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Predicted 21st Century Collapse Of Civilisation Could Begin In 2040, Study Finds

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Predicted 21st Century Collapse Of Civilisation Could Begin In 2040, Study Finds

In 1972, MIT scientists published a paper that predicted that rapid industrial growth and globalisation could lead to the collapse of civilisation by the mid 21st Century.

At the time, you could have been forgiven for scoffing at this macabre forecast - but a far more recent study suggests they may not have been far off.

The future doesn't look bright if we don't change paths, a study has warned. Credit: PA
The future doesn't look bright if we don't change paths, a study has warned. Credit: PA

Gaya Herrington, sustainability and dynamic system analysis lead at accounting company KPMG, decided to re-evaluate the prediction's of the original paper - snappily titled The Limits to growth; a report for the Club of Rome's project on the predicament of mankind - harnessing data collected over the past decades.

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Explaining why she took on the daunting task, she said: "Given the unappealing prospect of collapse, I was curious to see which scenarios were aligning most closely with empirical data today.

"After all, the book that featured this world model was a bestseller in the '70s, and by now we'd have several decades of empirical data which would make a comparison meaningful.

"But to my surprise I could not find recent attempts for this. So I decided to do it myself."

Her findings don't make for great reading, though, with societal collapse on track to set in by 2040.

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But the prediction isn't quite as bad as it sounds.

Speaking to Motherboard, she said her forecast 'does not mean that humanity will cease to exist', but rather 'economic and industrial growth will stop, and then decline, which will hurt food production and standards of living'.

She continued: "In terms of timing, the BAU2 scenario shows a steep decline to set in around 2040."

BAU2 means cracking on as we are - business as usual - which the study strongly advises against.

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Perhaps the cows will rise up? Credit: PA
Perhaps the cows will rise up? Credit: PA

Rather, Herrington's study concludes that we need 'a deliberate trajectory change brought about by society turning toward another goal than growth is still possible'.

She writes: "The LtG [Limits to Growth] work implies that this window of opportunity is closing fast."

In a presentation at the World Economic Forum last year, she advocated for a recalibration of our priorities, pointing to the success of Covid-19 vaccines as an example of what can be achieved rapidly in the face of crisis.

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She said: "Changing our societal priorities hardly needs to be a capitulation to grim necessity.

"Human activity can be regenerative and our productive capacities can be transformed. In fact, we are seeing examples of that happening right now.

"Expanding those efforts now creates a world full of opportunity that is also sustainable."

Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Topics: World News, Interesting

Jake Massey
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