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MIT Institute's Gloomy Prediction: 'Global Economic Collapse' By 2030

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the that's-nothing-we-can-beat-it-by-collapsing-faster dept.

The Almighty Buck 816

suraj.sun writes "A new study from researchers at Jay W. Forrester's institute at MIT says that the world could suffer from 'global economic collapse' and 'precipitous population decline' if people continue to consume the world's resources at the current pace. The study's researchers created a computing model to forecast different scenarios based on the current models of population growth and global resource consumption, different levels of agricultural productivity, birth control and environmental protection efforts. Most of the computer scenarios found population and economic growth continuing at a steady rate until about 2030. But without 'drastic measures for environmental protection,' the scenarios predict the likelihood of a population and economic crash."

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FROSTY PISS!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584331)

lulz!! Collapse!!

Re:FROSTY PISS!! (5, Insightful)

busyqth (2566075) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584563)

The wonderful thing about this prediction is that it is testable.
Nothing is going to change significantly in the next 18 years, so we will see whether this prediction is accurate.
My guess: It isn't accurate.

WAY TO GO, MIT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584847)

What is your source of such inspiration, genius MIT scientists?
 
Lots of pot? Acid?? Idea balls???

Re:WAY TO GO, MIT! (4, Funny)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584927)

Historically everyone who has predicted the end of the world has been wrong. Some guys twice in a row.

Good Timing! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584357)

I'll be of retirement age by then, and I've had a vasectomy and have no kids.

It will suck if you're one of the dummies out there who is actually breeding and consuming resources that can not exist.

Re:Good Timing! (-1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584389)

Yeah, and anyone who is childless of course will be fine... Remember, there ain't no justice in this world, we're all in it together.

Re:Good Timing! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584439)

It's easier to leave the world in peace and contentment if you're free from emotional attachments like, ya know, children.

Re:Good Timing! (1)

felipekk (1007591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584655)

Finally a prediction for something interesting that will happen while I'm (hopefully) still alive!

Re:Good Timing! (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584843)

Yeah, and anyone who is childless of course will be fine...

At least they can have a chuckle knowing they messed it up for all those other idiot's grandkids.

Revenge is best served cold.

Re:Good Timing! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584589)

Enjoy attempting to make it to the bathroom in time to avoid the indignity of shitting yourself without the help of the offspring you never had.

Re:Good Timing! (5, Interesting)

Evtim (1022085) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584917)

Easy. Enjoy life, enjoy all those little pleasures that are either immoral or you get fat/sick from them. Drop dead before the onset of senility. QED.

Every single male from my extended family during the last 2 generations has dropped dead from heart attack/stroke way before they turned into barely moving lump of protein requiring 3 nurses, 2 iPads and a mobile toilet to "live". Me, with my pack a cigarets a day - I am expecting the same fate. Long life is not as nice as people think...so no, I have covered that angle (ergo, no need for children to take care of me).

If am wrong, I've covered that angle too - as a scientist and a person with enormous interest in all kinds of subjects I keep my mind very busy, so no senility for me. Thus, when the body really starts giving up but the mind is still clear...well, meet my little friend - 2L bottle with compressed nitrogen and a face mask. You cannot fire me, I quit! (bonus: no (grand) children will be hurt by my action).

Rationality - can't beat it! So join it!

Re:Good Timing! (1, Insightful)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584593)

Yeah. Nothing says "sustainable welfare state" and "stable retirement" like having no children.

Re:Good Timing! (2, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584881)

I think he means the childless will have more money for stockpiling food/ammo than the ones who are currently sinking everything into minivans and designer sports accessories.

Re:Good Timing! (5, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584597)

So you'll be old, unable to work, and have no money? How is that "good timing" for you?

An economic collapse won't just let you alone, you know. Actually, the people with kids are more likely to survive (and prosper): they will have children willing and able to support them. You? You'll have a mostly worthless retirement fund. You may not have though this all the way through.

