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INTRODUCTION: What is an Existential Threat?

Peace Child International encourages schools and communities to host MCAs that deal with “existential threats” to the future of life on earth. In his landmark book, Factfulness, Professor Hans Rosling famously explains why the world and the human family is in much better shape than most of us think it is – an optimism we in Peace Child seek to promote to all young people. However, at the end of the book, he describes Five Global Risks we need to be worried about:

  1. Global pandemics
  2. Financial collapse
  3. World war
  4. Climate emergency – and –
  5. Extreme poverty

Risks 2 and 5, though serious, do not actually threaten the existence of the human race or the natural eco-systems on which we depend for life. And if we include them, we have to include many others: inequality – particularly gender inequality; racism; terrorism; the arms trade; biodiversity loss; desertification; growth-based economics etc. The list is endless – and we encourage others to explore them.

For Peace Child International, existential threats unite us. Just as HG Wells pointed out that invasion by people from another planet would unite people and nations quicker than anything else, so the 3 x threats explored here should unite all peoples – transcending barriers of race, religion, nationality, gender, economics, lifestyle – Everything! For we ALL face each of these 3 x threats together.

  1. Global Pandemics: the Coronavirus is a very benign pandemic. It kills only about 1% of those infected. In 1918, Spanish Flu killed 10% of those infected. Ebola killed 90% of those who caught the disease. A global pandemic of a disease like Ebola could, therefore, wipe out humanity. Protecting ourselves against that eventuality, which science warns will happen at some point, is a massive priority for every nation, individual and family on our planet.
  2. All-out Nuclear World War: leaders of nuclear weapons states tell us that it is only the threat of Mutual Assured Destruction(MAD) in a nuclear war that has kept the world at peace these last 75 years. But it remains suicidal or ‘omni-cidal’ for humanity: quite simply mad! Nuclear weapons serve no military purpose: Earl Mountbatten was the first of many military commanders who pointed that out. Environmentalist, George Monbiot, described them, memorably, as “as much use to a soldier as a jack-hammer is to a watch-maker.” Humanity has banned landmines and poison gas: surely it makes sense, now, to ban weapons that run the risk of vaporising all of us?
  3. The Climate Emergency: this is perhaps the most dangerous, and insidious, threat to our existence. Science tells us that, unless we change our lifestyles and wean ourselves off our addiction to fossil fuel energy, – unless we embrace whole-heartedly the challenge of a Green New Deal – life, by the end of the 21st century will become very uncomfortable for our children and grand-children. Island states will disappear; large areas of Tropical land will become too hot to live in; droughts, forest fires and extreme weather will bring structural famine to much of humanity making normal life impossible. But, just as the frog settles comfortably into warming water until it boils and kills him, so humanity is afflicted by thinking: “We can handle this…” – settling comfortably into unsustainable lifestyles which will, eventually, kill us.

Schools and communities do not do enough to educate us all about these threats. Peace Child Intl. encourages you to use the MCA mechanism to educate your students – and, intergenerationally, whole communities – about these threats to our existence and make informed decisions on what we have to do to reduce, and eventually, to eliminate them.