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The comeback of a classic!
am 12. April 2006
The 30-Year-Update is one of the most important books of our days. For me as part of the younger generation, I only heard from the original 1972 study mostly by its critics. Althoug I feel close to environmental groups and was a Greenpeace activist for some years, I had way too much prejudice towards the Limits to Growth because of this inappropriate cirticism.
This Update brings it all back: The fundamental arguments against a society holding on to the illusion of everlasting economic growth, the finally fatal consequences of a world which is not willing to reduce its consume of natural resources, and the pointing out of humankind's dependency on ecosystems and their "services".
Reading this book, I finally understood what the mission of the orignal Limits to Grwoth was, and to which extent it has been misunderstood ever since. This is no prognosis, it is a warning. It is a warning against our way of life, and its implications show a devastating future for all parts of the world. However, this warning cannot be thrown out of the window likely, because one would have to argue sophistically against the computer model World3 which is being used to calculate possible developments in Earth's future.
The authors present around a dozen runs of their model and explain the different assumptions of each. Maybe one of the most important messages is that since 1972, we have lost more than 30 years in which we might have done a lot to save the environment and to rescue millions of people. These days, 6,000 people die each day because they lack fresh water. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment showed that 60% of all (investigated) ecosystems are being degraded. In the late 1980's, the ecological footprint of humanity exceeded the world's capacity for the first time and is now more than 23% above sustainability limits. There is overwhelming evidence that there was no basic mistake in the 1972 study. But there is a lot of evidence that we really might experience a heavy struggle for survival for large parts of the world's population in the 21st century. And the 30-Year-Update is one but important part of this evidence.