Uh-oh! NASA study says humanity is likely headed for 'irreversible collapse'

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Mar 17, 2014, 10:07 AM EDT (Updated)

While you typically think of NASA as the folks looking to the stars for our future, a new study from the agency finds we might not even make it long enough to have a chance at shooting onward and upward.

A study sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center determined Earth’s industrial societies are likely poised to collapse under the weight of their own unsustainable appetites for resources. To put it simply: Modern civilization is essentially doomed. 

The study finds that technological and industrial growth in the modernized world is expanding at an unsustainable rate, and if something doesn’t change, we’ll exhaust our resources and eventually run completely out of, well, everything:

"Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use."

Ouch. In a piece for The Guardian, Institute for Policy Research & Development executive director Dr. Nafeez Ahmed added some historical context to the study, and compared our civilization to all the ones that came before. You know, the ones that didn’t survive:

“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”

Double ouch. The full study can be found here, and it’s a fascinating read if you’re up for some dense sociological and scientific reading (and who isn’t?). Do you think the concept holds weight? Are we all on the same bus heading toward a cliff? Do you think it'll be more Mad MaxMad Max 2: Road Warrior or Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?

(Via Gizmodo, The Guardian)