Forty years ago, The Limits to Growth study addressed the grand question of how humans would adapt to the physical limitations of planet Earth. It predicted that during the first half of the 21st century the ongoing growth in the human ecological footprint would stop-either through catastrophic "overshoot and collapse"-or through well-managed "peak and decline." So, where are we now? And what does our future look like? In the book 2052 , Jorgen Randers, one of the coauthors of Limits to Growth , issues a progress report and makes a forecast for the next forty years. To do this, he asked dozens of experts to weigh in with their best predictions on how our economies, energy supplies, natural resources, climate, food, fisheries, militaries, political divisions, cities, psyches, and more will take shape in the coming decades. He then synthesized those scenarios into a global forecast of life as we will most likely know it in the years ahead. The good we will see impressive advances in resource efficiency, and an increasing focus on human well-being rather than on per capita income growth. But this change might not come as we expect. Future growth in population and GDP, for instance, will be constrained in surprising ways-by rapid fertility decline as result of increased urbanization, productivity decline as a result of social unrest, and continuing poverty among the poorest 2 billion world citizens. Runaway global warming, too, is likely. So, how do we prepare for the years ahead? With heart, fact, and wisdom, Randers guides us along a realistic path into the future and discusses what readers can do to ensure a better life for themselves and their children during the increasing turmoil of the next forty years.
"2052" comes from a powerful emotional concept: imagine that you were a graduate student, working on the first computer models to project what the future of the world might be like, and you found some in which humanity came to a stable future, and some in which it collapsed. Imagine you then worked the rest of your life on bringing about more positive futures, but found to your horror that your efforts were largely in vain, and that the future developing was the future in which little was done to prevent resource depletion, overwhelming pollution, and environmental collapse. Each year brought terrible news, and caused you to become overwhelmed with worry. After years of living with this distress (and your family and friends living with you), you decide to seek psychological balance, and to soberly accept reality, whatever it is, in order to move on. However, as this is the future, you decides to take your talents to do a single forecast, not of different alternatives, but with what seems to be the most likely path, in order to accept the consequences. With this, you will no longer need to worry, and be able to cheer even the littlest victories for what they are.
This book is then hamstrung by a formality. These original models, as published in the "famous in some circles" 1972 book "Limits to Growth". The book is published in 2012, forty years after the "Limits to Growth", and for the sake of symmetry sets 2052 as its boundary. This arbitrary boundary means the upshot of the book is "people are going to respond to climate change, but too late, so there will be some serious consequences to that, but because they did respond, things will be ok-ish for a while and people will be generally not that much worse off until outside the scope of my book, when things really might get dicey." It would have been nice if the 40 year boundary wasn't held to quite as strictly, given this finding.
Despite this, the perspective is interesting, if a little vanilla. As a result of it being one forecast, it doesn't include anything dramatic happening either way. Occasionally, there will be some government in which there's some social strife, which slows down adaptation, but also cancels out economic growth, so that more or less balances out. There really isn't that much methodology, which I found unfortunate because I find that kind of thing potentially productive.
The book ends with the pragmatic advice of expected defeat: get used to the way things will be, see ecological and cultural treasures while they exist and are comparatively affordable to visit, get to like electronic entertainment, don't raise your children to expect the same kinds of pleasures, do more than your fair share while there is work that can be done, etc.
In what has probably turned out to be unfortunate for the author's attempt to regain psychological balance, the possibility that the future might be worse than the middle of the road seemingly doesn't occur to him. Published right as the United States was getting under way with Obama's second term, he might not have seen that we are not actually at the beginning of real progress, but at the start of a vulgar and reactionary denial to climate change, or any environmental issue, as a widely-understood threat to human flourishing. This has lead to a full-scale pursuit of petro-infrastructure as economic salvation, including a variety of reduced regulatory protections. I like to imagine the author being more sanguine and proposing something like the following: we get a later start, pulling us yet closer to the point of no return, but may yet respond with an equal vigor. Either way, some of our fate might as well be sealed: the 2052 of these projections will probably come sooner or later. Despite all, do the best work you can to protect the Earth and its poor for the sake of your own integrity.
