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How everything can collapse by Pablo Servigne & Raphaël Stevens

Posted by Raul Barral Tamayo en jueves, 17 de junio, 2021


First published in French as Comment tout peut s’effondrer: Petit manuel de collapsologie à l’usage des générations présentes
© Éditions du Seuil, 2015
This English edition © Polity Press, 2020

What if our civilization were to collapse? Not many centuries into the future, but in our own lifetimes? We now have a great deal of scientific evidence to suggest that we are up against growing systemic instabilities that pose a serious threat to the capacity of human populations to survive in a sustainable environment.

In this bestselling book, Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens confront this issue head on and provide a valuable guide that will help everyone make sense of the new and potentially catastrophic situation in which we find ourselves today. Collapse is the horizon of our generation. But collapse need not be the end. It could trigger changes in human behavior that lead to a new and more viable future.

Pablo Servigne is an agronomist with a PhD in biology.

Raphaël Stevens is an eco-adviser and co-founder of the consulting office Greenloop.

Comments extracted from the book, they could be right or wrong, you decide for yourself:

  • Ken Rogoff (former Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund), 2012: «Systems often hold longer than we think, but they end up by collapsing much faster than we imagine».
  • Perhaps we don’t actually know how to talk about disasters, the real ones, those that last, those that don’t fit into the news cycle.
  • All these «crises» are interconnected, influencing and intensifying each other.
  • We now have a huge bundle of evidence suggesting that we’re up against growing systemic instabilities that pose a serious threat to the ability of several human populations to maintain themselves in a sustainable environment.
  • It’s not the end of the world, nor the Apocalypse. Nor is it a simple crisis from which we can emerge unscathed or a one-off disaster that we can forget after a few months.
  • A collapse is «the process at the end of which basic needs (water, food, housing, clothing, energy, etc) can no longer be provided (at a reasonable cost) to a majority of the population by services under legal supervision». The consequences will last for a long time, and we’ll need to live through them.
  • The climate is heating up, biodiversity is collapsing, pollution is ubiquitous and becoming persistent, the economy risks going into cardiac arrest at every moment, social and geopolitical tensions are growing, etc.
  • Anyone who publicly mentions a «collapse» is seen as announcing the Apocalypse, and relegated to the narrow category of those «credulous believers» in the «irrational» who have «always existed». The process of automatically dismissing such talk has left public debate in such a state of intellectual disrepair that it is no longer possible to express oneself without adopting one of two simplistic standpoints which often border on the ridiculous. These two postures, both frenziedly clinging to their respective myths (the myth of the Apocalypse vs the myth of progress).
  • We lack any real applied, transdisciplinary science of collapse.
  • History shows us that there are varying degrees of collapse, and that, even if there are constants, each case is unique.
  • Facts and figures alone are not enough to give an adequate picture of the situation. We definitely need to add intuition, emotions and a certain ethics. Collapsology is not a neutral science detached from its object of study. «Collapsologists» cannot remain neutral anymore. They must not do so!
  • It’s true that the possibility of a collapse shuts down certain futures dear to us; this comes as a real shock, but it opens up countless other futures, some surprisingly cheerful. The challenge, then, is to tame these new futures and make them viable.
  • While the human mind can easily imagine arithmetical growth, it struggles to imagine exponential growth.
  • When the effects of exponential growth become visible, it is often too late.
  • Whatever the optimists may say, the time we are living is clearly marked by the spectre of a collapse.
  • We should by now realize that many of the parameters of our societies and of our impact on the planet are increasing at an exponential rate: population, GDP, water and energy consumption, the use of fertilizers, the production of engines and telephones, tourism, and so on.
  • Humans have become a force that upsets the major biogeochemical cycles of the Earth system.
  • During the twentieth century, energy consumption increased tenfold, the extraction of industrial minerals by a factor of 27, and that of building materials by a factor of 34. The scale and the speed of the changes we are triggering are unprecedented in history.
  • The essential question of our time is therefore to know where the ceiling is. Is there a limit (or several limits) to our exponential growth?
  • There are two types of limit, or more precisely that there are limits on the one hand and boundaries on the other. The former cannot be crossed because they come up against the law of thermodynamics. The second can be crossed but they are no less insidious because they are invisible, and we realize that we are crossing them only when it is too late.
