According to a surprising new study funded by NASA, civilizations on Earth are set to collapse – within only a few decades. Researchers used advanced mathematical models seeded with compelling historical data related to previous civilizational collapses (e.g., Roman Empire, Gupta Empires) to reach their conclusion and found that even with conservative estimations, civilization as we know it is tittering on the brink of collapse. According to researchers, the impending collapse is due to several factors including a world bent on exploiting natural resources and increasingly unequal wealth distribution between the rich and poor.
The researchers pointed out that “the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history” and that in many cases, the civilizational collapse takes place over a period of several centuries. They also noted that civilizational collapse is not an end-game exclusive to small, simple, less-developed civilizations – even advanced, complex civilizations are susceptible to collapse. Using Rome as an example, the authors noted:
“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mayan, 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 common contributing resource-related factors to a civilization’s collapse involve population, climate, water, agriculture, and energy. The collapse of the civilization occurs when these resources are stretched causing a strain on the ecological carrying capacity. In addition to a shortage of resources, the authors noted that a wide separation between the rich and the poor played a central role in all collapses over the last five thousand years and that in all cases, the wide wealth buffer insulated the elite who “appeared oblivious to the civilization’s catastrophic trajectory”.
“Accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels… While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory ‘so far’ in support of doing nothing.”
According to the study, the reality of the world today is that a civilizational collapse will be difficult to avoid, a finding supported by a number of other focused studies which have warned that the convergence of food, water, and energy crisis could create a “perfect storm” needed to prompt the collapse of our modern-day civilization.
The newly released research study, carried out with the help of a team of natural and social scientists and with funding from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has been accepted for publication in the Ecological Economics journal.