Society heading for collapse NASA-funded study shows. Here’s one way out.

A Handy Tool

This week Dr Nafeez Ahmed wrote a blog for the Guardian showing how we may be a society heading for collapse. The NASA-funded study led by Safa Motesharri of the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center used the cross-disciplinary “Human And Nature Dynamical” (HANDY) model, to arrive at some dire outlooks for human civilization.

By running a series of computer simulations that sees humans as predators and the natural world as prey, the HANDY model allows Safa and his team to predict where our current civilization is heading. And, you’ve guessed it, the outlook isn’t good.

Human Predators

Why not? Well that’s got a lot to do with how that human predator group breaks down. Because it isn’t just humans preying on the natural world that’s could see our society heading for collapse (though that is a problem). It’s also the way humans prey on each other. In fact in the HANDY model, humans are broken into two groups: commoners and elites. No prizes for who preys on whom there.

As Dr Ahmed says, “Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies – by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance – have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a ‘perfect storm’ within about fifteen years. But these ‘business as usual’ forecasts could be very conservative.”

Society Heading for Collapse? Not in all Simulations

You’ll be pleased to hear Safa and his team ran simulations that didn’t result in our society heading for collapse. But they required a change in the way we operate.

Here’s the trick: though collapse occurs in all simulations where the populations are unequal, in equitable and egalitarian societies things are different.

But getting to a sustainable society is tough because “While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse, and therefore advocate structural changes to society,” Safa et al write, “Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory ‘so far’ in support of doing nothing.”

Put simply, elites will always argue to keep things the way they are.

Wading Through Bad Arguments

An article by Kathleen Miles in The Huffington Post takes down one of those arguments: trickle- down economics. In that argument as the elites, or what Fox News likes to call “job creators”, get richer they spend more money and create more jobs and so everyone is better off. Brilliant. I’ll take two.

Only thing is, as Miles writes, “The highest-earning 20 percent of Americans have been making more and more over the past 40 years […]. Over the same 40 years, the lowest-earning 60 percent of Americans have been making less and less.”

So much for trickle-down economics.

Avoiding A Collapse

Dr Ahmed draws his blog post to close with the lines “The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognise that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.” That’s true, the question is why would governments, corporations and business change  anything?

A Ray of Hope

In my last blog, I said understanding no one has a monopoly on the truth of God can change things. It can mean we stop arguing about which religion is right and start working to bring the ideas of religion – fairness and justice to name two – into reality today.

To me, that’s why it’s so important that we find a new way to understand God. One that can act as a beacon guiding us as we make the tough decisions on the problems that face us today.

My guess is before the policy and structural changes Dr Ahmed hopes for come about, something else has to changes first: the way we see ourselves and each other.

Maybe that’s just a dream. But looking beyond ourselves to the idea of a God that unites rather than divides is a dream worth aiming for.


© Joe Britto and God 4.0, 2014. All rights reserved.



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