Is civilization in decline

: NASA study: civilization is doomed

Modern society will go under. When exactly this will happen is not yet clear. But the end can hardly be avoided. This is what a study commissioned by NASA claims. This assumes that all advanced civilizations in human history were doomed: ancient Rome, Egypt, Babylon, the Maya. Researchers working with mathematician Safa Motesharrei from the University of Maryland have now modeled the extent to which such a fate can also affect today's civilization. The study has been published in the British daily The Guardian.

Today's modern civilization appears to have far greater technological resources than previous societies. It also seems to be more flexible and capable of learning in many areas. At least that is the impression that many have of her, as a kind of culmination of human history so far.

For their computer calculations, the researchers used the so-called predator-prey model, which was developed by two mathematicians in the 1920s. It relates to the food chain and says: if there is enough prey, the number of predators increases. The prey then becomes smaller, which in turn reduces the number of predators. This gives the prey population the opportunity to recover.

Fatal split

In modern civilization, people are the predators, the prey are natural resources. According to the mathematical model, the exploitation of natural resources and the unequal distribution of wealth lead to the total collapse of civilization.

The researchers identified five risk factors: population growth, climate change, water supply, agricultural development and energy consumption. According to the researchers, a devastating dynamic has already occurred. In the year alone, people in the western world consume 1.5 times more resources than can grow back on earth in the same period of time. It is estimated that 10 billion people will be living on earth in the foreseeable future.

If one takes nature's predator-prey model as a basis, then natural resources should have long been given the opportunity to recover - through a natural decline in the number of predators. Basically, this corresponds to the population law that the British economist Thomas Robert Malthus formulated at the beginning of the 19th century. However, since then, through technological advances - with fertilizers and pesticides, for example - humans have been able to exploit resources far beyond their natural limits.

According to the researchers, it is particularly fatal that the over-exploitation of ecosystems is associated with a division of society into rich elites and large poor sections of the population. One effect is that those parts of mankind who can afford higher prosperity feel the impending environmental collapse much later than those who are directly affected by it, for example through droughts, floods or famine. So you continue as before. Especially the elites at the levers of power.

With new technologies - for example the development of energy resources through fracking - the collapse can only be delayed, not prevented. According to the calculations, the collapse can only be avoided “if the per capita rate of natural depletion is reduced to a sustainable level and resources are distributed in a reasonably fair manner,” the researchers said. But the division of society stands in the way of this.

In essence, the researchers confirm what the authors of the "Limits to Growth" report called for more than forty years ago.