Existential Risks

Existential risks collage.

Table of contents

  1. Existential Risks
    1. Literature
    2. List of films dramas
    3. List of documentary films
    4. More
    5. Image credits
    6. Footnotes


Haselby, Sam (2023) The polycrisis: Is this the word we need to describe unprecedented convergences between ecological, political and economic strife? Essay available on AEON. After discussing definitions of the word ‘polycrisis’, the essay states that the polycrisis is created by our worlds being interconnected and interdependent. Then it highlights how difficult it is to trust words; it says “words are wanton”.1 Towards the middle of the article, Sam finally starts defining what we should call the polycrisis with examples linked to CO2, global human-made mass, wild mammals, and extinction rate levels. Towards the end, he also used the words ‘quick’ (pandemic, war) and ‘slow’ (climate change) to classify a crisis. The emphasis of the article is on urgency, that the polycrisis need our immediate attention.

Schmachtenberger, Daniel (2023) An introduction to the Metacrisis at Stockholm Impact Week 2023. Video available on YouTube. Daniel talks about ther metacrisis, AI, the effects of globalization after WWII, and more. His message is depressing, but he is perfectly fine with it. He wants you to start by feeling depressed. Not feeling depressed means you haven’t recognized the “continued destruction of the sacred around us” (e.g., sex trafficking of children or factory farming of animals). He offers a silver lining: Don’t wait for others to address issues; take action yourself, which will alleviate your depression. I think he used the “f” word only five times. Daniel is part of the Consilience Project.

8000 Hours (2023) What are the most pressing world problems? In this article, the team at 8000 hours “aim to list issues where each additional person can have the most positive impact. [they] focus on problems that others neglect, which are solvable, and which are unusually big in scale, often because they could affect many future generations — such as existential risks.” Available at 8000 hours``.

Articles on Environmental Themes from Mainstream News Outlets: The Guardian, an extensive selection of regularly updated articles covering various environmental topics such as climate change, wildlife, energy, and pollution. The BBC Future explores a wide range of articles addressing environmental themes, including climate change, sustainability, and innovative solutions to global challenges.

Articles linked to the environment theme on mainstream news: A frequently updated list of articles addressing topics related to our environment (e.g. climate change, wildlife, energy, pollution) is available at The Guardian and BBC Future.

Academic journals discussing existential risks:

  • Journal of Evolution and Technology: An interdisciplinary journal exploring the intersection of evolution, technology, and existential risks. It publishes articles shedding light on potential global catastrophes and ways to mitigate them.
  • Futures: Futures is a scholarly journal that examines various future scenarios, including those related to existential risks. It features research and discussions on topics such as global governance, emerging technologies, sustainability, and risk analysis.
  • Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: This renowned journal covers a wide range of global security issues, including existential risks associated with nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies.
  • Global Catastrophic Risk Institute (GCRI) Journal: GCRI Journal focuses explicitly on global catastrophic risks, including existential risks. It provides a platform for rigorous research, analysis, and discussion of these critical challenges.
  • Existential Risk Initiative Blog: Although not a traditional academic journal, this blog offers insightful articles and publications on various aspects of existential risks, disruptive technologies, and long-term risks to humanity.

List of films dramas

  • Waterworld (1995) The film has been criticized for its over-the-top portrayal of the consequences of climate change and polar ice melt, potentially leading to misinformation and fear mongering.
  • Wall-E (2008) Some critics believe that while the film opens up a conversation about environmental neglect, it could do more to explicitly connect the narrative to current climate change discourse.
  • Avatar (2009) Some critics argue that the film, while visually impressive, simplifies complex environmental and cultural issues into a more digestible but less accurate narrative.
  • The Road (2009) The film’s bleak portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world might overshadow its subtle environmental messages, making them less effective.
  • Snowpiercer (2013) Critics note that the film’s allegorical style and focus on social order might divert attention away from its underlying environmental themes.
  • Interstellar (2014) Some critics argue that the film’s exploration of space as a solution might divert attention from efforts to combat climate change on Earth.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Critics argue that the film’s dystopian setting might not directly encourage viewers to reflect on current environmental challenges and solutions.
  • Blade Runner 2049 (2017) While visually compelling, the film’s subtle environmental messages might be overlooked amidst its complex narrative and stylistic elements.
  • Don’t Look Up (2021) The film faced criticism regarding its portrayal of existential risks, primarily focusing on the film’s effectiveness in communicating the urgency of global threats. Critics argued that its satirical approach could either diminish the seriousness of such risks or make them more accessible for discussion. Concerns were also raised about whether the depiction of societal and political denial and complacency was exaggerated or reflective of real-world attitudes towards crises like climate change. Ultimately, questions linger regarding the film’s impact on public perception and whether it fosters a sense of action or cynicism in addressing existential threats.

List of documentary films

  • Food, Inc. (2008) The film provides a critical look at the food industry but is often seen as presenting a one-sided view, not fully exploring the industry’s complexity and the various factors influencing food production and consumption.
  • The Cove (2009) While powerful in its advocacy against dolphin hunting, The Cove is critiqued for prioritizing activism over balanced storytelling, possibly skewing the objectivity and comprehensiveness of its narrative.
  • Cowspiracy (2014) The film is often critiqued for simplifying complex environmental and agricultural issues, lacking nuance and a more comprehensive exploration of the multifaceted impacts of animal agriculture on ecological sustainability.
  • Seaspiracy (2021) The film is critiqued for its sensationalism and for not always maintaining rigorous scientific standards or a balanced perspective in its exploration of the impacts of fishing on marine ecosystems.
  • Breaking Boundaries (2021) The documentary film chronicles the tale of humanity’s relentless endeavor to surpass the limits that have maintained the Earth’s stability over the past ten millennia. It follows the scientific odyssey of David Attenborough and scientist Johan Rockström as they unravel the secrets of the nine planetary boundaries.
  • More here.


The Future of Life Institute

Image credits

Header image was generated with Image Creator (DALL·E 3) on 12 October 2023 at 10:29 pm using “make an image collage with existential risks e.g. climate change, AI, biowarfare”.


  1. This is true as often researchers in the same academic field don’t use terms consistently, which can be frustrating to anyone doing literature review.