A book titled Limits to Growth was published in 1972 by a group of respected scientists including two of my favorite thinkers, Dennis Meadows and Donella Meadows. They modeled a variety of scenarios and showed that industrial civilization would collapse some time before 2100 unless we proactively limited one or more aspects of human population and economic growth.
Limits to Growth generated a lot of passionate criticism. Sadly, most critics did not read or understand the book. There was, and still is, little or no rational discussion by citizens or their leaders about overshoot.
A 30 year update by the authors and several recent independent reviews have shown that we are tracking to one of the Limits to Growth scenarios called the standard model. The evidence is that the Limits to Growth predictions were accurate and we are probably on a path to collapse.
One compelling piece of evidence in support of Varki’s denial theory is that no country in the world, regardless of political or religious belief, is having a meaningful discussion about human overshoot, let alone taking steps to mitigate overshoot, despite overwhelming evidence that we are in serious trouble.
The UK may be a country trying to achieve a state of unDenial.
An all-party parliamentary group (APPG Limits to Growth) has been set up to encourage dialogue on limits to growth.
To seed the discussion APPG commissioned a report published in April 2016 titled “Limits Revisited: A Review of the Limits to Growth Debate”
The report is a quick read and other writers such as Nafeez Ahmed have already summarized it so I won’t repeat the details here. Instead I’ll comment on a few things I thought were important.
The authors are clearly concerned about creating a “happy story”.
Visions for prosperity which provide the capabilities for everyone to flourish, while society as a whole remains within the safe operating space of the planet, are clearly at a premium here. A number of such visions already exist. Developing and operationalising them is vital.
I suppose this is the reality of trying to influence two generations that have not known hardship. Time is short. I think we need more forthright honesty and less spin.
The authors understand the climate change threat but I saw no evidence that they understand how difficult it will be to reduce carbon emissions.
The authors understand that economic growth may be ending however I saw no evidence that they understand the implications of no-growth for our debt based monetary system.
The APPG has good intentions and they are breaking important new ground.
It will be interesting to see if they achieve anything.