You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Limits to Growth’ tag.

I feel that what we are arguing about is similar to how passengers of a slowing down, malfunctioning car argue about which way and what speed they should drive on, but when they look under the bonnet they find that they lost the engine.

Unfortunately today no political or financial leader dares to look under the bonnet, or even if they looked they do not dare to speak about what they found, because they only care about re-elections, or short term effects.

So they try to push the car with all their might and tricks but it cannot be restarted again.

We are continually arguing about how to resuscitate an economic model that has run its course and became dysfunctional for multiple reason, and all those reasons are reinforcing each other making any superficial adjustment impossible.

Both stimulus packages and austerity is based on the belief that we only need temporary adjustments until growth will restart again as if we were in a cyclical process. But this is not a crisis or depression but a system failure as some distinguished experts stated it before on this very forum.

All the bubbles based on the the unnecessary, vastly beyond necessity consumption fuelled by vastly over the capabilities credit, in a closed finite system where constant growth is impossible, producing mostly goods we simply do not need and which are mostly harmful are bursting now one after the other, the seams of our present social and political system (regardless of country or culture) which was created to serve the disproportional profit hoarding and distribution is coming apart.

There are no simple solutions, there is no overnight fix. Our present way of life is falling apart, what we need to concentrate on is how to shorten, and “sweeten” the transitional period, and what we build after.

In this respect austerity is better as at least by not running ahead blindly we are not causing even more problems, and deeper crisis according to the saying “if you do not know where you are going, it is better to sit and do nothing”.

Before we plan or move any further we have to study this global, integral and totally interdependent network we evolved into, and then build new social, political and economical strtuctures based on factual and objective knowledge which is mostly already available around us.

The new world will be based on necessities and available resources instead of false hopes and fabrications, and since we are all interconnected within the same system everything we do will be based on mutuality and true equality which in turn is based on the consideration and acknowledgment of everybody’s individual strengths and weaknesses.


from Zsolt comment in this commentary.

I entirely agree that we should not be overly obsessed with high GDP growth but neither should we ignore its criticality particularly as an instrument to create more jobs and to generate more revenues for the government to invest in both infrastructure and social welfare programmes. Let us not forget that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which is today the world’s largest social safety net programme would simply not have been possible without the proceeds that the growth process generates. Let us also not run away from the stark reality that over the next decade India’s labour force will increase by anywhere between 80 million and 110 million—an astoundingly staggering number

There is yet another reason why we need to sustain high GDP growth rates. And that is because of the need to avoid penalties imposed by financial markets on economies. With high GDP growth rates, our fiscal deficit, current account deficit and public debt numbers look manageable and we avoid either substantial downgrading of credit ratings or substantial capital outflows. Crucial macroeconomic indicators that are tracked by markets worldwide look good in India when judged against the backdrop of high GDP growth rates—otherwise, we could be in serious trouble.


from this convocation address.


Unfortunately he didn’t read or mis-read ‘Limits to Growth’:


We do not have to subscribe to the apocalyptic vision of the Club of Rome because over the past three decades technology has undermined many of the its predictions—the most famous of which being we will run out of oil by the turn of the 20th century. Incidentally, technology has also made nonsense of the dire predictions made in the 1960s about India becoming a food basket case.

I would like to return to the beginning once again, to the Limits to Growth. One of the drawbacks of this influential text was that it completely ignored technological fixes and interventions and their impact. In pushing the limits to growth, we need to actively pursue technology and innovations, both of technology and practices. In pushing forth a sustainable growth path, we need to focus far more on innovation than we do today.


and the rest shows he was trapped by “must growth” and narrow “India-focus” mindset. Anyway it let us know what a typical government thinks.

