The End of Civilization As We Know It Is Nigh, According to NASA

Well, it’s official: We’re doomed. A study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center says so — and according to the accompanying report, we’ve only got a couple of decades left before the end of civilization as we know it occurs. That’s right: It’s happening in our lifetime.

This is why the whole “Eh, let future generations deal with our problems” philosophy is a bad, bad idea.

The report, which was written by applied mathematician Safa Motesharrei of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, states that every single societal collapse for the past 5,000 years happened as a result of two occurrences: “The stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity” and “the economic stratification of society into Elites and Masses (or ‘Commoners’).” Analysis of five major risk factors — population, climate, water, agriculture, and energy –—shows that we’re almost at the breaking point when it comes to both of those occurrences. Sooooo… we’re essentially living in the precursor to The Hunger Games’ Panem. Great.

Here’s how it happens: First, the “Elite” population starts restricting the flow of resources available to the “Masses.” This results in the Elite hoarding a surplus for themselves — one that’s high enough to put significant strain on natural resources. From there, it’s only the proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from the collapse of society as we know it. The Commoners will begin to suffer first; the Elite’s pile of goods will allow them to continue on as usual while the world crumbles around them. But sooner or later, we’re all going down — unless we can make some major changes to the world as a whole.

Motesharrei writes that the changes we need to make are twofold: We can avoid collapse and reach an equilibrium with regards to population if “the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.” In other words, it starts with a lesson we’re taught when we’re in kindergarten: Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Also it would probably behoove us if the one percent got a little less…well, one percent-y.

It’s true that this study is largely theoretical, but still. Empires rise and fall — and ours is apparently right at the edge of the precipice. Sorry to start your weekend off with a major downer; but hey, at least we’re probably not going to be brought down by The Walking Dead, right?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I've got a few skills I'd like to brush up on. Happy Friday!

Image: ctbto/Flickr