Home > The Great Unraveling?

Exploring the accelerating convergence of environmental, economic, and socio-political stresses our nations and communities face over the coming years and decades, and how we can respond.

About “The Great Unraveling?”

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the interconnectedness and fragility of global systems into stark relief. In this way the pandemic is a warning from the future – a future in which the growing consequences of the climate and broader ecological emergency are expected to increasingly destabilize societies around the world.

These consequences will impact societies already suffering from a host of social and economic problems, from high levels of inequality and political fragmentation to economic instability and the ongoing shock of the pandemic. Just as we must contend with feedback loops in natural systems, so too must we reckon with the prospect of environmental breakdown driving cascading destabilization in critical economic, energy, food, and socio-political systems, and vice versa.

Through a series of pre-recorded interviews and a live panel discussion with some of the world’s pre-eminent experts on these topics, “The Great Unraveling?” explores some of the key drivers of destabilization and how they may interact with one another.

Facing up to these interconnected crises requires unprecedented cooperation and coordination to rapidly realize a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient world. To this end, campaigners, politicians, companies, governments, and communities all across the world are pushing for and enacting change.

But these efforts will have to remain robust to growing destabilization and be grounded in an understanding of the systemic nature of the predicament we face. The wrenching disruption of the pandemic presents huge opportunities but also barriers to change, as shown by those seeking to reinforce the pre-pandemic status quo. In a similar way, efforts to realize a more sustainable, equitable, and resilient world must be capable of navigating the compounding crises of a more destabilized future – in order to realize a better future.

This dialogue was convened by the Post Carbon Institute and Anthropocene Actions.

The Interviews

Over July and August 2020, Laurie Laybourn-Langton conducted brief interviews with some of the world’s foremost experts on a broad range of environmental and societal challenges, to set a foundation for understanding the accelerating and interrelated stresses we face. These can be viewed by clicking on the images below.

The Event

On August 21, 2020 a special two-hour event explored some of the key systems and dynamics at play in this possible “Great Unraveling, which included a presentation by Laurie Laybourn-Langton (host of the interview series), and a panel discussion with Sherri Mitchell, Carola Rackete, Pablo Solón, and Col. Lawrence Wilkerson.

The Panelists

  • Sherri Mitchell (Weh’na Ha’mu Kwasset) is a lawyer, educator, writer, speaker, and organizer who has been actively involved with Indigenous rights and environmental justice work for more than 25 years.
  • Carola Rackete is an ecologist and ship captain who made international headlines when arrested by the Italian government for docking without permission after rescuing 42 asylum seekers in the Mediterranean.
  • Pablo Solón is the Director of Fundación Solón, former Executive Director of Focus on the Global South, former Bolivian Ambassador to the United Nations, and the country’s chief climate negotiator.
  • Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Government and Public Policy at the College of William and Mary, and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Photo Credits

Panel Guests


Background Images

  • Event image and interview title cards: c/o Unsplash; photo by Kaze 0421
  • Interview end card: c/o Unsplash; photo by Kaze 0421