[The Evidence is currently undergoing some changes; if you think you have a significant perspective to add that has not been covered here, please get in touch. All well-researched and intelligent suggestions are welcome.]
Below is The Evidence for the collapse and / or radical transformation -depending on whether we choose to act wisely and co-operatively as a species- of global society before 2080 (I am being very generous; there could be a decisive cultural shift much sooner) .
The Evidence is based on The Four Ecological Drivers (human-caused) and The Five Human Drivers (human cultural drivers). The Evidence is closely related to the Epic Tomorrows Core Story. The Evidence and the Core Story tell of relocalised culture and infrastructures, all across the world, as being both the most likely and the most desirable future for humankind. This can happen in a creative way or will happen in a more destructive way, if we don’t get a handle on it.
Due to ecological crises, a global economic and energy-use Descent (Fleming), Powerdown (Heinberg) or Transition (Hopkins) in some form is inevitable this century. This doesn’t mean that in some geographical regions, in bubbles, the current prevailing industrial neoliberal complex won’t continue, or attempt to -but we can already see that this complex is beginning to develop deep fractures.
The most decisive ecological factor in the emerging global cultural shift is currently Climate Breakdown. This is decade zero for the climate. If we do not reduce carbon emissions to near zero globally within the next decade, a smooth transition to our inevitably relocalised future cannot occur. In fact, human climate fatalities will be in the billions as opposed to the currently projected millions. For all the proof you need of these bold statements, watch this video.
The emerging global cultural shift will not necessarily mean the end of capitalism, but ‘capitalism’ will undergo and is undergoing significant change. Likewise, we do not have to see an end to all beneficial high technologies, but we will see and are seeing an end to uncapped consumerism.
The Epic Tomorrows Core Story, with the relocalisation emphasis and informed by The Evidence, is the calling which is responded to by the Heroine Quest. The Heroine Quest is the mission statement and the vision of Epic Tomorrows. It is an extraordinary path through these chaotic, environmentally destructive contemporary times, towards local, resilient communities and cultures. It is similar to paths that many individuals and groups have spontaneously arrived at, since long before Epic Tomorrows. Yet it is a path that urges you to tread it. It could be a path that for many is the end of loneliness and the widely recognised condition of ‘modern person syndrome’.
The Four Ecological Drivers of the coming civilisational collapse and / or transformation are summarised below. Every driver exacerbates every other driver:
1) The global loss of habitats, ecosystems, ecosystems services and biodiversity (the Anthropocene: the 6th mass extinction event on Earth).
2) The global depletion of natural resources, especially fossil fuels, and the radical and possibly regulated decline of the global fossil-fuel infrastructure.
3) Global population pressure
4) Global anthropogenic (human-made) climate breakdown
These four human-caused drivers together are signs of a civilisation that has reached its natural and ideological limits.
It is important to understand the historical context of this situation.
On an ecological level, the 6th mass extinction event is a neat summary of where globalised capitalist economics and the fossil fuel industry have brought us as a species. (Extractivist state socialism has done no better). Global economic policies, starting off as imperial economic policies of a handful of countries, coupled with the age of oil that began in the age of coal and steam, have brought us to the brink of extinction and caused the rapid extinction of many other species. Even the oil companies (in general) now admit the science on human-made climate breakdown, although they behave as if they don’t admit it, and only admit a tepid or conservative representation of the science and how close we are to causing the extinction of our species along with most others. The fossil fuel industry of course has fuelled all environmental destruction, including modern industrial agriculture and the general sprawl of our urban civilisation, with all its infrastructure. Climate breakdown is the most severe and damaging consequence, exacerbated by a (still growing) human population that is far too vast to be sustained on a post-fossil fuel world.
All mass extinctions in Earth’s history were the result of relatively quick chemical changes in the atmosphere, leading to dramatically increased CO2 levels in a relatively short timeframe, but none so quick as what is happening now. But, as Jeremy Rifkin, economic advisor to the EU and China, says, the 6th mass extinction doesn’t even make the headlines. It is too massive for most people to deal with.
Rifkin says in his excellent videoed talk, ‘The Third Industrial Revolution’ that over the next seven decades we could lose half of all species on Earth. It is highly likely that such a scenario would lead to our own demise.
99% of species who have come to this planet haven’t survived. Yet most human beings seem to live as if they think contemporary civilisation will last forever. This isn’t a conspiracy theory. I’ll write it again: Rifkin is an economic advisor to the EU and China.