  • The limits of our civilization are imposed by the quantities of so-called «stock» resources, which are by definition nonrenewable (fossil fuels and ores), and «flow» resources (water, wood, food, etc); these are renewable but we are exhausting them far too quickly for them to have time to regenerate.
  • The boundaries of our civilization represent thresholds that cannot be crossed on pain of destabilizing and destroying the systems that keep it alive: for example, the climate.
  • Each of the limits and boundaries is all by itself capable of seriously destabilizing civilization. The problem, in our case, is that we are running up against several limits simultaneously and we have already crossed several boundaries!
  • Energy is often considered as a secondary technical issue after the main priorities, namely employment, the economy and democracy. Now energy is at the heart of every civilization.
  • You can sometimes do without creativity, purchasing power or investment capacity, but you can’t do without energy. It’s a physical principle: without energy, there is no movement.
  • Without fossil fuels, globalization, industry and economic activity as we know them are finished.
  • To maintain our civilization in working order, we must constantly increase our energy consumptions and production. But we have reached a peak. A peak is the moment when the extraction rate of a resource reaches an upper limit before declining inexorably.
  • The top of the curve, the peak moment, does not mean the resource has been depleted but rather signals the beginning of its decline.
  • As the International Energy Agency, known for its optimism about oil reserves, has itself admitted, the global peak in conventional oil, accounting for 80% of oil production, was crossed in 2006. We have since been on a «wavy plateau». Past this plateau, world oil production will begin to decline.
  • In the 1960s, for every barrel consumed, the industry discovered six new ones. Today, with an ever more efficient technology, the world consumes seven barrels for each barrel discovered.
  • There is a growing consensus about the fact that the age of easily oil is over and we are entering a new era.
  • It is hardly realistic to imagine that electrifying the transport system will replace oil.
  • The entire electric system consumes fossil fuels: they are needed for the transport of spare parts, workers and materials, for the construction and maintenance of power stations and for the extraction of ores. Without oil, the current electric system, including nuclear power, will collapse.
  • The decline of oil will therefore lead to the decline of all other forms of energy.
  • Remember the surprising fact about exponentials: once the consequences are visible, it’s all just a matter of years, or even months.
  • Once they are past the peak of their own deposits, oil-producing countries will have to deal with growing domestic consumption. If they decide (legitimately) to stop exporting in order to meet this demand, it will be to the detriment of the major importing countries and this could trigger predatory wars that will disrupt the productive capacity of oil-producing countries. In any case, the decline will probably be faster than expected.
  • It’s  a proven fact: the quantities of fossil fuel stocked underground are still gigantic. So is this good news? Even if we wanted, we would never be able to extract all that oil. The reason is simple: to extract oil, it takes energy, a lot of energy. Common sense dictates that in extraction, the amount of energy garnered should be greater that the energy invested. If you garner less than you invest, it’s not worth digging.
  • Renewable energy does not have the potential to offset the decline in fossil fuel, and there are not enough fussil fuels (or ores) to massively develop renewable energies so as to offset the predicted decline in fossil fuels.
  • Out of eleven recessions that took place during the twentieth century, ten were preceded by a sharp increase in oil prices. In other words, an energy crisis precedes a serious economic crisis.
  • Our economics are doomed to try and maintain a very precarious and oscillating balance, a roller-coaster ride, based on the price of a barrel of oil being between about US$80 and US$130 a barrel, while hoping and praying that the now extremely volatile financial system does not collapse.
  • Boundaries would be more adequately represented by the edges of the road beyond which the car leaves an area of stability and faces unpredictable obstacles.
  • Boundaries do not prevent us from causing disasters; they leave us free and responsible for our choices, obliged solely by our ethics and our ability to predict disasters.
  • Disasters are not just about future generations; they concern present generations.
  • In a world with an average of +2ºC, there will be a considerable risk of war.
  • The serious economic and demographic crises that European societies underwent before the industrial era are all related to climate disruptions. While economic downturns were the direct causes of the serious crises that triggered demographic collapse, the climate has always been the root cause. And at the heart of the process, we always find food shortages.
  • Wheat yields have tended to stagnate over the last twenty years, despite considerable technical progress.
  • Geopolitical tensions would be exacerbated by the increasing number of climate refugees.
  • Leon Fuerth, former US national security advisor during Al Gore’s time as vice president: «Even the richest countries will be forced to engage in long, nightmarish episodes of triage: deciding what and who can be salvaged from engulfment by a disordered environment».
