Author: Jorgen Randers
While studying at MIT in 1970, Jorgen Randers met Dennis and Donella Meadows. At the request of the Club of Rome, they applied Jay Forrester’s system dynamics computer modeling technique to environmental studies. The outcome was ‘The Limits to Growth,’ which shocked the world 40 years ago. Readers learned in 30 languages for the first time about negative feedback loops, overshoot and collapse, and the inevitable doom spelled by exponential growth.
Release Date: May 30, 2012
Number of Pages: 304
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Randers has now issued a sequel worthy of that seminal scenario analysis. His account of the future is more personable and just as contentious. (Case in point: He contends that collective well-being will become more important than the safeguard of individual rights.)
Randers says that he worried himself sick since 1972 about the way humanity is living on the small planet Earth. He claims he is calm now after making these new predictions, and, moreover, not grieving over the results.
Based on modeling and an extensive database, the conclusions amount to Randers’ informed guess about what the world will be like in 2052. Within the time frame he has chosen, the forecast is gloomy but not catastrophic.
“I am genuinely happy to see that there will not be total Armageddon within my life time,” he writes. “The sky will not fall in, at least not in my part of the world (the New North), and at least not before I leave for new hunting grounds (at age 85 in 2030) — where I hope to find more equality and less climate damage there than in the place I will be leaving.”
The data and his life experience lead him to one overriding conclusion. The solutions on hand to solve the sustainability challenge will not be put in place soon enough. He is sure of this. “Humanity is blatantly short-term,” he sighs. Democratic, free-market governments have a hard time reacting before a crisis develops, and individuals will not rise to the occasion when they should.
Our children and grandchildren will inherit a world where the temperature will reach plus 2.8°C. The rise puts civilization on the cusp of disaster. Randers is unable to say whether self-reinforcing climate change will be triggered in the second half of the century or not.
In any case, one billion people who live in the rich world, especially those in the US, are in for a rough ride. Over the next 40 years, they will see no real wage increases. A whole generation will stagnate. World leadership will pass to China.
Some three billion people in the rest of the world will still be living below what Randers thinks is a satisfactory material standard of living. And the amount of unused biologically productive land will plunge. Goodbye wilderness. Farewell solitude.
‘2052’ is not as earth-shattering as ‘The Limits to Growth’ partly because we have heard the warnings many times since. Also, much of what we learn from Randers seems like déjà vu. We are already experiencing the effects he predicts, or we have read about their occurrence in other places.
The author works hard to satisfy our curiosity. As hopeless as it might seem, who can ever resist the chance to peek around the corner? Randers gathers short essays from 34 colleagues and scientists, and he sprinkles them through the chapters of the book. They provide variegated and provocative glimpses into the future. After each entry, Randers tells how well the opinions fit his own forecast and views. There is certainly plenty here to mull over.
Randers goes even further than making predictions. He offers 20 pieces of personal advice. The recommendations are worth the price of the book. Follow them in the attempt to live well, or at least adapt better, in a less-than-optimal world.
His suggestions will not sit well with traditionalists. Stop longing for a quiet home in the suburbs. Cultivate a taste for life in an apartment in a dense, overcrowded city. Embrace virtual reality because tourism will be an ordeal. Go right now to see natural beauty before it vanishes. Move to a country that is capable of acting well ahead of the crisis. Invest your pension funds where social unrest will be low.
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