Nonsense (1)

pablo_max (626328) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584613)

I have several years to collect guns and ammunition which will enable me and my family to take what you have. It will be helpful having children who can gather up your food, you know ... after. ;)

Re:Good Timing! (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584627)

Of course if you are childless when you get old, you may not have many allies to your aid. Having kids when the economy collapse you at least have family to fall back to. If you don't have any kids you may be on your own, especially if your spouse dies before you do.

Re:Good Timing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584819)

All of the responders make the wild assumption that kids will actually be on good terms with their parents in the future. Look around you. Having kids is no way to guarantee a good life in the future. They will have no obligation to help you, and will always cost piles of money to raise.

In any case, it's a massive long term gamble, when you could just take all that money that you'd save by not raising kids and buy guns, gold, stockpiles of food, and similar.

It will suck... (3, Insightful)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584895)

...to be old with nobody to look after you.

"Retirement" is only an option when you have savings or someone supporting you like government or family. In a situation like MIT spells out you will not be retiring. Stay healthy.

I'm sure you feel superior referring to the rest of the world as dummies and breeders. But the passion and drive of young people is a key element in making the world a better place. You have failed to renew that resource. You are a cynic. Cynics do not change the world. They just stand to the side and watch while making snide remarks.

Couldn't have called that one. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584363)

In other news, the sun is bright.

Club of Rome Study 2 (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584375)

From the original source of garbage in garbage out.

Re:Club of Rome Study 2 (5, Interesting)

21mhz (443080) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584585)

It's amazing how few people understand that Club of Rome's predictions were never disproved in principle. Sure the timing was off, but it's impossible to predict the oil peak accurately given uncertainty of reserve data and technological progress. BTW, if you put your money on the latter, please know that it cannot outrun the laws of nature. The economic growth will have to stop (or, at least, become less than exponential, which is anathema just the same to most modern economists) before the humankind will boil itself with the amount of energy it will need to use to continue it. As things stand, we may not even be able to tech our way out of the oil crunch.

Well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584385)

At least the population decline doesn't sound like a bad thing. We're overpopulated now as is.
 
Captcha: predict

Re:Well... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584523)

Nevermind, I just lost all faith in the story:
 
 

However, the study said "unlimited economic growth" is still possible if world governments enact policies and invest in green technologies that help limit the expansion of our ecological footprint.

Re:Well... (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584807)

Yep credibility = 0. A relief to know that this study was conducted by madmen.

Well this could be a bad thing (5, Funny)

AbrasiveCat (999190) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584397)

How do we keep the Internet running? Come on, this is about priories.

Re:Well this could be a bad thing (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584525)

I'm sure that the Good Brothers of the St. Leibowitz Priory can help here. They just need enough novices to keep the threadmill running.

Re:Well this could be a bad thing (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584579)

Computing doesn't require that much electricity, so solar cells or wind turbines should be enough.

Re:Well this could be a bad thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584773)

Already [wikipedia.org] worked [ietf.org] out if the abbot is unavailable.

Again... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584399)

On the one hand, people have been predicting the imminent collapse of civilization for quite a while now with nothing to show for it. On the other hand, our high-tech society is basically a house of cards and it has to collapse sooner or later.

Forrester's group, btw, are the same folks who produced the Club of Rome-funded "Limits to Growth" study in the early '70s, which also predicted serious trouble around 2030. You can choose to read this as consistency, good initial assumptions, or simply a pig-headed insistence on sticking to his original premises rather than admit error, as you wish.

Re:Again... (3, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584569)

Sure, but the Joint Forces Command (aka the US millitary) even said that we hit peak oil in 2010.
 
No, really. Click this link and skip ahead to page 24
 
  http://www.jfcom.mil/newslink/storyarchive/2010/JOE_2010_o.pdf [jfcom.mil]

Re:Again... (3, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584625)

Err sorry, jumped the gun. It's been a while since I looked at the document. It's on page 29:
 
 

By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 MBD.

 
P.S. "shortfall in supply" == skyrocketing prices as consumers compete with their dollars to fuel their farm tractors and war tanks

Re:Again... (5, Insightful)

geogob (569250) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584915)

Completely unrelated to oil, but while skimming over the report, figure on page 30 struck me as odd. Anyone doing such an extrapolation without providing a thorough basis justifying is doing something questionable.

