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Limits and Beyond: Communication and Faith
The book Limits and Beyond, edited by Ugo Bardi and Carlos Alvarez Pereira, provides a 50th anniversary review of the seminal report Limits to Growth (LtG). The following is from the back cover of the book.
50 years ago the Club of Rome commissioned a report: Limits to Growth. They told us that, on our current path, we are heading for collapse in the first half of the 21st century. This book, published in the year 2022, reviews what has happened in the intervening time period. It asks three basic questions:
Were their models right?
Why was there such a backlash?
What did the world do about it?
The book consists of 19 chapters, each written by a different author, two of whom — Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers — were part of the team that wrote the report.
We wrote six reviews of Limits and Beyond, covering Chapters 1 through 8. They are:
Limits and Beyond: The Yawning Gap
Chapter 1: The Story of an Idea
Limits and Beyond: No More Growth
A Review of Chapter 2
Limits and Beyond: Communication
A review of Chapter 3
Limits and Beyond: The Real World
Chapter 4: Crisis as a Transition
Limits and Beyond: Justice
Chapter 5: 50 years after The Limits to Growth
Limits and Beyond: A New Faith System
Chapters 7 and 8
Limits and Beyond: Data Check on World3
Chapter 18: Better Windmills
The following conclusions can be drawn from these reviews.
Both books -Limits and Beyond and the original Limits to Growth - are very well worth reading. They have a powerful and persuasive message.
There is no decoupling between economic and physical growth.
The general conclusions of the original 1972 report have been broadly verified by the events that have taken place since.
There has been a near total failure of communication. The scientists and other authors of these books have worked diligently to spread their message. In spite of their diligence and hard work, they have been mostly ignored, including by those who are fully aware of climate change and its implications.
Attempts to cover topics such as "social and geographical justice" may dilute the effort to come up with hard, physical responses.
One reason for the communications failure is that the Limits to Growth message is downbeat. This contrasts with the more positive tone of other movements, such as 'The Rapture'.
A final thought based on these reviews is that we need a new faith system - one that matches a time of transition away from fossil fuels and the associated greenhouse gas emissions.
One possibility is that we will develop a nature-based faith, something on the lines of a belief in Gaia. Or maybe the older religions will experience a revival. We don’t know; we will have to wait and see. But we do know that trying to improve “communication” will not work - we have to find and address root causes.
We conclude this review with a chart taken from the original report (the dates are my overlay).
Some thoughts to do with this chart are:
Based on demographic data from nations all over the world, the prediction that population levels will peak within the next few years seems plausible.
Resources are not declining as fast as shown. However, given that peak oil seems to have occurred around the year 2018, it does seem as if that resource is in decline.
The most worrying line is to do with ‘food per capita’. Let us hope that the decline is not as rapid as shown, but we do seem to be experiencing increasing food supply problems.