This book can seem strangely optimistic given that the author believes we won't stop climate change in time to prevent escalating disasters and climate feedback loops in the second half of this century. But--up until 2052, things won't be so bad. I like the fact that Rander's predictions are not based on the idea that governments and people will do what is right. He is just following certain trends. Also, people will do what makes economic sense in the short term. By 2052, we will have doubled rather than tripled the world's economic growth because as fertility declines we will have less of a productive workforce. Most of the world's poor will get a little richer and the middle income a little richer but they will not reach the consumer heights of the current rich--who will get a little poorer. Economies like the United States will stagnate. We will have to learn to love a life with less consumption. The emissions of greenhouse gases will still be high but we will have reached drawdown. Most of us will live in megacities. We will be continually engaged in adjusting to new emergencies of weather. Most biologically-productive land will be used for human purposes. Undisturbed nature will only exist in protected places. This all seems reasonable to me, from the author of the seminal Limits to Growth, published forty years ago.
In my Independent Study on the works and thought of Derrick Jensen last year, we imagined the utility of an "Intergovernmental Panel on Global Collapse," a group that could use models and environmental and economic data to form a set of rough constraints and scenarios about the path industrial civilization could take. Collapse theorists like Aric McBay and John Michael Greer offer their near-certain prognosis that "collapse" is either with us now or on the near horizon.
However, for lack of data and computational power to predict the future, such analysts end up falling a bit flat because their scenarios and arguments differ only in the personality of the teller - Greer has little evidence to support his claim that collapse is gradual, and McBay and the other catastrophists find it difficult to support their interpretation that there will be a more-or-less datable collapse in the future. They struggle to pin down the specific nature of collapse - will it be a collapse of the American Empire, of the global financial market, of the industrial food distribution system, of fossil fuel extraction as an enterprise? This is not because they don't see the need or value of such predictions, but because they're basically impossible.
Randers seemed to offer the next best thing to a serious, well funded and interdisciplinary effort to examine this most important of all possible questions. The disappointing truth is that his model apparently writes out the possibility of unforeseen state shifts like sudden catastrophic collapses in ecosystem service delivery, financial markets, nuclear war, or the discovery of abundant new gas reserves (some of which are more likely than others).
The nature of modeling is to take existing trends and extend them into the future; thresholds and deep feedbacks can only be elucidated by serious research. Randers further disappoints by extending his forecast only to 2052: as he points out, all the interesting and catastrophic things are likely to happen in the second half of the century and beyond, when climate change feedbacks kick into gear.
The result is modestly interesting - Randers predicts no reduction of carbon emissions until peak oil, increasing use of renewable energy and biofuels, stable and then declining global population, China's emerging hegemony, rising GDP in the developing world, increasing starvation and malnutrition, etc. Nothing new or interesting or particularly compelling. That's why I just skimmed the bulk of the book.
Early in the book, Randers recounts the time he realized that humans weren't going to change their behavior in time to avoid the worst effects of climate change, biodiversity loss, and global poverty. He says that at that time, he kept the realization a secret: some more optimistic people needed the hope to keep doing good work that he wanted them to do, so he felt it would be ill-advised to spread his bad news. However, now he apparently sees more value in coming to terms with our place in the vast machinations of history. This book represents that coming-to-terms, moving beyond the cloying and obnoxious need most authors of such books have to craft a narrative that compels readers to vague, likely short-lived, and ultimately ineffective action.
In contrast, his advice at the end of the book is actually quite refreshing and seems rather helpful. Most serious environmental writers who acknowledge the hopelessness of the situation either conclude that we should fight anyway, because trying is the only moral option (Deep Green Resistance: Strategy to Save the Planet), or that we should do some vague environmental value-building for our selves and communities (http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.ph...). Randers instead offers pragmatic advice: learn to accept the tragedy, and ride it out as best you can.
