Dennis Meadows “Learning to Live within Limits”

Steven W. Running at the University of Montana wrote in the Sep 21, 2012 issue of Science: “Forty years ago, Meadows et al. published a landmark first analysis of global limits to human activity (Meadows). Based on a primitive computer model of the Earth system, they concluded that by the early decades of the 21st century, tangible limits to key global resources would begin to emerge. A reanalysis of the original results in 2008 found that the original global resource depletion projections were remarkably accurate (Turner).”

Dennis Meadows (“Limits to Growth”): We are in the early phases of that period now; you will experience more change over the next 20 years than occurred during the past 100 years.

Generic Ways to Increase Resilience

  • Redundancy
  1. Diversity back up generator, solar collector, wood stove, garden, complementary currency, bicycle
  2. Networking (time credits sharing system, local)
  • Buffering (larger propane tank, bigger water storage, food storage room
  • Efficiency (improved house insulation, better toilet, smaller car

Lessons for Living Within Limits

  • Strive for resilience, not sustainability
  • Focus on rebuilding, not new construction
  • Focus on social and psychological changes more than technical changes
  • Do not rely on growth to solve problems
  • Admit that the days of cheap and abundant energy are gone – forever.
  • Realize the changes are happening now.

The Time of Greatest Stress

  • Most people assume that the major global difficulties would occur after the end to growth.
  • This is not correct.
  • The globe’s population would experience the most stress prior to the peak, as pressures mount high enough to neutralize the enormous political, demographic, and economic forces that now sustain growth.

The Sequence of Objections

  • 1970s: There are no physical limits.
  • 1980s: There are limits, but they are distant in me.
  • 1990s: The limits are near, but they are irrelevant, since they will be dealt with by new technologies
  • 2000s: The technologies are not adequate, but the market will gradually end growth when that becomes necessary.
  • 2010s: The market overshoots, but now the crisis gives us no me to think about long-term problems

Main Points

  • The global system is entering now the phase of zero and negative growth that we projected for the first decades of the 21st century in our 1972 book
  • Growth will not be stopped by absolute physical scarcities, but by increasing costs of essentials
  • Inflation will be widespread . energy, transport, housing, labor, food, water, materials. But the trends in energy will be the most compelling to the politicians
  • Oil production will decline soon, and the deficit will not be closed by efficiency improvements and renewables.
  • Main Points
  • Humans are entering a period of declining energy availability, therefore of declining material standards
  • Human welfare can continue rising even though material standards are declining, IF we prepare
  • Preparations must start immediately and they must emphasize social measures.

The Easy Oil is Gone

  • Oil discoveries peaked in 1960s.
  • Every year since 1984 oil consumption has exceeded oil discovery.
  • In 2009 discoveries ~ 5 billion barrels (bb), consumption ~ 25 bb
  • Of the world’s 20 largest oil fields, 18 were discovered 1917 – 1968; 2 in the 1970s; 0 since.

Above is only a small part of this presentation, see the full slideshow here: Dennis Meadows. 21 Nov 2011. Learning to Live Within Limits. 80th Aurelio Peccei Lecture EU-Chapter of the Club of Rome Dennis Meadows Bibliothèque Solvay Brussels, Belgium

Meadows, D. H., et al. 1972. The Limits to Growth. Universe Books, New York.

Turner, G. M. 2008.  A comparison of The Limits to Growth with 30 years of reality. Global Environmental Change, Volume 18, Issue 3, Pages 397-411.

This entry was posted in Advice, What to do. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.