29. 04. 2015 Corporate responsibility

Is our civilization on a brink of a total extinction or does it ‘only’ need a restart?

The collapse does not equal to the very end. Read an interview with Miroslav Bárta on the restart of our society.

He is a leading Egyptologist from the Charles University in Prague. For more than 10 years he has been focusing on the relationship between an individual and his country in ancient ages and the rise and collapse of civilizations. Together with M. Kovář he wrote a scientific bestseller The Collapse and Regeneration: The Journeys of Civilisations and Cultures. On the basis of his experience he draws parallels between the civilisation of Ancient Egypt and the present era and in his reflections he forecasts how our society could collapse and end. Miroslav Bárta. We’ve asked him what would a collapse of our civilization mean and what can be done. If you want to learn more, come and join us on May 28th in Bratislava at the central European conference on responsible entrepreneurship – the CEE CSR Summit 2015 and ask him yourselves.  

In your understanding – a collapse doesn’t mean a total and definite end. You believe it is a downfall of the existing system and a gradual construction of a new one. You claim that our present society is on a brink of such a collapse. What would be the impact of such collapse on common people, society and businesses?

If my hypothesis is correct, it will be above all a challenge and an opportunity. According to my forecast, we could see a reduction of the global market and reinforced influence of local groups and local solutions. Even the EU legislation, dealing with the subsidiarity concept that emphasizes the role of individual regions slowly reacts to this development. The main role in unravelling the anatomy of these processes will be played by the humanities. Large share of modern crises stem from religion, culture, history or social conditions. If we fail to understand them and fail to comprehend them, we won’t be able to react and successfully deal with them.     

Is the rise of circular economy which emphasizes reusing, refitting and recycling of products at the end of their life cycle one of the possible answers? Are we ahead of a major transformation?

According to my lay opinion, the paradigm of unrestrained consumerism that fails to respect the energy conservation formula as well as the fact that all resources are limited is in general very harmful. A key to move forward is the policy of increased education and awareness. This is totally absent at the moment. Important role is also played by the basic research, which is the cornerstone of a modern and developed society. In my view it is the only guarantee of finding new energy and material sources.

Collapses of civilisations are often accompanied by external crises, such as natural catastrophes, major climate changes or migration waves of nations from areas which became uninhabitable. The climate changes, according to your opinion, led to the Arab Spring in numerous countries of Northern Africa and Middle East for example. More specifically it was the rise in social tensions provoked by crop failures which were caused by draught and fires in Russia. Is it possible to avert a collapse by reducing our impact on the environment? 

No, it isn’t. The climate is also evolving in specific cycles which cannot be altered. The collapse itself doesn’t mean anything else then a fast loss of system’s complexity, the dissolution of existing managing structures and a gradual rise of new ones. The worst aspect of this process is the transition between the new and the old status quo. As examples we can take the years 1914, 1938, 1989 etc. What can be done is to prepare ourselves for a certain crisis period in terms of making sure, that the system in which we live and which we shape will be robust, functional and free of any nonsense. This however is not the case at the moment. A clear proof of that is the vetocratic principle which is successful in preventing positive changes. In such case an eventual collapse would be a positive thing because it dissolves non-functioning systems and enables their restart.      


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