How ”The Limits To Growth” (1972) Was Vindicated | ArtiFact #40: Arnold Schroder, Alex Sheremet

ArtiFact: Books, Art, Culture

18-04-2023 • 1時間 34分

In 1972, four scientists – Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, William W. Behrens III – published a book called The Limits To Growth, about planetary limits based on a new computer model called World3. It was attacked by journalists, scientists, and economists who claimed it was making faulty predictions based on untested hypotheses, and was often rejected in highly emotional terms by a society that wanted to believe in infinite growth. These attacks accelerated in the 1990s, since models of food and resource scarcity failed, while the 1990s, themselves, were a highly idealistic decade.

By 2023, however, it is obvious that the book’s core premises – that planetary limits exist, that they will be hit and create fresh limits, and this will likely cause a contraction in the standard of living – are beginning to be vindicated. Yes, the suggested limits to copper, fossil fuels, and food turned out to be far too pessimistic, but modern research suggests that the world is more or less going according to the basic scenarios of the World3 model.

In ArtiFact #40, Alex Sheremet is joined by radical climate activist Arnold Schroder of the Fight Like An Animal podcast to discuss “The Limits to Growth” as well as follow-up texts and papers.

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B Side topics: Arnold Schroder’s experiences in New Orleans as a teenager; why Alex thinks New Orleans is a symbol of America’s future; Portland in the time of Elliott Smith vs. today; issues of gentrification; why seemingly minor variables play major roles in an artist’s art; Alex’s neighborhood & why some people are targets of crime but not others; political equality vs. cultural elitism; political, psychological, and emotional stakes have heightened in the last few decades; the roles of Arnold / Alex might play in building ideological bridges; what IQ fetishists get wrong; & more

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1:56 – introduction; the response to “The Limits to Growth” over time; from research to the empirical environment; how psychology mediates activism & complacency

9:12 – why “2020” kept coming up as a pivot point in 1972, 2004; how hitting planetary limits diverts capital to externalities as opposed to human welfare; why Arnold Schroder thinks public mobilization won’t happen even with poor public outcomes; how charts (as opposed to fundamentals) model potential futures; Gaya Herrington’s January 2020 model of how well “The Limits to Growth” tracked

25:23 – which model might best suit empirical reality; the factors behind civilizational collapse; COVID denialism on the Left & Right; total collapse will likely not happen

32:30 – the “stable world” model & conscious choice; why civilizational collapse tends to happen all at once; stagnation, inertia; are Democrats more blameworthy than Republicans for climate inaction; Arnold Schroder on abusive relationships within politics; how polarization worsens problems of collectivization, social cohesion

45:14 – models vs predictions; why readers should appreciate the simple, material rationales in “Limits to Growth”; it’s important to identify moments of stagnation; although specific limits change, the concept of planetary limits does not; systems theory & the environment: Jeffrey West’s “Scale”; the importance of logarithmic charts

58:04 – consumerism & the nervous system; how forced de-growth in one’s everyday life creates space & time; Nietzsche on religious war; the parameters of human nature; radical responsibility

1:11:08 – the world is getting more & more competitive, but over what?; China & population fetishism, population control; Elon Musk vs. Genghis Khan; how environmental issues became coded Left

1:19:44 – assessing the final numbers: 2, 3, or 4 degrees of warming?; the effects of individual milestones; feedback loops & uncertainties; why the survival of the human species is not the actual concern; how “survival” is used as a cudgel to minimize climate concerns

1:28:24 – Degrowth vs. Radical Abundance; understanding the arrow of progress vs. periods of stagnation

Tags: #climatechange, #politics, #podcast