Growing demands on the world’s natural resources and extreme economic imbalances could spell an early end for modern human civilisation, a new study has warned.

The study partially funded by NASA and led by Safa Motesharrei, from the University of Maryland, applied human factors such as wealth, economic disparities and use of natural resources to a scientific model typically used to study the interaction of animal populations.

The researchers said this model has enabled them to estimate a human society’s “carrying capacity,” which is a method for determining its overall destruction, ‘CTV News’ reported.

According to the model, sustained exploitation of natural resources can eventually lead to a catastrophic societal breakdown, study co-author Eugenia Kalnay said.

“And if inequality continues such that the rich consume far more than the poor, the system eventually collapses,” Kalnay said.

However, the research authors said that their model is “not a forecasting model,” and is not intended to explain any specific societies’ collapse.

It can “provide a general framework that allows carrying out ‘thought experiments’ for the phenomenon of collapse and to test changes that would avoid it,” said Motesharrei.

“It cannot be used to predict the future of any society. It can, however, help us understand the possible underlying mechanisms in the evolution of society,” said Motesharrei.

The research authors said that human societies are able to reach a sustainable state when they avoid economic inequality and limit resource use.

(This article was published on May 19, 2014)
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