What if our civilization were to collapse? Not many centuries into the future, but in our own lifetimes? Most people recognize that we face huge challenges today, from climate change and its potentially catastrophic consequences to a plethora of socio-political problems, but we find it hard to face up to the very real possibility that these crises could produce a collapse of our entire civilization. Yet we now have a great deal of evidence to suggest that we are up against growing systemic instabilities that pose a serious threat to the capacity of human populations to maintain themselves in a sustainable environment.
In this important book, Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens confront these issues head-on. They examine the scientific evidence and show how its findings, often presented in a detached and abstract way, are connected to people’s ordinary experiences – joining the dots, as it were, between the Anthropocene and our everyday lives. In so doing they provide a valuable guide that will help everyone make sense of the new and potentially catastrophic situation in which we now find ourselves. Today, utopia has changed sides: it is the utopians who believe that everything can continue as before, while realists put their energy into making a transition and building local resilience. Collapse is the horizon of our generation. But collapse is not the end – it’s the beginning of our future. We will reinvent new ways of living in the world and being attentive to ourselves, to other human beings and to all our fellow creatures.
The critical situation in which our planet finds itself is no longer in doubt. Some things are already collapsing while others are beginning to do so, increasing the possibility of a global catastrophe that would mean the end of the world as we know it. As individuals, we are faced with a daily deluge of bad news about the worsening situation, preparing ourselves to live with years of deep uncertainty about the future of the planet and the species that inhabit it, including our own. How can we cope? How can we project ourselves beyond the present, think bigger and find ways not just to survive the collapse but to live it? In this book, the sequel to How Everything Can Collapse, the authors show that a change of course necessarily requires an inner journey and a radical rethinking of our vision of the world. Together these might enable us to remain standing during the coming storm, to develop a new awareness of ourselves and of the world and to imagine new ways of living in it. Perhaps then it will be possible to regenerate life from the ruins, creating new alliances in differing directions – with ourselves and our inner nature, between humans, with other living beings and with the earth on which we dwell.
In the merciless arena of life, we are all subject to the law of the jungle, to ruthless competition and the survival of the fittest – such is the myth that has given rise to a society that has become toxic for our planet and for our and future generations. But today the lines are shifting. A growing number of new movements and thinkers are challenging this skewed view of the world and reviving words such as ‘altruism’, ‘cooperation’, ‘kindness’ and ‘solidarity’. A close look at the wide spectrum of living beings reveals that, at all times and in all places, animals, plants, microorganisms and human beings have practised different forms of mutual aid. And those which survive difficult conditions best are not necessarily the strongest, but those which help each other the most. Pablo Servigne and Gauthier Chapelle explore a vast, forgotten continent of mutual aid in order to discover the mechanisms of this ‘other law of the jungle’. In so doing, they provide a more rounded view of the world of living things and give us some of the conceptual tools we need to move beyond the vicious circle of competition and self-destruction that is leading our civilization to the verge of collapse.