2020 has been a tough year. Starting with Australia’s devastating wildfires, followed up by the death of beloved basketball star Kobe Bryant and his young daughter Gigi, and then, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s not forget about the murder hornets, the locusts in east Africa, the wildfires in Siberia, and the arctic circle reaching the hottest temperature ever recorded.
Countries around the world are now struggling to deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus lockdowns, and many of the world’s strongest economies have nearly crashed completely.
The unemployment rate is the highest it’s been in decades, businesses everywhere are declaring bankruptcy, our healthcare systems are overloaded and under-supplied, our children are not able to go to school, and social unrest has turned our streets into racially-charged battle grounds fighting for political and organizational change.
The events of the last seven months have left many of us feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. If you’re feeling somewhat world-weary and pessimistic, you’re not alone- Umair Haque is feeling the exact same way.
Is this the Collapse of Civilisation?
“There’s not — or there shouldn’t be, by now — any real debate on the point that we are now living through the probable end of human civilization,” .
That is the opinion of London-based economist, consultant, and author, Umair Haque. According to him, we are staring down the barrel of the end of human civilization, and it will likely happen over the next thirty to fifty years.
“It’s made of climate change, mass extinction, ecological collapse, and the economic depressions, financial implosions, political upheavals, pandemics, plagues, floods, fires, and social breakdowns all those will ignite,” .
According to Haque, the COVID-19 pandemic is a warning of what is to come. It destroyed our sense of normalcy, stability, and placidity, and showed us how quickly and easily life can come to a complete halt.
He believes that the virus will be with us for years to come, and we’ll see spikes of cases and outbreaks here and there, which will have a detrimental effect on economies, on individual’s mental health as they constantly deal with lockdowns and social isolation, and on our political systems.
But, he says, our social, economic, and financial systems are only superficial- the problems will become much deeper than that.
Welcome to the 2030s
As climate change continues to intensify, Haque believes that by the time we reach the 2030s, all those superficial systems we depend on will simply collapse. The COVID-19 pandemic brought them to a halt, but climate change will destroy them irreparably.
“Tomorrow, the difference will be that those systems will come to a halt, not just our temporary access to them. They will be “offline”, crashed, broken, devastated, wrecked, depleted, bankrupt, and paralyzed,” .
He points to the examples of the wildfires that hit California and Australia, noting that while they were devastating, they were able to be controlled. Ten years from now, however, climate change will have made fires like these annual events. Governments and social systems will not have the money to pay for the cost of repairing millions of dollars worth of damaged and destroyed homes, schools, and businesses.
“Just like we have Rust Belt towns today — places that are being abandoned by deindustrialization — so too we’ll have Fire Belt and Flood Belt towns and cities and villages tomorrow,” .
When those places are destroyed, he says, they will take their financial systems, healthcare systems, jobs, incomes, pensions, and wages with them. These areas will be uninhabitable, and again, all those superficial systems will break.
Haque is calling this the Climate Depression of the 2030s. This downturn, he says, will be much worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s, because there will be a huge percentage of humanity that will have nowhere to live, no food to eat, and no way to find work.
Read: Want to double world food production? Return the land to small farmers.
The 2040s: The Decade of Mass Extinction
The 2040s are when Haque believes that we will truly begin to see the mass extinction of plant and animal life. Insects, bees, worms, and fish, will be the first to go, which will bring the entire ecological system crashing down.
This, he says, is when what he refers to as our primary systems begin to fall apart. These include energy, air, food, water, and medicine.
“The soil turns to dust, no harvest, no food. Now you have to compete bitterly just for food. The rivers turn to mud, because the fish are gone. Now clean water becomes a luxury. Raw materials become inaccessible. The basic compounds medicines are made of become scarce,” .
This is the decade in which the wealthy people in the world will learn what it’s like to live the way the poor eighty percent of the planet always have. Rationing food, water, and medicine, and making decisions between eating or treating a sick family member, washing the dishes or bathing. The pursuit of happiness and fulfillment will be replaced by the daily goal of subsistence.
The 2050s: The Final Goodbye
According to Haque, the 2050s will be the end of the road.
“Now the collapse of our civilization’s primary systems — of energy, air, food, water, and medicine — goes permanent, and goes nuclear. Do you know how to put an ocean back together? A rain forest? A prairie? Neither do I. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. And having gone, so are the most basic of things they nourish us with, energy, air, water, food, medicine, and so on,” .
At this point, having money will no longer matter. All that will matter is having power and the will to use it. Cities and towns will begin to turn on each other and nations will fall apart. It’ll be every tribe for themselves, fighting for the last of what’s left.
Corona: A Warning
Haque believes that the COVID-19 pandemic is trying to teach us how not to end as a civilization. This, he says, is accomplished by taking care of one another, by investing in the things we’ll need for tomorrow, and taking care of the planet that we cannot survive without.
“Put aside your stupid squabbles, and your pointless pursuits. Put down the remote control, the phone, the drug, the fix. You are here on planet earth. Are you really here on planet earth?”
Is it Too Late for Us?
Haque’s predictions are quite grim, and while they are a very real possibility, not everyone is predicting doomsday- yet.
According to NASA, it may not be too late to limit some of the worst effects of climate change. To do this, however, they say it will take a two-tiered approach.
- “mitigation” – reducing the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere
- “adaptation” – learning to live with, and adapt to, the climate change that has already been set in motion .
The solution to climate change will require a globally-coordinated response, as well as local efforts at the city and regional level to reduce the amount of carbon emissions that are being released into the atmosphere .
Scientists are saying that we can use science to understand the problem, but the only way to actually do anything about it is to get governments and organizations on board.
“Science is great for understanding the problem,” says Jewel Tomasula, a doctoral student ecologist at Georgetown University. “Climate change is a physical problem, and we can work on it with our data and really understand it. But that’s not what’s really going to fix it. … The way that problems like this have been addressed in the past is by having that political will and mobilization,” .
While the clock is ticking, we haven’t run out of time yet. If we want to combat climate change and ensure that the planet is still habitable thirty years from now, we must come together as a global society to make positive and drastic changes. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.