In 1972, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology predicted that the thirst of economic growth coupled with humanity’s utter disregard for the environment and society would cause a massive societal collapse by the mid 21st century.
And now a new study hints that this could very well become our reality.
Reported first by the Vice, this is according to Gaya Herrington who is the Sustainability and Dynamic System Analysis Lead at KPMG, who was actually working on disproving the aforementioned claims made by MIT researchers in 1972.
Herrington emphasized on 10 variables such as industrial output, pollution, population, and discovered that our mentality emphasizing on business will result in an economic growth decline within the next decade, followed by a total societal collapse by 2040.
The 1972 MIT predictions
At the time, MIT had made its prediction using a computer program dubbed World1, looking at a timeline from the year 1900 to 2060. This data was produced on sheets of data in the form of graph lines.
The then study author, MIT’s Jerry Foster showed how the population has sort of exploded from the 1900s to the turn of the century. This line of population growth only kept climbing until a few years after 2000 after which it sort of faded out.
In another instance looking at the quality of life, the graph spiked rapidly until the 1940s then went down until the year 2020 when it saw another spike. Surprisingly, the model is also called 2020 as a tipping point for our civilization.
It is in 2020 that the condition of our planet is critical with Foster in 1973 warning (in a segment on ABC) us that if we did nothing about it the quality of life goes down to zero.
Herrington used the same model but called it the World 3, looking at 10 key variables – population, fertility rates, mortality rates, industrial output, services, food production, human welfare, persistent pollution and non-renewable resources.
Herrington discovered that the latest data shows striking similarities with the two scenarios of BAU (business as usual) and CT (comprehensive technology).
Gaya explains in the study (published in Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology), “’BAU2 and CT scenarios show a halt in growth within a decade or so from now. Both scenarios thus indicate that continuing business as usual, that is, pursuing continuous growth, is not possible. Even when paired with unprecedented technological development and adoption, business as usual as modeled by LtG [Limits of Growth, the MIT book based on its study] would inevitably lead to declines in industrial capital, agricultural output, and welfare levels within this century. “
But it’s not game over yet
Even though the 1972 simulation suggests that our society will be doomed in future, Herrington’s study reveals that technological progress as well as additional investment in public services could steer us away from total collapse from which nothing can save the human race, in a sense.
However, Gaya emphasizes that humanity will have to take strong efforts in the coming decade if we need to change this societal collapse prediction and have any chance of reversing the impact of wanton economic growth at the expense of environment and ecology.
Herrington added, “At this point, therefore, the data most aligns with the CT and BAU2 scenarios which indicate a slowdown and eventual halt in growth within the next decade or so, but World3 leaves open whether the subsequent decline will constitute a collapse. Although the ‘stabilized world’ scenario tracks least closely, a deliberate trajectory change brought about by society turning toward another goal than growth is still possible. The LtG work implies that this window of opportunity is closing fast. “