Just as biological systems exhibit tipping points which once passed catalyze irreversible and often unpredictable patterns of change, so do civilizations and social structures. In past civilizational collapses, these tipping points were generally catalyzed by soil depletion, resource shortages, environmental degradation, and social upheaval.
The Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown identifies many global factors which may be pushing industrial civilization beyond a tipping point of irreversible change and collapse. Overharvesting of marine fisheries, loss of biodiversity, increased population growth, poor food and water management, the peaking of oil production, social conflict, and climate change are among the pressures breaking down civil social structures.
Peat forest conversion in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo.
The rapid and recent increase in weakening and failing nation-states is another significant harbinger of widespread, global catastrophe. Brown explains that the sum of the environmental and geopolitical forces has the potential to end civilization on a global scale, stating. “The risk is that these accumulating problems and their consequences will overwhelm more and more governments, leading to widespread state failure and eventually the failure of civilization. The countries that top the list of failing states are not particularly surprising. They include, for example, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Haiti. And the list grows longer each year, raising a disturbing question: How many failing states will it take before civilization itself fails? No one knows the answer, but it is a question we must ask.”