While we live in a capitalocene & anthropocene, while there is globalization & the hegemony of state & capital, & while several of the main definitions of ‘civilization’ are operant globally, there is nonetheless no single ‘human civilization’ as much as there is a drive toward 1
Climate change and ecological collapse do not mean the end of ‘civilization’, per se. ecological collapse + civilization either means mass exile & innovation of non settled ways or it means die off of the group in question. Global migration isn’t really a possibility by def
If ‘civilization’ is used in the neutral Wengrow way, as to mean social complexity, a built environment & solidarity across difference than no ecological collapse short of extinction will eliminate civilization
If civilization refers to enclosure, stratification, forced settlement, social division of labor, and so on, then similarly, ecological collapse won’t cause the end of that, for the simple reason that ending ‘civilization’ in that sense would also mass ecological stress
If one means ‘civilization’ in some teleological sense of the arc of history, technological ‘progress’ and so on, one is between a rock & a hard place
Either they mean it in the sense of civilized people vs. ‘barbarians’ in which case climate militarization, ecocide, genocide, etc are the APOTHEOSIS of civilization not its end.
OR they mean it in the sense of teleological social, technological, cultural, economic, and political ‘progress’ which can’t collapse bc its a myth. No single unifying trend exists in human history, secular, random, cyclical, processes, linear& non linear, ‘up’ & ‘down’ co exist
There are NINE planetary boundaries of which several are on their own potential ELEs within their boundary conditions (namely climate change, biodiversity loss, topsoil depletion etc).
The others (aerosol, ozone, freshwater, cycle disruption, nitrogen phosphorus, chemical pollution, novel entities) are potential ELEs in combination.
The US has a nuclear payload on a hair trigger sufficient to cause nuclear winter many times over. So does Russia. Other countries have close. There are more people & conditions that initiate full nuclear retaliation now than the Cold War. We j kinda grew sick of saying so
Then there are potential exogenous ELEs like asteroids, pandemics etc, near ELEs like total war, runaway tech change, resource/stock/sink exhaustion, waste, pollution, etc that all have anthropogenic elements related to these issues.
3 homo species went extinct during last several arc of our deep historic and im NOT talking about my ex civil partnerships. If humans almost as ‘smart’ as us (🙄) That had lasted longer before can go extinct why not us?
We are seeing an acceleration of acceleration of biodiversity loss, extinction, land degradation/over/under/mis use, topsoil depletion, ecosystem service loss, etc. this may end up being S shaped but that’s still positive acceleration
Fisher, Zizek & Jameson have cursed us with the formulation that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism, but every day I see that’s not true.
On the one hand, many people outside anarchists simply cant imagine the end of the state, borders, prisons, enclosure, extraction, forced settlement, ecocide & so on. With one key exception which is when they think of Mad Max style apocalypse collapsitarian fantasies
On the other, the difficulty humans have in imagining they are dead is magnified billion fold for our species. Psychologically speaking this makes sense. That our species will live on is the salve that soothes the wound of individual mortality. Species mortality is unthinkable
But even if we’re talking a 1 in a million anthropogenic & contingent ELE (such as over centralization worsening the effect of an asteroid or other such catastrophe), that’s a real possibility
One must rank risk * cost—given that I take human extinction to be the sum of all other possible costs, or even infinitely costly (as its conditional level—basisfor other evaluations as such), even a rise from 0 to 1 in a million has a massive or infinite negative cost
The risk of total extinction from nuclear apocalypse is vastly higher than 1 in a million. The problem is that estimating said risks is a fool’s errand—it’s a one off tail end event that’s largely binary in its occurrence
Outside asteroid, pandemic, natural disaster & nuke winter, ELEs will be from human lifespan perspective long drawn out affairs not quick events, and we won’t see them until it’s too late
One must estimate trajectory of trajectories to understand true risks involved
Even if we kept all fossil fuels in the ground tomorrow, the possibility of ELE by 2050 exists but is remote, rising in likelihood as time goes on, BARRING reversal of damage & destruction
If we continue on current path, then by 2050, let alone 2100, it becomes much less remote. And if we continue on the current trajectory of the trajectory where the processes of worsening themselves quicken & intensify then that’s even worse.
Luckily we have some near misses but probabilities accumulate over time, and the issue is that the socio-technical, & socio-ecological systems we have set up, let alone over centralization & resilience decline worsen asteroid & other exogenous threats
Look at this WaPo article attempting to argue *against* close possibility of extinction--it uses the fact that other homo species lived longer yet still died out in close succession, and our youth & speed of change as evidence against it! that's fallacious reasoning
It uses a paper from '89 based on fallacious inductions to argue against a scientific white paper it cites at the beginning from 2017 !
Compare to far more pessimistic:
Kolbert warns against broad proclamations & estimations but nonetheless doesn't deny the anthropogenic *possibility* which is the key issue
1. nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/06/1…
2. nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/5/14…
I honestly cite this more so for cheeky fun, but here are Hawkings predictions (suffice it to say, it's cheeky bc the individual prognostications of scientists outside their field can always be wacky)
As the Atlantic points out, if one multiplies risk times cost, then in the next century death for any individual is 5 times more likely from ELE than from a car crash !!!!
Here are 7 homo species that went extinct relatively recently several within our span, and many more resilient than we are, on average
Nine boundaries--4 crosses, 4 stressed, and 1 slight reversal
Vox is right--the 'collapse' of human 'civilization' isn't very likely--but they are wrong, just as the Economist, and the Washington Post are wrong, that ELE for humanity isn't possible or likely
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