New Studies Backup 1972 Warning of Looming Global Collapse

In 1972, a groundbreaking study by MIT researchers called “The Limits to Growth” used computer simulations to explore how factors like population growth, resource use, and pollution could shape our planet’s future.

The findings were alarming: if we continued with “business as usual,” industrial civilization could collapse by 2040. While controversial, the study raised critical questions about the sustainability of our way of life.

Decades Later, the Warning Signs are Clearer Than Ever

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Fast forward to the 21st century, and two new studies suggest that the MIT researchers may have been onto something. In 2014, Dr. Graham M. Turner from the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute compared the original study’s predictions with empirical data from 1970 to 2000 (PDF).

He found a close match between the observed data and the “business-as-usual” scenario, indicating that the world is indeed tracking the collapse path.

More recently, in 2021, Gaya Herrington, a sustainability analyst at KPMG, revisited the MIT study (ref). Her research confirmed that we’re still following the trajectory toward a potential collapse.

If we continue on our current path, we could witness a significant decline in economic growth and living standards within the next decade or two.

The Tipping Point: A Narrow Window for Change

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Both Turner and Herrington emphasize that their findings are not inevitably doom and gloom. Instead, they serve as a wake-up call for transformative change.

If global society recognizes the threat of collapse and takes decisive action, we may still be able to steer toward a more sustainable future.

However, the window for change is narrow.

Delays in global decision-making, resistance from powerful stakeholders, and inertia in the economic system all pose significant challenges. Even if a full-scale collapse is not entirely avoidable, Turner suggests that early action could improve the prospects for recovery and rebuilding a sustainable society in the aftermath.

A Mainstream Moment for a Radical Idea

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What makes Herrington’s study particularly noteworthy is that it comes from a top analyst at a major global company. For the first time, the “limits to growth” concept is being taken seriously in the mainstream business world.

This shift underscores the growing recognition that sustainability is not just an environmental issue, but an existential one that demands attention from all sectors of society.

Charting a Course for a Thriving Future

The path forward won’t be easy, but the stakes couldn’t be higher. By making smart choices about resource use, investing in public services, and fostering innovation, we have the power to create a world that not only survives but thrives for generations to come.

It will require unprecedented cooperation, creativity, and courage, but the alternative – a society in collapse – is simply not an option.The time to act is now.

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Image Credit: Evgeniy Voytik/Shutterstock

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Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.