  • Even if we stopped emitting greenhouse gases completely and inmediatly, the climate would continue to heat up for several decades.
  • The circulation of ocean currents could change, as it has done in the past, creating a risk of anoxia (lack of oxygen) in the depths of the ocean.
  • When a species dies, it never dies alone: it usually takes some of its neighbours with it without anyone noticing.
  • Yet society still does not recognize the decline of biodiversity as a major factor in global change on the same level as the other «crises» that mobilize the international community, such as as global heating, pollution, the hole in the ozone layer and the acidification of the oceans.
  • In the absence of fossil fuels, the populations of the whole world will rush to the forests in urgent quest of a little game, some arable land and especially firewood, as happened in Greece after the economic crisis began.
  • The consequences of a decline in biodiversity are far more serious than we imagine. This will sooner or later result in a reduction of the human population, following the usual pattern: famines, diseaes and wars.
  • For a long time, it was believed that nature responded to disruptions in a gradual and proportionate manner. In reality, ecosystems also function as switches. Those which undergo regular disruptions (hunting, fishing, pollution, droughts, etc) do not immediatly show any apparent signs of wear, but gradually (and imperceptibly) lose their capacity to recover (they lose so-called resilience) until reaching a tipping point, an invisible threshold beyond which the ecosystem collapses in a brutal and unpredictable way.
  • When a new and more efficient technology makes its appearance, it does not automatically become the norm, far from it. Indeed, it is often very difficult to change systems because of a phenomenon that historians and sociologists of innovation call sociotechnical «lock-in».
  • We are stuck in the technological choices of these ancestors. Current technological trajectories are therefore largely determined by our past and, quite often, technological innovations are just trying to solve the problems caused by previous ones.
  • Alternative and more efficient energy systems, can no longer emerge because the dominant energy system leaves no space for diversity.
  • The more this dominant system becomes entrenched, the more it has the means to maintain its dominance. It swallows up all the available resources and «mechanically» prevents the emergence of alternatives, whereas it is precisely in its early emergence that an innovation needs support and investment.
  • The tragedy is that, by preventing small systems on the margins from blossoming, we deprive ourselves of potential solutions for the future.
  • One very important psychological obstacle is related to the inertia of individual behavior and the reluctance of individuals to change.
  • The problem is that it is precisely the institutions dedicated to innovation (public and private research) which are monopolized by the dominant sociotechnical system.
  • According to archaeologist Joseph Tainter, this apparently inexorable tendency of societies to move towards greater levels of complexity, specialization and sociopolitical control is even one of the major causes of the collapse of societies.
  • A global «lock-in» can be illustrated by three examples: the financial system; the energy system based on carbon; and growth.
  • Some financial institutions and multinationals have become «too big to fail» or «too big to jail».
  • The history of carbon and its techno-industrial complex is probably the biggest lock-in in history.
  • Today, if we take away oil, gas and coal, there is not much left of our thermo-industrial civilization. Almost everything we are familiar with depends on it.
  • The stability of the debt system rests entirely on growth: the world economic system cannot abandon it if it wants to carry on working. None of our institutions is adapted to a world without growth because they were designed for and by growth.
  • Since the system is self-referential, it is obvious that we will not be able to find solutions within the dominant system.
  • We must cultivate innovations on the margins. That’s the whole purpose of a transition.
  • There are three main categories of risk that threaten the stability of a complex system: threshold effects, domino effects, and the inability of  the system to recover its balance after a shock.
  • All global banking transactions go through a small organization called SWIFT (the BIC code), which has only three data centers, one in the United States, one in the Netherlands and a new one in Switzerland.
  • original entry: https://raulbarraltamayo.wordpress.com/2021/06/17/how-everything-can-collapse-by-pablo-servigne-raphael-stevens/
  • Systems have become so complex than even in the absence of external shocks, and just as a result of their structure, they can suffer collapse. It has simply become impossible to control them completely: even if experts and decision makers are informed about the risks and have the best technologies.
  • When a majority of its inhabitants no longer have a direct link with the Earth system (earth, water, wood, animals, plants, etc), the population becomes entirely dependent on the artificial structure that maintains it in this state. If this ever more powerful but vulnerable structure collapses, it’s the survival of the entire population that may be endangered.
  • To maintain itself and avoid financial disorder and social unrest, our industrial civilization is forced to accelerate, to become more complex and to consume ever more energy.
