What is collapse?



In the sustainability context, collapse means breakdown of civilization in rather sudden and rapid way. By rapid I means the plummetting process takes relatively short time compared to its growth period, e.g. 10 years (Caveat: the number is just an example, don’t take it seriously), compared to its growth since Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.

But collapse is not end of the world:


  • Not everbody dies, but many will.
  • No certain doomsday, but in different cases. Many will suffer before die.
  • Those who survive will live in poorer condition than now.

Overshoot does not necessary lead to collapse, if we change our current way of living as soon as possible.


How will the collapse look like?



Here is my intuitive feeling (Caveat: NOT prediction!):

  1. Food price skyrocket – mainly because:

    • Global population (its level and its growth rate)
    • Water scarcity (translate into food price because irrigation-feed agriculture is the largest water consumer)
    • Soil degradation and desertification
    • Biofuel (peak oil will intensify it)
    • Global warming (precipitation pattern changing, glaciers retreating threaten future river flow, sea level rising to inundate river delta)

  2. Increasing number of failed states and civil wars

    1. Food price hike sparks riot.
    2. Large number of unemployed young people
    3. Government loses control on its territory.

  3. Energy price increasing steadily – no more cheap energy avaialble, international trade will shrink except basic commodity (e.g. grain, source of energy)
  4. Destructive pandemic is likely.
  5. International political instability

    • Illegal migration rising
    • Transnational crimes (e.g. piracy)
    • Cult
    • Terrorism spreading
    • Regional/world war

Most importantly, if our current way of living remains the same, the collapse will fall in the 21st century (any time from now to 2099). Still long? No, it will be in my lifetime.


Last updated: 10 October 2009