Since the use of atomic weapons in 1945 visionaries have warned that without major changes the survival of global civilization is in question. These concerns deepened in following decades, during the Cold War, with The Limits to Growth, the best-selling environmental book of the 1970s. Yet, since then, most concern has faded, fuelled by technological developments and a shift in dominant global ideology. Public health, with a few exceptions (one of which is the book Planetary Overload), has been slow to recognize this debate, even as evidence emerges that civilization may indeed be at risk, driven by an increasingly ominous complex of events. This article outlines the key relevant literature and concepts, attempting to bring emerging and future health consequences to the attention of health workers, including the idea of a "social vaccine," conveying sufficient anxiety to provoke action for environmental protection, but insufficient to induce paralysis.