Jan 142013

PAUL EHRLICH  is controversial. He wrote  The Population Bomb  in 1968. Some of his dire predictions have not come to pass. Others argue that it is because of his warnings that the global community made adjustments and delayed the day of reckoning.

Ehrlich (below) is joined with other scientists. “More than 3,000 experts concluded humanity is facing a “planetary emergency” and there was no time to lose in making large-scale changes. . . . “



A large part of the Idle No More mobilization is in support of what the scientists are saying.  I KNOW because I am a friend of one of the founders.

The removal of legislated and enforced protections for “the commons”  (as the Conservative Government is systematically doing through the omnibus bills),  WILL ONLY ENSURE collapse.   They are taking the opposite direction to what is spelled out by the scientists (and common sense).

Remember that the scientists have erred on the down-side with their forecasts on global climate change.

I am supporting Idle No More.  I see it as an act of solidarity with the scientists, too.   There will be a reversal in direction ONLY if there is mass mobilization.  More later on the WAVES of mobilization, how one follows the other and each wave crests higher than the preceding one.

RE FOOD SECURITY:    biotech industrial agriculture is seeing this as an opportunity. I attended a lecture last week regarding “global food security”. The distortions presented by the professor in support of biotech crops were extremely troubling to me. I will address that in a later posting. /Sandra

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Thanks to Janet:


[1] Experts Fear Collapse of Global Civilisation :


Global collapse of human civilisation seems likely, write Ehrlich and his partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society….Dozens of earth systems experts were consulted in writing the 10-page paper, Can a Collapse of Global Civilization be Avoided? that contains over 160 references…”Solutions exist and are briefly outlined in the Ehrlich paper. However, these require sweeping changes.”


[2] Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?

By  Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich

The Erlich’s paper, Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?,  can be found at http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1754/20122845.full.html#sec-7

Proceedings of The Royal Society Biological Sciences

It contains the following sections: The ones demarcated by asterices are included below:

Abstract *

1. Introduction [see insert following the IPS article below]

2. Do current trends portend a collapse?

3. What needs to be done to avoid a collapse?

4. Dealing with problems beyond food supply

5. The role of science

6. The need for rapid social/political change *

7. Conclusions *

Authors’ profile



References [160]


One of their recommendations for rapid social and political change is MAHB.

[3] Millenium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere  [MAHB]



MAHB Mission:

Create a global network of social scientists, humanists, and scholars in related fields whose collective knowledge can be harnessed to support global civil society in creating  and implementing strategies and shifting human cultures and institutions toward sustainable practices and an equitable and satisfying future.

Foster, fuel and inspire a global dialogue on the interconnectedness of activities causing environmental degradation and social inequity;

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Paul Ehrlich is a Professor of Biology and President of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, and Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney.  Anne Ehrlich is a Senior Research Scientist in Biology at Stanford and focuses her research on policy issues related to the environment.


Janet writes:  There many other models and approaches focused on societal change but I don’t have time now to compare, contrast and or to place the Erlich’s recommendations in the context of the massive literature and practices both  extant and emerging  on the subjects of transition, transformation, dominant paradigm shifts etc.

This is rather for you information at this time.





[1] http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/01/experts-fear-collapse-of-global-civilisation/



News Agency

Journalism and Communication for Global Change


Experts Fear Collapse of Global Civilisation

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 11 2013 (IPS) – Experts on the health of our planet are terrified of the future. They can clearly see the coming collapse of global civilisation from an array of interconnected environmental problems.

Poor communities are hit hardest by extreme weather events. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

“We’re all scared,” said Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University.

“But we must tell the truth about what’s happening and challenge people to do something to prevent it,” Ehrlich told IPS.

Global collapse of human civilisation seems likely, write Ehrlich and his partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society.

This collapse will take the form of a “…gradual breakdown because famines, epidemics and resource shortages cause a disintegration of central control within nations, in concert with disruptions of trade and conflicts over increasingly scarce necessities”, they write.

