So a study back in 1972 predicted that according to the rate at which the world was growing economically, society would eventually collapse in the mid 21st century. While we got pretty close to that with the pandemic and all. Society is all intact somewhat. However, a new study shows that this prediction might have been right and we’re right on schedule it seems. Well if it’s from MIT then it must be true right?
The 1972 study was aimed at the risks of civilization collapse. Their system dynamics model was published by the Club of Rome and identified impending limits to growth or LtG. These limits coupled with the rate at which planetary resources were being consumed meant that industrial civilization was on its way towards a complete collapse. The study estimated that this would happen somewhere in the mid 21st century.
While this study was met with much criticism during the time it was published, another recent study from the senior director of KPMG or Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler, says that the study was right and we haven’t deviated from the timeline. KPMG is one the biggest accounting firms as of right now. KPMG’s Gaya Herrington, the author of the study, is the Sustainability and Dynamic System Analysis Lead of the firm.
Herrington undertook the research as a personal project to see how well the MIT model was. Her project was explained on the KPMG website. According to her “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”.
Herrington’s analysis examines data from across 10 different variables. These variables were population, fertility rates, mortality rates, industrial outputs, food production, non-renewable resources, ecological footprint, services, persistent pollution, and human welfare. The gist of her study is that there is a terminal decline in economic growth as years go by and the current state of global civilizations means that we are heading towards a path that will eventually lead to societal collapse within the coming decade or at worst, around 2040.
The study was published in the Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology back in November 2020 and is also available on KPMG’s website.