“There is nothing we can do” – Meadows

31 03 2013
Dennis_Meadows3/6/2012FORMAT interviews Dennis Meadows, author of “The Limits to Growth”, about the shocking position of the planet. 40 years ago, Dennis Meadows presented the best seller “The Limits to Growth”. In it, he predicted, not the exact date of the apocalypse, but the U.S. researchers showed by means of computational models, that by mid-century, the resources of planet Earth will be depleted.

The book sold 30 million copies and Meadows is now regarded as the most famous “Sunset prophet” of the world. FORMAT’s writer Rainer Himmelfreundpointner met Meadows on a visit to Vienna for an exclusive interview. The message of the nearly 70-year-old is now no more optimistic as then, and is not for the faint of heart.

FORMAT: Mr. Meadows, according to the Club of Rome, we are currently facing a crisis of unemployment, a food crisis, a global financial and economic crisis and a global ecological crisis. Each of these is a warning sign that something is quite wrong. What exactly?

Meadows: What we meant in 1972 in “The Limits to Growth”, and what is still true, is that there is simply no endless physical growth on a finite planet. Past a certain point, growth ceases. Either we stop it … by changing our behaviour, or the planet will stop it. 40 years later, we regret to say, we basically have not done anything.

FORMAT: In your 13 scenarios the end of physical growth begins – that is, the increase in world population, its food production, or whatever else they produce or consume – between 2010 and 2050. Is the financial crisis part of that?

Meadows: You cannot compare our current situation that way. Suppose you have cancer, and this cancer causes fever, headaches and other pain. But those are not the real problem, the cancer is. However, we try to treat the symptoms. No one believes that cancer is being defeated. Phenomena like climate change and hunger are merely the symptoms of a disease of our earth, which leads inevitably to the end of growth.

FORMAT: cancer as a metaphor for uncontrolled growth?

Meadows: Yeah. Healthy cells at a certain point stop growing. Cancer cells proliferate until they kill the organism. Population or economic growth behave exactly the same. There are only two ways to reduce the growth of humanity: reduction in the birth rate or increase the death rate. Which would you prefer?

FORMAT: No one wants to have to decide.

Meadows: I don’t either. We have lost the opportunity of choice anyway. Our planet will do it.

FORMAT: How?

Meadows: Let’s stay on diet. Do the mathematics, take food per person since the 90s. The production is growing, but the population is growing faster. Behind every calorie of food that comes to the plate, ten calories of fossil fuels or oil are used for its production, transportation, storage, preparation and disposal. The less oil reserves and fossil fuels, the more the increase in food prices.

FORMAT: So it’s not just a distribution problem?

Meadows: Of course not. If we share it equitably, nobody would starve. But the fact is, it needs fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coal for food production. But those supplies are running low. Whether or not new shale oil and gas reserves are exploited, peak oil and peak gas are past. This means tremendous pressure on the entire system.

FORMAT: According to your models the population, which in 2050 will be around 9.5 billion people, even with a stagnation of food production for another 30, 40 years.

Meadows: And that means that there will be a lot of very poor people. Considerably more than half of humanity. Today we can not feed a large portion of humanity sufficiently. All the resources that we know of are declining. One can only guess where this will lead. There are too many “ifs” for the future: If people are smarter, if there is no war, if we make a technological advancement. We are now already at the point where we cannot cope with our problems, how we should do it in 50 years, when they are bigger?

FORMAT: And blame is our way of doing business?

Meadows: Our economic and financial system, we do not just get something. It is a tool that we have developed and that reflects our goals and values. People do not worry about the future, but only about their current problems. That is why we have such a serious debt crisis. Debt is the opposite of that, worrying about the future. Anyone who takes on debt says: I do not care what happens. And when for many people the future does not matter, they will create an economic and financial system that destroys the future. You can tweak this system as long as you want. As long as you do not change the values of the people, it will continue. If you give someone a hammer in his hand and he uses it, and it kills his neighbour, it helps nothing to change the hammer. Even if you take away the hammer, it remains a potential killer.

