Thriving in a Mega-threatened World

Jun 17, 2020

The threats from climate change and pandemics to human well-being and even human survival, have recently become apparent to us all. There is growing recognition, that we must change our expectations and the way we live, in order to ensure that our progeny will both survive and thrive into the future

But worse, the stark and largely undiscussed reality is, that climate change and pandemics are only two of ten mega-threats to continued human occupancy of the planet. Failure to address all of them, quickly in an integrated way, could spell the end of human civilisation as we know it, and even the extinction of our species.

The other eight mega-threats are: rapidly collapsing ecosystems, unconstrained growth in human populations, declining availability of essential resources, chemical poisoning of the environment, the threat of nuclear war, insecurity of food supplies, uncontrolled technology including artificial intelligence, and a failure to understand and act on these mounting threats.

These threats, like the two, of which we have all had recent shocking experience, have been firmly documented for many years, but have been largely ignored or downplayed by governments everywhere, which understandably, prefer to concentrate their policy thinking on the short term, politically palatable options open to them. Governments will not act on these matters until we, their constituents insist that they do.

The recently formed Commission for the Human Future has been developed, to publicise these facts, and assist in the evolution of policies that will overcome the dangers.

So, what is to be done? There is no time to lose, especially while climate change progresses unremittingly, and as we emerge from the COVID experience in a seriously weakened economic state.

The report of the first Commission Roundtable “ Surviving and Thriving in The 21st Century”issued this global call to action. “Coming on the heels of severe climate impacts around the world, including droughts, floods, storms and fires, the coronavirus pandemic is a wake-up call to all of humanity that we need to do things differently. It is a warning of how the ten risks may compound each other to strike us successively and simultaneously as we approach the mid-21st Century. The pandemic also presents an opportunity to change the way we see our world, how we respond as humans to the self-created dangers we face and the opportunities we can seize or create as we go forward together.”

Our starting point must be a new look at the economic model that drives our consumer-driven world and at the interconnected systems which make life possible on the only planet we have. The challenge of controlling these threats is not beyond us. We must generate the political will to do so, and it will be up to the public at large, to insist that we urgently begin the journey to surviving and thriving.

Em Prof Bob Douglas AO is Secretary of the recently formed Commission for The Human Future, which is Chaired by economist and former political leader, Professor John Hewson AM .

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