Dilemmas of humanity abound. There is little need to look at statistical data to know that we are in a spiral of crises, from the environmental and climate crisis to the crises of poverty and hunger. In 1993, the philosophers Edgar Morin and Anne-Brigitte Kern used the term ‘polycrisis’ in their book Terre-Patrie (‘Homeland Earth’). Morin and Kern argued that ‘there is no single vital problem, but many vital problems, and it is this complex intersolidarity of problems, antagonisms, crises, uncontrolled processes, and the general crisis of the planet that continues the number one vital problem’.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the resulting disruption of multiple global supply chains, policy think tanks have increasingly adopted the term polycrisis to signify humanity’s destabilized status quo. The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Global Risk Report uses the newish word 13 times in 90 pages. Scholars from a range of disciplines (including Columbia University historian Adam Tooze) have written about the polycrisis, and both Cascade Institute and Omega Institute have published papers and reports on it. The Cascade Institute notes that “a global polycrisis occurs when crises in multiple global systems become causally entangled in ways that significantly degrade humanity’s prospects.