FORMAT: Systems that organise the kind of coexistence of people come and go.

Meadows: But man remains the same. In the U.S., we have a system in which it’s okay that a few are immensely rich and many are damned poor, yes even starve. If we find this acceptable, it does not help to change the system. The dominant values are always the same result. This value is reflected in climate change enormously. Who cares?

FORMAT: Europe?

Meadows: China, Sweden, Germany, Russia, the United States all have different social systems, but in each country rising CO2 emissions, because the people really don’t care. 2011 was the record. Last year there was more carbon dioxide produced than in all of human history before. Although all want it to decrease.

FORMAT: What is going wrong?

Meadows: Forget the details. The basic formula for CO2 pollution consists of four elements. First, the number of people on Earth. Multiplied by the capital per person, so how many cars, houses and cows per man, to come to Earth’s standard of living. This in turn multiplied by a factor of energy use per unit of capital, ie, how much energy it takes to produce cars, build houses and to supply or to feed cows. And finally multiply that by the amount of energy derived from fossil sources.

SIZE: Approximately 80 to 90 percent.

Meadows: Approximately. If you want the CO2 burden to decline, the overall result of this multiplication must decline. But what do we do? We try to reduce the share of fossil energy as we use more alternative sources like wind and solar. Then we work to make our energy use more efficient, insulate homes, optimise engines and all that. We work only on the technical aspects, but we neglect the population factor completely and believe that our standard of living is getting better, or at least stays the same. We ignore population and the social elements in the equation, and focus totally on just trying to solve the problem from the technical side. So we will fail, because growth of population and living standards are much greater than we would save through efficiency and alternative energy. Therefore, the CO2 emissions will continue to rise. There is no solution to the climate change problem as long as we do not address the social factors that count.

FORMAT: You mean the Earth will take things into its own hands?

Meadows: Disasters are the way to solve all the problems of the planet. Due to climate change, sea levels will rise because the ice caps are melting. Harmful species will spread to areas where they do not meet enough natural enemies. The increase in temperature leads to massive winds and storms, which in turn affects precipitation. So, more floods, more droughts.

FORMAT: For example?

Meadows: The land which today grows 60 percent of wheat in China will be too dry for agriculture. At the same time it’s going to rain, but in Siberia, and the country will be more fruitful there. So a massive migration from China to Siberia will take place. How many times have I told people this in my lectures in Russia already. The older people were concerned. But the young elite has merely said: Who cares? I just want to be rich.

FORMAT: What to do?

Meadows: If I only knew. We come into a period that calls for a dramatic change in practically everything. Unfortunately, changing our society or government system is not done quickly. The current system does not work anyway. It did not stop climate change, or prevent the financial crisis. Governments are trying to solve their problems by printing money, which will almost certainly result in a few years of very high inflation. This is a very dangerous phase. I just know that a person has, whenever he in uncertain times, has the choice between freedom and order, and chooses order. Order is not necessarily right or justice, but life is reasonably safe, and the trains run on time.

FORMAT: Do you fear an end of democracy?

Meadows: I see two trends. On the one hand, the disruption of states into smaller units, such as regions such as Catalonia, and on the other hand a strong, centralised superpower. Not a state, but a fascist combination of industry, police and military. Maybe there will be in the future even both. Democracy is indeed a very young socio-political experiment. And it does not currently exist. It produced only crises that it cannot solve. Democracy contributes nothing at the moment to our survival. This system will collapse from within, not because of an external enemy.

FORMAT: You talk of the “tragedy of the commons”, ( Allmendeklemme )

Meadows: This is the basic problem. If in a village everyone grazes his cows on the lush meadow – called in old England “Commons” – the short term benefit goes most to those who choose to have more cows. But if that goes on too long, all the grass dies, and all the cows.

FORMAT: So you have here an agreement, such as the best use of the meadow. That can be democracy at its best.

