Is the Earth facing civilisational collapse? Environmentalist suggests mass deaths by the end of the century

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
By the end of the century, civilisation may collapse on Earth. Source: still from The Last Of Us/Getty/collage by OBOZREVATEL

Humanity is likely to be on the verge of a "demographic correction", which will be caused by the fact that the Earth's resources are being consumed in too large quantities and at an unsustainable rate. Civilisational collapse, which will lead to a decrease in the number of people on the planet, could occur by the end of the century.

William Rees, a population ecologist at the University of British Columbia (Canada), made this prediction in an article for the scientific journal World. He doubts that humanity will be able to find a way out of the impending crisis.

The scientist notes that modern humans have existed for about 250,000 years and it took them almost 99% of this time to reach the 1 billion people mark. This figure was reached around 1800. Over the next century, the number of people grew by only 600 million, but then everything started moving at a frantic pace, and as of 2023, 8 billion people live on Earth.

It is this ultra-fast growth that is unsustainable for our ecosystem and threatens to cause a "demographic correction". Ries suggests that, in the worst-case scenario, it could happen before the end of the century.

The reason is that humanity is using the Earth's resources at an unsustainable rate and, according to the ecologist, is simply unable to correct this situation.

This will ultimately lead to a kind of civilisational collapse that will "correct" the world's population. Only the richest and most resilient societies will emerge victorious from this situation.

Rees believes that our species, "Homo sapiens, has evolved to multiply exponentially, expand geographically, and consume all available resources."

He notes that it used to be easier for the planet to regulate the evolution of humans, who were at a relatively primitive level, but now "the scientific revolution and the use of fossil fuels have reduced many forms of negative feedback, allowing us to fully realise our potential for exponential growth."

Rees points out that humans have become the dominant species on the planet, forgetting that we are still under the influence of natural selection. In addition, the tendency to think short-term, which served humans extremely well in the evolutionary past, is now playing against us when we do not limit ourselves and take as much from the Earth as we can get.

This has led not only to overconsumption, but also to increased environmental pollution.

The scientist believes that the first sign that people will face a karmic response is climate change, which confirms that the planet is under excessive stress.

Rees emphasises that humanity is also provoking interconnected problems that are leading to the sixth mass extinction of species on Earth and risking the chaotic destruction of our planet's basic life support systems.

At the same time, the scientist is confident that the transition to renewable energy sources, which is positioned as a solution to the problem, actually only exacerbates it, as it contributes to the continued excessive consumption of resources and, consequently, to the further growth of the number of people.

He is convinced that improvements in technology should help people solve the problems of food shortages, habitat instability, wars and disease. Otherwise, all these factors will start to affect the population.

"While none of the main symptoms of overpopulation can be adequately addressed in isolation, addressing overpopulation directly will reduce all the important symptoms at the same time," explains Rees.

He calls for developing ways to strike a better balance between our relationship with the planet and our mutual obligations.

"In the best of all possible worlds, the entire transition could be made in a way that prevents millions (billions?) of people from suffering unnecessarily, but that is not happening - and cannot happen - in a world blind to its own predicament," Rees concluded.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL also reported that, according to scientists, mass extinction remains the primary threat to humanity. Flora and fauna are experiencing a mass extinction crisis on a scale unprecedented since the dinosaurs.

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