A Really Inconvenient Truth On The Limits Of Growth

Australian physicist Graham Turner says we could be heading for economic disaster and population decline by 2030. Turner revisited a study called ‘The Limits to Growth’, conducted 40 years ago by MIT. By using real-world data from 1970 to 2000, Tuner has shown that the study’s original predictions are pretty much on target, which can be seen in the graph below.

“There is a very clear warning bell being rung here. We are not on a sustainable trajectory,” says Turner.

Smithsonian Magazine – Looking Back on the Limits of Growth

The study used computers to model several possible future scenarios. The business-as-usual scenario estimated that if human beings continued to consume more than nature was capable of providing, global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030. 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.

The thing I find fascinating about this problem is that it’s practically self-evident yet much of the industrialized world is in denial. We cannot accept that the path we have been on as a civilization is not sustainable long-term. The best hope we have is a large-scale ramp-up of renewable energy sources but I’m skeptical if we will be able to get the energy requirements we need from sources other than petroleum. That’s a serious concern given the effects of burning oil on the atmosphere and environment and the fact that it is non-renewable. With so many complaining about high gas prices, does anyone stop to think about how important oil is to us in our daily lives? Whether it be driving our cars, heating our homes, running factories, shipping packages, etc. How far do you think you could travel each day without oil as an energy source? We just take it for granted that this source of energy will always be with us. It will not.


photo by Nietnagel


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