Real Talk: Only 18 Years To Go?

Hello again, and welcome to the latest installment of James’ Apocalyptic Rants. But this time, we’re not talking science fiction; this time, it’s for real. Don’t take my word for it, though. A crew of researchers at MIT called it way back in 1972, and although they were scorned for their conclusions at the time, all of the data we have to work with today is letting them have the last word. And it’s not pretty.

The study in question is called The Limits to Growth. It predicted that, at the rate that the human population was growing and in proportion to the natural resources available to sustain them, all of these resources would be tapped dry around the year 2030. After that, the report concludes, the global economy would collapse and the population would begin to die off.

Scary stuff. And according to the latest data, we’re pretty much right on target to meet that doomsday deadline. Smithsonian Magazine just published a graph which reveals that the growth of our population and the consumption of nonrenewable resources are proceeding at almost exactly the same rate that The Limits to Growth anticipated. In forty years, we’ve shot up from 3.8 billion to 7 billion strong with no sign of slowing down and no restraint with regard to plundering the planet’s increasingly finite resources to accommodate this population onslaught.

A million questions are swarming through my head. Whose fault is this? Whose fault isn’t it? What have we been doing about it? What can we do about it now? Even if there is something we can do, will we actually do it? Would it even be worth it? Are we too late? Should we just accept this as our karma for shooting first and asking questions later, for trying to have our cake and eat it too?

Neither the minority of people who control the Earth’s resources nor the majority perpetually crowding around them with palms outstretched demanding their share have shown any vested interest in breaking the inertia. Why would the former relax their grip on all that power and wealth, and why would the latter give up the creature comforts that their lives revolve around? To ask either of these flipsides of the same coin to make that sacrifice is, in essence, to ask them to give up everything. We might as well go back to being hunter-gatherers if we really want to make a difference. But who the hell is going to do that? Not you, not me, nobody.

What comes up must come down. The Industrial Revolution has turned out to be a Pandora’s Box. Our ambition and avarice have created a monster too big for us to tame, which took us to the top of the mountain only to let us down with the force of a 10-ton truck with its brakes cut off headed right into a brick wall.

So, any answers to that mad rush of questions?  No.


  1. […] to say that. Limitations, whether because of financial reasons, ideological differences, or space considerations, are felt in other parts of the world that are not quite as magnified […]