He suggests that we base happiness on non-monetary satisfaction, learn to enjoy video games and movies, avoid teaching children to enjoy wilderness, and move someplace with a reasonably proactive government and away from the worst projected impacts of climate change. Overall, he suggests learning to like the way the world will be in 40 years in advance, to save you the trouble of adjusting when that future comes.
Jorgen Randers extends the trends to make predictions about the future.
Most of it was pretty predictable, and non-radical. There is still a stock market, a free market econonmy will still be the goal of humanity, money is still the measure of all things, and solar PV panels will go forth and multiply on earth.
His predictions may well come to be true in the short term (more of the same, just worse), but he makes no effort to predict the future when things begin to unravel - politically, economically, socially, financially.
The author was one of the researchers for the alarm-bell-ringing "Limits to Growth" 40 years ago, so now he takes another whack at extrapolation for the next 40 years. Wow - what a long retrospective!
The introduction spells out his approach: governments simply will not move quickly enough to avert the coming disasters in climate change and overpopulation, but the best reaction to this realization is to mourn the loss of what could have been and then work to rebuild expectations and sustainability. I appreciate his sober levelheadedness and I'm once again very relieved that I don't have grandchildren.
The kind of book to reread, for sure. Some unexpected predictions (especially about slowing population growth) and many different interesting lines of thought, from the probably declining future of nuclear, to the growing intergenerational tensions, to the changes (or stagnation) of wealth in different regions, the link between fixing poverty and the climate crisis. Not an uplifting book, but also not as depressing as it could have been--his discussion of coming to terms with what is going to happen really resonated with me. Change what you can and try not to break your heart over what you can't change.
This book took me a while to read, because it was dense with information. It is based on a model similar to that used by the Limits To Growth forecasters (of which Jorgen Randers is one), but updated to include current data and focused on what the author assesses to be the most likely scenario over the next forty years. What is often not well understood about LTG is that it was a scenario analysis rather than a forecast; the idea was to analyse the impact of various social behaviours and decisions to determine alternative futures, rather than definitively map out what would happen. As has been documented in a CSIRO paper, the LTG model has actually mapped fairly well what would happen in the scenario which had technological input and improvements, but was still based on growth, and led to eventual collapse.
Randers was driven to develop the 2052 model by a curiosity and anxiety about the future, which he wanted to address in the most realistic way he could devise. Of course it is not possible to be definitive about the future, but, having observed global behaviour and trends for forty years, he was well placed to make educated guesses, with assistance from various experts in areas where he needed more guidance. He then he tested the model for self consistency, and consistency with other more narrowly focused outside forecasting models, to assess its credibility. 2052 documents the results of this exercise.
The result is a scenario which in some ways is more optimistic than previous forecasts, eg population peaks at 8 billion around 2040 and then declines, in other areas is sobering, eg economic well being stagnates for current developed countries from now onwards, and in other areas extremely worrying - greenhouse emissions continue to rise up to 2030 and temperature rises of 2.8C by this point indicate a strong risk of runaway self-reinforcing global warming in the second half of this century.
The most saddening aspect of the forecast for me is the continuing loss of biodiversity and the natural world. He predicts that the amount of unused land and untouched nature will plummet such that there will only be a few isolated parks to act as museums for what once was. However, even those will be affected by climate change, such that they will lose their biodiversity, resilience, and attractiveness to humans. The world will look very different by then.
We will become an increasingly urbanised, digitally enabled and detached-from-nature species, living in apartment blocks and relying on a virtual world to entertain us and remind us of what the natural world looks like, or used to look like. But he says that future generations will be happy enough with this, as we so often see now with the young, entranced with their computer ganes and reluctant to venture outside.
The book is a fantastic resource of information around environmental trends and sustainability, with many useful references to websites, books, research papers and data sources. He himself provides online access to a spreadsheet full of referenced data that forms the basis for his model. I will be using this book for many years to come as a reference and guide to environmental issues.
There are a number of what he calls "glimpses" in the book, which are forecasts written by various experts on topics covered in chapters of the book. These are publicly accessible at 2052.info, and are very useful and in many cases inspiring. They are not all doom and gloom, but often give suggestions of potential positive trends which may be taken up, and act to bolster the trend to sustainability which Randers says will happen eventually, just later than would be desirable to protect our planetary support system.