Already two billion people are hungry today. Food production is humanity’s biggest industry and is already being affected by climate and other environmental problems. “No civilisation can avoid collapse if it fails to feed its population,” the authors say.

Escalating climate disruption, ocean acidification, oceanic dead zones, depletion of groundwater and extinctions of plants and animals are the main drivers of the coming collapse, they write in their peer-reviewed article “Can a collapse of global civilisation be avoided?” published this week.

Dozens of earth systems experts were consulted in writing the 10-page paper that contains over 160 references.

“We talked to many of the world’s leading experts to reflect what is really happening,” said Ehrlich, who is an eminent biologist and winner of many scientific awards.

Our reality is that current overconsumption of natural resources and the resulting damage to life-sustaining services nature provides means we need another half of a planet to keeping going. And that’s if all seven billion remain at their current living standards, the Ehrlichs write.

If everyone lived like a U.S. citizen, another four or five planets would be needed.

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Related IPS Articles 

  • Water Summit to Focus on Resolving Scarcities in Mideast
  • Treaty “Insufficient” to Reduce Global Mercury Levels
  • China’s Rising Soybean Consumption Reshaping Western Agriculture

Global population is projected to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050. It doesn’t take an expert to conclude that collapse of civilisation will be unavoidable without major changes.

We’re facing a future where billions will likely die, and yet little is being done to avoid certain disaster, he said.

“Policy makers and the public aren’t terrified about this because they don’t have the information or the knowledge about how our planet functions,” he said.

Last March, the world’s scientific community provided the first-ever “state of the planet” assessment at the “Planet Under Pressure” conference in London. More than 3,000 experts concluded humanity is facing a “planetary emergency” and there was no time to lose in making large-scale changes.

In 2010, a coalition of the national scientific bodies and international scientific unions from 141 countries warned that “the continued functioning of the Earth system as we know it is at risk”.

“The situation is absolutely desperate and yet there’s nothing on the front pages or on the agenda of world leaders,” said Pat Mooney, head of the international environmental organisation ETC Group.

“The lack of attention is a tragedy,” Mooney previously told IPS.

Solutions exist and are briefly outlined in the Ehrlich paper. However, these require sweeping changes. All nations need to do everything they can to reduce their emissions of fossil fuels regardless of actions or lack of them by any other country, he said.

Protection of the Earth’s biodiversity must take centre stage in all policy and economic decisions. Water and energy systems must be re-engineered. Agriculture must shift from fossil-fuel intensive industrial monocultures to ecologically-based systems of food production. Resilience and flexibility will be essential for civilisation to survive.

A key element in meeting this unprecedented challenge is “…to see ourselves as utterly embedded in Nature and not somehow separate from those precious systems that sustain all life”, writes England’s Prince Charles commenting on the Ehrlich’s paper.

“To continue with ‘business as usual’ is an act of suicide on a gargantuan scale,” Prince Charles concluded.


[2] Can a collapse of global civilization be avoided?

By  Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich



Environmental problems have contributed to numerous collapses of civilizations in the past. Now, for the first time, a global collapse appears likely. Overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich and poor choices of technologies are major drivers; dramatic cultural change provides the main hope of averting calamity.