On the graph showing grain demand, you see a fairly linear progression between 1960 and 1990 with a slight regression 1990 onwards. There seem to be a local increase in demand just before 2010, but it seems non significant considering earlier trend deviations. But suddenly, after 2010, the extrapolation shows a strong increase in the rate, contradicting a 20 year regression trend. Added to that local variations on the extrapolated data that can hardly be attributed to any model...

I'll restrain myself to extrapolate the credibility of the whole report based on this single figure though.

Computer Models (5, Insightful)

ZiggieTheGreat (934388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584409)

Were they using SimCity, Civilization, or simply the Sims to predict what is glaringly obvious.

i can imagine the Civilization model:

World ends in 2030 when Bismarck conquers Spain!

Re:Computer Models (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584477)

Nope, Sim Earth. They decided to edit the paper to not mention that the intelligent life they were studying consisted of hyper-advanced flatworms.

Re:Computer Models (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584521)

>> Were they using SimCity, Civilization, or simply the Sims to predict what is glaringly obvious.

Fallout

Re:Computer Models (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584599)

No, Fallout predicts a major economic and technological boom period up until around 2074, then a war, then a different kind of BOOM period in 2077...

Re:Computer Models (2)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584607)

No, it would be 2077 then.

Collapse (0, Offtopic)

fizzer06 (1500649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584411)

Waiting for someone to blame it on Bush . . .

This is Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584475)

This is Slashdot. You'll get more +5, Informative posts blaming it on Obama and OMG teh Democrat Party!!1!".

Re:Collapse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584587)

Not gonna blame in on W, but I would *mightily* impressed if someone could provide reasonable arguments of how his administration did anything to improve the situation.

Malthus again??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584417)

Who pays for these reports? I want to write one! There seems to be a never ending market for claims that humans cannot adapt, and markets do not work, and history is no guide.

My prediction: we are all going to die within a month because the shops have less than one months's food in them!!!! Now how much should I charge for that speaking tour?

Re:Malthus again??? (5, Interesting)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584723)

Malthus would have been correct, save for the development of atmospheric nitrogen-fixing processes for making fertilizer.

We are currently using 10 calories worth of energy (mostly from non-renewable petro-chemicals) to make 1 calorie of food --- this is not sustainable, and rising food prices will eventually push the poorest of the poor into starvation, unless there is some sort of intervention.

Re:Malthus again??? (1)

cforciea (1926392) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584741)

I'm not really sure how history is supposed to be a guide here. When's the last time we've run into any of the described concerns? Or is your argument that if we see a herd of angry, stampeding bulls running towards us, we shouldn't bother getting out of the way because historically, we've never been run over by bulls?

Idiots! (2)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584431)

Didn't they learn anything from the Prophets of Old? Now if this doesn't happen then the people who made this prophecy will be beheaded and their other work entirely discredited. Here let me fix this for them.

I predict Global economics collapse by 2113

Now in a century or so there will be crazies doing all sorts of nuts stuff based upon my ancient and wise prediction. Now just imagine if I made a calendar system and decided to stop at the year 2113 instead.

Club of Rome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584435)

Massive population control endorsed by the Club of Rome as the final solution to all our problems. Why am I unsurprised?

Re:Club of Rome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584591)

Because we are overpopulating the planet. As it stands 2 billion people eat with the help of petroleum based fertilizer...

Drastic Measures (2)

DrStrange66 (654036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584447)

But without "drastic measures for environmental protection," the scenarios predict the likelihood of a population and economic crash.

Such as a one child law? The lottery? Soylent green?
What kind of drastic measures do they mean?

Re:Drastic Measures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584761)

What ever it is, it is extremely unlikely we'll get around to it.

Re:Drastic Measures (1)

Artraze (600366) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584789)

Yeah, I liked that bit. Even better, it's "environmental protection" so those measures you suggest wouldn't count. I find it to be very odd that they jump from resource consumption to environmental protection like that are even related.

