Morgana Matus

New Study Predicts Impending Collapse of Industrial Civilization

by , 03/22/14

earth, nasa, space, moon

For years, scientists and social activists have warned that income inequality, resource depletion, and unchecked population growth could lead to the collapse of civilization. However policy makers have so far regarded these assertions as little more than the predictions of delusional cardboard sign-carrying oracles on street corners. A new study by researchers from the University of Maryland and the University of Minnesota confirms these terrifying prophesies, stating that industrialized society as we know it could completely collapse within the next few decades.

acropolis, rome, civilization, empire, social collapse

It happened to the Roman, Han, Gupta, and Mauryan empires, and now University of Maryland researchers Safa Motesharrei and Eugenia Kalnay, and University of Minnesota’s Jorge Rivas warn that utter destruction could befall our global economy as well. Working with a framework that incorporates mathematical analysis, social science, and observation of natural phenomena, the ‘Human And Nature Dynamical’ (HANDY) model projects “business as usual” could lead to the end of industrialized civilization. Accepted for publication in the Elsevier Journal of Ecological Economics, the study finds ample historical evidence that overpopulation, failing agriculture, limited access to water, energy consumption, and the unequal distribution of wealth could all combine to spell the end for society as we know it.

Related: President Obama Calls for ‘Year of Action’ in 2014 State of the Union Address

The report predicts that increased strain on the ecological carrying capacity of the Earth will further the stratification of wealth, dividing society into what the researchers term the “Elites” and “Masses”. As the rich hog all of the resources and dictate political policy, they will allocate little to the majority of the population who are also the ones responsible for creating their wealth. Advances in technology and agriculture will not improve the situation by increasing resource efficiency due to the fact that it will likely also raise consumption rates.

The researchers believe that humanity is on a collision course with disaster, and they outline two likely scenarios. In the first, everything will appear to be fine for a short period of time, but eventually a small number of Elites will begin to deplete everyone’s resources. Even under the most “conservative” consumption rates, the Elites will take too much and cause a famine amongst the Masses and later themselves. In this model, society is sabotaged by human rather than natural forces. In an alternate future, the faster consumption of resources wipes out the Masses in a short period while the Elites still survive, but soon after disappear. In both situations, the Masses get hit harder and faster while the upper echelons fail to adjust their behavior until it is too late.

To avoid an apocalypse, the scientists urge economic equality, stark decreases in consumption, and the fairer distribution of resources. Energy production should rely on cleaner, renewable technologies and support a smaller, more conservative population. If humans are to survive on the planet, immediate political action is needed to curtail the runaway growth of the economy, the threat of pollution, and the unfair allocation of wealth. To preserve not just the quality of life but its very existence, it is time to restore balance to both natural and social systems.

+ Human and Nature Dynamics Study

Via The Guardian

Related: 7 Eco-Shelters for Surviving the Apocalypse

Images via NASA and Wikicommons user Giovanni Dall’Orto

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17 Comments

  1. brian anthony August 16, 2014 at 5:23 am

    All sounds reasonable until the last paragraph. You omitted the elephant in the room, although you eluded to it at the beginning of the discourse. Unplanned population growth!!!

  2. Steve Froud June 20, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Too many people fighting over too little land and resources WILL be the end of civilization as we know it, you don’t need a super computer to work that out regardless of some of the retarded comments below.

  3. Johnybizzaro May 8, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    How stupid is that.I disagree with over population problem. This over population problem is too many browns or yellow peoples for the liking of the white folk. They spew out this garage to all the imbeciles to fall for. If china had 3 billion people, they would rule and the USA can’t stand that. Anyway enough of politics.

    NASA turns up says that something that everyone has known for ages. The key problem is income inequality and how the %1 steal from the 99%. Don’t understand that? Well when we had the GFC. What happened? We bailed out the rich and we were told the malarkey that it was too big to fail.

    The big friends of congress were too big to fail. The government guaranteed the deposits of the 99%. The 1% would of lost a huge chunk of their wealth to there own stupidity to thievery from the 99%.

  4. Nick Chill April 17, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Although I hate the expression, this is the perfect time to say: “Well, DUH!” That is, I believe this is the case if we as a society don’t turn things around quickly enough.

    It reminds me of an Amazing book by Daniel Quinn: ‘Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure’

    Link to the book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0609805363/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0609805363&linkCode=as2&tag=facebook06113-20

  5. Stefan Andreas April 3, 2014 at 9:34 am

    I partially agree, though the world is already starting to very slowly gravitate towards those ideals mentioned, especially due to the stark warning messages all around us. But the idea to compare the present situation with past collapses using regression functions or other methods of scenario creation is absolutely non-sense. This is because the data collection of the main factors affecting the analysis(politics, the economy, society) is highly inaccurate and difficult to do and to keep up-to-date as it is ever evolving. Furthermore, the historical data points they used, according to the article, are so remote and far gone in history that they might not be valid anymore, the further these data points are from each other, the more unlikely they will have an impact on the future trajectory. The reality is that past events do not dictate what will happen in the future, they are just reference points. Therefore, keep calm and don’t panic just yet..

  6. frank cooper March 23, 2014 at 8:27 am

    is this a revelation .the main thing here is greed and total moral corruption. the other is all the people with their heads in the sand . what a joke president obama and his psycho team are leading the pack in their destructive course. if you want to see the future study prophecy from the bible…..i know of course you wont…not cool.

