Will civilization collapse in the coming decades?

Annual population percent change in the world....
Annual population percent change in the world. Source: CIA World Factbook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apparently, there is a NASA funded study which says so.

If history is any guide, our civilization will eventually collapse.  Every other society in human history has ultimately done so: Sumer, Egypt, Rome, etc.  There’s no good reason to think we’ve beaten the civilization life cycle, any more than there is to believe the assertions we always seem to hear in good economic times that recessions have been eliminated.  It’s only a matter of time.

That said, I’m profoundly skeptical of any predictions of it being imminent.  Another thing that appears to be a constant in history are assertions that disaster is upon us.  Someone is always accusing the current generation of going to hell in a hand basket, and unless it cleans up its act, it is doomed.  These assertions seem to happen all the time with little correlation to how close they are to any actual collapse.

I remember in my college world history class reading about all the Roman historians who, in every century of both the republic and empire’s existence, predicted disaster if they didn’t clean up their act.  It only became accurate in the fourth and fifth centuries.

Based on the linked article, I do think the study makes some good recommendations, such as for a more equitable allocation of resources, a wiser strategy of consumption of those resources, and putting a lid on population growth.  Actually, getting the first will usually lead to the last one.

Specifically, giving women equal rights has been shown to curtail population growth, as it allows them to have an identity other than as a mother.  Indeed I tend to think that the population explosion is the number one problem in the world.  Most of the other major problems are details of that problem.

It’s hard to see in day to day stories, but I think the broad sweep of history is moving in the right direction.  Women around the world have far more rights than they have historically, and it appears to be increasing.  The crucial question is whether it will happen fast enough to curtail population growth before any sort of ecological collapse.

A related danger is what we’re doing to the environment.  I doubt climate change will lead to our extinction, although that’s not something anyone can know for sure.  But it will possibly curtail the standard of living and economic vitality for several generations of our descendants.  Whether or not it leads to civilizational collapse is something I’m not confident anyone can predict.