Leaving aside the sixth mass extinction for a moment, we can see that throughout human history there have been civilisations that have risen and then collapsed over time, due to natural resource depletion and population pressures. The collapse may be accompanied by a profound civilisational shift, the evolution to a new phase of society. In the times between the dominance of different civilisational types, there may be significant upheaval, way beyond the types and quantity of suffering experienced when the civilisations are at their peaks.
In other words, over the coming decades we are in for a rough ride!
Here are some examples from history of civilisational collapse and / or change due to environmental factors:
There is every indication that the great Mayan civilisation of Central America collapsed significantly during the 8th and 9th centuries as a result of resource depletion, population pressures and natural climate change. See this link. There is also a growing consensus that the decline of the Roman Empire was largely underpinned by climactic and environmental factors that were exacerbated by population pressures. See here. In Europe the Roman Empire was superseded by the feudal system, combined with the Holy Roman Empire, not an ’empire’ as such, but a confederation. Between the old Roman Empire and the new there was the time of turmoil known as the Dark Ages.
What makes our modern situation so unique is that for the first time, over the past few centuries (a blip of time in global history) we have a globally interconnected industrial civilisation, where no country is self-sufficient in resources, and where the economically most powerful countries have the biggest influence on global culture as a whole. This includes dominating culture with the story that industrial neo-liberal capitalism is the best way, if not the only way to organise resources and solve problems globally.
Whatever the successes of the current system, modern capitalist economics depends on ‘perpetual growth’ which is impossible on an Earth of finite resources. Additionally, modern global civilisation is based on a fossil-fuel infrastructure. This infrastructure cannot last. There is plenty of evidence to suggest its severe collapse within decades, unless we purposefully transition to an alternative in good time. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that a renewables-and-hydrogen global infrastructure is not capable of replacing the current fossil-fuel infrastructure in time to allow the current version of worldwide industrial civilisation to continue. Something radically different is implied for our collective future. Further, any energy-intensive industrial global infrastructure may not be possible beyond the next few decades. Look at what Owl sees (under ‘Fossil Fuels’, ‘Renewables’ and ‘Hydrogen’)
The Evidence suggests that if we prepare for a new kind of decentralised civilisation, we’ll be okay, but there is ample evidence that our so-called leaders are not preparing for this. It is the view of Epic Tomorrows that this new, decentralised version of global civilisation will fare better where it is not capitalist, or at least where capitalism has evolved to such a point that it is ‘something else’. If you do not agree with this view, then you may be one of many who will attempt to continue industrial capitalism in localised pockets. Good luck!
To reiterate, the intersection of the fossil fuel collapse, combined with the biodiversity loss of the Anthropocene which we are currently living through, along with population pressures and anthropogenic climate breakdown, mean that the total collapse or radical transformation of civilisation in its current form, is inevitable, probably within decades and certainly within a couple of centuries. The only thing that is open to debate, is when it will be, how long it will take and the ratio of destruction to creative adaption that occurs. Please see the suggested resource list at the bottom of this page. This will be expanded as Epic Tomorrows absorbs more influences.
It is political suicide for our ‘leaders’ to admit the truths detailed above, where they are even aware of them, which is why they rarely make the news. Many of our leaders (not all) didn’t get where they are due to truth telling and compassion for the masses. Moreover, the mainstream global media system is allowed by the fossil fuel infrastructure and so is bound to support it, even in the face of its demise.
The Five Human Drivers
Mutually reinforcing of the ecological drivers are human cultural drivers. One way of summarising these is as follows:
1) Patriarchy and kyriarchy
2) False democracy
3) Debt-based neo-liberal economics
4) Centralised and heavily biased media
5) False conception of mental health and mental illness
(Thanks to Rising Up! for their great work on conceiving the middle three of these five)
More material on the human drivers will be added later.
The Good Stuff
All the Drivers, ecological and cultural, together make modern life seem pretty terrible. The truth is of course, that for many of us, perhaps for half of the world’s population, the standard of living is higher than it ever has been, life expectancy is at an all-time global high, and because of the inter-connectedness of the modern world, no country wants to risk all out war with death on the scale of previous wars. Conceptualising history overall as a positive sweep of evolution and expansion of human empathy to the current psychologically advanced (in some ways) version of human civilisation, we can re-frame the evidence above as the imperative for us to advance and evolve to our next natural stage as a species, a yet greater and more empathic stage.
The Science of Prediction (Why 2080?):
I have chosen 2080 arbitrarily and optimistically, based on the evidence available to me, and my intuition. I am sure I will be educated and persuaded to adjust this date continually. It is only a rough orientation point, useful for focusing the mind on events that are determined to unfold at some point, and with all likelihood this century. Whatsmore it is an ‘average date’, as the collapse and / or transformation of civilisation cannot be bound by a single date.
