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Old 05-06-2012, 03:24 AM
Leaper Leaper is online now
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"Global economic collapse" by 2030?

Ran across this article which discusses an MIT study done in the 1970's that modeled population growth and resource consumption. It predicted "global economic collapse" and "precipitous population decline" by 2030 if "drastic measures for environmental protection" were not taken. The article notes that as far as the report is concerned, its models are still on track now, in 2012.

Apparently, this study caused controversy even back then, so it seems to be at least mildly well-known (though I'd never heard of it). Anyone know more about it? Are its conclusions reliable?
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Old 05-06-2012, 03:42 AM
Alessan Alessan is online now
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There were dozens of such studies published in the 1970s - most of them predicted total collapse by 1990. If anything, the study in question was hedging its bets.
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Old 05-06-2012, 04:45 PM
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huangdi is offline
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Its your typical "Everybody will be starving by the year x" studies inspired the Population Bomb.
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Old 05-07-2012, 12:13 AM
Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is offline
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The study made a big splash during the 1970s: it was called The Limits to Growth. It put forth a computerized model of the economy as designed by physicists. Since the team lacked economists, the model did not reflect substitution effects or AFAIK a price mechanism: raw materials would simply become scarce.

I am dubious about the claim that the model is "Right on track". The original paper predicted food production would peak in 1994 and then fall by 40% over the next 3 decades. Industrial production would peak in 2010, then fall about 4% annually.[1] Sorry, but this Lesser Depression hasn't been kicked off by raw material scarcity: it's an aggregate demand problem.

Don't get me wrong. The world might be going to hell. But if it is, I say it will be because of unpriced factors of production, specifically emissions of CO2. Although I would also support extraction taxes for technical and contentious reasons. Regardless, economic models that are devoid of economics aren't likely to provide well grounded insight.

[1] From:
Google: "Nordhaus lethal model limits growth revisitied" for a 1992 Brookings paper.
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:21 AM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
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So is 2030 when the killer bees finally get us?
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:40 AM
Grey Grey is offline
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Here's an interesting article from American Scientist on the 3rd iteration on the World3 model behind Limits. Basically Limits' argument boils down to things that increase exponentially eventually stop.

First, the book’s message is worth listening to. There are limits, and exponential growth is unsustainable. A society that measures well-being by the first derivative of GDP is asking for trouble...

As for the mathematical model behind the book, I believe it is more a polemical tool than a scientific instrument. Forrester and the Limits group have frequently said that the graphs drawn by their computer programs should not be taken as predictions of the future, but only as indicating “dynamic tendencies” or “behavior modes.” But despite these disclaimers, Limits is full of blunt statements about the future: “If the present growth trends continue unchanged,... the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime in the next one hundred years.” And whether the models are supposed to be predictive or not, they are offered as an explicit guide to public policy.

It’s possible that Forrester was offering wise advice, and someday we’ll regret not taking it. But when a mathematical or scientific argument is brought forward to justify taking such a painful and troubling action, standards of rigor will surely be set very high.
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Old 05-09-2012, 06:29 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is online now
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Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers View Post
So is 2030 when the killer bees finally get us?
And Comet Kohoutek crashes into us, utterly destroying what remains of civilization except, miraculously, all the Burger King outlets and all the RC Cola bottling plants.

All kidding aside, though, I'm guardedly pessimistic about our future prospects. It is true that market forces eventually will, or should, force changeovers to lifestyles that are more sustainable. These most likely need to include not only alternative options for powering our transport systems and power grids, but also lifestyle choices to reduce collective consumption and procreation. A fact that often gets overlooked is that we don't actually need to run out of fuel or food before our numbers will adversely affect our lives. We've already seen this at a regional level in many places.

Taking my own city, L.A. as an example: the post WWII generation was able to buy cheap houses on the west side or just over the hill in the east SFV. To a much greater extent than later generations, they could even buy near or on the beach; by doing so, they often had to sacrifice some floor space or other amenities, but having a house near the beach was still a choice one could make. But as the population increased, succeeding generations wanting to own houses had to go farther and farther out. These people still have all the appurtenances of the American Dream--in fact, they have generally larger houses than preceding generations. They also have more automobiles per family and those cars are mostly much safer, more technologically advanced, and more efficient than the cars of sixty years ago. But...many of them have to spend a lot more time in those cars just to travel back and forth between work and home. Admittedly this is a subjective evaluation on my part, but I consider that to represent a degradation in quality of life. I don't hate driving or cars generally, but being stuck on the 405 isn't my idea of a good time, and shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as a lonely state highway with almost no traffic and breathtaking views.

To be fair, there are benefits to population growth. The diversity of cultures locally has certainly made life here more interesting, and along with the doubling of population the availability of cultural amenities has much more than doubled. We finally voted to fund mass transit besides buses, and while such a system can only do so much, it will offer some additional choices.

Last edited by Spectre of Pithecanthropus; 05-09-2012 at 06:31 PM..
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Old 05-09-2012, 07:03 PM
Section Maker:Jupe Section Maker:Jupe is offline
Join Date: Jun 2010
..I took a class on the Limits to Growth(Club of Rome) in the '70s, in one of the first Enviornmental Studies classes in the U.C. system.

There was no economic model involved. Just supply versus consumption rates. . Supply was assumed to be fixed. (big assumption that!!) and consumption was either static or increased.

I was pretty clueless then, as it seemed to make some sense.


Last edited by Section Maker:Jupe; 05-09-2012 at 07:05 PM.. Reason: clarity
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