fail to account for emissions that occur during distributive stages of production.
A possible way of dealing with this would be to establish decentralised, participatory forms of economic organisation, putting resource allocation under the democratic control of local communities. However, under the existing political and economic system, the vast majority of the population lack access to the world’s productive resources, which are instead held in the hands of a minority of statesmen and capitalists