The past 40 years of global politics have been punctuated by cycles of concern about the basic sustainability of the trajectory on which human societies are headed, cycles which have been provoked by particular environmental scares but which have frequently been articulated as presaging a more systemic crisis. We moved thus from concerns about pesticides in the early 1960s, to those about ‘limits to growth’ and the ‘population bomb’ by the early 1970s. In a later cycle in the 1980s we moved from regional concerns about acid rain or nuclear fallout to ‘global’ concerns like ozone depletion, deforestation, biodiversity loss, or climate change. In the present cycle, climate change has again loomed large and is increasingly understood through a lens of its potential to cause industrial civilization to ‘collapse’.
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