  • The paradox that characterizes our era is that the more powerful our civilization grows, the more vulnerable it becomes.
  • Today, we are sure of four things:
    1. The physical growth of our societies will come to a halt in the near future.
    2. We have irreversibly damaged the entire Earth system.
    3. We are moving towards a very unstable, «non-linear» future, where major disruptions will be the norm.
    4. We are now potentially subject to global systemic collapses.
  • We deduce that our society may collapse in the near future.
  • There are rarely any technical «solutions» that do not worsen the situation by consuming more energy and materials.
  • The capitalist economic system is in the habit of feeding on crises to grow.
  • It’s fine to say that everything is going to collapse, but we still need to provide a few pointers as to how imminent such an event might be. After all, basically, all civilizations eventually collapse one day or another.
  • The financiers are talking about an impending crisis because no lessons were learned from the 2008 crisis.
  • We have seen that climate catastrophes are already ocurring and will intensify.
  • If the possibility of industrial civilization collapsing is ever more palpable and real, we cannot be certain of its date.
  • We need to let fo and move from the «observe, analyse, command and control» mode to a «probe, act, sense, adjust» mode. Open up reason to intuition.
  • If we are to forestall a catastrophe, we need to believe in its possibility before it happens.
  • One of the most frequently observed characteristics of a system «on the edge of the abyss» is that it takes longer to recover from a small disruption. Its recovery time after a shock lengthens, in other words, its resilience decreases.
  • It seems that we are doomed, for the moment, to being able to take action only after catastrophes.
  • In collapsology, we need to accept the fact that we are not able to predict everything.
  • Our ignorance is not a question of the accumulation of scientific knowledge; it is consubstantial with the very nature of complex systems. In other words, in a time of uncertainty, it’s intuition that counts.
  • Another way to probe the future is to use mathematical and computer models. We have selected two models, one of which, HANDY, was developed in a study that created a stir at the start of 2014 because it was funded by NASA. The other, still valid after forty years of critiques and comparisons with real data, is the World3 model that served as a basis for the famous Meadows Report or Club of Rome Report.
  • HANDY shows that intense social stratification makes it difficult to avoid a collapse of civilization. The only way to avoid this outcome would therefore be to reduce economic inequalities within a population and to put in place measures that aim to keep the demographics below a critical level.
  • While some members of society are sounding the alarm to indicate that the system is heading towards an imminent collapse and advocating structural social change, the elites and their supporters are blinded by the long and seemingly sustainable period that precedes a collapse and take this as an excuse to do nothing.
  • The World3 model has not only resisted the innumerable and vehement criticisms aimed at it from the start but has even been corroborated by forty years’ worth of facts. It simply warns us of the extreme instability of our system.
  • Collapses usually last several years, several decades or even centuries in the case of the entire civilizations and are difficult to date precisely.
  • We have tried to use the word «crisis» as little as possible as it creates the illusion that the situation is ephemeral.
  • All the civilizations that preceded us, however powerful, suffered declines and collapses.
  • Jared Diamond has identified five recurrent and often synergistic factors of collapse in the societies he has studied: environmental damage or the depletion of resources; climate change; wars; the sudden loss of trading partners; and the (wrong-headed) reactions of a society to environmental problems. For him, ecological conditions are the main factor.
  • Diamond ponders the reasons that push «societies» to make bad decisions. He explains that groups suffer from catastrophes for several reasons: they do not manage to forsee them; they do not perceive the causes behind them; they fail in their attempts to «solve the problems»; or simply there are no relevant «solutions», given the state of their knowledge.
  • William Ophuls, american political scientist: «when the available energy and resources can no longer maintain the existing level of complexity, the civilization begins to consume itself by borrowing from the future and feeding off the past, thereby preparing the way for an eventual implosion».
  • A financial collapse occurs when all «faith in business as usual» is lost. The future is no longer assumed to resemble the past in any way that allows risk to be assessed and financial assets to be guaranteed. Dmitry Orlov, russian-american engineer: «it is better to learn to live with little or no money».
  • A commercial collapse is triggered when «faith that the market shall provide» is lost. Money is devalued and/or becomes scarce, commodities are hoarded, import and retail chains break down and widespread shortages of survival necessities become the norm. In this case, it is better if you can provide for the basic needs of your family and community through your own means.
  • A political collapse occurs when «faith that the government will take care of you» is lost. As official attempts to mitigate widespread loss of access to commercial sources of survival necessities fail to make a difference, the political establishment loses legitimacy and relevance.
