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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  1. GershomGersh Gersh July 11, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    This article falls right inline with the TPP & United Nations: Agenda 21….

  2. Jon Brooks June 29, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    First, we already have the technological capacity to sustain industrial civilization for thousands of years ahead, short of the entire destruction of Earth, yet perhaps even in that scenario.

    We already even can implement a plan to stop the degradation of ecosystems and clean up our infantile industrial era messes with extant technologies.

    Point being, devoting $30 billion per year to more thoroughly prove anthropogenic climate change seems like a misallocation, as that could do much to support the development of molten salt reactors running on #thorium or fission reactors, or layering urban surfaces, such as roadways, with the most recent and incredibly efficient solar tech to more effectively utilize the great fission reactor Earth is orbiting.

    How about a thought experiment? Let’s say there is a massive culling of human populations worldwide due to the stubbornness of elites and also due to common adherence to the “slave-and-master” moral systems of spiritual materialism which keep “slaves” afraid of eternal damnation if, say, assassinations are strategically carried out to eliminate entrenched fossil fuel power hegemony.

    If business as usual proceeds, the fossil fool kings rely on our fearful egoic minds to impede our response to avert further disintegration of ecosystems and finally total collapse of the biosphere; then, industrial civilization continues in subterranean complexes and biogeochemical engineering is undertaken to terraform Earth back to a habitable state while automation and mechanization replace drudgerous human obligations, in the best scenario of that potential reality tunnel.

    The genetic vault in Geneva is a technological arc to restart evolutionary diversification if necessary.

    The more enlightened route, if the responsibility isn’t too much, is bringing the fossil fuel hegemony to its early end, being wise about reproduction rates, planning society in accord with natural limits and restoration goals, while enjoying life on the side of sanity.

  3. nacoran April 30, 2015 at 11:39 am

    Good to see you working on your clickbait. A few weeks back it was anti-vaxer stuff. Please, I like this site. Don\’t go down the rabbit hole.

  4. Bill Schreck December 21, 2014 at 12:48 am

    Since this agrees with the Book of Revelation prophecy calculations in the Amazon book “Death Over Life”, it must be nonsense. How could people 2000 years ago have made scientific projections which agree with these projections?
    Of course, they held that only a third of all life would die. They also held society would continue, thus industrialized civilization would continue … whereas this says it falls.
    Is this model, or the biblical model, or neither model, correct?

    If you’re around in 2034, you’ll know. Unless Washington “falls” in 2015/16, in which case, the bible one wins.

  5. Paolo Manzelli November 22, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    EGOCREANET (NGO no for profit ) would participate to the HORIZON Calls in Science with and for society 2015 for investing in creativity to advance in a RESPONSIBLE RESEARCH AND INNOVATION in our epoch of socio-economic collapse of Industrial society.

    Hence the QUASSI (QUANTUM ART,SCIENCE &SOCIETY for responsible INNOVATION ), project would identifies the most salient interrelated factors which will be able to be a catalyst creative action to stop the emergent civilization decline determined by ethnic discrimination unfair competition, oppression of the poor , and which may help to avoid the the risk of premature collapse favoring a deep conceptual change able to grow up the future knowledge society (1)

    The above may be possible by favoring a deep conceptual change in a way that the thinking process would become more adequate to the Growth of population, Climate changes control, Fresh Water conservation , Nutrition-Agriculture development and Alternative energy employ for a non polluted environment.

    These factors if they are not included in a responsible orientation of science and technology, can lead to an accelerate collapse when they converge with an associated persistence of obsolete mechanical -concepts that was crucial in the growth of the old industrial society and in agreement with a social- darwinism based on an irresponsible competition that splits over the limit of rupture the divergences between the socio-economic stratification into a very few rich -elite and a very large poor masses .

    The Project QUASSI on the basis of the extension of a trans-disciplinary extension of advanced Quantum science to the science of life ( Biology, neurology, nutrition … ) would play a central role in advancing in a responsible changing in the process of the premature scenario of an irreversible collapse of the industrial society , looking to help European research reorganization to become more adequate to the Growth of population, Climate changes control, Fresh Water conservation , Nutrition-Agriculture development and Alternative energy employ for a non polluted environment.

    I hope in your conscious cooperation to develop and disseminate to find partners and stakeholders for improving the QUASSI PROJECT and the Quantum Creativity Community. see :

    (1) –

    Paolo Manzelli 22th NOV /2014 Firenze

    see :; Degeneration theory was a widely influential concept in the social and biological sciences in the nineteenth century and attempted to find explanations for social change in physical or biological systems. . As the nineteenth century progressed, the increased belief in degeneration reflected an anxious pessimism about the future of European and Western civilization.

  6. pmanke October 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    Saying world destruction is human nature is classic self deception! We are not an effect of the world, we are rather it’s cause! We have reversed cause and effect for our lazy convenience! Just as we have cast our vision of God in our image, instead of understanding what or who God really is, we make God fearful or delusional and say we cannot believe in “that!”

  7. pmanke October 19, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Law of Mind ====”Nothing is as unserving as a tightly organized delusional thought system”…

  8. Egboche Bonaventure October 15, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Civilizations are replaced always by another civilization that follows the same priciple to growth and ascention,GREED.First collective greed then individual greed.Animal farm style you’l say.If this civilization as we know it dies,the next will also pass through the same process no matter the ideology and then crash,then another,same process,crash all triggered by GREED,preconcieved greed.Maybe its human!

  9. amtelo September 23, 2014 at 2:06 am

    “The problem is not ignorance, it’s preconceived ideas.”

    The best stats you’ve ever seen …

    Debunk the Myths

  10. aleksandrk September 22, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I agree with the bleak reality that this article describes, but I think there is a hope that is not considered here. Normal people, or some of the masses, (anyone really) can choose to work & live in a different way. This is happening in many countries now and people who want to get involved need only to look for such initiatives or people in their areas.

    There are many possibilities for what to be involved in, and the internet is a wonderful resource to learn pretty much any skill. At no time in history has it been so easy to learn skills or find information and start new things (at least in some areas of the world).

  11. Alan111 September 21, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    Continuity of government (COG) establishes procedures that allow government to continue operations in perpetuity after a nuclear war or other catastrophic event such as the one described in this article. This Wikipedia article provides some basic information about how government will supersede the fall of civilization:

  12. Ole Seifert September 21, 2014 at 11:11 am

    Not only NASA but also by Australian researchers, who confirms the prediction from Club Of Rome’s Limits To Growth from 1972… :

  13. 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!!!

  14. 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.

  15. 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%.

  16. 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:

  17. 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..

  18. 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.

  19. 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”:

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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 –

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. 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. :(

  29. 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. \”

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