It’s the end of the world as we know it, or so warns a study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
The study, which has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics, says that the industrialized nations of the world have, in their pursuit of energy resources, created an unsustainable model that’s doomed to implode on itself, creating a power vacuum and chaos.
“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 study reads.
“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 in order 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,'” it adds.
The study blames every single person who has used technology to make their lives easier and more comfortable.
“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 study reads.
The study also claims that differing income levels have contributed to the current unsustainable global model.
So what’s the solution? Well, as summarized by Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, in the U.K. Guardian newspaper, the fix suggested by researchers won’t be pleasant (and seems unlikely to succeed).
“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,” Ahmed wrote.
The study adds: “Collapse can be avoided, and population can reach a steady state at the maximum carrying capacity, if the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed equitably.”
In short, Ahmed concluded, businesses, governments, corporations and individuals need to realize that they cannot go on “business as usual” and that “policy and structural changes are required immediately.”
Of course, it’s important to note that the study is largely theoretical. Still, its findings fall in line with similar reports that claim an overreliance on energy resources has created a dangerous and unsustainable global model.
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Featured image via Wikimedia Commons.