Meadows: Maybe. But if the democratic system can’t solve this problem on a global level, it will probably try a dictatorship. After all, it’s about issues such as global population controls. We are now 300,000 years on this planet and we have ruled in many different ways. The most successful and effective was the tribe or clan system, not dictatorships or democracies.

FORMAT: Could a major technological development to save the earth?

Meadows: Yes. [But] Technologies need laws, sales, training, people who work with them – see my above statement. Moreover, technology is just a tool like a hammer or a neoliberal financial system. As long as our values are what they are, we will [try to] develop technologies that meet them.

FORMAT: All the world currently sees salvation in a sustainable green technology.

Meadows: This is a fantasy. Even if we manage to increase the efficiency of energy use dramatically, use of renewable energies much more, and painful sacrifices to limit our consumption, we have virtually no chance to prolong the life of the current system. Oil production will be reduced approximately by half in the next 20 years, even with the exploitation of oil sands or shale oil. It just happens too fast. Apart from that you can earn more than non oil with alternative energy. And wind turbines can be operated, with no planes. The World Bank director (most recently responsible for the global airline industry) has explained to me, the problem of peak oil is not discussed in his institution, it is simply taboo. Whoever will try to anyway, is fired or transferred. After all, Peak Oil destroys the belief in growth. You would have to change everything.

FORMAT: Especially with airlines the share of fossil fuels is very high.

Meadows: Exactly. And that is why the era of cheap mass transport by air will end soon. This will only be affordable in large empires or countries. With a lot of money you might buy the energy, and cause food shortages. But you can not hide from climate change, which affects both the poor and the rich.

FORMAT: Do you have solutions to these mega miseries?

Meadows: This would change the nature of man. We are basically now just as programmed as 10,000 years ago. If one of our ancestors could be attacked by a tiger, he also was not worried about the future, but his present survival. My concern is that for genetic reasons we are just not able to deal with such things as long-term climate change. As long as we do not learn that, there is no way to solve all these problems. There’s nothing we could do. People always say again: We need to save our planet. No, we do not. The planet is going to save itself already. It always has done. Sometimes it took millions of years, but it happened. We should not be worried about the planet, but about the human species.

Dennis Meadows, 70, shattered the belief in progress on a sustainable basis with his study, commissioned by the Club of Rome, “Limits to Growth” 40 years ago . The economist has been Director of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a visiting lecturer in the world and has taught at Dartmouth College and at the University of New Hampshire, where he now teaches.

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48 responses

31 03 2013
zaphrail

yep. exactly.

4 04 2013
Don

The fact that you have only one comment so far is a sad comment on our civilization. But as the saying goes ” apathy is a problem, but who cares”.

4 04 2013
mikestasse

This blog may have come of age actually…. March saw the highest number of hits in one day ever, and was the most read month ever to boot. April is going ballistic too…. and THIS post (which I did not even write myself) has had something like 4 or 5 hundred reads so far……

It’s easy to call it apathy….. I think if you are new to this kind of concept, and then find out “there is nothing we can do”, WHAT can one say..? I suspect it’s a bit overwhelming……

10 04 2013
lewiscleverdon

Perhaps you could identify just where Meadows said “there’s nothing we can do” ?
Or did you make that up yourself to suit the passivist agenda you’re promoting ?
Regards,
Lewis

10 04 2013
mikestasse

Last paragraph. “As long as we do not learn that, there is no way to solve all these problems. There’s nothing we could do.”

4 04 2013
averagejoe

Brilliant post. I believe he is right. Which is very depressing!

8 04 2013
mike

my father used to talk of these things in the early 70s when I was a boy…I have always known this was coming.

9 04 2013
Daniel Koeppel

Change the frame of mind or our value system – that is going to be one hell of a task. Thanks to nature, she will help forcing the issue. The challenge will be to use such visionary comments as by Mr. Maedows as the base on which we re boot the system.
Currently i am very hesitant to mention the value change (Sufficiency) when sitting in business meetings explaining efficiency. Either i have not found the right way to explain it or there is none.

