Limits to Growth

By: Aman Koushik and Rahul Sorout



Limit to Growth is a 1972 report on computer simulation of exponential economic and population growth with a limited supply of resources. It actually talks about how we are exponentially using or how economic growth and population growth is exponentially increasing and the supply of resources (finite supply of resources) is decreasing.


In 1970 Club of Rome commissioned the concept of predicament of mankind. Due to the exponentially growing population, the various resources that we are having on earth are in crisis (huge pressure on earth carrying capacity). Example – as we all know earth has a fixed amount of carrying capacity like it can sustain 2000 people at the time now it population increased 20000 so there is a lot of pressure on earth. The carrying capacity puts a lot of pressure on earth. Because of it, sooner or later, we are going to run short of our energy supply and natural resources that are available to usJ Forrester who gave the concept of world 1 in the 1970’s was based on the concept of dynamic and related to socio-eco system.

 The scene Today

  1. The scale of human activities has grown to alter the physical characteristics of the globe
  2. World population and industry have continued to grow exponentially, and      scenarios for 2000, made in 1972 were accurate.
  3.  The globe system has overshot its limits.
  4.  Steady decline has already shown up in the statistics of over 50 countries.

                                 Image sources: Mr. mac’s house

 Model and Its Five Global Inter-related Variables

They presented a large and new type of model designed to predict the future development of five variables:

·         Population,

·         Food production

·         Industrial production,

·         Non-renewable resources 

·         Pollution

Here all the five basic elements – population, food production, and consumption of nonrenewable natural resources- are increasing. The amount of their increase each year follows a pattern that mathematicians call exponential growth.

                                      World Model Standard Run as shown in The Limits to Growth

                                        Image sources: universitat rovira I virgili.

Assumptions Of The Model

1.   Population increase (the difference between the birth rate and the death rate) is influenced by crowding, food intake, pollution, and the material standard of living. A rise in any of these four factors tends to drive the birth rate downwards.

2. The material standard of living depends on the level of capital, relative to the size of the population and the productivity of capital.

3.  Non-renewable resources are continually used up by the production process. The lower the level of non-renewable resources

4.  Agricultural production depends on land and on capital investment in agriculture. Land can be developed or eroded, depending on investment decisions. Yield per unit of land can be increased by capital, but with diminishing returns.

5. Pollution is generated by the production process and gradually absorbed into a harmless form by the environment. High accumulations of pollution lower the absorbing capacity of the environment.

Conclusion and The Sustainable Society

The Limits to Growth report highlights the dangers posed by the uninterrupted pursuit of material wealth by the developed countries.

It warns readers about the consequences of unconstrained growth by the industrialized countries.

If we mitigate our most unrealistic assumption-which we can suddenly and absolutely stabilize population and capital, replacing them with the following:

1.   The population has access to 100 percent effective birth control.

2.    The average desired family size is two children.

3.     Minimize the use of nonrenewable resources.

4.      Use all resources with maximum efficiency.

5.  Take responsibility for others far away in time and space; adopt collective rather than self-centered goals.

6.     Only a society that has in place informational, social and institutional mechanisms to keep in check the positive feedback loops that cause exponential population and capital growth may become sustainable.  

7.       Sustainability does not mean zero growth.

8.       A sustainable society must provide sufficiency and security for all. 

Rules for sustainability would be put into place not to destroy freedom, but to create freedoms or protect them. After that predicament of mankind can only be solved by conscious action to bring about this equilibrium. The sooner a determined effort is made, the better are the chances to reach the equilibrium state, and the higher will be the then possible standard of living for the humankind. An attitude of complacency, on the other hand, will result in disaster.

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