There are reasonable limits to everything; most people as consumers know this adagio quite well: in food and entertainment, in travel and luxuries, etc. On one side, national growth models have to sustain appropriate living standards for citizens; on another, continued scientific progress can promote an ever increasing level of prosperity. However, stopping economic growth does not solve global and European problems: new “social-type” political economies are needed in that regard. Actually, this is what a present European integration model is aimed at…
“Limits to Growth” (with a subtitle “a report for the Club of Rome’s project on the predicament of mankind”), published 50 years ago, was a study of the patterns and dynamics of human presence on earth, pointed toward environmental and economic collapse within a century if “business as usual” continued. In 1972, the book’s findings sparked a worldwide controversy about the earth’s capacity to withstand constant human and economic expansion.
After about half a century, with over 10 million copies sold in 28 languages, this “little book with powerful ideas” endures as a touchstone for anyone seeking to understand the complex relationships underlying today’s global environmental and economic trends. “Limits to Growth”, alerted the world to the consequences of the interactions between human systems and the health of our planet.
Celebrating 50th anniversary
The “Limits to Growth” was commissioned by a think tank “Club of Rome” in 1968; researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT including husband-and-wife team Donella and Dennis Meadows, built a computer model (called World3) to track the world’s economy and environment; this computer model was cutting edge. Researchers’ task was very ambitious: the team tracked trends in industrial growth, population, food, use of resources and pollution. They examined five basic factors that determine and could, in their interactions, ultimately limit growth on the planet: population increase, agricultural production, non-renewable resource depletion, industrial output and pollution generation.
These factors interact in ways that are at least superficially reasonable: Population growth is limited by food output, health services and pollution; industrial growth and agricultural growth are limited by resource availability and pollution. “Limits” is thus able to create a hypothetical future based on knowledge of the past.
Reference to the first book’s review: https://www.nytimes.com/1972/04/02/archives/the-limits-to-growth-a-report-for-the-club-of-romes-project-on-the.html
They modeled 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” before 2070, in all spheres of development, i.e. in the economy, environment and population – before 2070.
In case “growth” proceeds with existing rate (it was called the “business-as-usual” scenario) the collapse is inevitable; present data show that this is indeed happening: resources are being used up at a rapid rate, pollution is rising, industrial output and food per capita is rising, and finally, global population is rising quickly.
See tables in: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/02/limits-to-growth-was-right-new-research-shows-were-nearing-collapse.
“Limits to Growth” concluded in 1972: “If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity”.
First book’s review appeared in “the New York Times” in April 1972, see: https://www.nytimes.com/1972/04/02/archives/the-limits-to-growth-a-report-for-the-club-of-romes-project-on-the.html
During last decade or so, several books appeared on the issue of “limited growth”: e.g. Corsi P. Going Past Limits to Growth. – A Report to the Club of Rome EU-Chapter (2004). The book founds its main argument on the fact that the 4th Industrial Revolution socio-economic models are now irrevocably shifting towards a new “growth order”: i.e. old notions of “growth” as a main paradigm have become presently “corroded” and altered by a changing global environment, climate crisis and human perceptions.
Source: https://tales.dk/going-past-limits-to-growth-a-report-to-the-club-of-rome-eu-chapter_patrick-corsi_9781786301956?utm_source=google-shopping&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIpKa10rCR9wIVzNnVCh0JUgOPEAQYBCABEgLR1vD_BwE; then a book written by Bardi U. The Limits to Growth Revisited.
“Computing” growth models
In 1972, three scientists from MIT created a computer model that analyzed global resource consumption and production. Their results shocked the world and created stirring conversation about global ‘overshoot,’ or resource use beyond the carrying capacity of the planet.
Now, preeminent environmental scientists Donnella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows have teamed up again to update and expand their original findings in The Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Global Update.
Meadows, Randers, and Meadows are international environmental leaders recognized for their groundbreaking research into early signs of wear on the planet. Citing climate change as the most tangible example of our current overshoot, the scientists now provide us with an updated scenario and a plan to reduce our needs to meet the carrying capacity of the planet.
Over the past three decades, population growth and global warming have forged on with a striking semblance to the scenarios laid out by the World3 computer model in the original Limits to Growth.
While the authors do not make a practice of predicting future environmental degradation, they offer an analysis of present and future trends in resource use, and assess a variety of possible outcomes. In many ways, the message contained in “Limits to Growth” was clear: the 30-year update has been warning. E.g. overshoot cannot be sustained without collapse. But, as the authors are careful to point out, there is reason to believe that humanity can still reverse some of its damage to Earth if it takes appropriate measures to reduce inefficiency and waste.
”Unspecified” growth: pros and cons
“The Limits to Growth” generated unprecedented controversy with its predictions of the eventual collapse of the world’s economies. There are no strict indications that collapse of the world economy, environmental degradation and catastrophic population growth, etc. is a certainty; neither “the future” predicted by the US researchers in 1972. However, recent findings should sound an alarm bell, as the quest for ever-increasing growth continued unchecked could cause serious negative effects; they might come sooner than decision-makers think. Thus, the world’s and European politicians, as well as wealthy elites have to chart a different course of actions: it is time for each person to think about how avoid harmful consequences while proceeding into still “an uncertain future”.
Others thought that the book was “a pioneering work of science” helping researchers around the world launch modern environmental computer modeling and began current globally focused environmental debate, which in itself is scientifically rigorous and credible warning.
Reference to: https://tales.dk/the-limits-to-growth-revisited_ugo-bardi_9781441994158?utm_source=google-shopping&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIpKa10rCR9wIVzNnVCh0JUgOPEAQYAiABEgJ9KfD_BwE
Another comment: geometric (or exponential calculations) in any simulation model concerning growth can often produce spectacular results. But often they do no hold water: e.g. if the Indians who sold Manhattan over 300 years ago for $24 could have left their money untouched in a bank paying 7 per cent (a number chosen no more arbitrarily than many in “Limits”) they would have more than $25‐billion today…