Top Leaderboard, Site wide
Shop the Truthdig Gift Guide 2014
December 21, 2014
Truthdig: Drilling Beneath the Headlines
Sign up for Truthdig's Email NewsletterLike Truthdig on FacebookFollow Truthdig on TwitterSubscribe to Truthdig's RSS Feed

Get Truthdig's headlines in your inbox!


Loss of Rainforests Is Double Whammy Threat to Climate






Truthdig Bazaar more items

 
Ear to the Ground

NASA-Funded Study Sounds Alarm for Civilization

Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share

Posted on Mar 16, 2014

Photo by daystar297 (CC BY 2.0)

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.

Read more of the bad news here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

More Below the Ad

Advertisement

Square, Site wide

New and Improved Comments

If you have trouble leaving a comment, review this help page. Still having problems? Let us know. If you find yourself moderated, take a moment to review our comment policy.

 
Monsters of Our Own Creation? Get tickets for this Truthdig discussion of America's role in the Middle East.
Right 1, Site wide - BlogAds Premium
 
Right Skyscraper, Site Wide
Right 2, Site wide - Blogads
 
Join the Liberal Blog Advertising Network
 
 
 

A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion   Zuade Kaufman, Publisher   Robert Scheer, Editor-in-Chief
© 2014 Truthdig, LLC. All rights reserved.

Like Truthdig on Facebook