The Perfect Storm’s Pandemic-Driven Soft Collapse

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This essay builds from my previous essay, "The Perfect Storm," in this journal, to argue we have entered a period of soft collapse to the modern system caused by the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. This essay explores the process of system transition by attempting to better define the meaning of soft collapse. While the 2007 essay argued we had entered a collapse, it did not specify whether the collapse was soft or hard. With the pandemic, this essay argues we are no longer in that initial moment but have unambiguously entered a period of soft collapse. This essay's core argument is that prior to the pandemic the planetary system, defined by the rule-set of modernity, was in overshoot and was entering its release phase. The initial moments of collapse set the stage for the system to tip across the threshold into a soft collapse. The pandemic did the tipping. To illustrate the argument, this essay considers the pandemic's impact on several key sub-systems: demographic, ecological, food, economic, energy, climate, and political. It then focuses on how the pandemic enhances systemic oppression by stimulating a global apartheid response, before shifting to discuss how soft collapse creates a liminal state between systems, a state that renders modernity anachronistic. The liminal state argument offers an explanation for how and why we were not able to see the pandemic coming, despite numerous warnings. The essay concludes with consideration of how the pandemic-driven soft collapse presents us with a different end of modernity that restarts history.