Moreover, even if we are to suppose that they really meant "drastic measures for conservation" and that environmentalism was just a typo (those keys being right next to one another), the proposition is still a bit bizarre. We have to take _drastic_ measures to prevent... uh having to take, I guess more, drastic measure drastic consequences later? How about we don't cripple ourselves now to avoid being crippled later, and let technology progress for the next decade or so. That will probably mitigate the problems more than a few years of extreme conservation (which by definition only delays the problem) will

Re:Drastic Measures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584795)

By 2030 we're going to spaaaace.

When one modest asteroid can hold $6.6tn [nss.org] in raw materials (the table represents $13.5B/year for 500 years), we can continue economic growth.

Useless prediction (1)

aglider (2435074) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584453)

As 99.999% of the people that has power just focus on his own profit.

What...No technological advancement? (1)

hundredrabh (1531761) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584455)

He does not consider any technological advancement in next 18 years to augment our consumption rate and needs?
Heck we do not even find a new planet to move to?

Re:What...No technological advancement? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584487)

And that is exactly the problem with all of these type of predictions. They never predict the technological advancements that make the seemingly impossible, possible.

Usually the best advancements don't happen until absolutely necessary.

Re:What...No technological advancement? (4, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584501)

Please list below any advancements since 1994 that seriously reduced resource consumption. I can't think of any.

Re:What...No technological advancement? (2)

DrStrange66 (654036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584601)

Please list below any advancements since 1994 that seriously reduced resource consumption. I can't think of any.

Maybe not reduce resource consumption but increase resources. 1994 is when genetically modified foods were introduced to massively increase crop yields. (Coincidentally cancer rates have skyrocketed)

Re:What...No technological advancement? (0)

ZiggieTheGreat (934388) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584661)

The Prius. No, that reduced one resource use and substituted another.
The condom. Wait, that was before 1994.
The Internet. while technically prior to 1994, its uptake has curbed park usage significantly.
Google. I now use less non-Google things.

Re:What...No technological advancement? (1)

Enokcc (1500439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584809)

Internet for everyone. All the advancements that made it possible.

Re:What...No technological advancement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584623)

It's pretty naive to actually believe that technology can make infinite growth possible. There are hard, physical limits to a closed system like Earth. Technology can help, but it isn't a magic wand.

Historically, I find that efficiency-improving tech just enables people to get more out of the same input, rather than getting the same amount out of less input, which is what we would need.

Re:What...No technological advancement? (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584797)

Why would people advance technology when they can seek rent on existing technology?

Old news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584457)

This has been predicted for quite some time now - I think the first study was in the 70s. The most recent study has merely confirmed that the earlier predictions have been more or less correct so far.

More government propaganda (-1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584465)

From TFA:

A new study from researchers at Jay W. Forrester's institute at MIT says that the world could suffer from "global economic collapse" and "precipitous population decline" if people continue to consume the world's resources at the current pace.

and this:

Most of the computer scenarios found population and economic growth continuing at a steady rate until about 2030. But without "drastic measures for environmental protection," the scenarios predict the likelihood of a population and economic crash.

However, the study said "unlimited economic growth" is still possible if world governments enact policies and invest in green technologies that help limit the expansion of our ecological footprint.

AFAIC, this is another piece of propaganda, somehow aimed at either receiving more money from gov't or is paid by it.

The question, whatever it is, is always answered in the same exact manner by all these 'studies':

more government

this is the answer to all questions that are ever asked - more regulations, more taxes, more government.

Well, this is just more nonsense as usual, more propaganda, more people trying to control others. It's a prison like system, they want YOU to be the prisoner. THEY will 'provide' you with whatever meaning they want, in exchange, you will give up all your inspirations, all your liberties.

Of-course maybe you don't have any inspirations and desire to do anything useful with yourself, maybe you are just fine being controlled and fed by your prisoners. Maybe you want to be one of the guards or one of the managers in this prison.

