Limits to Growth Model

‘Limits to growth’ has roots in Malthusian theory. As per Malthus, population growth (size) is a function of food production.
Population size = f (land, agriculture resources)

But as per New Malthusian approach, not just the size but the all aspects of human life are controlled by all type of natural environmental resources. 

In 1972, ‘Club of Rome’, which was set up by environmentalists, bureaucrats, scientist etc, published a report in book ‘Limit to Growth’ in which they said that development cannot go infinitely. Whatever activity man does require natural resources directly or indirectly and every activity produce waste. But there is a limit how much environment can absorb without permanently impairing one or more of its resources and processes.

Limit to growth was an idea that used rigorous data collection, statistical methods and computer programming based models to predict that the planet was not capable of supporting and sustaining growth activities infinitely. In this model dynamic interaction of five major variables are studied such as: world population, pollution, resources, industrial output per capita, food per capita.

The model based on computer simulation predicted the world would collapse by 2100. They also predicted that by 1992 world’s fossil fuel resources will be over.

Limit to Growth concept is based on following 5 assumptions:

1. Non-renewable resources are ultimately finite, particularly energy resources.

2. Land is finite and there is limit to how much land can be used for agriculture. This must be seen in the context of rapid urbanization, high population growth rate and also diversion of good agriculture land to non-agricultural land use such as urbanization and industralisation.

3. The finite capacity of the environment to absorb and internalize waste without destroying the natural support systems because of increased pollution.

4. There is limit to how much agriculture productivity can be improved. Input intensive agri. practices are unstable and are always susceptible to collapse eventually.

5. Human population however has the potential of exponential growth and so the associated pollution.

Related Articles: Demographic Transition Model & Marx's Demographic Model

Evaluation of Limit to Growth Model:
It is often considered pessimistic interpretation of future consequences because it generalizes resource constraint & consumption pattern without accounting variability across the world. (it considers the world as a single unit with uniform distribution of resources and problems.)

It does not accommodate the rate at which innovations can appear and the argument for finite capacity of human creativity is also a mechanistic view of man.

The predictions about the world collapse and energy resources will be exhausted by 1992 has been proved wrong. The data that was fed is questionable considering the equipments of data collection and methods used in 20th century.

Merits of Limit to Growth Model:
The concept is not an exact prediction but is suggestive of the future possibilities in terms of consequences. To criticize the model because the energy resources did not exhaust by 1992 would be a very narrow evaluation because the idea was more to suggest the criticality of situation and not to predict the exact date.

The conclusions are based on appreciating the world in the system’s perspective i.e. it accounts for how the different components interact and influence each other. The global problems are not simple linear cause-effect relationship and it is not possible to objectively identifying the precise triggering factor because of the complexities involved.

Therefore the model should be given its due credit to have accounted for such dynamic interdependence across the components in man-env. Relationship and should not be discarded as another exaggerated Malthusian hyperbole.

LTG was successful in initiating the debate that ‘infinite growth cannot be pursued in finite world’.  It was this idea that became thinking seed to the modern concept of sustainable dev. and ecological approaches in modern planning & development.

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  Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2015 at 8:11 AM under   Geography