Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Limits to Growth was right – New research shows we’re nearing collapse

Posted by Fredsvenn on September 3, 2014

The Limits to Growth

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we’re nearing collapse

‘The Limits to Growth’: A Book That Launched a Movement

“There is no such thing as limits to growth, because there are no limits to the human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder.”

– Ronald Reagan

40 years ‘Limits to Growth’

A Synopsis: Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update

The 1972 book Limits to Growth was commissioned by a think tank called the Club of Rome. Researchers working out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment. Called World3, this computer model was cutting edge.

The task was very ambitious. The team tracked industrialisation, population, food, use of resources, and pollution. They modelled data up to 1970, then developed a range of scenarios out to 2100, depending on whether humanity took serious action on environmental and resource issues. If that didn’t happen, the model predicted “overshoot and collapse” – in the economy, environment and population – before 2070. This was called the “business-as-usual” scenario.

The book’s central point, much criticised since, is that “the earth is finite” and the quest for unlimited growth in population, material goods etc would eventually lead to a crash.

The book, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticised as doomsday fantasy since it was published. Back in 2002, self-styled environmental expert Bjorn Lomborg consigned it to the “dustbin of history”.

It doesn’t belong there. Four decades after the book was published, research from the University of Melbourne has found the book’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on. Expect the early stages of global collapse to start appearing soon if we continue to track in line with the book’s scenario.

However, the study also noted that unlimited economic growth was possible, if governments forged policies and invested in technologies to regulate the expansion of humanity’s ecological footprint. Prominent economists disagreed with the report’s methodology and conclusions. Yale’s Henry Wallich opposed active intervention, declaring that limiting economic growth too soon would be “consigning billions to permanent poverty.”

Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s, The Limits to Growth, compared real-world data from 1970 to 2000 with the business-as-usual scenario. He found the predictions nearly matched the facts. “There is a very clear warning bell being rung here,” he says. “We are not on a sustainable trajectory.”

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