  • A social collapse occurs when «faith that your people will take care of you» is lost, as local institutions, be they charities or other groups that rush in to fill the power vacuum, run out of resources or fail through internal conflict. It may be better to be part of small, still tighly knit communities in which trust and mutual aid are cardinal values.
  • A cultural collapse occurs when «faith in the goodness of humanity» is lost. People lose their capacity for «kindness, generosity, consideration, affection, honesty, hospitality, compassion, charity».
  • Communities practising agroecology in Zambia or Malawi were scarcely affected by the food shortages caused by the economic crisis of 2008 because they were not connected to the global industrial system. There were no hunger riots. European countries, meanwhile, have very little autonomy when it comes to their diet.
  • The peripheral and semi-peripheral regions of the modern world-system are the most resilient, not only because the economic and energy crises they will suffer will be less grave but mainly because they constitute a space of autonomy essential to the creation of systemic alternatives, a dynamic space of social change.
  • Our societies are resilient to the point of being able to handle sudden and relatively short interruptions (in food, supplies, energy, transport, etc). But the interruptions that last too long (from several days to several weeks) become irreversible once the entropic decomposition of production infrastructure becomes too significant.
  • A succession of emergencies gradually reduces the adaptive capacity (resilience) of institutions and people, making them less and less able to organize «reboots».
  • The real question posed by the collapse of industrial civilization, apart from its precise date, duration and speed, is mainly whether we, as individuals, will suffer or die in advance.
  • Godwin point, a moment after which any discussion becomes impossible because one person calls the other a Nazi.
  • For now, the few attemtps at a voluntary reduction in population and consumption have not produced very good results.
  • Massive displacement of populations and conflicts over access to resources have already begun.
  • It is often this escalation in presumed violence that generates real violence.
  • Individuals seek security first and foremost, so they’re not inclined to violence and are unlikely to do wrong to their fellows.
  • Human communities contain formidable «self-healing» capabilities. Invisible in normal times, these very powerful mechanisms of social cohesion allow a community to be reborn after a shock by recreating social structures that favour its survival in the new environment.
  • We know that in time of war (especially civil war), social order sometimes breaks down so quickly that the most barbaric acts can be committed in the most «normal» populations.
  • Behavioural sciences are discovering that cooperation within human groups can very quickly turn into competition.
  • Many studies and observations contradict the founding myth of our liberal society, which consists in believing that the wild state of nature follows the law of the strongest and the war of all against all.
  • In times of energy shortage, there is a strong presumption that individualists will be the first to die. Groups able to demonstrate remarkable cooperative behaviour will have a better chance of surviving. Paradoxically, therefore, we will soon be entering the era of mutual aid.
  • In a situation of repeated serious crises, nobody will have the same view of events and so nobody will react in the same way.
  • Every culture and every generation tells itself its own story. Stories convey the interpretations of historical events, the legends and the myths that helps us understand how our world is arranged and how it could be deliberately adjusted or transformed. Stories give birth to collective identities, thus forming communities that share common destinies.
  • The most important, not to say most urgent, task is to rebuild a strong and vibrant local social fabric so as to gradually establish a climate of trust, ultimately, a «social capital» that can serve in case of catastrophe.
  • The Big One, the earthquake that will devastate California: we know it will happen one day, but most Californians ignore it as they go about their daily lives.
  • We are simply not equipped to perceive the dangers posed by systemic or long-term threats. Our brains, are very effective at dealing with immediate problems.
  • Myths also prevent us from seeing the reality of catastrophes. The obsession with economic growth in our modern societies is extremely powerful.
  • The mind seeks every means of fitting new information into the framework of its founding myth.
  • It is not uncommon for us to know what’s going on (and what might happen) but not to believe it.
  • Myths are stronger than facts.
  • They oppose everything that contradicts their worldview and then look for reasons to justify this rejection.
  • Some very big players in the industrial world financed think tanks and managed to create a «climate» of uncertainty and controversy around some perfectly well-established scientific facts. This strategy of doubt and ignorance, aimed at hiding the harmful effects of their products, is today well documented in the case of tobacco, asbestos, pesticides, endocrine disruptors and, more recently, global heating.
  • Experiments in social psychology have shown that, for people to take a threat seriously, they need to be well informed about the situation and to have credible, reliable and accessible alternatives.
