Pandemic Journal (# 12): Threats to Humanity’s Survival 

The current COVID-19 pandemic, at its worst, is a threat to humanity’s survival. Other such threats have been identified by the Commission for the Human Future, an Australian  organization of researchers and citizens “committed to promoting solutions to threats facing humanity and the Planet.”[1] Here are the ten such risks they identify:

  • “Decline of key natural resources and an emerging global resource crisis, especially in water.”
  • “Collapse of ecosystems that support life, and the mass extinction of species.”
  • “Human population growth and demand, beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity.”
  • “Global warming, sea level rise and changes in the Earth’s climate affecting all human activity.”
  • “Universal pollution of the Earth system and all life by chemicals.”
  • “Rising food insecurity and failing nutritional quality.”[2]
  • “Nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction.”
  • “Pandemics of new and untreatable disease.”
  • “Advent of powerful, uncontrolled new technologies”
  • “National and global failure to understand and act preventively on these risks.”

Their report then sets forth the following “pathways” that “we must adopt in order to make the solutions possible and achievable:”

  • “[R]estore: trust in our political class; greater equity across society; science as a factual basis for policy; the capability of the public service to develop and advise government impartially and the capability and effectiveness of diplomacy. We must also encourage the public to demand long-term solutions to fundamental problems, not just short-term ‘fixes.”
  • “[S]olutions [should be] inclusive of voices outside of science, business, government and the traditional centres of power. This means especially including the voices of women, of youth, of First People the world over, of minorities, the poor and physically isolated. We need to recognise, hear and share, their views, values and solutions. We need to know there are other ways to solve these threats than through political, military or economic conquest.”
  • “[R]edefine ‘security’ to a concept that begins with the personal safety and well-being of all citizens”
  • “[W]e need a natural world that is capable of sustaining not only humans, but all the other species, habitats and ecosystems which support life on our Planet. . . . {O]ur system must still produce enough food for all people, along with a reasonable and equitable standard of living.”
  • “[S]ound education in living healthily and sustainably, within the limits of our planet, will be indispensable to humans surviving and thriving in this, the Century of our greatest risk. Every citizen of Earth must understand their role and their responsibility in making our future safe and our wellbeing secure.”
  • “We need . . . to institutionalise in government and businesses, processes for understanding and assessing long term risk, planning for and preventing it. This involves a greater respect for scientific evidence and taking full account of the costs of inaction as well as the costs of action.”
  • We need “to develop a new science – the science of human survival and wellbeing. A holistic approach to human survival requires a new scientific vision, to objectively understand the threats we face and how to solve them all, without making any of them worse.”
  • We must “increase public understanding of the evidence for catastrophic risk and decrease the volume of misinformation and public deceit released by special interests and their followers..”
  • [H]umanity is facing an existential emergency. This means that we are going to have to develop unconventional ways of developing the human system as it cannot be solved by clinging to old ways of thought.”



[1]  Cox, Ten threats to humanity’s survival identified in Australian report calling for action, Guardian (April 21, 2020); About the Commission for The Human Future; Commission for the Human Future, Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century (April  2020).

[2]  “The [current] coronavirus pandemic has brought hunger to millions of people around the world. National lockdowns and social distancing measures are drying up work and incomes, and are likely to disrupt agricultural production and supply routes — leaving millions to worry how they will get enough to eat. . . . Already, 135 million people had been facing acute food shortages, but now with the pandemic, 130 million more could go hungry in 2020, said Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, a United Nations agency. Altogether, an estimated 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by year’s end. . . . The pandemic is also slowing efforts to deal with the historic locust plague that has been ravaging the East and Horn of Africa. The outbreak is the worst the region has seen in decades and comes on the heels of a year marked by extreme droughts and floods. But the arrival of billions of new swarms could further deepen food insecurity, said Cyril Ferrand, head of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s resilience team in eastern Africa.” (Dahir,  ‘Instead of Coronavirus, the Hunger Will Kill Us.’ A Global food Crisis Looms,  N.Y. Times (April 22, 2020).)