However, it is vital that it is understood that future events and trends can be predicted with some certainty in specific contexts. A failure to admit that elements of the future can be predicted, and have been successfully predicted in the past, is a tactic of denial of where we are likely to be heading and what we can do about it.
One of the most famous modern day prophets, in the economic sphere, is Robert Shiller, who predicted the dot.com bust of 2000 and the US housing crash of 2007.
From Wikipedia, here are some more examples of events / realities that have been successfully predicted in the past.
It is my intention to expand on these later, as I am aware that there is a lot I’m not aware of. It seems that predictions in the fields of science and economics have been the most successful. However it is the view of Epic Tomorrows that the depletion of natural resources and biodiversity, changes in the climate and population levels can all be recorded accurately enough to extrapolate some future effects, even allowing for unexpected new technologies and errors in calculation.
Here is an example of a computer-based global climate model made in the 1980’s which has proved very accurate in its predictions of unfolding global warming:
Social science and hard science disciplines, as well as Future Studies are important in understanding the patterns of past human civilisations as well as the patterns of our present global one, and how we can temper, smooth and transform its inevitable Transition to relocalised economies and cultures. We are lucky that our sciences are more advanced that the Romans’ were. Here is one significant answer, proposed by Jeremy Rifkin. Note that Rifkin says that we have one generation in which to act. Rifkin’s version of the future is relocalised, simultaneous to a global renewables infrastructure, driven by community-started and community-owned renewable energy initiatives. It would appear that this would have to happen in a miraculously short timeframe, considering that in 2017 only 7% of energy globally was supplied by renewables, (https://developmenteducation.ie/feature/the-energy-debate-renewable-energy-cannot-replace-fossil-fuels/) and considering that the global population is still rising, and considering projections of global fossil fuel infrastructure collapse within decades (http://richardheinberg.com/museletter-296-the-peak-oil-president), and considering the political inertia of our leaders, and the increasing energy demands from the rising middle classes in China and India and other nations.
The Psychologies of Transition and Planetary Liberation:
Many of us are aware that we live in the declining days of fossil-fuel civilisation and neoliberal capitalism, even if we have to dig a little deep to admit it. Moreover, this awareness can co-exist with our day to day living quite comfortably. Hypocrisy is designed in to modern living. Understandably, without access to clear knowledge and solutions, our common psychological responses to the irrevocable decline of contemporary civilisation are apathy, fear (and ‘neuroses’), depression, overwhelm (including ‘psychoses’), denial (including wilful ignorance) and perhaps worst of all, a desperate trust in our corrupt governments to ‘save us’. All these responses can be specifically addressed and transformed into positive, constructive actions.
We can see the contemporary modern period as the period of the greatest opportunity yet given to humankind. The opportunity to turn the most profound collapse into the most profound rebirth of civilisation. Read Naomi Klein on this. This includes the psychology of planetary liberation, with many positive aspects. ‘Planetary liberation’ does not imply a future utopia, but a necessary global shift and evolution in the prevailing consciousness. The psychologies of Transition and liberation can moreover lead to a complete re-working of what is understood by mental health and mental illness -concepts that are currently dominated by the global biomedical model of mental illness. This American and Euro-centric model is totally dishonest in its collusion with profit-driven pharmaceutical companies, its patriarchal bias and its reliance on a standard of ‘normal’ which equates with passive acceptance of The Four Ecological Drivers and The Five Human Drivers. To be normal by the standards of the biomedical model is to be part of a generally ecocidal, suicidal human culture. For more on this alternative view of mental health, please go here.
Maybe you dispute what I say. Maybe you believe in the story of Perpetual Economic Growth through Technological Progress, in Heinberg’s words. There are other unlikely stories too…
[The Evidence is currently undergoing some changes; if you think you have a significant perspective to add that has not been covered here, please get in touch. All suggestions are welcome.]
Resource List for The Evidence
Lester Brown: ‘Plan B 4.0’
Shaun Chamberlin: ‘The Transition Timeline’
Gwynne Dyer ‘Climate Wars’
David Fleming: ‘Surviving The Future’
James Hansen: ‘Storms Of My Grandchildren’
Richard Heinberg: ‘Powerdown’
Rob Hopkins: ‘The Transition Handbook’
Naomi Klein: ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate’
James Lovelock: ‘Gaia: A New Look At Life On Earth’
James Lovelock: ‘Gaia: A Final Warning’
Jeremy Rifkin: ‘The 3rd Industrial Revolution’ https://www.foet.org/about/jeremy-rifkin/