Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It's Not Looking Good for Us
Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It's Not Looking Good for Us
By Tom McKay / policymic.com

Update: NASA is now clarifying its role in this study. NASA officials released this statement on the study on March 20, which seeks to distance the agency from the paper: "A soon-to-be published research paper, 'Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies' by University of Maryland researchers Safa Motesharrei and Eugenia Kalnay, and University of Minnesota's Jorge Rivas, was not solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA. It is an independent study by the university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity. As is the case with all independent research, the views and conclusions in the paper are those of the authors alone. NASA does not endorse the paper or its conclusions." Read the original story below.

Civilization was pretty great while it lasted, wasn't it? Too bad it's not going to for much longer. According to a new study sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, we only have a few decades left before everything we know and hold dear collapses.

The report, written by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center along with a team of natural and social scientists, explains that modern civilization is doomed. And there's not just one particular group to blame, but the entire fundamental structure and nature of our society.

Analyzing five risk factors for societal collapse (population, climate, water, agriculture and energy), the report says that the sudden downfall of complicated societal structures can follow when these factors converge to form two important criteria. Motesharrei's report says that all societal collapses over the past 5,000 years have involved both "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity" and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]." This "Elite" population restricts the flow of resources accessible to the "Masses", accumulating a surplus for themselves that is high enough to strain natural resources. Eventually this situation will inevitably result in the destruction of society.

Elite power, the report suggests, will buffer "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners," allowing the privileged to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe."

Science will surely save us, the nay-sayers may yell. But technology, argues Motesharrei, has only damned us further:

Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.

In other words, the benefits of technology are outweighed by how much the gains reinforce the existing, over-burdened system — making collapse even more likely.

The worst-case scenarios predicted by Motesharrei are pretty dire, involving sudden collapse due to famine or a drawn-out breakdown of society due to the over-consumption of natural resources. The best-case scenario involves recognition of the looming catastrophe by Elites and a more equitable restructuring of society, but who really believes that is going to happen? Here's what the study recommends:

The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth.

These are great suggestions that will, unfortunately, almost certainly never be put into action, considering just how far down the wrong path our civilization has gone. As of last year, humans are using more resources than the Earth can replenish and the planet's distribution of resources among its terrestrial inhabitants is massively unequal. This is what happened to Rome and the Mayans, according to the report.

... historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).

And that's not even counting the spectre of global climate change, which could be a looming"instant planetary emergency." According to Canadian Wildlife Service biologist Neil Dawe:

Economic growth is the biggest destroyer of the ecology. Those people who think you can have a growing economy and a healthy environment are wrong. If we don't reduce our numbers, nature will do it for us ... Everything is worse and we’re still doing the same things. Because ecosystems are so resilient, they don’t exact immediate punishment on the stupid.

In maybe the nicest way to say the end is nigh possible, Motesharrei's report concludes that "closely reflecting the reality of the world today ... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid."

Writes Nafeez Ahmed at The Guardian:

"Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies — by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance — have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a 'perfect storm' within about fifteen years. But these 'business as usual' forecasts could be very conservative."

Well, at least zombies aren't real.

 

Tom McKay is a live news writer for PolicyMic, where he produces killer trending content and writes about national political issues and elections (and dogs that look like Putin). Before working for PolicyMic, he graduated from New College of Florida with a...
4.8 ·
8
What's Next
Trending Today
Ten Ways We Misunderstand Children
Jan Hunt · 17,493 views today · 1. We expect children to be able to do things before they are ready. We ask an infant to keep quiet. We ask a 2-year-old to sit still. We ask a 3-year-old to clean his room...
The Little Engine That Couldn't: How We're Preparing Ourselves and Our Children for Extinction
Daniel Quinn · 6,071 views today · In a recent semi-documentary film called Garbage, a toxic waste disposal engineer was asked how we can stop engulfing the world in our poisons. His answer was, "We'd have to...
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 3,965 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure
Daniel Quinn · 1,104 views today · PART ONE A fable to start with Once upon a time life evolved on a certain planet, bringing forth many different social organizations—packs, pods, flocks, troops, herds, and...
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 1,075 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 993 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Gabor Maté: Why Our Culture Makes So Many Of Us Unhappy
3 min · 948 views today · Dr. Gabor Maté explains why it is that our culture makes so many of us unhappy, unkind to one another, miserable, alienated from ourselves, etc. Watch the full interview in Part 2.
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 888 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 861 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
You Should Get Naked More Often. It's Good for You.
Joni Sweet · 680 views today · When Nelly encouraged overheated people worldwide to get naked in 2002, he was unknowingly advocating much more than just a sexy, sweaty dance party. Sunbathing, sleeping...
It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are
Mark Wolynn · 644 views today · The past is never dead. It’s not even past. — William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun
Bitter Lake (2015)
136 min · 617 views today · Adam Curtis: Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events. But now there are no big stories and politicians react...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 616 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
Lawns Are for Suckers. Plant a Garden - for the Climate!
Nathanael Johnson · 494 views today · Ripping out your lawn and planting kale and peppers won’t just lead to great stir-fry — a new study finds it could make major contributions to fighting climate change...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 426 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
A New Story for Humanity (2016)
102 min · 425 views today · Inspired by the New Story Summit at the Findhorn Foundation: a sold-out multicultural, multigenerational inquiry into a new story for humanity, attended by change makers and...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 424 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Masculinity Is Killing Men: The Roots of Men and Trauma
Kali Holloway · 358 views today · We begin the damaging process of turning boys into men long before boyhood ends.
Why You Should Take Your Kids Out of School
Ben Hewitt · 329 views today · We don't need no education. At least not of the traditional, compulsory, watch-the-clock-until-the-bell-rings kind. As a growing movement of unschoolers believe, a steady diet...
Why People's Opinions of You Aren't Real
4 min · 310 views today · "You are what you love and not what loves you." - From Charlie Kaufman's film "Adaptation"
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
Study Concludes When Civilization Will End, And It's Not Looking Good for Us