Hundreds of scientists, writers and academics from 30 countries sounded a warning to humanity in an open letter published in the Guardian in December: Policymakers and the rest of us must “engage openly with the risk of disruption and even collapse of our societies.” “Damage to the climate and environment” will be the overarching cause, and “researchers in many areas” have projected widespread social collapse as “a credible scenario this century.”

It’s not hard to find the “collapseology” studies they are talking about. In a report for the sustainability group Future Earth, a survey of scientists found that extreme weather events, food insecurity, freshwater shortages and the broad degradation of life-sustaining ecosystems “have the potential to impact and amplify one another in ways that might cascade to create global systemic collapse.” A 2019 report from the Breakthrough National Center for Climate Restoration, a think tank in Australia, projected that a rapidly warming world of depleted resources and mounting pollution would lead to “a largely uninhabitable Earth” and a “breakdown of nations and the international order.” Analysts in the U.S. and British military over the past two years have issued similar warnings of climate- and environment-driven chaos.

Of course, if you are a nonhuman species, collapse is well underway. Ninety-nine percent of the tall grass prairie in North America is gone, by one estimate; 96% of the biomass of mammals — biomass is their weight on Earth — now consists of humans, our pets and our farm animals; nearly 90% of the fish stocks the U.N. monitors are either fully exploited, over exploited or depleted; a multiyear study in Germany showed a 76% decline in insect biomass.

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