6. The need for rapid social/political change

Until very recently, our ancestors had no reason to respond genetically or culturally to long-term issues. If the global climate were changing rapidly for Australopithecus or even ancient Romans, then they were not causing it and could do nothing about it. The forces of genetic and cultural selection were not creating brains or institutions capable of looking generations ahead; there would have been no selection pressures in that direction. Indeed, quite the opposite, selection probably favoured mechanisms to keep perception of the environmental background steady so that rapid changes (e.g. leopard approaching) would be obvious [132, pp. 135–136]. But now slow changes in that background are the most lethal threats. Societies have a long history of mobilizing efforts, making sacrifices and changes, to defeat an enemy at the gates, or even just to compete more successfully with a rival. But there is not much evidence of societies mobilizing and making sacrifices to meet gradually worsening conditions that threaten real disaster for future generations. Yet that is exactly the sort of mobilization that we believe is required to avoid a collapse.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in avoiding collapse is convincing people, especially politicians and economists, to break this ancient mould and alter their behaviour relative to the basic population-consumption drivers of environmental deterioration. We know that simply informing people of the scientific consensus on a serious problem does not ordinarily produce rapid changes in institutional or individual behaviour. That was amply demonstrated in the case of cigarettes [68], air pollution and other environmental problems [69] and is now being demonstrated in the obesity epidemic [133] as well as climate disruption.

Obvious parallels exist regarding reproduction and overconsumption, which are especially visible in what amounts to a cultural addiction to continued economic growth among the already well-off [134]. One might think that the mathematics of compound interest would have convinced everyone long ago that growth of an industrialized economy at 3.5 per cent annually cannot long continue. Unfortunately, most ‘educated’ people are immersed in a culture that does not recognize that, in the real world, a short history (a few centuries) of exponential growth does not imply a long future of such growth.

Besides focusing their research on ways to avoid collapse, there is a need for natural scientists to collaborate with social scientists, especially those who study the dynamics of social movements. Such collaborations could develop ways to stimulate a significant increase in popular support for decisive and immediate action on the predicament. Unfortunately, awareness among scientists that humanity is in deep trouble has not been accompanied by popular awareness and pressure to counter the political and economic influences implicated in the current crisis. Without significant pressure from the public demanding action, we fear there is little chance of changing course fast enough to forestall disaster.

The needed pressure, however, might be generated by a popular movement based in academia and civil society to help guide humanity towards developing a new multiple intelligence [135], ‘foresight intelligence’ to provide the long-term analysis and planning that markets cannot supply. Foresight intelligence could not only systematically look ahead but also guide cultural changes towards desirable outcomes such as increased socio-economic resilience. Helping develop such a movement and foresight intelligence are major challenges facing scientists today, a cutting edge for research that must slice fast if the chances of averting a collapse are to be improved.

If foresight intelligence became established, many more scientists and policy planners (and society) might, for example, understand the demographic contributions to the predicament [136], stop treating population growth as a ‘given’ and consider the nutritional, health and social benefits of humanely ending growth well below nine billion and starting a slow decline. This would be a monumental task, considering the momentum of population growth. Monumental, but not impossible if the political will could be generated globally to give full rights, education and opportunities to women, and provide all sexually active human beings with modern contraception and backup abortion. The degree to which those steps would reduce fertility rates is controversial [137–139], but they are a likely win-win for societies [140].

Obviously, especially with the growing endarkenment, there are huge cultural and institutional barriers to establishing such policies in some parts of the world. After all, there is not a single nation where women are truly treated as equal to men. Despite that, the population driver should not be ignored simply because limiting overconsumption can, at least in theory, be achieved more rapidly. The difficulties of changing demographic trajectories mean that the problem should have been addressed sooner, rather than later. That halting population growth inevitably leads to changes in age structure is no excuse for bemoaning drops in fertility rates, as is common in European government circles [141]. Reduction of population size in those over-consuming nations is a very positive trend, and sensible planning can deal with the problems of population aging [142].

While rapid policy change to head off collapse is essential, fundamental institutional change to keep things on track is necessary as well. This is especially true of educational systems, which today fail to inform most people of how the world works and thus perpetuate a vast culture gap [54]. The academic challenge is especially great for economists, who could help set the background for avoiding collapse by designing steady-state economic systems [107,134,143], and along the way destroying fables such as ‘growth can continue forever if it’s in service industries’, or ‘technological innovation will save us’. Issues such as the importance of comparative advantage under current global circumstances [144], the development of new models that better reflect the irrational behaviour of individuals and groups [145], reduction of the worship of ‘free’ markets that infests the discipline, and tasks such as making information more symmetrical, moving towards sustainability and enhancing equity (including redistribution) all require re-examination. In that re-examination, they would be following the lead of distinguished economists [146–148] in dealing with the real world of biophysical constraints and human well-being.

