Confront scarcity now (or pay later?)
A recent post on the website of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), echoes the warnings of ‘The Limits to Growth’ (TLTG) reports published in 1972, 1992, and 2004 by a team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (i.e. Meadows et al.)… So then, this year TLTG is 40 years old… In the short video below, Ian Johnson – Secretary-General of the Club of Rome that commissioned the research – summarises the history of the TLTG project; and expresses his hope that the World will now engage with a reality that many have been trying to dismiss for decades…
Citing the 2012 European Report on Development (ERD) published on 16 May, the ODI’s Dirk Willem te Velde argues we “need to avoid policy-making in silos”. He points out that the ERD highlights predicted increases in the scarcity of natural resources – with demand for water and energy expected to rise by 40% and demand for food by 50% before we reach 2030. Unless action is taken to confront these pressures, there will be considerable costs and missed opportunities. Environmental stresses (e.g. in water) affect women and girls disproportionately, lack of energy services is a binding constraint to economic growth, and the poorest are frequent losers from large scale land deals.
This echoes the message of the recently-released film documentary, Last Call at the Oasis, which (thanks to Christine over at 350orbust.com) I blogged about recently; but have still not seen. It also echoes what I said only last week in my It doesn’t have to be like this post, where I quoted Meadows et al. (2005), as follows:
Growth, and especially exponential growth, is so insidious because it shortens the time for effective action. It loads stress on a system faster and faster, until coping mechanisms that have been adequate with slower rates of change finally begin to fail.
This is what the ERD is – somewhat belatedly it must be said – warning us all about. Unfortunately, given that atmospheric pollution, ocean acidification and anthropogenic climate disruption are all consequences of over-population; giving rise to naturally-occuring desertification, habitat and biodiversity loss (i.e. in addition to that caused directly as a result of human activity), it is easy to see why Paul Ehrlich concluded that, “perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell”.
In 1972, Meadows et al. warned us that Limits to Growth (i.e. the ecological carrying capacity of the Earth) would be reached within 100 years. Many biologists consider that we exceeded these limits at least 20 years ago and, in point of fact, that is about the same time that the evidence began to accumulate that the scale of human activity was indeed exceeding the Earth’s ability to cope with it. Furthermore, I think the flying excrement set in motion by the propeller-based air cooling device has not been more noticeable because of a combination of effects, which include the huge heat capacity of the oceans; global dimming due to our pollution of the atmosphere with particulates and aerosols; and the cooling effects of Sun spot activity and oceanic circulation cycles.
Also, just as Meadows et al. predicted, technology has enabled us to put off being confronted with these limits to growth but, I think it is difficult to dispute, we are now being confronted, just as they said we would be, with several problems simultaneously…
Finally, and perhaps most unfortunately of all, already reeling from a self-inflicted global debt crisis; we now face a mutli-faceted environmental crisis (also self-inflicted). Forget doom-mongering; this is our painful reality. I therefore feel that the ERD report should perhaps have been entitled:
“Confronting scarcity – Please pay now (credit cards no longer accepted)”