Scientist Stands By MIT’s Prediction Of 2040 Civilization Collapse

Gaya Herrington, a sustainability scientist, made news last year when she analyzed claims from a 1972 MIT study predicting the end of civilization — and discovered that we are really on track for a collapse around the year 2040.

She is now sticking to her bleak forecast. The lesson of the narrative, according to Herrington, is that continuing with business as usual — a strategy that has exacerbated global climate change and mostly failed to alleviate the accompanying weather disasters — would almost certainly lead to economic and societal collapse. She also believes it is not too late to straighten up our behavior.

“We’re totally capable of making huge changes,” Herrington told the Guardian, “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.”

The precise challenges that the MIT scientists foresaw decades ago are not the same as those we face now. They were concerned about resource scarcity and overpopulation, but as Herrington explained to the Guardian, the MIT researchers correctly predicted that resource shortage would be remedied by more inventive resource extraction technologies. Unfortunately, this resulted in much worse pollution.

“The MIT scientists said we needed to act now to achieve a smooth transition and avoid costs,” Herrington told the Guardian. “That didn’t happen, so we’re seeing the impact of climate change.”

Herrington stands by her assessment that the initial 1972 prognosis of civilization collapse appears to be correct. However, nothing is set in stone, and there is still time to right the ship and work to construct a more sustainable society, she noted.

“The key finding of my study is that we still have a choice to align with a scenario that does not end in collapse,” Herrington 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.”


Gaya Herrington | Limits to Growth

MIT Research | The Limits to growth; a report for the Club of Rome's project on the predicament of mankind

Motherboard | MIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century. New Research Shows We’re on Schedule

The Guardian | Yep, it’s bleak, says expert who tested 1970s end-of-the-world prediction

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