--

AFAIC there is only one solution to our problems - more freedoms for people to do business as they want, not less. There is a huge reason why every single attempt at more government on this planet has always produced poverty and misery, while any reduction in government always produced more wealth, and this simple truth will remain, regardless of what they tell you and however they frame the question.

--

The question about finality of resources on this planet must never be answered with: 'more government', it must always be answered with: 'more freedom'.

Only people free from prison are able to create, able to find real solutions to these problems, able to create more supply, figure out how to create more supply. Supply is the driver of the economy, and even in this 'article' they admit it - they are worried about supply.

Well, supply is NEVER created by ANY government, supply is always created by the enterprising people, doing business, trying to make a buck, and there will be no exceptions, as governments are only able to consume whatever supply the market produces.

Re:More government propaganda (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584839)

Hey, nobody's stopping you from conducting your own studies and informing the world about it to counteract all the propaganda

(and by informing, I mean doing more than just make /. posts)

Or do you expect somebody else to do it? Somebody else like... government? :p

Re:More government propaganda (1, Insightful)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584899)

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Give that man a Prize!

Greece isn't in the toilet because the people with jobs and lived withing their means are consuming. It's in the shitter because the government supported those who are not by giving them free things, running up their debt and over all behaving like a teenager with a credit card.

Same in the U.S. The President's own numbers show the U.S. economy essentially grinding to a halt in about 15 years due to the crushing federal debt.

Again, it's not because I own two cars, a big house and set my AC to 74.

Re:More government propaganda (0)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584925)

Ladies and gentlemen, it's roman_mir, turning any Slashdot news post into a soapbox for his libertarian hobby-horse since 200X (or whenever exactly UIDs were in the low six digits).

Fred Hoyle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584485)

30 years ago, Fred Hoyle predicted this happening in about 2025.
Read his books. A brilliant scientist, way ahead of his time.

VOTE RON PAUL! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584497)

Stop spending money we don't have

We know. We won't do anything about it though. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584503)

Insert title here (3, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584505)

The same frauds are making the same claims in the same ways for 50 years. They are physical scientists who don't understand economics, with new technology and substitutes leading to ever-increasing quality and length of life -- sans goverment intervention.

Theodore Roosevelt decried the coming "timber crisis" because rotting railroad ties would soon consume all lumber production at current replacement rates. Then someone invented using creosote coatings.

Yes, you can predict this will happen. That is Julian Simon's theory, used to make predictions which come true over and over and over again. Said computer models don't include millions of scientists and engineers in a free society working to satisfy mass wants for profits, which call into existence new tech all the time. This is just the latest in sub-sentient drooling idiocy, disproven again and again and again.

Really? (1, Interesting)

SaroDarksbane (1784314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584509)

They think we have 18 years left?

I'll personally be surprised if we get through this year and the next without a major economic disaster.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584769)

Umm, we already had our economic disaster for this time period. (Figuring one every twenty years or so. Last one was the S & L crisis.)
Not sure about the EU, though. Greece pulls out and goes back to the drachma. Portugal and Spain, not so good, either. Heard on Bloomberg yesterday that Portugal's government floated some bonds that had a 17% yield!

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584933)

Wrong. It was Spain's bonds that had an abysmal yield. Portuguese bond did sell quite well.
But that's a moot point. The global economic collapse is still going on. Just wait and see and it all unfolds...

crappy difference-equation mathematics (4, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584527)

Forrester model uses difference equations to link economic sectors. The solution to difference equation is an exponential. An exponential goes to zero or infinity given enough time.

This group was wrong in the 1970s. And is still wrong in the 2010s.

Re:crappy difference-equation mathematics (4, Informative)

evanbd (210358) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584653)

Second- or higher-degree difference equations can also oscillate stably, decay to a non-zero constant, or decay to a linear function.

Re:crappy difference-equation mathematics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584937)

This is what you get when a bunch of pimply faced geeks, with no girl friends and completely detached from the outside world become board with WoW.