  7. Daniel LaLiberte March 20, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    Please read this relevant Inhabitat article: “Hans Rosling Uses LEGO Bricks to Explain Climate Change and Population Growth”: http://inhabitat.com/hans-rosling-uses-lego-bricks-to-explain-climate-change-and-population-growth/

  8. Daniel LaLiberte March 20, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    It is critically important to recognize that population growth is NOT the problem we need to focus on, and if we try, it won\\\’t solve much of anything. The poorest half of the world only contributes a small fraction of the ecological problems, only 7%, but that is where the growth rate is still higher. But here\\\’s the kicker: the reason they are growing is NOT because they are having more children – in fact they are having fewer. So why are they still growing? Because they are reducing their childhood death rate slightly faster than their birth rate.

    So all this population growth will amount to 30-50% more people, after the growth wave peaks. But the real problem is that we need to eliminate 100% of fossil fuel burning, for ALL people, but especially for the much smaller group of the richest parts of the world, namely us. We need to help the developing countries to NOT follow in our dirty footsteps and instead develop 100% renewable energy.

  9. taxy March 20, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Zupy, get your facts straight. The US doesn’t use 75% of the world’s resources. We use about 30%. We have about 5% of the world population, so it’s still out of balance, but China is rapidly approaching! You want to see real change, start looking at world birthrates. Muslims worldwide produce an average 8 children per family. Now, you can look at that as conspiracy or just plain poor stewardship of our planet. I look at it both ways. People need to stop being incentivized to have more children in this country and those who choose to not have children rewarded for their choice.

  10. detroit58 March 20, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    So, continued human existence on this planet is threatened by the ever increasing concentration of economic and political power by a small minority. How long will we passively watch this unfold?

    Supplemental – Inequality for All – http://inequalityforall.com/

  11. atozglobal March 20, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    The answer is always the same. We need to focus more on the problems at home. It’s too soon to focus on manned space travel.
    Some idiot on the science channel keeps preaching that we have to terra form Mars. We cannot even Terra Form the Earth! Is he kidding or just nuts? We are wasting money on manned space travel. It’s too soon. We don’t have the speed. If we can’t turn our own deserts into forests, fields and clean water how can we ever terra form Mars. I’m all for science, but we have to get our priorities in order. To the scientists that watch too many Star Trek episodes I say Earth first – Mars second. It’s time we took the talanted scientists at NASA and directed their considerable talents toward saving the Earth. Why does this country always throw money at other people’s problems when we have so many problems of our own to solve? Let the private sector worry about Mars and finance the scientists themselves.
    Enough already. We have too many social and economic problems as it is. I honestly don’t think most people reralize how close to the edge we are and yes, I’m one of the guys who has been standing on that corner with “The end is near” sign for over 60 years and I hope for my kids and grand kids sake you can prove me wrong! The NASA funded study is right!

  12. coupstair March 20, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    basically … this is the call for a more socialized society to bring equality and conservatism to all.

    um yup, it’s called socialism folks and it sounds like it may not be all that bad …. if our species is to survive that is.

  13. David Loehmann March 19, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Gee,the findings of this study come as a complete and total surprise to me. Let’s all just ignore it. Let’s continue handing over all our resources and money to the vastly rich who use their wealth to suppress us. Why not? It’s the thing to do, right? Let’s see how many arguments the rich can come up with to deny this. I suggest we start by contacting our Governor, Tom Corbett and our former Director of Environmental Resources at their multi-million dollar homes down in Florida. After all, they should know. They handed over Pennsylvania’s pristine water to the mighty fracking companies FOR FREE just so we could get a little taste of what a disappearing fresh water system is like.

  14. Davalin Massie March 18, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Yes I think it does mean that people all over the world need to stop having so many babies, people live longer lives now and we don’t have any type of human population control. Naturally it used to be that people did not live such a long life, so that sort of remedied the problem, but now we seem to live forever and people can’t seem to stop having tons of children. That is just one issue, then we have the issue of over consumption, and thinking that we need absolutely everything on the planet, or having no care of what we harm in our path. but this is just my opinion.

  15. trevordub trevordub March 18, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    It’ll never happen that humans change their ways. Especially the privileged classes. The concept of balance has long left humanity. C’est la vie!

  16. Zupy Time March 18, 2014 at 11:17 am

    So basically what does that mean? People need to stop having 3+ babies. Why do you need so many babies, seriously? Americans and British need to curtail their obesity and resource usage problem. America uses 75% of the world’s resources and in 10 years, half of Americans will be obese. That’s embarrassing and it’s going to destroy the planet. Lastly, something needs to be done about the 1%, and this one I don’t know the solution. :(

  17. MaryL March 17, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    This report left out another scenario. Read and download ebooks Allies of Humanity and Great Waves of Change.
    \”Humanity has sown the seeds of its own demise through misuse and overuse of the world, but this can be mitigated to a great degree, and adaptation can occur. But to do this, humanity will have to unite. It will have to end its ceaseless conflicts and prepare to face a world in decline and to face competition from the Greater Community.
    Here your times have the power to either defeat you or to unite you and uplift you. The decision rest not only with governments, but with each person – their ability to face change, to prepare for change, to adapt to change and to unite together for mutual security. For the emphasis now must not be on the national security for one nation alone, but on security for the entire world.
    Interventions such as you are facing now will continue because you are a weak and divided race living on a beautiful planet.This will draw others here to attempt, primarily through persuasion and guile, to influence humanity to unite with them, to become dependent upon them and to trust them. \”
    http://www.alliesofhumanity.org
    http://www.wavesofchange.org

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