At the global level, the loose network of agreements that now tie countries together [149,150], developed in a relatively recent stage of cultural evolution since modern nation states appeared, is utterly inadequate to grapple with the human predicament. Strengthening global environmental governance [151] and addressing the related problem of avoiding failed statehood [152] are tasks humanity has so far refused to tackle comprehensively even as cultural evolution in technology has rendered the present international system (as it has educational systems) obsolete. Serious global environmental problems can only be solved and a collapse avoided with an unprecedented level of international cooperation [122]. Regardless of one’s estimate of civilization’s potential longevity, the time to start restructuring the international system is right now. If people do not do that, nature will restructure civilization for us.

Similarly, widely based cultural change is required to reduce humanely both population size and overconsumption by the rich. Both go against cultural norms, and, as long feared [153], the overconsumption norm has understandably been adopted by the increasingly rich subpopulations of developing nations, notably India and China. One can be thrilled by the numbers of people raised from poverty while being apprehensive about the enormous and possibly lethal environmental and social costs that may eventually result [154,155]. The industrial revolution set civilization on the road to collapse, spurring population growth, which contributed slightly more than overconsumption to environmental degradation [136]. Now population combined with affluence growth may finish the job.

Needless to say, dealing with economic and racial inequities will be critically important in getting large numbers of people from culturally diverse groups [156] to focus their minds on solving the human predicament, something globalization should help [157]. These tasks will be pursued, along with an emphasis on developing ‘foresight intelligence’, by the nascent Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere (the MAHB; http://mahb.stanford.edu). One of its central goals is to try to accelerate change towards sustainability. Since simply giving the scientific facts to the public will not do it, among other things, this means finding frames and narratives to convince the public of the need to make changes.

We know that societies can evolve fundamentally and unexpectedly [158, p. 334], as was dramatically demonstrated by the collapse of communist regimes in Europe in 1989 [159]. Rather than tinkering around the edges and making feeble or empty gestures towards one or another of the interdependent problems we face, we need a powerful and comprehensive approach. In addressing climate change, for instance, developing nations need to be convinced that they (along with the rest of the world) cannot afford (and do not need) to delay action while they ‘catch up’ in development. Indeed, development on the old model is counterproductive; they have a great opportunity to pioneer new approaches and technologies. All nations need to stop waiting for others to act and be willing to do everything they can to mitigate emissions and hasten the energy transition, regardless of what others are doing.

With climate and many other global environmental problems, polycentric solutions may be more readily found than global ones. Complex, multi-level systems may be better able to cope with complex, multi-level problems [160], and institutional change is required at many levels in many polities. What scientists understand about cultural evolution suggests that, while improbable, it may be possible to move cultures in such directions [161,162]. Whether solutions will be global or polycentric, international negotiations will be needed, existing international agencies that deal with them will need strengthening, and new institutions will need to be formed.

Previous SectionNext Section


7. Conclusions

Do we think global society can avoid a collapse in this century? The answer is yes, because modern society has shown some capacity to deal with long-term threats, at least if they are obvious or continuously brought to attention (think of the risks of nuclear conflict). Humanity has the assets to get the job done, but the odds of avoiding collapse seem small because the risks are clearly not obvious to most people and the classic signs of impending collapse, especially diminishing returns to complexity [28], are everywhere. One central psychological barrier to taking dramatic action is the distribution of costs and benefits through time: the costs up front, the benefits accruing largely to unknown people in the future. But whether we or more optimistic observers [17,163] are correct, our own ethical values compel us to think the benefits to those future generations are worth struggling for, to increase at least slightly the chances of avoiding a dissolution of today’s global civilization as we know it.