Not surprising considering our growth (3, Insightful)

concealment (2447304) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584533)

Our societies are now based on rampant consumerism and the freedom of the individual to do whatever they want, so long as it's not illegal and they can pay for it. As a result, we have gone from a few hundred million to seven billion people within a century. If we value our natural world, we will find some way to check this growth sooner rather than later.

politics? (1)

Bob-taro (996889) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584549)

However, the study said "unlimited economic growth" is still possible if world governments enact policies and invest in green technologies that help limit the expansion of our ecological footprint.

There was an article a while back about a decline in conservatives' trust of science. This is an example of why, in my opinion. I'm not finding fault with this study, but the conclusion seems to have stepped outside the realm of science and into politics by assuming (at least this is the impression the article gives) that government policy is the only way to limit the growth of our ecological footprint.

Re:politics? (4, Interesting)

21mhz (443080) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584701)

I'm not finding fault with this study, but the conclusion seems to have stepped outside the realm of science and into politics by assuming (at least this is the impression the article gives) that government policy is the only way to limit the growth of our ecological footprint.

The good old freedom-loving alternative has inspired such movies as Mad Max 2.

It's peculiar how science is only OK as long as its conclusions are harmless to powerful interests.

Re:politics? (2, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584891)

I'm not finding fault with this study, but the conclusion seems to have stepped outside the realm of science and into politics by assuming (at least this is the impression the article gives) that government policy is the only way to limit the growth of our ecological footprint.

The good old freedom-loving alternative has inspired such movies as Mad Max 2.

It's peculiar how science is only OK as long as its conclusions are harmless to powerful interests.

These models aren't science. They are at best educated guesses, based on mathematical models that are necessarily unable to predict changes to birthrate or sustainability that occur in the future. This isn't a problem with the models or science: the problem is in granting these models more power than they have. I have little doubt that the models are correct: if the present trends stay exactly the same, collapse will happen when they say it will.

The trends never stay the same. Little exercise: create a population (or economic) model for human civilization using any time in history. It will predict a peak population (or population explosion) at some other point in history (usually a couple hundreds years from the chosen time). Yet guess what? Humanity has continued to expand well past that predicted limits, because these models are inherently unable to predict changes in the trends: they can only be based on current or historical trends, and those always change unpredictably.

The problem with these models... (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584557)

Is they assume that we will go on like business is usual. As soon as scarcity of a resource gets past a point we go and find alternatives. The Prius came popular at US gas went over $4.00 a gallon back in 2008. Then when prices went down the Prius wasn't popular and now it is getting popular again at $4.00. For US consumers $4.00 a gallon is a price enough to evoke change in behavior and look for alternatives.
We tend not to deplete a resource if possible, but when it gets scarce enough we go for alternatives. If pork or cattle get to expensive we go with less resource needed chickens or turkeys.
Usually the things that us humans kill off forever, are things that at least in our short term mindset see are things that are not directly useful for us. We don't see a drop in cattle. But we see a drop in wolves, as they are in competition with us for our cattle... So we kill the wolves, they are not really a direct resource for us so they killed. As well as lot of bugs and other animals. I am not saying this is a good thing we should work hard to preserve nature for it is better in the long term. But as human nature when scarcity happens we change our behavior, and we wont change our behavior until we feel the effect of scarcity.

Doom, right after doomsayer retires/dies (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584647)

How many of these stupid predictions are published over the years. And do they say "doom in five years"? No. They say doom in 30 years or doom in a 100 years... long after being embarrassed by being wrong would matter.

I'm not even going to get into the economics of the repeatedly proven wrong Malthusian theory. These predictions of doom are stupid.

Re:Doom, right after doomsayer retires/dies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584707)

Protip: Just because you disagree with a fact doesn't make it proven wrong.

So? (0)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584659)

Sounds like a self-correcting system to me. It's seen in nature all the time. It's just sad to me that we, as a species, are too stupid and stubborn to keep it from happening to ourselves.

I'll never understand so-called environmentalists who go out and have 5 or 6 kids. I can think of nothing quite so environmentally irresponsible...

