The book Limits to Growth – a 1972 harbinger of the “death of the planet” – was largely dismissed in its time time as being improbable at best and at worst, alarmist. But new research shows that the book was likely right – not just about a few things – but about almost everything forecast about the planet’s collapse.
When Limits of Growth was first published, it was almost impossible to believe that population growth and dire predictions of resource consumption could lead to the collapse of the planet. Researchers Donella and Dennis Meadows “built a computer model to track the world’s economy and environment,” according to The Guardian. The model was “cutting edge” and tracked industrialization, population, food, resource use, and pollution. Scenarios were generated out to the year 2100 and showed the inevitable collapse of the economy, the environment and the population if serious measures were not taken.
Now in 2014, data gathered by the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute shows that the projections made in Limits to Growth were dead on. Principal research fellow Graham Turner drew from a wide range of sources to confirm the projections – including the UN, the U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and BP.
In fact, the projections from 1972 through 2010 were in line with what has happened in every category – from the environment (including resources and pollution) to world population (including the birth and death rate) and the economy (including food, services and industrial output, per capita).
“As the MIT researchers explained in 1972, under the scenario, growing population and demands for material wealth would lead to more industrial output and pollution. The graphs show this is indeed happening. Resources are being used up at a rapid rate, pollution is rising, industrial output and food per capita is rising. The population is rising quickly,” according to the Guardian.
So now what?
If the book’s predictions are true, what will happen in the next 100 years – or less? Well, as we continue to use up resources they will become more expensive. As we use more capital to pull out more resources the “industrial output per capita starts to fall.” According to the book, this begins to happen in 2015. Once industrial output falls, a domino effect occurs through food production, and the resulting cutback in health and education. As health services fall, the death rate rises and the global population will start to fall by about “half a billion people per decade.” Living conditions will become similar to those in the early 1900’s.
While some of the blame can also be placed on climate change and carbon dioxide emissions, most of it is placed squarely on the shoulders of resource consumption. While the University of Melbourne could not find substantive proof of collapse, the book indicates that it will be more evident beginning in 2015. In fact, some believe the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08 was caused by resource constraints as well as “The pursuit of material wealth contributed to unsustainable levels of debt, with suddenly higher prices for food and oil contributing to defaults – and the GFC.”
With oil production at its peak, other fossil fuels are being gobbled up quickly – and if they require too much capital to extract – the result could be devastating. Protecting ourselves and making serious changes will be necessary to survive, then, in the light of this growing crisis, according to Turner.
Via The Guardian