Finally got round to reading, over palak paneer yesterday, this New Scientist profile from a while back on 1970s thought-provoker The Limits to Growth - one of the first books to statistically model population collapse and economic crash as a result of environmental stresses.
Not, note, just carbon stresses.
The most strident criticisms came from economists, who claimed Limits underestimated the power of the technological fixes humans would surely invent. As resources ran low, for instance, we would discover more or develop alternatives.
Yet the Limits team had tested this. In some runs, they gave World3 [their model] unlimited, non-polluting nuclear energy – which allowed extensive substitution and recycling of limited materials – and a doubling in the reserves of nonrenewables that could be economically exploited. All the same, the population crashed when industrial pollution soared. Then fourfold pollution reductions were added as well: this time, the crash came when there was no more farmland.
I’ve always been someone who’s “concerned about climate change” rather than about “the environment.”
But the Earth is a complex place. I’m coming round to the idea that in the long run, our impact on the broader biosphere needs to be stabilised too.