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Human civilisation may collapse earlier than thought
Monday May 19, 2014 12:50 PM, IANS

Growing demands on the world's natural resources and extreme economic imbalances could spell a premature end for modern human civilisation, an alarming research partially funded by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre has revealed.

Researchers from University of Maryland have created a model that helped them estimate a human society's "carrying capacity" for determining its overall destruction.

"The model shows that sustained exploitation of natural resources can eventually lead to a catastrophic societal breakdown," said co-author Eugenia Kalnay from University of Maryland.

Led by Safa Motesharrei, a mathematician at University of Maryland, the model looks at factors like wealth, economic disparities and use of natural resources.

"If inequality continues such that the rich consume far more than the poor, the system eventually collapses," Kalnay was quoted as saying in media reports.

The model provides a general framework that allows carrying out 'thought experiments' for the phenomenon of collapse and to test changes that would avoid it, the researchers noted.

"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," Motesharrei noted.

The research paper, titled "Human and nature dynamics (HANDY): modeling inequality and use of resources in the collapse or sustainability of societies", was published in the journal Ecological Economics.

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