So overall, I finish this book very much sobered and concerned, but last week I heard a talk by Tim Flannery promoting negative carbon technologies which may provide the tonic the planet needs to help us address climate change. I look forward to reading Flannery's book ("Atmosphere of Hope") next, and having a more hopeful outlook once more.
But the need for promoting the tackling of climate change and the environmental crisis is more urgent than ever. We must not give up hope.
The book has "glimpses" from different authors, outlining what they think will happen in the future of their area of expertise to 2052. These are very interesting - the book could have just collated these with minimal commentary.
The rest isn't quite as good. I also don't know how much faith to put in his model (built in Excel) which always seems to indicate that the big disasters will happen just outside the 2052 timeframe.
p1-background c1 worrying about the future c2 five big issues toward 2052 the sustainability revolution five central issues involving system change end of capitalism end of eco growth end of slow democracy end of generational harmony end of stable climate
p2-my global forecast c3 the logic behind forecast the guiding star/ broad brush picture/ my story/ deterministic
back bone/linear presentation of circular maze c4 population and consumption to 2052 investment will be more than consumed goods, now is 25 75 resp productivity grow, indi consumption decline c5 energy and co2 to 2052 c6 food and footprint to 2052 energy footprint overshoot/ nonenergy footprint in capacity c7 the nonmaterial future to 2052 larger state/forced redistribution global internet won't accelerate productivity c8 the zeitgeist in 2052 new paradigm less fixation with eco growth value as a whole not one online innovation(with limits that large scale proj unlikely)
p3-analysis c9 reflections on the future you'll remain current status in 2052 if you business as usual financial sector would change:3 reasons c10 five regional futures china best, us second, oecd third, c11 comparison with other futures c12 what should you do personal advice:focus on satisfaction rather than income/don't
accquire a taste for things that will disappear/ invest in
great electronic entertainment and learn to prefer it/
don't teach children love wilderness/if you like great
biodiversity go see it now/ visit world attractions before
full of crowd/ live in a place that's not overly exposed to
climate change/ move to courtry capable of decision making/
know the unsustainabilities that threaten your quality of
life/ if you can't stand a job in services or care, go
into engergy efficiency or renewables/ learn chinese/ stop
believe all growth is good/ remember fossil assets would
lose value one day/ invest in things that aren't sensitive
to social unrest/ do more than your fair share to avoid
future bad conscience/ in business explore the business
potential in current unsustainabilities/ in business don't
confuse growth in volume with growth in profits/ in
politics if you want reelection support only initiatives
with short term benefits/ in politisc remember future will
be dominated by physical limits/ in politics accept equal
access to limited resources will trump free speech
This is probably one of the most sobering books I have read about the future of the Planet. Unlike the original book The Limits of Growth from 1973 - scenario forecasting -, this attempts at trend forecasting using a wealth of data that wasn't available when the original book was written. For me the most important lessons is that is that the overshoot is already here, markets and politics will remain short term, more of us will live in congested cities and there will probably be 2 billion people still living in poverty. There is one thing, however, that might speed things up considerably for the better: The internet. Although we hear a lot about fake news of social media today, there is enough good forces that write about the important problems of the future. What is missing is a better economic system that explicitly deals with limited resources; read more about this in Kate Raworth's book Doughnut Economics. I am quite hopeful that because of this politicians will act faster than predicted by Rander's book. Even though it's gloomy reading, this is a book should be compulsory reading for every CEO, politician and people with a genuine wish to understand a chaotic and fast changing world.
This book starts as a depressing read. It’s why it took me 3 years to read it. I set it down a lot. But now having finished it, I am relieved. It has put my mind at ease, knowing what is to come and to not have to be surprised at the current wildfires that have been raging for days in Greece, as of the time of writing this. This is expected. And additionally, there are some great areas of improvement that was forecast to be worse! Particularly China’s net 0 goal is a massive improvement over what was expected. And our rate of adaption to renewable energy has been faster than predicted. So there are good signs. But also bad things, like the rate of warming seems to be higher. But over all this book put my mind at ease. Particularly I was worried about food security but it seems that it won’t be an issue beyond certain non-critical parameters.