9 04 2013
Alain

He is too pessimistic, dangerously so when he argues that there are only 2 ways to solve the problem : decrease the birth rate OR increase the death rate. Both pose MANY ethical dilemnas. There has to be other alternative/s such as not using planes and cars anymore! Radical, yes, but not deadly as the other two alternatives are. Not eating as much meat is another, because raising cattle for food is at-least 10-100 times less efficient than eating lower on the food chain. It is “radical”, yet not premised on inventing anything new. Furthermore some scientific breakthroughs may indeed help us. The internal combustion engine (e.g. burning fossil fuels) is not necessarily the last word on how we can use energy. & so-on. Time for some ingenuity + compassion, instead of doomsday hysterics and genocidal perspectives.

9 04 2013
mikestasse

Increasing the death rate is NOT an ethical dilemma, not for Gaia at least! The Earth will deal with the human cancer without asking us about the morality of doing so.

Decreasing the birth rate is already happening all over the world, just not fast enough. And as far as “scientific breakthroughs” are concerned, we are in this mess BECAUSE of the misapplication of such breakthroughs….

10 04 2013
thelyniezian

The whole Gaia thing is a theoretical construct, not something to go on about. Yes, there are many misapplied breakthroughs (why do we need cars so much for one thing?)

Rather we have what the Bible quite clearly points out- “what a man sows, that shall he reap.” It is human activity- greed and lack of wisdom that has caused many of our problems. Yes, perhaps overpopulation too but that’s only one element of the equation. And we have to make sure we are right on all levels.

10 04 2013
jane

Decreasing the birth rate is an ethical dilemma only if it’s done by coercion. If it’s done by keeping men from coercing women to produce more children than they want to bear or can afford to feed, it’s an ethical win-win. Producing more surviving children in each generation is one of those things that literally cannot go on forever, and I don’t see it as a tragedy, much less “genocide,” that females should enjoy better health and more time to spend living their own lives.

10 04 2013
mikestasse

Hear hear!!!!!!!

11 04 2013
thelyniezian

It depends on your basis for ethics I guess. If you come from the mindset of, for example, a traditionalist Catholic or some other religious viewpoint, it might look rather different. (And I would not write off such views as basically patriarchal- firstly they maintain they are based on what they understand the will of God to be, secondly, they were formed at a time when having as many children as possible was perhaps a necessity.) I don’t hold to such views I must say, and though I am a Christian, I cannot find any specific Biblical prohibition absolutely prohibiting all forms of contraception or having large numbers of children in the sense of a command (which Psalm 127:5 is not). We have been fruitful and multiplied, have filled the earth and subdued it (and made a hash of that last part, arguably). Now what?

The thing is there are other ethical dilemmas when it comes to reducing birth rates other than by coercion, whatever they may be. These have to be argued with.

10 04 2013
thelyniezian

Indeed. I do however think there is much we can do without either inventing anything new, or creating ethical dilemmas- although perhaps some approaches are limited. I think a lot- such as high levels of meat eating- is force of habit and instinct. As is wasting energy (guilty as charged!)

12 04 2013
sky

Apparently the scope of the problem is so big, according to systems models, that even with greatly improved efficiency, economic and population decline will still occur. People will always seek total reproductive freedom and do what they can to stave off hardship and famine, but that people will reduce their consumption, either by way of increased efficiency or reduced numbers, is implicit in the models. Though my intuition is likely wrong, I wonder if the population might stabilize at a relatively high level, but at a much reduced living standard, due to diminishing resources and increasing costs. The future of civilization, according to scientific and the more rational wide-boundary thinkers, would appear to be something other than the current perpetual growth narrative. Oh, and I didn’t mention climate change… IMHO, one of the great shortcomings of industrial civilization has been losing our connection with the natural world, being insulated by technologies that rest on very cheap energy, and forgetting what our ancestors understood innately, that human economies are a tertiary subset of natural, ecological systems.

10 04 2013
WiCARUS (@WiCARUS)

PS: I’ve taken the liberty to share your interview on Twitter.

