Percentage support for belief that our existing way of life or humanity has a 50 percent or more chance of ending in a century. Graphic: Melanie Randle / University of Wollongong

By Melanie Randle
11 October 2015

(The Conversation) – A new, four-nation study has found people rate the risks of global threats to humanity surprisingly high. These perceptions are likely to be important, socially and politically, in shaping how humanity responds to the threats.

The study, of more than 2000 people in the US, UK, Canada and Australia, found:

  • 54% of people surveyed rated the risk of our way of life ending within the next 100 years at 50% or greater;
  • almost one in four (24%) rated the risk of humans being wiped out within a century at 50% or greater;
  • almost three in four (73%) believe there is a 30% or greater risk of our way of life ending (30% said that the risk is 70% or more); and
  • almost four in ten (39%) believe there is a 30% or greater danger of humanity being wiped out (10% said the risk is 70% or more).

The study also asked people about different responses to the threats. These responses were categorised as nihilism (the loss of belief in a social or moral order; decadence rules), fundamentalism (the retreat to certain belief; dogma rules), or activism (the transformation of belief; hope rules). It found:

  • a large majority (78%) agreed “we need to transform our worldview and way of life if we are to create a better future for the world” (activism);

  • about one in two (48%) agreed that “the world’s future looks grim so we have to focus on looking after ourselves and those we love” (nihilism); and

  • more than one in three (36%) said “we are facing a final conflict between good and evil in the world” (fundamentalism). [more]

Many fear the worst for humanity, so how do we avoid surrendering to an apocalyptic fate?

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