Our civilisation is facing the sternest challenge in the history of our species. It consists of ten huge, man-made threats, which are now combining to imperil our future.
In “Surviving the 21st Century” (Springer International Publishing 2017) I explore these ten instersecting risks – ecological collapse, resource depletion, weapons of mass destruction, climate change, global poisoning, food crises, population and urban overexpansion, pandemic disease, dangerous new technologies and self-delusion. Also, I look at what we can do, as a species, and as individuals, to limit them and make our grandchildren’s future a safe, secure and more assured one.
This is the focal issue of our time. There is nothing more important than human survival. Yet the debate among our politicians, governments, industry and the media is focussed on matters far more trivial, as if such threats did not exist.
To show that it is real, I present evidence from the world’s very best and most reputable scientific institutions and people. I present their findings in plain, simple language so everyone can understand it.
How did I embark on such a grave topic? you may ask. Well in my many years as a science writer I began meeting more and more well-informed, well-educated, serious and thoughtful people – scientists, parents and grandparents and young people especially – who told me they were fearful that we are entering the end-game of human history. That civilisation, and maybe even our species, will not survive the compound dangers we are creating for ourselves.
‘Surviving the 21st Century’ is my attempt to assess whether they are right or wrong. It surveys the objective evidence for these ten mega-issues – and what we can and should do as a species and as individual citizens to overcome them.
This book is the third in a non-fiction science trilogy. Two earlier books looked at the question of whether or not we can feed ten billion humans on a hot planet using our current food systems, and the impact on our lives, health and genes of the avalanche of poisons which humanity activity is releasing into the global environment – and what we can do about both issues.
Its take-home message is that there a ten threats, any of which can wreck civilization – and we need to come up with cross-cutting solutions that solve all ten. Not solutions that work for some areas but make other threats worse, as are presently being proposed.
For example, current solutions to global food insecurity involve burning more fossil fuels and releasing more toxic chemicals. Both will exacerbate climate change, making food production much more difficult, while damaging the health of humans and all other living creatures.
However the book explains there are ways to produce food that involve ameliorating the climate, repairing landscapes, saving water and endangered species, raising farmers’ incomes and improving consumer health. It is cross-cutting solutions like these that the world needs to discuss and pursue.
The book also probes two controversial themes. The first is whether our cherished beliefs about money, politics, religion and the human narrative now prevent our recognising the real dangers that surround us and are hindering their solution – and how these powerful human belief systems can be re-dedicated to our survival.
The second questions whether our species, Homo sapiens (wise man) is fit to bear the title and whether or not our collective behaviour can be described as ‘wise’.
Surviving the 21st Century makes a point of identifying positive solutions, being developed around the world, to our most pressing problems. And it explores two paradigm-shattering developments in society – the evolution of the human ability to ‘think as a species’ through global connections made at lightspeed on the internet and social media, and the emergence of women as world leaders for a safer, more sustainable future.
Finally, it proposes a ‘report card’ which will enable everyone in the world to judge our chances of survival. It measures our collective progress towards a safer, cleaner, more sustainable future – or towards catastrophic events that will affect our entire species and our children’s children for generations to come.
- Julian Cribb