-S

Steady State Economy (1)

the_pace (1319317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584675)

The underlying assumption here is: "if people continue to consume the world's resources at the current pace.". When it comes to human behavior, such long term assumption may not valid especially since the problem is widely known among the people who care to look beyond the headlines. There are many smart people are working toward a steady state economy [steadystate.org] and sustainable future based on renewable energy. I am hopeful.

politically motivated (4, Informative)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584703)

Most of the computer scenarios found population and economic growth continuing at a steady rate until about 2030.

Well then, they're bullshit. Every single country in the world that has ever industrialized has experienced steep declines in population growth as its citizens become wealthier and more educated. This trend is already very noticeable in the up-and-coming Asian and BRIC countries. There is no reason, none whatsoever, to assume that the trend will not apply (gradually) to every other country as they find their way to productive governments and growth--in fact, really, only Africa and the Middle East are left at this point, and thing there are starting to change.

There can be only one reason to base models on such a startlingly unlikely assumption...

Re:politically motivated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584837)

Yes, but the world likely cannot sustain the transition from non-industrialized to industrialized for most of the worlds population. If you look at resouce consumption per capita between a pre-industrial society and and industrial one, the difference is vast. Industrialization is happening at a very fast pace, with the bulk of the world's population is still pre-industrial. Even ignoring population growth, we are still in for a rough ride.

What's the issue? (1)

John Napkintosh (140126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584725)

Sounds like a self-correcting problem. We consume too much too fast, and our population is resized to be supported sufficiently by the available resources - whether by choice or by necessity. Yeah it's going to suck if you're not one of the survivors, but the end result will be either that we're forced to create technologies to circumvent the problem out of necessity, or we'll have learned a lesson (hah!) for the second time around.

Good news (3, Funny)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584731)

Some times you just need to start over. I'm well stocked with solver coins, shotgun shells, peanut butter, and tampons. I'll be able to trade for whatever I need in the collapse.

Simple math (5, Interesting)

RichMan (8097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584743)

Land Area of the Earth: 148,940,000 km^2
Population of the Earth 7,000,000,000

Land Area Per Person: 0.02127 km2 -> 21270m^2
So approx 200m x 100m (americans read yds per person)
But then there are mountains, desert, barren lands, asphalt to take into account.

Lets say 100m x 100m per person (roughly 2 football fields). That is the source of your food, your clothes, ....
This is ignoring all other life as that is likely part of the food chain that feeds us.
And that land is used year after year, getting less fertile, limited resources disappearing, getting smaller and smaller as more people appear.

The year is 2012, guys... (4, Interesting)

macwhizkid (864124) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584745)

So, the data started to decouple from predictions, circa year 2000. It seems rather convenient to say that 1970-2000 matches the model, and then simply ignore 2000-onward.

And could we maybe narrow down that prediction a bit, too? Anything between economic collapse (zero) and "unlimited economic growth" is pretty open-ended. (And what the fuck does the term "unlimited economic growth" actually mean, anyway? Money growing on trees?)

Reading predictions of economic doom always brings to mind a quote from "The West Wing" about how economists and futurologists almost always fail to account for technological progress:

BARTLET: You ever read Paul Erlich's book?

TOBY: "The Population Bomb"?

BARTLET: Yeah. He wrote it in 1968. Erlich said it was a fantasy that India would ever feed itself. Then Norman Borlaug comes along. See the problem was wheat is top-heavy. It was falling over on itself and it took up too much space. The dwarf wheat... it was an agricultural revolution that was credited with saving one billion lives.

LOLWUT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584755)

Who is going to tell the elderly? We're trying to get qualified people to immigrate to this country to counteract the declining population growth needed to sustain those retiring. Choices, choices...

But but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584763)

E=MC2 and Space Elevators! We will continue on our present course, and no changes will be made to this social model!

History (1)

Jazari (2006634) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584803)

"Most of the computer scenarios found population and economic growth continuing at a steady rate"

That's already a sign that their models are wrong. Did their models, if run on historical data, predict: the 1930's depression? the 1970's stagflation? the babyboom? the current economic situation? the current population growth trends in Africa? ...