For remainder of the paper click on



[3]MAHB Mission: 

Create a global network of social scientists, humanists, and scholars in related fields whose collective knowledge can be harnessed to support global civil society in creating  and implementing strategies and shifting human cultures and institutions toward sustainable practices and an equitable and satisfying future.

Foster, fuel and inspire a global dialogue on the interconnectedness of activities causing environmental degradation and social inequity;

What happens when natural scientists and social scientists work together and discover a new type of intelligence, foresight intelligence:  the ability to implement behavioral, institutional and cultural changes necessary for humans to ensure a sustainable and equitable future for all?


Welcome to the MAHB

What happens when foresight intelligence meets the best of global civil society?

Quite simply, we can reduce humanity’s ecological footprint and social inequities before it is too late.

This is the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere (MAHB)

The MAHB’s natural scientists and social scientists (sociology, economics, business, humanities, linguistics, etc) are working together now to:

1. Understand and communicate foresight intelligence;

2. Create a vision of a plausible and compelling world in 2050 which is moving towards sustainability and social equity;

These are powerful tools for global civil society, the often under-funded front line in the battle to build a secure and sustainable world for all humanity.

The goal of the MAHB is to create a platform to help global civil society address the interconnections among the greatest threats to human well-being: failure of ecosystem services, economic inequity, social injustice, hunger, epidemics, toxic chemicals, and loss of security to crime, terrorism and war, especially resource wars (veiled or not), to name a few.

The term “civil society” includes scholars, non-governmental organizations, businesses, social activists and individuals who share a vision for a sustainable world respecting the rights and prosperity of all humanity. While the MAHB is pluralistic in its acceptance of differences and diversity a generally accepted core set of values has emerged globally and constitute the public good: these are that all humans should be able to live peacefully, securely and sustainably.

Globally, there are thousands of organizations and individuals sharing these values and working towards these goals; too often they compete for the same money and stakeholders, struggle with small budgets, and work in constrained and often isolated environments.

The MAHB aspires to offer seven unique tools to civil society concerned with the major threats to humanity. These tools are:

1. Community: The MAHB is a diverse community; organizations and groups that join the MAHB are called “Nodes”; individuals who join are “Associates”. Nodes and Associates include natural scientists, social scientists, students, homemakers, economists, business people, artists, scholars, professionals: people from all walks of life. A Node may be a formally organized NGO, a professional organization or an informal team or group including a group of scholars, neighborhood associations and book clubs to name a few.

2. Vision of a world moving rapidly towards sustainability in 2050: MAHB scholars are defining what a world in 2050 moving toward sustainability might look like—a compelling world of some 9 billion people. Building on a growing scholarly effort, the MAHB is in the process of describing economic systems that depend on agility and equity without depending on growth, social systems that recognize the limits of our ecosystems, energy and resource infrastructure, and governance: a world where most people can meet their basic needs while enjoying a high quality of life. This vision is being designed to inspire and unite the diverse MAHB membership; it will provide a shared purpose that is exciting and inspiring—working towards core goals rather than against current injustice and destructive behaviors.

3. Scholars working across disciplines to build the knowledge that is necessary for civil society to act in ways that will have the highest positive impact quickly;

4. Resources:  The MAHB website aspires to become the “go to” place for the best literature, multi-media materials, analysis, movies, and editorials on the interconnected issues threating humanity and it’s life support systems.

5. Activities: The MAHB website catalogs and makes available ideas for high impact action for those Nodes and Associates seeking additional ideas. Nodes and Associates post their activities, accomplishments, and strategies for shifting human behavior in ways that support a sustainable and equitable life style.

6. A meeting place: Nodes and Associates can also interact with one another on the website—recruiting partners, sharing ideas and information, learning from one another and making it easy for the best work and results to go viral and have international impact.

7. Urgency: If we are to reverse the degradation of the systems that support civilization, we need to act now. The MAHB aspires to make available the tools necessary for fostering a contagion, a passion for action.

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