10 04 2013
mikestasse

Good! THIS needs to be read, and it is…….. Since posting this article, Damnthematrix has gone ballistic going up from an average 100 reads a day to around 700. Actually, since today, make that 800+…. I’m blown away actually…

Oh, this is NOT my interview BTW…

10 04 2013
thelyniezian

And in this we have the moral failure of the Gaia theory and hyper-Darwinianism. “We are as programmed since 10,000 years ago”. Do we not also have the powers of reasoning as well as instinct? Ought we not to stop making excuses for our animal natures and start taking responsibility, that we can and must? And stop thinking that, because of the assumption that the world will take case of itself, we are apparently meaningless, we can happily resign ourselves to fatalism?

If I am rocking the boat here, I will also point out that as a Christian, I feel evolutionary explanations are used as an excuse for sin. I do not believe we arrived here by accident or that we were meant to be as we are. I am not talking about young-earthism here, as I’m frankly doubtful of that anyway both on a scientific or theological level, as to its necessity. I am talking about morals here. It is our responsibility that we are entering into this mess- whether economic, social or environmental, and we must be responsible for doing something about it. Not to be fatalistic. I hope this is not the case here?

10 04 2013
mikestasse

Gaia is not a theory, because the Earth is NOT an organism. Lovelock came up with the notion, because he thought the Earth behaved LIKE an organism. I happen to think he’s right.

Whilst we do have the power of reasoning, I remind you that by definition half the population has an IQ of 100 or less. So some of us are better at reasoning than others, some are totally incapable. AND they vote.

As far as morals go, one can always find ways of justifying their position, sometimes even on religious grounds! Which is why I am not religious. I don’t believe in sin, obviously, but I believe in unfathomable stupidity.

11 04 2013
thelyniezian

I can understand the concept of the Gaia hypothesis, much as I find the language unhelpful. That the Earth behaves as a complex system with various self-regulating feedback mechanisms in place seems to be unproblematic. The problem I think is when we see these things as being sufficient to the long-term salvation of the earth anyway- don’t worry, it will sort itself out, but never mind about humanity. (Let alone whichever other species we take with us on the way.) They’re not important to the grand scheme of things. The earth has recovered from mass climacitc changes and mass extinction events before. That’s what that last paragraph reads like. You could be almost forgiven for thinking it, anyway, though I hope the interviewee doesn’t think that.

(Of course I understand Lovelock also hinted that there are points at which this self-regulating mechanism can be irreparably damaged, whether by natural or artificial means- perhaps I should have read the book more thoroughly.)

Yes, people can justify things on “religious grounds” but that does not make them right, nor does it automatically invalidate faith. As it is I believe Scripture speaks quite clearly into many of the issues raised in the article, and whilst it probably has much less to say on environmental matters than one would like (there are a few precepts in the Mosaic Law, and there’s a telling passage in Revelation warning that god will ultimately destroy those who destroy the earth, whatever that means) but it also speaks a lot against greed and usury, which apart from population growth could be one of he big drivers behind the need for economic growth as well as the driver behind those systems which cause the wasteful business practices of today. (For example how much of fossil fuels could be eliminated from the food chain if it was either sourced locally, or sourced from somewhere that it can be grown without energy inputs that add up to a bigger carbon footprint than growing them locally would mean? (For example growing tomatoes under glass in the UK is worse than importing them from Spain.)) Environmental and resource use factors are less important than maximising profits or driving economic “growth”. But I digress. The thing with those justifying wrong motives from religious points of view are often blatently contradicting the beliefs they claim to espouse. Of course one need not make a religious argument, but I maintain even so that there is such a thing as God and sin. and that God made humanity to be particularly special to Him, in His image, despite how insignificant we may seem. And that a lot of the fatalism in the article seems to arise from a world view which has already rejected such ideas.

