The Global Polycrisis

The Global Polycrisis is the sum total of all stressors affecting planetary health. It’s an unprecedented global systems problem. We need to understand it in order to respond as wisely as possible.

The Global Polycrisis is framed in many ways:

  • The global problematique: A common term in policy circles
  • Limits to growth: Focus on planetary ecological limits
  • Civilizational collapse: If it happens, will it take us back 50 years, 100 years, or 1,000 years?
  • Techno-optimism: The belief that technology will lead to a better future
  • The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI): “A catastrophic event that destroys the existing institutions and norms of society.” (Oxford Dictionary)
  • Consciousness change: The belief that spiritual or meta-cognitive shifts can change the world
  • Community resilience: Focus on helping communities prepare
  • Emergency planning: A universally accepted frame that can lead to exploration of the Global Polycrisis

As we face the Global Polycrisis, we see these issues and challenges:

Issues

The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.

William Gibson

Biosphere stressors

  • Climate crisis, sea-level rise & changing weather
  • Biodiversity loss at 10,000 times normal
  • Toxification of all life & Insect Armageddon
  • Ocean acidification, dead zones, plastics & depletion of fish & plankton
  • Declining & polluted fresh water
  • Depleted top soils, vanishing forests
  • Ozone depletion
  • COVID and future pandemics
  • Many more

Societal stressors

  • Poverty, racism & injustice
  • Unsustainable economic growth & debt
  • Vulnerable supply chains & power grids
  • Population overshoot, refugee crisis & resource competition
  • Pandemic diseases & fertility decline
  • War, terrorism & nuclear threats

Technology Stressors

  • Electromagnetic frequency (EMF) pollution
  • Uncontrolled technologies: Displacement of people by robots & AI
  • Cyber threats
  • Big Data threats to democracy, privacy & human rights
  • Modification of human germline and bifurcation of the population
  • And more

The greatest threat we face

The Global Polycrisis is far greater than any individual stressor. Most institutions—governments, corporations, international institutions, and civil society organizations—avoid thinking about the Global Polycrisis. They:

  • Don’t see how they can respond
  • Focus on critical sectoral questions
  • Largely ignore future shocks
  • Mostly don’t prepare

Responses

Let’s Not Think About It

Most people have good reasons not to think about the Global Polycrisis:

  • It’s overwhelming.
  • They don’t see how to make a difference.
  • They want to focus on things they can change.
  • They have more important things to think about.

We understand. We’re not here to argue. We’re here for those who choose to think about it.

If We Prepare

If we prepare, future shocks will be more survivable. We need resilience for:

  • Ourselves & our families
  • Our communities & networks
  • The most vulnerable near & far
  • Governments, businesses & civil society

All four forms of resilience are connected.

Real Hope

We must meet the Global Polycrisis. It won’t go away. But there are reasons for hope.

In many ways, the human condition is improving. Countless efforts to build resilient communities are underway around the world.

In human history:

  • We’ve faced great challenges before.
  • We weren’t always profit-driven.
  • We’ve lived frugal lives with joy.
  • We knew the natural world to be sacred.

As we face the Global Polycrisis today:

  • We can meet the climate crisis with deep adaptation.
  • We can prioritize the most vulnerable people and communities.
  • We can live simply and build resilience in all its forms.
  • We can work on all the interconnected global stressors.

It won’t be easy. The losses of the natural world and the suffering of humanity will be immense. Our work is to save what can be saved. Our purpose is to live in harmony with nature and each other. For our children. And all life on earth. For today. And for all the tomorrows.