Futuribles Journal n° 404

Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement - Société, modes de vie

Where are We Heading? A Civilisation on the Brink


Futuribles journal, which pioneered political ecology in the 1970s, is constantly drawing its readers’ attention to long-term issues, beginning with the limits inherent in the Western developmental model. That model, combined with population expansion, puts constant pressure on the ecosystem (consumption of natural resources, pollution of all kinds…), to the point where, at the pace of growth we are currently seeing, humanity might not survive it without drastically –and very quickly– changing its way of life and its modes of production and consumption.

It is this issue of the long-term survival of our civilization (for, let us say, 40 or so years –or a hundred at the very most– which is not so far away in terms of the age of humanity) that Pierre Bonnaure examines here. “Where are we heading?” he asks, drawing a parallel between humanity’s entry into the Neolithic age that marks the beginnings of our civilization (sedentism) and its entry into what we now conventionally term the Anthropocene, the new geological age that begins in the late 19th century with the industrial revolution, in which human activities “reached a scale of magnitude comparable to natural phenomena.” Are we on the eve of a great bifurcation or have we reached a plateau we can remain on by continuous adaptation and innovation? This article would seem, rather, to suggest that humanity is heading for disaster (toward the great bifurcation or collapse), even if Bonnaure keeps open a tiny window of optimism with the idea that we might achieve an energy transition commensurate with the demands of the situation –an exploit of colossal proportions.

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