Meg Wheatley on civilisational collapse: how long do we have, how to live in it

The extra Wild episode that I think could have been too confronting for Apple and Spotify

You might have caught the latest Wild interview, published just now on the podcast apps.

It’s with collapse theorist and global leadership consultant Margaret (Meg) Wheatley and we talk wide and wild about the history of civilisational collapse and how our civilisation is, according to Meg and many other historians, economists and scientists, currently in its deadly decline (like many experts in this space, Meg argues we are now in the collapse…it’s not a foreshadow).

Partway through the conversation (and after Meg told me before I hit record that she will only be able to give brutally honest answers) I realised some of the questions I wanted to put to her were not for everyone. Or, more to the point, the answers were not for everyone. And so I decided to run them as a separate mini-episode to publish here. I feel most of us here are somewhat primed for her answers. Also, I felt it would be good to have a space to talk through responses and feelings afterwards. We cover (so you are warned):

  • How long we have left

  • Whether this information is for everyone (do we need to get everyone on board, fast?)

  • How to live when we accept this idea, how to be with kids etc.

I’ve also put the straight audio version at the bottom, if you prefer.

I’d be interested to know how familiar this idea is to you. Has this idea of collapse hit your radar, are you talking about it? Perhaps you came across it when it was being discussed some years ago, as something predicted to play out now, in books by Jared Diamond etc.? Or via other communities (eg the Meta-crises and meta-mordernism vortexes). I touch on it in this episode with Gaya Harrington who revisits the 1972 Club of Rome report that predicts collapse for 2040.

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I wind up crying with Meg. I’m crying a lot at the moment as my emotional being is trying to process the enormity of what’s going on. In this instance I cry from the relief of being recognised, of having of what I know to be true seen by another.

Membership crew - you might have noticed I’ve paused on sharing chapters of my next book, as I’d been doing here and here. I’m sorry about this! I am still writing, but I’ve been wrestling with some of the questions I put to Meg and so haven’t felt comfortable sharing anything lately.

I’ve not been going in truthfully enough.

I’ve not been sure if there will be audience for what I’m writing.

And so Meg’s final comments at the end hit me. Hard.

Some other thoughts from the week

  • I’m noticing a lot of people questioning utilitarianism, somewhat off the back of the tech bros bastardising it for vested ends, which I cover in this podcast with the guy at the centre of it, Will Macaskill.

    Gioia writes about Why I Ran Away from Philosophy Because of Sam Bankman-Fried, for instance.

  • I have been messaging back and forth with my dear friend Berry about the rabid dialogue on my Instagram and beyond. In case you missed it, I posted this tile below with the caption: “If you choose to comment, I ask that you take a breath and imagine saying it to my face, IRL. Let’s try to preserve our humanity… starting here. Go!”

Sadly, no one paid attention to the invite and it resulted in more than 2000 mostly divisive, bifurcated comments. I said to Berry, I’m trying to fathom it, to find the answers… She wrote back “We cannot handle it, is the answer”.

  • I also posted about the boardgame Monopoly being a capitalist concept, and the wonderful adventurer Alastair Humphreys sent me this bit of trivia: Monopoly was always conceived as statement on capitalism! But it gets better: it was created by a leftwing feminist called Lizzy Magie… who never got the credit for it.

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Thanks for sticking with me on all this, and with the Wild podcast brainstorming last week. Man, it made me feel glad to be alive and to be here with you. I’ll report back on outcomes soon. (For anyone who missed it, the community bandied tighter to help me map out how I could get sponsors/funds to keep Wild going…more than 100 suggestions, extending to meet-ups, live records and starting a political party!).

Sarah xx

Here’s the audio episode running to 14 minutes:

The full video is for paid subscribers

This is Precious
This is Precious
Sarah Wilson