Many authors and research teams have noted serious indications and risks of an escalating multi-faceted global crisis in which various subsidiary crises - environmental, financial, economic, social, national-political, nationalist, cyber, epidemiological - will feed each other. The authors range from, for example, IT multi-millionaire James Martin (2007) and the former Dutch right-liberal party leader and Defence Minister Joris Voorhoeve (2011), through integral theorists like Ervin Laszlo (2010), the Stockholm Environment Institute and Paul Raskin et al. (2002), to critical theorists like Ulrich Beck (2009) and Nancy Fraser (2013). Growing recognition over the past two generations of such a possibility is not matched by corresponding global precaution. The veiled and contestable nature of many of the processes that contribute to the multiple crises and of their interactions, combined with the growth imperatives of capitalism, techno-optimism and market theology, plus nationalist loyalties, ambitions and rivalries mean that denial, inattention and non-preparation prevail. Further, the risks and eventual harms are disproportionately imposed on the poor and marginal, both inter-and intra-nationally, as vividly illustrated already in the immediate impacts, crisis-response practices and long-term results of “eruptions” such as hurricanes. This allocation of risks and harms means ruling elites typically largely carry on regardless. This chapter first explores some of the mechanisms at work, including with special reference to climate change. One family of mechanisms, the ruling myths of techno-optimism, embrace “Fear No Evil.” They deny danger, thanks to a belief that technological transformations mean crisis will never arrive or it will always trigger rapid solutions. Unending economic growth will be assured through capitalist-driven innovation, as envisaged by, for example, Martin, Friedman (2016), or Diamindis and Kotler (2012). A second family of issues concerns endemic underestimation and indifference towards dangers - “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” - typically based on a tacit expectation that nearly all eventual costs can be imposed on weaker groups with the rich escaping relatively unharmed. Further, the costs and risks to weaker groups are systematically downgraded and excluded. Relevant techniques include: requiring types of quantitative data that have never been collected for poor groups (for example, on diseases particular to the poor); using monetary measures in which the poor count for little; inverting the precautionary principle to prioritize avoiding any risk of damaging the interests of the wealthy; and so on. Given a dominant “No Worries” culture, crisis becomes an inevitable stage before any eventual response and change. The second half of the chapter considers some possible lines of response and evolutionary paths. I focus most on the complex theory of global crisis developed since 1990 by Paul Raskin and his Tellus Institute associates, including Tariq Banuri, Gilberto Gallopin and Robert Kates, and recently updated in Raskin (2016). Their Great Transition Initiative (GTI) series anticipates several themes considered in the present volume. It refines the characterization of crises as both threat and opportunity and shows the need for powerful alternative visions, values, proposals and networks. It presents a set of scenarios that vary according to the relation between the intensity of crisis and the relevance and effectiveness of the preparations and capacities for response. “Barbarization Scenarios,” for example, will arise where severe crises are confronted by little capacity to rethink and innovate, especially where this is weakened by rigid nationalist identities. While crisis may be a necessary step in bringing about change, it is not a sufficient basis for desirable change. It can easily provoke fear, hate and increased selfishness. Craig Murphy’s work (e.g. 2005) on two centuries of efforts to build global governance arrangements identified other elements necessary for an effective progressive response. Networks must not only be formed and motivated but in addition, to be ready when crisis erupts, they must have produced practicable ideas and formed links to potentially sympathetic decision-makers. Otherwise crises will be used to enforce retrogressive change, for which ideas funded by money-power frequently sit ready and waiting, as illustrated in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine (2007). With reference to the requirements mentioned above for effective crisis anticipation, preparation and response suggested by Murphy and the GTI work, I evaluate the Rio+20 process through the 2012 global summit on sustainable development and the subsequent 2015 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations, 2012, 2015) that includes the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed by all governments. Are there some promising signs?.

Gasper, D. (2018). Insouciance, indifference and any inspiration in the face of emergent global crises?. In The Pedagogy of Economic, Political and Social Crises: Dynamics, Construals and Lessons (pp. 209–228). Retrieved from