And what of IQ? I think the fact that 100 is by definition the statistical average score renders it meaningless as a measure of the absolute, as opposed to relative, intelligence of a population. Half will always be above and half below. And I wonder if IQ tests really measure much apart from how good at doing IQ tests you are (and it’s telling my score varies significantly depending on whether or not the test is timed, too). Even then, how much of the problem is not that of higher reasoning ability but either ignorance or sheer bloody-mindedness? (I somehow doubt one gets to be in charge of affairs at the World Bank if one has a low level of intelligence, yet as their director admits, they refuse to acknowledge the reality of peak oil or limits to growth).

11 04 2013
Oelsen

Well, the CEO of Swiss said last year at a presentation, I am paraphrasing here, that the valuation of the airline industry by the banks is trickier than peak oil itself. The important institutions know everything quite exactly, but not in written form.

11 04 2013
mikestasse

“As it is I believe Scripture speaks quite clearly”

This is where we part company I’m afraid thelyniezian……. the scriptures are unbelievably contradictory, and whilst I don’t know them sufficiently well to prove my point right here and now, I have seen in the past from many many sources how one can find mountains of quotes in the Bible to justify anything from killing people to destroying their properties and many more unfathomable mis-thinkings…

11 04 2013
jason1738Jason

The Great Turning is happening and people are learning to live in a more compassionate space but when I became aware of these issues 20 years ago it wasn’t too long after that it hit me like a hammer, the current system has to collapse to create the space for a new system to emerge, like an old growth forest that is destroyed by wild fire, the undergrowth then have access to the sunlight to grow and the forest renews itself, but not as before… stop worrying about others and live your life with compassion and do what you can and make peace in your heart and accept the way things are…

11 04 2013
sjakiez

Also take a look at the bright side of life: http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/1335130

11 04 2013
Sky

“In it, he predicted that by mid-century, the resources of planet Earth will be depleted.”

The resource base is shown to decline steeply, but not entirely to exhaustion. :-P Rather, available resources level off at a very low levels. Of course the model projects continuing massive population growth, which also collapses when apparently mass starvation occurs. Sometimes I wonder if the population level might remain at a higher level, albeit at relatively miserable living standards? Still, none of this seems to motivate people to have a rational discussion about the possibility, or ways to mitigate… Perhaps such a bottle-neck will select for more rational thinking next time around? :-o

12 04 2013
mikestasse

The thing you have to understand about resource depletion is that the amount of effort involved in the resources’ exploitation slowly increases over a very long time. I love the example of the copper mine in the US that Chris Martenson uses in his Crash Course in which he shows a photo of two men lying across a “nugget” of pure copper the size of a small car… followed by the current hole in the ground the size of an inverted mountain from which vast amounts of minerals were excavated…

http://www.peakprosperity.com/video/237/playlist/153/chapter-18-environmental-data

I would actually strongly recommend anyone reading this to view the ENTIRE CRASH COURSE. it will change your life…….

13 04 2013
GS

First we get rid of all the worlds military’s, since they consume over one quarter of the US’s tax’s and essentially have always drained off the R&D scientific/engineering/other talent we need to directly develop nano-tech/bio-technologies we will need to reduce the CO2 int he air, the pollution, recycling all waste, mine the old garbage dumps etc. The benefits of nano-tech/biotech mean that people will live longer and then there are no excuses that they won’t see the chaotic future (that will happen eventually anyway) ….we need to educate people to less embrace thinking and religions that promote endless breeding…more educated societies tend to have less kids….the development of nano-tech means that you could manufacture any item you want, so amassing vast collections of items no longer required…it breaks capitalism’s law of scarcity and it’s whole paradigm. You can already see the growth of fascism (here in Canada, the election of a very corrupt and dangerous fascist Conservative government of Steven Harper’s Conservatives who have employed non-democratic methods of staying in power and supporting the oil industry, denying environmental damage, using the talking points of the oil industry to set economic policy fits the equation perfectly).

13 04 2013
Links for Week Ending 14th April | The Rational Pessimist (formerly Climate and Risk)

[...] But then again not as gloomy as his co-author Dennis Meadows: here. [...]

