My column at The Daily Blog this week looks at last week’s call from the Millennium Alliance for Humanity & the Biosphere (a cross-disciplinary group of hundreds of top scientists) for urgent action to address climate change, extinctions, loss of ecosystem diversity, pollution, and human population growth and resource consumption. To call it a big challenge would be an understatement… Comments over there please.
The Club of Rome has launched a new report, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, written by Jorgen Randers, one of the co-authors 40 years ago of their famous publication Limits to Growth. I’ve been listening to Randers speaking at the launch this week at Rotterdam. It’s a striking address, delivered with a charm that softens its grim content. It can be viewed on the first 25 minutes of the YouTube video below. I’ll offer an outline here, along with some loose transcription of parts of the address.
He reflects that he has worked a lifetime pushing sustainability without success.
Will the world overshoot and collapse? This was the warning that my friends and I made in 1972 in Limits to Growth… We are now forty years down the line and it is perfectly obvious that world has already overshot. In 1972 our critics said that the world is not going to be so stupid as to let the world move into non-sustainable territory. Well, we now are in unsustainable territory.
The simplest example is greenhouse gases.
In 1932 I was born into a world of 2 billion people. Nearly 80 years on there are 7 billion, more than three times as many. My own small country New Zealand has nearly tripled its population in that time. I confess to feeling anxiety about the capacity of the globe to sustain this level of population, let alone the further billions we can expect this century. Does that make me a populationist? That’s the term used by Ian Angus, editor of online journal Climate and Capitalism, and Simon Butler, coeditor of Australian Green Left Weekly, in their new book Too Many People? Population, Immigration, and the Environmental Crisis to describe people who attribute social and ecological ills to human numbers. The authors don’t. They attribute climate change and other ecological challenges to the growth imperative of capitalism, and their book takes issue with those who see “overpopulation” as a cause of the threats to the environment.