WTF, How Did We Wind Up Here?
Two centuries of progress. Cheap, abundant fossil energy. The Industrial Revolution. The Great Acceleration. The verge of collapse.
There's a new paper, published just last week, by Nick King and Alec Jones of the Global Sustainability Institute, Cambridge. The abstract presents a handy summary of where we are today and how we got here:The globe-spanning, energy-intensive industrial civilisation that characterises the modern era represents an anomalous situation when it is considered against the majority of human history. Several large revolutions in terms of population (total size and rate of change), social organisation and patterns of energy and other resource use have occurred to bring about the modern world. The first major change that humans achieved after a long period (approximately 3 × 105 years) of living in small, dispersed bands of hunter-gatherers was the transition to an agriculture-based civilisation, which occurred independently in multiple locations. This was enabled to a large degree by the shift approximately 1 × 104 years ago to a warmer, more stable interglacial climate at global scale that has been characterised as the Holocene .
One of the major threats is growth itself or rather the limits to growth. History is full of instances in which growth was arrested or reversed, temporarily, but the history of mankind has been a story of growth. Today, however, it's not some war or plague or pestilence thwarting growth but the reality that Earth, our host, is finite and, as they say, you can't get blood out of a stone.
...The peak use rates across multiple crucial resource types shows that numerous resources had a synchrony of peak use centred on the year 2006.
...The ‘excess’ of energy provided by high-EROI energy resources has also provided the conditions for the enhancing feedback mechanisms of capital accumulation to permit the accumulation of wealth by sub-regions and -populations of the world. Evaluating  this phenomenon quantitatively through the application of predator–prey population dynamics models to assess the evolution of four factors (‘elites/commoners/nature/wealth’), identifies that (economic) ‘elites’ preying on resources and the labour of ‘commoners’ can lead to economic stratification and ecological strain and, ultimately, irreversible societal collapse. Applying  qualitative arguments demonstrates that the affluent proportion of the human population have disproportionate global environmental impact (resource use and pollutant emissions), but cultural factors (wealth accumulation, consumerism, etc.) make the necessary changes to lifestyle unlikely to occur.
...The growth in human populations and technological development can be linked  to resource consumption, and the propensity for humans to destroy forest ecosystems gives a high probability (>90%) that global civilisation is very likely to suffer a catastrophic collapse in future (within a few decades). The current extinction event also differs in that it is driven by the concurrence of phenomena unique to human actions including changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of animals and plants; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species .
Pandemics present another source of risk multiplication given their long history of strong feedbacks on human population dynamics and economic activity . Several studies made prescient links between destructive human activities, such as deforestation, and pandemic risks, which have been borne out by the COVID-19 pandemic of the early 2020s [45,46,47]. The potential threat of coronaviruses  was known to pose a risk to human populations, particularly with bats as a vector (due to the nature of their virome). ...Furthermore, the United Nations  warns that future pandemics may be more severe than COVID-19 in terms of virulence, fatality rate and other impacts.
...The increasing hyper-connectivity of the globalised economy  is a process characterised by the reduction in system resilience in favour of increased efficiency and complexity, which may increase the risk of initially small disturbances being subject to enhancing feedbacks that spread and potentially eventually create system-level threats (the ‘Butterfly Defect’). ...Furthermore, the global system may now have moved beyond human control or understanding  and may therefore be even more prone to catastrophic behaviour modes that can propagate in coupled systems through a range of unpredictable mechanisms .
Taking to the Lifeboats. A Glimmer of Hope?
It may be possible to control a ‘power down’ of global society as a preferable pathway to that of economic and environmental collapse . The ‘power down’ would comprise a concerted, global, long-term effort to reduce per capita energy and resource usage, equitably distribute resources and gradually decrease the global population including the possibility of ‘Building Lifeboats’ through community solidarity and preservation.
Colonialism, industrialisation, and the globalisation of supply chains has since reduced/removed the need for many nations to be self-reliant. This trend has increased global resilience to localised resource constraints whilst global resources remain plentiful (i.e., overall surpluses can be exported as needed) but has also increased overall global vulnerability to ‘de-complexification’.