The report’s most infamous scenario — the Business as Usual (BAU) scenario — predicted that the world’s economic growth would peak around the 2040s, then take a sharp downturn, along with the global population, food availability and natural resources. This imminent “collapse” wouldn’t be the end of the human race, but rather a societal turning point that would see standards of living drop around the world for decades, the team wrote.
So, what’s the outlook for society now, nearly half a century after the MIT researchers shared their prognostications? Gaya Herrington, a sustainability and dynamic system analysis researcher at the consulting firm KPMG, decided to find out. […] Herrington found that the current state of the world — measured through 10 different variables, including population, fertility rates, pollution levels, food production and industrial output — aligned extremely closely with two of the scenarios proposed in 1972, namely the BAU scenario and one called Comprehensive Technology (CT), in which technological advancements help reduce pollution and increase food supplies, even as natural resources run out. While the CT scenario results in less of a shock to the global population and personal welfare, the lack of natural resources still leads to a point where economic growth sharply declines — in other words, a sudden collapse of industrial society. “The good news is that it’s not too late to avoid both of these scenarios and put society on track for an alternative — the Stabilized World (SW) scenario,” the report notes. “This path begins as the BAU and CT routes do, with population, pollution and economic growth rising in tandem while natural resources decline. The difference comes when humans decide to deliberately limit economic growth on their own, before a lack of resources forces them to.”
“The SW scenario assumes that in addition to the technological solutions, global societal priorities change,” Herrington wrote. “A change in values and policies translates into, amongst other things, low desired family size, perfect birth control availability, and a deliberate choice to limit industrial output and prioritize health and education services.” After this shift of values occurs, industrial growth and global population begin to level out. “Food availability continues to rise to meet the needs of the global population; pollution declines and all but disappears; and the depletion of natural resources begins to level out, too,” adds Live Science. “Societal collapse is avoided entirely.”
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