Humans (and markets) are adaptable. If resources get scarce, prices rise. People change their behaviors.

Hunh? Dumb study. (1)

LazyBoyWrangler (760913) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584813)

I have to wonder about these studies. Seems like they ignore the population's ability to modify their behaviour based on the events of the times in which they live. Most societies are currently realizing that the baby boomer's frat party is over, and our children will live in a different world than we were born into. By reaching this understanding, we are all actively changing how we prepare our children for the future. My parent's generation had concepts like lifelong employment, pensions and isolated economies. My generation is adapting to fragmented employment, self insuring for old age and global economic influences. My son's generation is very aware that employment prospects are grim without very focused education and preparation. Quality of life standards are redistributing globally on a daily basis. As a result of the changing world and it's impact on various societies, many of the conditions required to reach MIT's predicted disaster scenario are changing radically. Fossil fuel pricing changes are certainly real. The effect on casual motoring, inefficient vehicle purchase and the old-school cachet of driving Hummers and Escalades is visibly changing to admiration of Prius and other vehicles. At the same time, emerging economies aren't getting cheap gas, and will never go through the V-8 powered 60's and 70's that I did.

Computer predictions on a societal level are about as useful as using Excel to predict business performance. If Excel was such a good tool the whole tech market bubble would never have burst, because all the projected growth and ridiculous valuations would be true. Idiots behind analytical tools can predict any result they envision, and construct plausible worksheet scenarios to reach that goal. The real challenge is in critically questioning their assumptions and formulas - while also realzing that the world changes continually making those assumptions worthless.

Question everything. Doubt everyone. Make your own future. The timeline of our life may progress at a fixed rate, but the conditions affectting it do not. Massive influences can happen in fractions of seconds - and societies DO respond. Look at the USA - once freedom and liberties there meant something very different than they do today. 9/11 changed the whole mentality in the US in seconds. The Supreme Court just made it legal to strip search anyone for any infraction. Wasn't like that in the US I was born into in 1960.

unlimited economic growth (3, Insightful)

nten (709128) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584845)

As soon as I read this I stopped reading.

"However, the study said "unlimited economic growth" is still possible if world governments enact policies and invest in green technologies that help limit the expansion of our ecological footprint."

Firstly, "unlimited economic growth" isn't possible unless we get off this rock (difficult), and even that just opens the timescale up quite a bit. Here is a great (if depressing) discussion prompted by the same book mentioned in the article. http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/07/can-economic-growth-last/ [ucsd.edu]

Second, the statement turns what seemed an interesting research conclusion into "the sky is falling, but give us enough money and you'll all be fine." It could be that this wording is different than what is in the actual report, but I can't find a link to it.

A focus on increasing the efficiency with which we use our resources is important, but this sounds like an unrealistic promise in order to obtain funding. This close to the wall we should be focused on how to make a transition to the steady state economy more orderly and less disruptive so that we can keep chugging towards the next breakthrough technology that will get us back into growth for a while, and perhaps eventually off earth so that we can delay the inevitable even more. Allocating large amounts of resources to finding that next breakthrough only gets us relatively little time if it succeeds, and it neglects the risk that if we fail we could have a sudden transition to steady state which would cause a great deal more suffering than is necessary.

steady population growth? (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584855)

I don't think I've seen anything that indicates that steady population growth is likely, most of the predictions I've seen show leveling off and shrinking population somewhere between 9 and 12 billion people, within the next 10-50 years. I tend to trust the UN population experts over some PhDs at MIT who have probably never stepped foot outside of their labs.

photo is morphed (0)

blue_teeth (83171) | more than 2 years ago | (#39584893)

The photo of chinese people in the link is morphed to show more people.  Look at top right hand corner.

Argument by Assertion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584931)

I used a model therefore it is true. If I say it, and then you repeat it, it’s true. And through repetition, something becomes true even if it's not true. If you repeat it enough until it becomes true then it's true. Or do I need to repeat that for you?

link? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39584939)

Is there a link to the actual study instead of this Yahoo fluff?

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