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Stresses on Global Society Could Cause Collapse, Political Scientist Says
Thomas Homer-Dixon to Speak as Part of Ohio Wesleyan’s 2007 Sagan National Colloquium

September 17, 2007

Thomas Homer-Dixon
DELAWARE, OHIO – Five “tectonic stresses” are occurring below the surface of our global society, says political scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon, and, under the right circumstances, they could combine to cause the collapse of civilization.

Homer-Dixon, director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto, will discuss these stresses—worldwide population growth, dwindling oil supplies, rising economic instability, and escalating environmental and climate changes—during Ohio Wesleyan University’s 22nd annual Sagan National Colloquium.

Homer-Dixon will present “Can Cities Survive? Global Threats to Global Urbanization” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2 in the Benes Rooms of Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, 40 Rowland Ave. His lecture, co-sponsored by Ohio Wesleyan’s International Studies Program, is free and open to the public. Homer-Dixon’s presentation also will be available online at stream.owu.edu after Oct. 5.

While each of the five stresses may be manageable on its own, Homer-Dixon contends, when combined with the growing interconnectedness of the world and the escalating military power of small groups, the resulting multi-front crisis may be overwhelming. The result, he believes, could be the “synchronous failure” of cities, societies, and even nations.

“Crises create moments where things are very fluid, where societies can be pushed in positive or negative directions,” he has said. “And if we want to hope that we can take advantage of these coming crises in the most positive way, then we should start thinking now what we are going to do during these moments.”

In his research, Homer-Dixon draws on political science, economics, environmental studies, geography, cognitive science, social psychology, and complex systems theory. He is widely regarded as a central figure in the environment and security debate. His most recent book is “The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity, and the Rebuilding of Civilization.”

Each year, Ohio Wesleyan University’s Sagan National Colloquium examines an issue of national and global significance with a fall lecture series. The theme of this year’s Colloquium is “Cities and Suburbs: Life in a Metropolitan World.” Past Colloquium speakers have included President Gerald Ford, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, and author Kurt Vonnegut. A full schedule of this year’s Colloquium events is available at snc.owu.edu.

Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 40 states and 45 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.