Identifying news in the Cultural Breakdown scenario is difficult, owing to the more subjective nature of potential news. State collapse, for instance, could be seen as simply “out with the old, in with the new”. But we don’t have to wait until sand fills the deserted streets of the cities to identify a culture in danger as opposed to a culture in evolution.
Peak Oil is a pending crisis which is seen as completely undeniable to some, but blatantly fictional to others. Few can rationally deny that the world faces a genuine problem from the growing demand for energy and fuel production. The degree of that problem is potentially stabilised or vastly magnified by whichever forecast of planetary resources proves most accurate.
Overpopulation is another current crisis which is impossible to deny. Billions of humans are already poor and starving. Inflating populations and stretching demand for resources even further will inevitably lead to a higher proportion of humanity competing more and more desperately for the necessities of life.
Multiple simultaneous instances of independent state collapse are nothing new, but in an examination of a Cultural Breakdown, it makes sense to take stock of the current world political climate. The remaining superpower and military powerhouse is economically collapsing; the two emerging superpowers are home to hundreds of millions of poor and starving; states of the Middle East are in the depths of a violent democratic revolution; a huge proportion of Africa is fraught with conflict – wars, oppressive regimes, uprisings or civil wars (Egypt, the Maghreb, Ethiopia, Somalia, Libya, Nigeria, Darfur, Niger, Central African Republic, Congo, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Chad have all suffered such conflicts recently, most of which continue); fundametalist-inspired terrorism inflicts murder, fear and excuses for oppression; 9 separate states possess nuclear weapons, intended to “deter” their enemies; egalitarianism and adherence to the Geneva Conventions seem no more than a pipe dream in most of the world.
Attempting an objective summary of the above: there are increasingly more of us, there is increasingly less to go around, and we just can’t seem to get along.
When Rome fell in the 5th century, plunging Europe into half a millenium of cultural vacuum, the Earth’s population was between 200 million and 300 million people. Today that figure is nearly 7 billion. That’s 7,000,000,000 humans. Could that many people survive for centuries until a new Renaissance? Or are we in a spot of bother?