Models of Doom: A Critique of The Limits to Growth
H. S. D. Cole
Universe Books, 1973 - Demography - 244 pages
Hailed by some as an "intellectual bombshell" and decried by others as unprofessional sensationalism, The Limits to Growth has created a stir throughout the world. Dennis L. Meadows, its main author, and his mentor Jay Forrester are MIT system analysts whose work represents the most ambitious attempt so far to bring together forecasts of population growth, pollution, resource depletion, food supply, and industrial output into a general model of the world's future. Models of Doom, by an interdisciplinary team at Sussex University's Science Policy Research Unit, examines the structure and assumptions of the MIT world models and a preliminary draft of Meadows' technical reports. Based on computer runs, it shows that forecasts of the world's future are very sensitive to a few key assumptions and suggests that the MIT assumptions are unduly pessimistic. Further, the Sussex scientists claim that the MIT methods, data, and predictions are faulty, that their world models--with their built-in Malthusian bias--do not accurately reflect reality. The second part of the book assesses the models and their assumptions in the context of historical forecasts about economics (including those of Malthus and Keynes), population, the environment, and technology. Here the Sussex scientists criticize the MIT approach for its lack of concern with politics, social structure, and human needs and aspirations. They assert that changing social values, not a part of the MIT computer input, can significantly affect the exponential growth of the world's physical properties. Nevertheless, they agree with Forrester and Meadows about the urgency of the challenge and believe that dealing with foreseeable physical limits and disturbing the fruits of growth equitably will require radical political and social, as well as technological, changes. Claiming that the Sussex critics have applied "micro reasoning to macro problems," the authors of The Limits to Growth, in "A Response to Sussex," describe and analyze five major areas of disagreement between themselves and the Sussex authors.
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arable land assumed assumptions average behaviour birth control birth rate capital investment capital/output ratio chapter Club of Rome coal collapse consumption costs countries death rates diminishing returns economic growth economists effect energy environmental estimates example expected exponential growth factors feedback Figure forecasts Forrester and Meadows Forrester's Fraction future global growth rates historical human important improvement included increase industrial output industrialisation inputs labour land yields levels Limits to Growth lndustrial long-term look-up table Malthus Malthusian Marie Jahoda mechanisms mental models Multiplier natural resources Output Per Capita parameters physical limits policies political pollution population growth possible predictions problems production function real world relationships reserves rise social systems society standard run structure Sussex group system dynamics technical change technical progress Technical Report techniques tion Total Fertility trends uranium urban values variables World Dynamics world energy consumption world models world system