A new study sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center suggests that it will only be a few more decades until civilization collapses.
The Guardian reports that the study, written by mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis along with a team of natural and social scientists, explains that the nature and structure of modern society was doomed from the start.
Taking into account five risk factors for collapse (population, climate, water, agriculture and energy), the study says that the downfall of even the most complex societal building blocks will crumble when these factors begin to display two important criteria.
All societal collapses over the past 5,000 years, Motesharrei writes, 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 (the rich) and Masses (the poor)."
The "Elite" population limits the flow of resources, Motesharrei says, eventually accumulating a surplus high enough to cut off the collection and availability of natural resources for the general public.
The study suggests that the ones with the money will continue operating as if nothing's wrong well after the common folk begin to feel the effects of the eventual collapse, and then it will simply be too late to prevent our impending doom. This is very similar to what happened to both the Mayans and the Romans.
Though science should theoretically save us, history has only shown technology to bring us closer to collapse.
"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."
So the long-term benefits of technology will basically be countered by how the short-term benefits reinforce our existing system.
Motesharrie's worst-case scenarios are pretty drastic, ranging from famine to a dystopian society where mankind destroys itself fighting for food and resources.
The best-case scenarios involve the rich recognizing the looming collapse and trying to restructure society, but the likelihood of both outcomes is slim to none.
Here's what the mathematician recommends, instead (from The Guardian):
"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."
Too bad civilization is literally heading in the opposite direction.
The animosity between the rich and the poor is only getting worse and it's not like the former is doing anywhere near as much as it should to make this planet healthier or more efficient with resources.
Looks like our only shot might be finding some way to convince the world that it's okay not to have kids.
via The Guardian, Top Photo Credit: Shutterstock