An excellent continuation of the work started in Limits to Growth. Randers was part of the original team that wrote Limits to Growth. The only problem is that he has to issue many caveats as to how global warming will affect his extrapolations. While the forecasts in Limits to Growth have proven remarkably accurate, recent global warming studies are showing that it is progressing much faster than predicted, so the worst case scenarios Randers envisions are likely not dire enough.
Without giving too much away, make it your short term plan to read this book (i.e. don't wait forty years). Then, switch to long term thinking and convince others to do likewise. And yes, the revolution is coming.
Although I did not enjoy nor appreciate much of Randers insights on our future, the snippets of stories selected by the author were fantastic. Each short story provides predictions about what our future environment and economy will resemble. Very interesting and concerning at the same time.
Wenn man auch keine revolutionären Ideen in diesem Buch findet, so ist es doch eine nüchterne und wahrscheinlich realistische Prognose des weltweiten Handelns im Bezug auf den Klimawandel: die Menschheit wird zu spät den Wandel zu mehr Nachhaltigkeit einleiten, die Emissionen werden zu langsam sinken, die Erde wird sich um mehr als 2,8 Grad Celsius erwärmen, und die Frage bleibt offen, ob sich eine selbstverstärkende Klimaerwärmung verhindern lässt. Klar ist, dass mehr Geld in Investitionen (zur Reduzierung von Emissionen und zur Beseitigung von Schäden in Folge des Klimawandels) fließen werden und weniger in Konsum.
Warum trotzdem nur 3 Sterne? Leider machen es die Struktur und Sprache des Buches einem nicht einfach das Buch mit Genuss zu lesen. Oft verliert sich Randers in Details, wiederum an anderer Stelle werden interessante Konzepte nur oberflächlich erwähnt, und die Expertenmeinungen stören den Lesefluss. Das Buch erscheint manchmal mehr als ein Kompendium und weniger als ein Sachbuch mit einem klaren roten Faden. Zudem ist die deutsche Übersetzung nicht wirklich gelungen, da Redewendungen und Ausdrücke aus dem Englischen übernommen werden, statt einen eigenständigen Text zu kreieren.
The book starts with a noble cause -- to make a not-over-optimistic estimation of things that could happen in the context of climate change between 2012 and 2052. It aims for the stars and lands in the bushes. While the writing contains some useful factoids, they're burried in fluff, and there are more to-the-point reads on the same matters. While it might be a useful start to people who are 100% new to the interconnectedness of the world, and climate change in general... despite it's 'multidisciplinary' aproach, it feels under informed, as though it were written entirely from inside a volvo in a whole foods parking lot. The perspectives are very top-down, and none of them quite account for the NATURE of the power structures (governmental, private, NGO, and informal...) that are the engines people have to create change through. To me, it felt like a solid third of the book was missing, and was filled in with polyblend batting. Honestly, I nearly ate my hat when one writer asserted that war, as technology advances, would eventually become robot-on-robot battles, because humans would become less interesting to shoot at with drones..... and then failed to say ANYTHING to support that statement. As though war would go back to being about points on a battle field than occupying territory, destroying resources, and ' eliminating ' inconvenient people. Read something else. I wish I had.
Its a fun read, its quite thought provoking if not a little repetitive and it has some wonderful contributions. In 2019 it is starting to show its age which is to be expected but is still remarkably relevant. I think it might have benefited from more diverse perspectives in the "glimpses" which were the expert views given throughout the book. The people who contributed to these were of fairly similar backgrounds and perspectives to the author. I believe at least a third of them were from Scandinavia and most of them were male. Given the wisdom of crowds, it seemed odd to base so many predictions on the comments of such a narrow group of people...
