World Future Society: We’re facing a Global MegaCrisis

I’ve always regarded the World Future Society (WFS), a non-profit, non-partisan organization devoted to forecasting the future, as leaning toward the optimistic. I guess that makes sense for a group committed to the future — at least one that wants to keep its members and donor base!

Nevertheless, as someone who fears that we are heading into perilous times absent major course corrections, I was heartened to find WFS’s 2011 feature on what it calls a potential Global MegaCrisis.

The WFS defines this MegaCrisis as “a global environmental and economic collapse or near collapse, along with attendant problems of rising prices, mass protests, widespread psychic stress, and lawlessness.” These trends could drive it:

  • “Climate Change, No Matter What.”
  • “Political Will to Reduce CO2 Is Lacking.”
  • “Methane May Be Worse Than CO2.”
  • “Freshwater Is Becoming More Scarce.”
  • “Recession Likely to Last for Years.”
  • “Severe Institutional Failures.”
  • “Cyberwarfare/Cyberterrorism.”
  • “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

Four scenarios

The WFS assesses our options and envisions one of four scenarios taking place:

  • “Scenario 1: Decline to Disaster”
  • “Scenario 2: Muddling Down”
  • “Scenario 3: Muddling Up”
  • “Scenario 4: Rise to Maturity”

Halal vs. Marien

Two noted future studies scholars and analysts, William Halal and Michael Marien, add opinion pieces assessing the likelihood of these scenarios coming to pass.

Halal is the more optimistic of the two, predicting that we will muddle up to a better place, buoyed by his conviction that “The World Is Entering an Advanced Stage of Evolution.”

Marien, on the other hand, believes it is more likely we will muddle down, awash in “Infoglut, Ignorance, Indecision, and Inadequacy.”

Reluctantly, I must say that my money is on Marien. I’ve admired his work for years, and his current thinking reflects a career immersed in understanding the choices before us as a society. In addition, while I agree that humankind is fully poised to take some remarkable forward steps in our development, I doubt that we will fully embrace the opportunities. Rather, I fear that small pockets of light — a mini-Enlightenment of sorts — will flicker about amid what the late Jane Jacobs characterized as a new Dark Age.


Am I too pessimistic? Are you interested in the future (and who isn’t)? The full feature may be worth your time and attention.


Added note: A group of researchers from MIT also are predicting a severe global depression if we continue to pursue unsustainable consumption patterns, as Eric Pfeiffer blogs for Yahoo! News (link here):

A new study from researchers at Jay W. Forrester’s institute at MIT says that the world could suffer from “global economic collapse” and “precipitous population decline” if people continue to consume the world’s resources at the current pace.


5 responses

  1. David
    Unfortunately i have to agree with your take and Marian on this because over the last 15 years i have not seen any progress in key areas that would lead me to believe that we are making strides in things such as job growth, economy in general, healthcare, world conflict, global warming, chronic illness, downfall of the American Family a whole, fuel prices, middle class growth in a positive more stable direction,People as a whole feeling grounded, directed and motivated. All of these areas i have seen mostly a decline in, and i do not see a change in the near future, so unless something dramatic happens in the next five years to turn things around, the outcome could be Grim. all we can do as individuals is try to live our lives the way we think we would like them to be and try and fight off the opposition, which there is plenty of, I also think as a society we are way too infuenced by internet and television and look at what they are exposing us to!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Unfortunately David, I also agree with you and Marian. I’ve always been an optimist, but the glut of information that I see today leads me to believe that we are not headed in the right direction and I see no reason to think we will ever be. I hope that I’m wrong about this.

  3. Unfortunately, I would have to weigh in with even more pessimism than you express. I know it doesn’t have to be that way…but given the degree of incompetence and denial I have seen in leaders generally, the resistance to change that humans as a general rule exhibit, and the inertia that complex systems inherently possess…doesn’t bode well.

    Having said that, I don’t believe that all is lost. There will be a phoenix arising from the ashes. We are resilient and though much is at stake and likely to be lost, a new order will emerge. I sincerely hope that my experience is more negative than most (I am predisposed to getting myself onto the front lines of impending doom), but I fear it is not. My inclination is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. It absolutely CAN happen either way, but my confidence in leadership has taken a supreme blow.

  4. I’m not exactly optimistic about our nation (never mind our world) rising to this challenge. If we’re still fighting a sizable portion of the electorate over personal autonomy issues that were settled half a century ago, I doubt we can look forward enough to avoid disaster. With a little luck, I won’t be around to see it happen.

    • Speaking about mega disasters,and this fits right in with this topic and bullying, because now we are being bullied at the pump. I saw a show 2 night s ago with Dr. Micheal greenberger and he was discussing gas prices and why they are going up and the real reason for it. It seems Wall st. is gambling with our money and placing bets with investors such as goldman and Sachs and Morgan stanley and that is the reason why gas is so high. There is no supply and demand issue and that has been proven. supply is at an 16 year high and demand is at an 8 year low. Wall st. is gambling with whether the price will go up from day to day and it is just like gambling at a casino. Every .1 cent that gas goes up it is $200 million dollars for the oil companies and Wall st bankers who are building luxary homes and yachts in the Hamptons. President Obama, Greenberger said refuses to address the issue because his 2 biggest campaign funders are Goldman and Sachs and Morgan Stanley. If you would like to see a video on this and hear Greenbergers story go to google and punch in dr. greenberger and gas prices and look for Wall street and gas prices, bing video, you will be shocked at what is going on. They are bettng on food as well and other commodities.Greenberger went on to say if gas goes over $4.50 a gallon we will be flat on our back and we cannot sustain that kind of blow to our economy. Unreal!!!!!!!!!!

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