Letter to the Editor - June 12

June 12, 2012

The planet we’re (not) leaving to our children

To the editor:

I read Richard Giovanoni’s letter (May 24) with puzzlement. I was unsure of his point, which seemed to favor uncontrolled population growth. What caught my eye, however, were his repeated misstatements concerning the book “The Limits to Growth.”

The Club of Rome published the book in 1972. It reports the results from a computer simulation called “The World Model,” which was produced at MIT by a team of American researchers. The simulation modeled five factors that determine and limit growth, including population, agricultural production, natural resources, industrial production and pollution.

The model used what then was a cutting-edge method called “Systems Dynamics.” This method is now commonplace. The simulation allowed researchers to apply different values to the five key factors, accelerate time and view the outcome. The results were startling.

Nearly every combination run through the model resulted in collapse. But contrary to Giovanoni’s claim, the worst-case scenario (do nothing) resulted in collapse from resource depletion (not overpopulation) and occurred around the year 2030, not 1970.

Only one combination resulted in stability. The book lists the common-sense combination that worked. The authors make no suggestions on how to achieve the needed combination (it does involve sacrifice), instead leaving that up to our political leaders.

The fact is that the world is currently in “overshoot” and the size of the human population is the root cause.

This overshoot is causing severe habitat destruction visible as global warming, ocean acidification, depletion of our mineral resources, depletion of oceanic fisheries, ocean dead zones, a worldwide mass extinction, water pollution and shortages, severe agricultural soil erosion, deforestation and ongoing worldwide economic problems.

Unfortunately, many (including religious and political leaders) attempt to rationalize their misjudgments by convincing us to “stay the course.” This is what is bequeathed to the next generation.

Larry Zaleski

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