This is a very good and clear analysis of what the future might have in store. Even though it was published in 2012, a lot of the information in this book still stands. There are moments where I realised how much has changed since 2012 (mainly centred around the current political divide, the politicalization of the current climate debare etc), and the current pandemic will obviously also influence the predictions made in this book, but the main point of reasoning still stands. I like the little mini-essay predictions from Randers' friends and colleagues, each about their own expertise.
The author came to my attention because of a critique for his first attempt at projecting the future some forty years ago. But in this book I found an honest, concerned individual doing his best by using his skills to project the next forty for anyone might having an interest. He did not seem to be grandstanding in the least and sought other expert opinions as well.
I read the Kindle version but have asked for a gift of the hard copy just to have on my bookshelf.
The key takeaway is that the author predicts that China will have a per capita GDP or 3/4 of that of United States, and reach the same level of other developed countries on 2052
Reading this book due to being curious about my own life choice. Four stars due to being too succinct, and incomplete, in the predictions. I was expecting the author talking about countries such as US and China for 40 pages, not 4 pages.
A sound description of what lies ahead. Most people don't get how inertia makes the trajectories of social systems discernible over long stretches of time. The book is alarming, but not enough to move media and political cogs to prevent the upcoming (in decades) collapse. A must-read.
The book is a very realistic and yet optimistic about the future of the earth. I can't forget, after 5 years of reading the book, the chapter teaching the reader how to live with the losses, that we will inevitably witness in our lifetime.. and most of all, what to tell our children..
Good contribution, but from a hasty small-sized, innovative established economies e.g EU/Nordic, with a fast paced need to invent. Norway has to seriously reform everything before 2050 or have 80k people unemployed for periods.
I would rate this a "must read" for anyone interested in the future. It is well-written and set out. The author's name may not ring a bell, but perhaps you have heard of, or even read "The Limits to Growth" by the Club of Rome (1972). Jorgon Randers was part of the team for that book and this book written for the fortieth anniversary of "Limits" as the title says forecasts for now + 40 (from 2012 = 2052). Randers comes across as a very competent computer modeller and his forecasts have an air of reliability. Of course future forecasts cannot claim to be "accurate" future realities, but Randers is convincing when he says his forecasts are the most likely outcomes based on his analysis of available data combined with his stated assumptions - the main one of which is that re climate change, governments will eventually act strongly but too slowly to generate the future outcome that we may prefer. His outcomes are the most likely according to his models because he thinks his data and methodology is solid and his assumptions are considered, peer-reviewed and finalised after ensuring no single assumption clashes with any other, by using an iterative process. The good news is that generally things are not so bad in 2052. Yes a more crowded world but not by big multiples. Population will stabilise after adding a mere billion or 2 (or 3? - his numbers are precise - I just can't recall them as the book is back in the library). The global footprint will be huge but isn't it already? A big prediction that Randers comes to is that while China and others will grow their middle class hugely as we all know, this will be partly balanced by the west levelling off both in population and consumption per person by 2052. So overall a footprint that grows but around 2050 stabilises. How the west will cope in a future no-growth era is an open question, given that economies need growth according to politics and mainstream economists. Climate change effects will be worse than they need to be and the planet somewhat damaged, but not as bad as the worst scenarios of others if the assumption is correct that when effects start impacting, strong action to reduce emissions will be inevitable. Numerical results are given in graphs which are simple in layout but quite powerful when you think that in a black line on white paper - there is our future - how crowded, how wealthy, how hot.... The author's commentary is valuably added to by his inclusion of subject experts' snapshots of aspects of life in 2052. As well as the quantitative forecasts, Randers has a go at rendering qualitative aspects of 2052 life for example how enjoyable tourism to lots of places will not be possible because of crowds plus that virtual tourism will be so good - if you want to see the world actually, go now! he says. Randers is a bit gloomy about the future world of larger cities with more technology, a couple of degrees hotter. Read the book and see what you think. Certainly we should follow the underlying point that Randers makes (without preaching), that the key variable that is not set in concrete by demographics, growth curves and resource limits is how and when our governments & we choose to take strong action on things we can affect such as climate change.