  • There is really no alternative to a collapse (just means of adapting to it) and it is difficult to take any concrete, fast and accessible form of action.
  • Denial is a salutary cognitive process which helps us protect ourselves naturally from overtoxic information.
  • The grieving process goes through several stages, according to the well-known model established by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the american psychologist and specialist in mourning: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We find all these steps in the reactions of the public.
  • In general, human beings do not believe in the eventuality of a catastrophe until it has actually happened, too late.
  • Even it is too late to build a true steady-state economy, it is never too late to build small-scale local resilient systems better able to endure the coming economic, social and ecological shocks.
  • The success of the transition movement stems from the fact that its participants have a «positive vision» of the future.
  • It is necessary to accept, publicly and officially, the death of the old world.
  • Historical examples of societies that knew how to limit themselves so as to avoid a collapse are extremely rare.
  • As soon as the first economic and social shocks appear, alternatives emerge very quickly.
  • The concept of transition brings people and things together. It allows a catastrophic lucidity to flourish. It enables us to find common practices and shared positive imaginaries.
  • The transition could finally be seen as an act of «disconnection». Disconnecting from the industrial system involves giving up in advance everything it provides us with before being forced to undergo shortages.
  • The challenge lies in organizing, rediscovering the knowledge and techniques that allow us to regain possession of our livelihood before we disconnect.
  • The remarkable example of a transition to agroecology, as happened in Cuba in the 1990s, shows the importance of the role of the authorities in the speed and power of a great transition.
  • This is what happened during the two world wars. Governments managed to mobilize considerable power in their pursuit of a common goal, in this case, the annihilation of an enemy.
  • Rationing can ultimately be considered a policy of solidarity in a world compressed by limits.
  • The fate of all inhabitants is bound by a principle of communicating vessels or a «zero-sum game» where what one person consumes deprives the other person of this good.
  • If confidence erodes, if wages and pensions are no longer paid on time or if food shortages become too severe, nothing can guarantee the maintenance of the existing political regimes.
  • «Global overpopulation, overconsumption by the rich, and bad technological choices» have set out industrial civilization on the road to collapse.
  • Even if the future is dark, we have to fight
  • In the 1970s, it was still possible that our society might create «sustainable development». It chose not to. Since the 1990s, indeed, everything has continued to accelerate, despite the many warnings. And now it’s too late.
  • if we don’t collectively all wake up in time, in the great silence of the post-industrial world, we may return to a far more precarious situation than that in the Middle Ages.
  • If amphetamines and antidepressants were the pills of the productivist world, resilience, sobriety and low tech will be the aspirins of the hangover generation.
  • Today, the paths we might pursue are barely marked, and they lead to a radical change in life, a life less complex, smaller, more modest and respectful of the limits and the boundaries of the living world.
  • Collapse is not the end but the beginning of our future. We will reinvent ways of partying, ways of being present to the world and to oneself, to others and to the beings around us.
  • The end of the world? It would be too easy.
  • In difficult times, networks are formed. And we’re growing up.
  • Yves Cochet, former Minister of the Environment, President of the Institut Momentum:
    • We have never had so many indications of the possibility of an imminet global collapse.
    • It is impossible for us, even from a systemic point of view, to forge a complete rational representation of what «the collapse of the world» might be.
    • It is even more impossible, to represent the consequences of such an event. How many people will die as a result of this collapse?
    • People quite informed about global ecological issues, will take refuge first in denial, in cognitive dissonance.
    • Paradoxically, even if a majority of people were finally convinced of the impending collapse, it is unlikely that this majority would organize to act effectively against this threat. By rapidly implementing vast resources to fight against this hypothesis being realized, with all the changes in individual and collective behaviour that this would require.
    • The present book has shown you conclusively that the world is on the verge of collapse.
    • What triggers the action of an individual is not his/her opinion or will but the question as to whether s/he would act only on condition that a sufficiently large number of other people also act.
    • Collective action is not an accumulative phenomenon of individual wills to act but the emerging result of representations that everyone creates by observing the representations of others.
    • The denial of the collapse is not due to people as individuals being unreasonable or insufficiently informed; it is a systemic effect that emerges from specular relationships.
    • If many communities of transitioners and anti-growth protestors fail to emerge, collapse is inevitable, not because the scientific knowledge of its coming is too uncertain but because the social psychology embedded in human beings will not allow them to take the right decisions at the right time.

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