In 1972, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made a bold prediction. By developing scientific models that consider the way humans and planets interact with each other, the researchers determined that societies were heading for collapse in the mid-21st century, driven largely by increasing population strengths and excessive capital exploiting resource-limited planets. Nearly 50 years later, a researcher at one of the world’s largest accounting firms examined a well -known study to see how the model compares to reality. As it turned out, we were just in time to predict our deaths – which is great, because there’s nothing worse than a stylish doomsday event.
The new study, featured by Vice, was conducted by Herrington Style, a leader in sustainability systems and dynamic analysis at accounting giant KPMG. This serves as an update to the classic research, which is published under the title Growth Limits. As part of his master’s thesis at Harvard University, Herrington analyzed the model using 10 variables to examine how it predicted: population, fertility rate, mortality rate, industrial output, food production, services, non -renewable resources, persistent pollution, human well -being, and ecological footprints. By taking the projections of these indicators and comparing them with empirical data, he was able to determine how closely scientists could predict our reality, as well as know the trajectory we were traversing.
As it turned out, we were behaving in two scenarios, and none were good. There is a comprehensive technology (CT) scenario, where the economic downturn begins about (check the watch) now, actually. This indicates a number of negative outcomes, including short -term declines in food production and wild changes in a number of categories, including industrial output, when populations are out. The good news, if you want to call it that, is that society is not collapsing in a situation like this. Our habit of draining resources ends as new technologies evolve, and food production eventually recovers.
Everything not so beautiful on the second track we were able to go through, which is known as the business scenario as usual. This one assumes that we are basically not making any changes to our behavior right now. Much like the CT scenario, this track projects that economic growth will begin to erupt soon, hitting walls around 2030. But instead of a brief hurdle or stagnation, the business trajectory as usual sees the situation begin to collapse. Population, food production, industrial output, and other categories are all declining sharply around 2040, with pollution skyrocketing as we rapidly exploit and burn the planet’s existing resources with disregard for the consequences.
“Both of those scenarios suggest that continuing business as usual, that is, pursuing sustained growth, is unlikely to be done,” Harrington concluded in his study. “Even when paired with the unprecedented development and application of technology, business as usual as modeled by [Limits to Growth] will inevitably lead to a decline in industrial capital, agricultural production, and levels of prosperity in this century. “
A scenario where we aren’t bothered by some sort of big global disruption, the “stable world” scenario, is technically unattainable – but the new study warns that the window to enter the runway will close quickly. And it takes real effort to get there. First, we must recognize that economic growth cannot occur at an exponential rate indefinitely. Eventually, things have to come down – and we have to adjust to that. At the World Economic Forum in 2020, Harrington proposed to apply an economic theory known as “growth,” which prioritizes alternative markers for economic success, such as sustainability, over traditional indicators such as GDP.
If there is optimism in studies that confirm that we are heading for economic disaster and the collapse of society, we have little time to think about it. The next 10 years may be the determinant of our destiny, and we can still beat the bell. The pledge to dramatically reduce fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will ensure we do not waste natural resources. Ideas such as universal basic incomes and growing labor movements could help reshape how we envision job and economic growth.
Models are not fate. We can actively choose to jump off the rails of doomsday. But we must do it soon.