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Customer Review

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, but only part of the story, August 12, 2007
This review is from: Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (Paperback)
No one likes limits, but they're with us all our lives, from the restrictions our parents place on us as children to the limits that society and Mother Nature compel us to adhere to as adults. The authors do a clear and thorough job of explaining how physical limits affect the Earth and the human society evolving within it.
Updating their mathematical model and learning from three decades of experience since the original 1972 study, the authors reinforce their earlier finding that persistently overshooting the Earth's carrying capacity could lead to any one of a variety of unhappy scenarios for humanity. While expressing due respect for technology development and the effects of free markets, they emphasize that these are necessary but not sufficient tools for getting us through the 21st century.
The authors have been criticized as doomsayers whose predictions have proven wrong. Such criticism obviously has come from people who have not actually read their work. They have not produced just a single computer run of their model and then proclaimed, "This is what will happen." They have done hundreds of runs to attempt to illustrate how important variables - such as population growth, industrial production, technological development, and pollution - interact to shape future scenarios in a 100-year timeframe. A thorough reading of this book demonstrates that rather than being disproven, their original scenarios are looking ominously accurate.
Chapter 5 is the book's good-news story, providing a case study on how the world got together to tackle the ozone depletion problem over the last quarter century. This and the final two chapters demonstrate that the authors have not given in to hopelessness.
The most critical shortcoming of the authors' work is one they clearly acknowledge. They address flows of population, materials, energy, and emissions that can be mathematically modeled, but do not include factors such as military conflict, large-scale corruption, natural disasters, pandemics, or severe economic stresses like currency and debt crises. If these things are taken into account, one could view the Limits to Growth model as wildly optimistic. What would this study look like with a non-quantitative social futurist perspective added to it?
The authors have done a remarkable job of clearly explaining concepts such as positive and negative feedback loops and the Earth's sources and sinks as they apply to the model. But the 284 pages of text may be more than can be absorbed and digested by the wider audience this book deserves. Perhaps a condensed version is needed, one that captures the message and its urgency but is short enough to get even policy-makers to read it.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 24, 2014 7:19:40 PM PST
Fred Clancey says:
has anyone related/merged climate change (ie, green house gases) with limits to growth?
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