Could unsustainable resource exploitation combined with unequal wealth distribution be the end of modern society? A new NASA Goddard Space Flight Center study suggests the possibility, using simulations of civilizational survivability. Could this be how “our” world ends–with a bang instead of a wimper?
The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognise that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.
Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies – by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance – have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a ‘perfect storm’ within about fifteen years. But these ‘business as usual’ forecasts could be very conservative.
For more, Jared Diamond has written a book on the subject, chock full of examples of historical indicators that reveal how past civilizations have ended. Key factors include human impact on the environment, climate change, changing alliances, and dysfunctional political and cultural practices.