From a current report published in Truthdig.
I wonder what our university students in Colorado would make of this report...through the haze of pot smoke..and its implications for their future and well as for the future of civilization as we have known it.
The information and judgments in the NASA study are far from new. I was teaching the same stuff from an earlier study by the Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth, in the 1970's.
It appears to be impossible for human beings to curtail their own selfish and greedy demands for more of everything--food, kids, money, people comforts, leisure activities, gadgets, luxury items of all sorts, and on and on. If voluntary personal restraint is required for the survival of civilization--even of the planet itself--I am not very optimistic about the future.
Meanwhile politicians would have us believe that individuals, organizations, and nations are really capable of deferring gratification, policing themselves, self-control, and following even their own rules.
The alarm has been sounding for a long time in our industrial, corporate, capitalistic, world and we have repeatedly hit the snooze button. Our refusal to accept reality--combined with national and world leaders who won't abandon politics long enough to grapple with real issues--will exacerbate the multiplication and complexity of our existing problems for us, our progeny--if any.
NASA-Funded Study Sounds Alarm for Civilization
Posted on Mar 16, 2014
A new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center confirmed the prospect that worldwide industrial civilization could collapse in the coming decades under “unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution,” Dr. Nafeez Ahmed reports at The Guardian.
The study dismissed the notion that warnings of “collapse” should remain fringe or controversial, citing the history of the fall of previous civilizations to show that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.”
Nafeez states the project is based on a new model that integrates data from multiple fields of study and was developed by the U.S. National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. It finds that history shows advanced, complex civilizations are susceptible to collapse:
“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”
The most relevant interrelated factors, the study concluded, were population, climate, water, agriculture and energy. Nafeez writes:
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “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]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”
The study claims that “elites” in industrialized countries are largely responsible for inequality and overconsumption, and challenges the idea that technology can resolve these problems by simply increasing industrial and economic efficiency:
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.
The researchers, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri, concluded that under conditions “closely reflecting the reality of the world today… collapse is difficult to avoid.” One scenario is described as follows:
[Civilization] appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature.