There are now 7 billion people on the planet. The earth, being a finite system, has limited resources.

A new research study funded by NASA ‘based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists’ has found that ‘even advanced, complex civilizations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilization’.

“The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:

“Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.”

Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from “increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput,” despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.

Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions “closely reflecting the reality of the world today… we find that collapse is difficult to avoid”.

The study goes on to say “The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:

“Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.”

“The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognise that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately”.

So how can the average consumer make a difference? Buy less stuff. Buy stuff that doesn’t wear out. Quit buying mass-produced stuff made from hydro-carbon based synthetic materials. Replace your cheap electronic consumer goods less frequently. Spend less time on the internet. Turn your TV off. Take your children on long walks. Get to know your neighbors. Visit your local libraries and reacquaint yourselves with printed books.

And know this: How you spend your money signifies just how civilized you really are.