You are all social scientists and bring a valued perspective to the problematique of economic growth and ecology. What I would like to stress to all of you is that your perspective should be free from prejudices, if not passions. I find, unfortunately, a bias against economic growth and technology in the social science fraternity at large. I would expect all of you to be tough and searching critics sensitive to larger social concerns but please do not become vociferous techno-phobes or growth-sceptics. Thanks to that outstanding symbol of technology and growth—the Internet—India is seeing the emergence of a well-networked community of neo-Luddites. But remember that even the much-reviled Luddites were very selective in their approach in the 18th and 19th centuries when the Industrial Revolution was at its peak.

I think the answer is distressingly simple. Without growth, the only way to cure poverty is through sharing. But redistribution is anathema. Without growth to push the hoped-for demographic transition, the only way to cure overpopulation is by population control. A second anathema. And without growth, the only way to increase funds to invest in environmental repair is by reducing current consumption. Anathema number three. Three anathemas and you’re out!

Without growth, how will we build up arsenals to protect democracy (and remaining petroleum reserves)? How will we go to Mars and Saturn and “conquer” space? Where can technical progress come from if not from unintended spin-offs from the military and from space research? Gnostic techno-fantasies of escaping Earth to outer space, partially turning off the sun to make more room for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and abolishing disease and death itself feed on the perpetual-growth myth of no limits.


from this post.

The second point concerns the question of why Limits hit such a sensitive nerve everywhere, and a short story may shed some light on this question. During the acrimonious days of preparing the summary for Global 2000, a relatively senior government official said to me “Global 2000 cannot suggest that developing countries face challenges any more difficult than those faced by the United States.”

For me, the central message of Limits is a moral message. For many decades, people have been observing that a very small fraction of the human population in high-income countries are enjoying a very large slice of the world resource/economic pie and asking if this picture does not raise a moral issue. Until Limits, the wealthy could and did answer: “No. There’s no moral issue here. If people in the low-income countries stop being lazy and work as hard as we rich have, their slice of the global pie—in fact the whole global pie—can be as big as they want.” Limits—and to a degree Global 2000 also—destroys this moral dodge. It shows that there are limits to the size of the global pie. I think the reason that Limits so unnerved people is not the prospect of overshoot and collapse. Rather it is our nagging sense that post-Limits, we cannot avoid a profound moral dilemma that we did not expect and do not know how to address. It is the fear we all have now of looking in the eye of a person from Bangladesh, or Malawi, or Czechia, or Ghana (as I have) and being told: “I and my family would like to like to live as well as you do, but we can’t. We are too late. If we and everyone else tried to live as well as you do, it would destroy Earth.” Now, limits on economic throughput that can be sustained without unacceptable environmental damage force us to face unavoidable equity and distributional issues. This moral challenge, I think, is the reason so many people could not read Limits with an open mind, and why we could not publish a Government study suggesting that the challenge to developing countries is greater than the challenge to the United States.


from this article.


It reminds me of Copenhagen meeting December last year.

Some talks by Dennis Meadows.

Read the rest of this entry »

Here is my ideas to this question How can Limits to Growth’s policies be implemented?:

Persistently bring Limits to Growth within sight at every opportunity, debate it, stand by it, clarify it, explain it, deepen the analysis, couple with the latest development…

Recognize that it takes years for people to digest and accept the Limits to Growth, it is a long term fight. We should not be afraid of telling people that we need to willingly accept a significant reduction in our consumption and birth rate. We need spokespeople who are fearless, persistant, honest and articulate well. Think of Thomas Henry Huxley.

Time will tell.

Only one set of policies able to produce sustainable scenario in Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update:


  1. stable population – this requires all couples decide to limit their family size, AND
  2. stable industrial output per person – if the wealthiers say “enough” and willing to share their wealth with impoverished people so that the total industrial output can be stabilized while no one is impoverished (otherwise people will riot), AND
  3. technology advance to improve pollution abatement effectiveness, best sustainable agricultural practise and resource consumption efficiency.

Now the challenge is: How can we implement this set of policies in advance before the effects of overshoot take place (“too late”)?

This is the most challenging question, but if we can find out a way to answer it, we will be the first generation in the human history that able to control our future.

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