Looking Back on The Limits to Growth

6 Apr

Here is the frame: In 1972 a bunch of computer nerds were commissioned by the Club of Rome to complete computer modeling of finite resources, rates of consumption and population growth. The output was a book called The Limits to Growth. It caused a bit of a stir because the computer modeling predicted that global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030. Wikipedia has a pretty well referenced page on the The Limits to Growth. Meadows, Meadows, Randers, Behrens

The original study was criticized by lots of folks who thought that growth could somehow become sustainable, that more resources would be found, etc. The methodology was criticized. This study was not popular with economic growth globalists.

The Limits to Growth have been revisited on a number of occasions. Most recently an Australian physicist named Graham Turner completed a thirty year look back at the computer modeling and Turner’s study is published at The Smithsonian. This kind of thing is like disneyland for nerds. Graphs, charts, all sorts of variables to argue about. It’s a wonderland for slide rule afficionados. Needless to say, it’s hard to present on CNN, MSNBC, BBC in a way that has gets the message across.

Look at the graph and try to focus on one primary matter: The thirty year slice of history from 1972 to 2002 shows that the numbers in reality have developed largely as predicted by the 1972 study suggested. Click on the graph to jump to the Smithsonian story if you want.

The good news is on the blue line where pollution is predicted to drop hard. So, it’s not all bad. There is something to look forward to in the projection.

I think I would prefer to see the human population make some difficult choices and reduce consumption to change the trend lines, but it’s not a popular suggestion with the folks who make the decisions. What do they call themselves? Oh, yeah… the deciders.

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