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Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?

10 January 2013

Title: Perspective: Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?

Authors: Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Throughout our history environmental problems have contributed to collapses of civilizations. A new paper published yesterday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B addresses the likelihood that we are facing a global collapse now. The paper concludes that global society can avoid this and recommends that social and natural scientists collaborate on research to develop ways to stimulate a significant increase in popular support for decisive and immediate action on our predicament.

Paul and Anne Ehrlich's paper provides a comprehensive description of the damaging effects of escalating climate disruption, overpopulation, overconsumption, pole-to-pole distribution of dangerous toxic chemicals, poor technology choices, depletion of resources including water, soils, and biodiversity essential to food production, and other problems currently threatening global environment and society. The problems are not separate, but are complex, interact, and feed on each other.

The authors say serious environmental problems can only be solved and a collapse avoided with unprecedented levels of international cooperation through multiple civil and political organizations. They conclude that if that does not happen, nature will restructure civilization for us.

In a statement on his website, HRH The Prince of Wales has reacted to the paper, agreeing, “We do, in fact, have all the tools, assets and knowledge to avoid the collapse of which this report warns, but only if we act decisively now. If, though, in our evermore interconnected and complex world, we are to succeed, real leadership and vision is required. It is just possible that we can rise to this challenge, but to do so we will need to adjust our world view in a profound and comprehensive way. We have to see ourselves as utterly embedded in Nature and not somehow separate from those precious systems that sustain all life. I have said it before, and I will say it again – our grandchildren’s future depends entirely on whether we seize the initiative and prevaricate no further.”