What is the Club of Rome and what are the limits to growth?
The Club of Rome is a nonprofit informal organisation of intellectuals and business leaders with a purpose to critically discuss and find solutions for pressing global issues. The Club of Rome aimed to find a solution to the world's continuous critical problems and they did so by creating the first system dynamics model of the world.
Why has humanity viewed growth as ‘the ultimate goal’?
The concept of growth as the core goal of our economic system has been pushed by governments and businesses globally. Growth has been typically represented by increases in GDP.
Here are some reasons as to why the notion of growth has been pushed:
- Conception that as economies grow, more wealth can be distributed amongst the population
- Economic growth is seen as a necessity to facilitate job creation
- Growth is experienced as a source of hope (a better tomorrow) and thus has a spiritual dimension
What are the missing perspectives on growth?
- Does not mention the unintended negative consequences
- Does not align with reality with regards to higher levels of well-being
How is system dynamics model different from mainstream models?
Mainstream models have a lot of assumptions around implicit constancy and most variables are exogenous. There are only a few endogenous variables, and the way they interrelate is limited.
In System Dynamics, all variables are endogenous and can interact with one another. Hence, various dynamics can occur in systems models that cannot be modelled well with more mainstream ones. Hence system dynamics is better approach to model our global society.
What are the limits to growth scenarios?
- Business as usual (BAU) - This scenario was based purely on historical averages and indicates a collapse occuring around our current time (2020s). Here the collapse is caused by resource scarcity.
- BAU 2 (Business as usual 2) - This scenario also ran on historical averages, with an assumption that we had double the amount of non-renewable resources as in BAU. Humanity can carry on business as usual for a decade or two longer than in BAU, but the collapse is also much steeper. In this scenario, the collapse is brought about by pollution from industrial output.
- Comprehensive Technology (CT) - This scenario contains the additional assumption of unprecedentedly high technological innovation rates. It is also important to note that whilst humans are smart, our capabilities are not infinite and innovation rates have never been nearly as high as projected in this scenario.
- Stabilised World (SW) - This scenario, unlike the others, deviates markedly from historical averages. It also assumes high technological innovation rates but more crucially, assumes that there are significant behavioural changes towards prioritizing human services over the pursuit of growth. It is only in this scenario that we avoid significant declines and maintain relatively high well-being levels throughout the rest of the century.