12 07 2014
Bryce

All other moral issues aside the truth will always come down to the following 4 words. Mother Nature bats last. What we choose to do early on or too late, the reality is that only by working with natural systems to restore and preserve, adapt to changes, etc., through strategies such as Permaculture design are we going to be able to get out of this problem in the long run.

21 04 2013
Chris

I like how the interview highlights human values and principles being the root cause of resource depletion, but then it states, “there is nothing we can do”. That seems somewhat contradictory.

People like David Holmgrem, Geoff Lawton, Peter Andrews and even what Jackie French writes about with wilderness gardens, and tithing back to nature, are bucking the trend about doing nothing. As are many ‘unknown” grass roots individuals and communities.

I guess Meadows is a good counter argument to the CEO’s of large multinationations, who constantly project infinite growth: but he doesn’t talk to the grass roots who recogise, there is always something we can do.

25 09 2014
PMB

Yeah, that’s right Chris. Let’s all follow the leader ala Lawton. So we feed all 7.2 billion of us and what’s the result, probably 14.4 billion and what happens to the rest of the species on the planet.

Yeah, it wasn’t enough for Lawton to stop breeding at 2. He now has to have more offspring because he’s in a second marriage.

What’s a joke is that we are not allowed to address the issue of the trash the marchers in NYC left behind. They were marching to stop the evil fossil fuel industry from destroying the planet, only it’s BAU because people were either too lazy or thinking they are better then the elite in considering where the refuse ought to go.

Too bad Leslie Kagen, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, and Hedges didn’t have the brains to consider what happens when you bring 300,000 people into an area. We’ll think about that latter after we’ve won the revolution.

Even if humans aren’t on the road to extinction they sure ought to be.

21 04 2013
mikestasse

Thing is Chris, whilst people like Holmgren, Lawton, Andrews, French, and yes even me preach about “wilderness gardens”, we really preach to the converted. And in any case, I’m quite convinced Permaculture could not support 7, 8, or 9 billion people. Convincing people to abandon their affluence is also a very big ask. No amount of preaching to the unconverted will work methinks…

22 04 2013
Chris

Isn’t Meadows also preaching to the converted? It takes someone who believes in peak oil, to hear what Meadows claims as bearing some truth.

But we all weren’t born converted…we had to be convinced. So I don’t really believe those great permaculture/naturalist teachers have only preached to the converted either – they’ve had to do a lot of hard work to turn people’s heads too.

The question is, do we listen to the thinkers who preach about death being the only solution for mankind, or those who preach about life? I know who I’d rather listen too.

I read Meadows interview and understood it for what it was – the counter argument to multinationals infinite growth. But it doesn’t offer any hope or solutions for mankind either – which is why I spoke about the individuals I did. They are the counter argument to preaching nothing but death.

I don’t blame Meadows for his view, as someone had to hold it (many do). There has to be a counter-arguement to infinite growth. But there also has to be a counter-arguement to extreme limitation of mankind’s true abilities, and that is where permaculture and naturalists come in. There always has to be an opposite view, in order to achieve balance and harmony between them.

24 04 2013
Oelsen

Huh? Nobody convinced me. I just read the reports and number sheets that are everywhere. And I know how stuff works. That is the only thing that is needed to get to a sensible conclusion. The problem lies in distraction and focus. Focus on solutions, abandon the religion of progress! To belief any elaborate system on top of everything else would be a solution that is caused by designed systems in the first place is delusional and mean.

25 04 2013
Chris

Hi Oelsen, if someone produced those reports and number sheets, then they convinced you. Not by ideology, but by providing a stream of facts. Just like the permaculture and naturalists I referred to – they also provide a stream of facts evaluated (and tested in real time) in the field.

I don’t believe our species will ever abandon progress – what mammalian or primate species does? But what we need to do, on that road to progress, is diversify! Which means starting a counter culture of “less” and establishing that community as a viable alternative.

I believe we’re ultimately talking about the same thing, only looking at it from different perspectives.

