Earth’s resources are on continuous exploitation from humans. And recently sustainability researcher Gaya Herrington shocked the world when she re-analyzed the data of a 1972 MIT study, The Limits of Growth – which has predicted the collapse of civilization, and stated that the study is RIGHT! and that the humans living on earth are indeed on track for a collapse by 2040 – in a worst-case scenario.
Various natural calamities were seen recently, right from Australian and Siberian bushfires to the floods in Germany and the turning of Amazon rainforests into a source of carbon instead of sink. Herrington’s work claimed that if the current situation goes on, the earth could see the collapse of civilization as soon as in the year 2040.
Gaya Herrington told The Guardian,
“From a research perspective, I felt a data check of a decades-old model against empirical observations would be an interesting exercise. The MIT scientists said we needed to act now to achieve a smooth transition and avoid costs. That didn’t happen, so we’re seeing the impact of climate change.”
In the new study, Herrington re-analyzed two scenarios – one, termed business as usual, or BAU2, in which growth would stop and the planet will see the population collapse. The other, termed comprehensive technology (CT), in which economic growth stopped but without any social collapse.
In both scenarios indicate that continuing business as usual, that is, pursuing continuous growth, is not possible. But according to Herrington “Sustainability” is the answer.
“There is a sustainable way of creating value and prosperity that also has immense economic potential. Doing good can still yield a profit. 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.”
However, she also said that “nothing is inevitable about its predictions,” and that collapse of civilization can be stopped.
“The key finding of my study is that we still have a choice to align with a scenario that does not end in collapse,” she told The Guardian. “With innovation in business, along with new developments by governments and civil society, continuing to update the model provides another perspective on the challenges and opportunities we have to create a more sustainable world.”
Herrington’s paper came during a pandemic when many economies are affected, which is very much prescient as the government mostly looks to return economies to business-as-usual growth, despite the large warnings that tell that continuing economic growth is incompatible with sustainability.
According to her, ironically the pandemic has shown the world that collapse of civilization might be possible, but she also belives that, “We’re totally capable of making huge changes, and we’ve seen with the pandemic, but we have to act now if we’re to avoid costs much greater than we’re seeing.”