Tag Archives: limits to growth

Visiting Occupy London

Both Karl Marx and Adam Smith, usually quoted in disagreement, had a great deal in common; they agreed that the basis of value was the energy devoted to labour and capital and they agreed that the control of the means of production was key to the control of prosperity. They also agreed that welfare is paid for out of surplus. Their disagreements were to do with how power structures were maintained and how everyone (even the ‘backward’ races – yes racism was ever-present) might be fed and watered in a more or less dignified manner. And because they saw the world as a vast and inexhaustible store of materials that would, to all intents and purposes, last forever, their schemas were significantly more popular than they had any right to be; neither foresaw the limiting hand of exponential growth or the reaching of Malthusian limits.

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What are the Limits to Growth?

I think scientists need to speak out. Over the past 30 years, our politicians have almost grasped the idea that the resources we humans have at our disposal fall into two distinct categories, renewable and non-renewable; both categories provide limited inputs to our activities. Politicians have also almost realised that our outputs, including those that contribute to climate change and loss of habitats, must be limited to rates that enable our planetary systems to function and remain reasonably stable. Yet, inspite of their improved grasp of how and why human activities are governed by the laws of nature, most politicians seems to think that we should ignore entropic thermodynamics and simply go for growth as if such limits did not exist.

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