1 05 2013
JohnnyUK

An interesting post, while there may or may not be truth in what has been said, I do believe as with every opinion, there must be a middle road, somewhere in-between that is more grounded. What is needed is a real hard look at what do people want moving forward, but this too has a dilemma when they have been raised on values that promote over achieving. What I believe is now needed is more focus on stories on how sustainable solutions can benefit people, what we really need to do is change a culture and the way things operate, this will only happen if there is hope, hope to encourage and excite people to adopt new ways of doing things that are beneficial for the world.

8 05 2013
mikestasse

Sorry, but I don’t believe ‘the middle road’ is actually a proper stance in many cases. IF for instance we were discussing whether the Earth was flat or spherical, where would the middle road be then?

Either we are sustainable, or we’re not. Either we are dead, or we’re not. There is no middle road here…

We need far more than adapting to new ways, we need a new operating system which I now realise must begin with economics…… we have got into this ungodly mess because a bunch of greedy people took over the economy, created the greed is good mantra (and convinced everybody that it was real), hijacked the resources extraction sector, and then enslaved us all with debt. Today, most people are stuck in a treadmill they see no way out of. You can “encourage and excite people to adopt new ways of doing things that are beneficial for the world” all you like, they can’t afford it.

8 05 2013
Tom Barker

He is probably right in what he says in a really pessimistic stance, and hasn’t really shown much openness to new ideas. He should check out Peter Harper’s Zero Carbon Britain talk for the British Council, given in Australia in 2011, which is much more optimistic whilst retaining realism.

8 05 2013
mikestasse

The problem with a Zero Carbon Anywhere, is that it takes fossil fuels to make it. I have a saying, ‘with fossil fuels, you can do anything’…. you can even have a fossil fuel free energy system!

Trouble is, the time to do that was when Meadows et al originally came out with their LtG report in 1971. Then, we had cheap and abundant oil and coal (mind you Britain was already virtually out of coal then!) with a very high ERoEI.

In any case, the biggest problem will soon be not whether we have enough power to watch our flat screen TVs, but where our food will come from; and you might be shocked to discover that Britain imports 40% of all the food it consumes…….

5 10 2013
Dennis Meadows: “Non hai nada que poidamos facer” | Tempo contado

[…] A seguir a entrevista orixinalmente publicada na revista austriaca Format e traducida ao galego da versión inglesa publicada no web “Damn the Matrix”. […]

31 10 2013
Alexis Toulet

Hello,

I’m webmaster of http://www.noeud-gordien.fr, a French blog dealing with analyzes about the series of crises begun since 2007/8. I think this interview of Dennis Meadows is very interesting and I would like to post a translation to French on Noeud Gordien. Obviously the original would be credited and linked. If you wish it I can send you the translated text in advance.
Can you please tell me whether you would authorize that?
Thanks & all the best

Alexis

31 10 2013
mikestasse

Bonjour Alexis…… Je suis aussi francais. Le texte de l’interview etait en origine publie en allemand.

Il est tres possible qu’il existe deja une version francaise. Ce n’est pas vraiment ma place d’authoriser la traduction, mais personellement je n’ais aucun problemes avec ce projet.

Je regrette le manque d’accents (et de cedilles), mais ces claviers anglophone ne sont pas concus pour la langue francaise!

Bonne chance, et laisse moi au courrant de ton progres….

Michel.

1 11 2013
jason1738

Oh well we are not going to end up in a technological nirvana where we all dress the same think the same and act the same… in fact thank god this is going to happen since it will free us from the oppressive social pressures to conform to a massive political complex…

20 02 2014
Dennis Meadows le prophète du crépuscule : « Nous n’y pouvons rien faire 

[…] Une version anglaise est également disponible sur le site Damn the Matrix. […]

12 07 2014
Joanna

Looking for a print button?

12 07 2014
mikestasse

Control P

25 08 2014
Autor „Granic wzrostu”: Nic już nie poradzimy | Exignorant's Blog

[…] fragmenty wywiadów z Dennisem Meadowsem z 2012 roku. Opracowanie wieńczą wypowiedzi z konferencji „Era granic”, […]

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