One of the important concepts published in the book 'Limits to Growth' in 1972. Limits to Growth is based on the study and conclusion of the 'Club of Rome' of 1968. The group was an association based on the intent to find out if there are limits to how human civilization can grow and if there are limits to our development, urbanization, and industrial growth.
The Club of Rome' comprised the then eminent politicians, economists, scientists, and environmental activists who were debating on the extent of environmental degradation and its impact.
The Limits to Growth study was headed by Dennis Meadows and the computer simulations and computer analysis were done by Forrester.
They decided on the following 5 variables that are interrelated and how increasing or decrease in one or more of the following components can impact the outcomes and the consequences of the entire system.
The five variables that they were considered was
- Population growth
- Agriculture productivity
- Mineral resources primarily fossil fuels
- Industrial growth
Conclusions of the study
In a series of simulations and that they tried, they ultimately concluded that no matter how they managed pollution, ultimately it was unmanageable. There were legitimate concerns about energy resource depletion, there are limits to Agricultural productivity and the environment has the limited capacity to absorb disruptions beyond which it cannot internalize.
Eventually, it was predicted that no matter what the paths, the most optimistic long-term projection were that the world would collapse by 2100. And the most pessimistic time being that the world would collapse by 1990. Their conclusion was that 'We cannot pursue infinite growth in a finite world'.
It is considered to be a New Malthusian Concept. Therefore it is pessimistic.
It does not and it could not have considered all the possibilities under human innovation.
The prediction was based on the data and simulation techniques of those times and they are not as Refined, not as Representative, and not as Sophisticated as what we can have today.
The 'Limits to Growth' didn't account for many miracle drugs, the possibility of sourcing water from the ocean, or our capacity to tap into the inexhaustible source of solar energy.
The concept should not be evaluated on the basis of the exactness of data and predictions. The concept is a 'Wisdom'. It is now an established fact that many of our are activities are well beyond the carrying capacity of the environment. Our technological footprint needs 1.4 times in the present world.
Many of the natural disasters that we face and the conflicts that challenge us are all related to resource limitations and distributions in the natural working of a planet. The problem of climate change, sea-level rise, forest fires, dwindling land productivity are all such manifestations.
The protection is often dismissed as a pessimistic one. The fact is that it's actually an optimistic prediction because it doesn't include many of the natural disasters like Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Sea level rise, Wars, and conflicts, or even nuclear attacks.
The review of the Limits to Growth concept was published twice in 2002 as a 30-year update and in 2012 'Beyond Limits to Growth' by editor Donella Meadows. The review documents that the problems and the threats to our existence continue but we may have only postponed the impacts buying some extra time and not necessarily succeeding in protecting ourselves from the adverse consequences forever.
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