Will humans be their own undoing? According to a new study sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, industrial societies are poised to collapse under the weight of their own unsustainable appetites for resources. That's right. We don't have to wait for the sun to run out on us.
Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development, has a more understandable summary over at The Guardian, though the news is that we're all doomed. In fact, history will give us a hint of how we're all going to die.
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.
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.
Dr. Ahmed sums up the researchers' suggestions if you want to avoid this certain exodus:
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.
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