Saturday, 12 December 2009

the dogma of Infinite Growth

or in reality ...

limits to growth

Something which is central to the climate change argument but is conveniently ignored (probably because its in the way too hard basket out in the back yard) is the limits to growth.

Thomas Malthus wrote an essay on the topic of population back in 1798, later another organisation (called the Club of Rome) put together a similar idea in 1972 which was called The Limits to Growth.

The concept of limits to growth is intuitive to anyone who has any common sense (typically those who have ever worked with things in the natural world, not just big city fantasy land).

Even for big city dwellers (who think food comes from the supermarket, milk from bottles and water from the tap) if you put a plant into a pot it will eventually become "root bound" as its root system fills all the available space in the pot. You can keep pouring in more nutrients and energy, but the plant will eventually stop being able to grow.

However Thomas Malthus's view on this has widely been rejected. Evidence against it has come from the amazing population (I can only call it) explosion that has happened since the industrial revolution.

Curiously I think that its the same people who are saying "Climate change is not caused by people" who are also saying "there are no limits to growth".

In an ideal theoretical world I'm sure its true ... there may be no limits to growth, but there must be changes to accommodate for this.

So with that in mind, lets look at something else ... by now I think most people are aware of this graph:

I'm sure its about the most contentious bit of data representation there is right now. Like is the data cooked, is the data false ... blah blah.

Science is about being able to reproduce things and ensuring validity. So if something is true then is should be validatable and repeatable. Further it should also match with other ways of looking at things. Well let me introduce another hockey stick ... but this time the data is quite a bit more certain.


Uncanny isn't it ... how closely this resembles the CO2 outputs.

So, if you are looking for any supporting evidence on rise in CO2 and human involvement well perhaps these two support each other quite a bit ... it would seem pretty expectable that if the human population has gone up over the same period at the same rate that the other graph of CO2 is just about bang on.

So where is the surprise that everyone is trying to deny?

To me its looking rather like Thomas may have been on to something back then...

1 comment:

Dave Gardner said...

YES! Malthus had it right. Limits to Growth had it right (and, in fact, those projections are playing out as forecast). Just because delusional, cornucopian economists repeat ad nauseum that Malthus was wrong or Ehrlich has been discredited, does not make it so.

Thanks for adding your two cents' worth to the growing chorus that we must address overpopulation and we must get over our obsession with perpetual economic growth.

Dave Gardner
Producing the documentary
Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity