Nafeez Ahmed on Synchronous Failure and Post-Pandemic Systems Change

March 30, 2020

As the pandemic grows, governments and communities are not only struggling to minimize loss of life and protect our fragile healthcare and economic systems, they are wrestling with questions about how we can recover when this storm eventually passes.

But how many people are thinking about the larger context of this crisis? How many recognize that this pandemic—or some other shock to our interconnected and brittle global systems—could trigger a massive “phase change,” and utterly remake the world as we know it?

I spoke with investigative journalist and systems thinker Nafeez Ahmed about these critical questions.

Nafeez and I discuss frameworks for understanding how the pandemic relates to the larger, systemic environmental, energy, economic, and political challenges we face—including Thomas Homer-Dixon’s concept of “Synchronous Failure,” Joseph Tainter’s “Collapse of Complex Societies,” C.S. Holling’s “Adaptive Life Cycle,” and Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine.” But far from being an abstract, academic exploration, Nafeez and I explore the real-world implications of these forces at play, and provide a call-to-action when we re-enter a world that has been transformed by COVID-19.

Please give it a watch or if you’d rather give it a listen on your favorite podcasting app, we’ve also released the interview on Crazy Town. Oh, and share with your friends and loved ones if you find it worth a listen.

We at Post Carbon Institute are closely monitoring the global COVID-19 pandemic and encouraging our staff, volunteers, and broader community to take great caution and practice social distancing. We’ll do our best to share insights and resourcesones grounded in PCI’s dedication to helping humanity address the broader sustainability crises of the 21st century and build a just and resilient future.

Our team at resilience.org has and will continue to publish important and timely essays on what the pandemic means for our communities and the larger, systemic crises our societies face. 


Teaser photo credit: By CDC/ Dr. Erskine Palmer – https://phil.cdc.gov/Details.aspx?pid=189, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89425412

Asher Miller

Asher became the Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute in October 2008, after having served as the manager of our former Relocalization Network program. He’s worked in the nonprofit sector since 1996 in various capacities. Prior to joining Post Carbon Institute, Asher founded Climate Changers, an organization that inspires people to reduce their impact on the climate by focusing on simple and achievable actions anyone can take.

Tags: building resilient societies, coronavirus, coronavirus strategies, ecological crises