Courtesy Reuters

Growth and Survival

Life on this planet is a fragile affair, a kind of miraculous microbial activity that flourishes on the thin film of air and water and decomposed rock which separates the uninhabitable core of the earth from the void of space. Over most of mankind's history, the existence of that environment has always been taken for granted, and human efforts have been devoted to "taming" it-that is, to altering that vital film in various ways to assure our easier survival. Now, with stunning suddenness we have come to the realization that the environment is not to be taken for granted after all- indeed that it may be on the verge of an irremediable deterioration. For if the calculations of a group of social and physical scientists are correct, it will take only another 50 years of population growth and economic expansion at present rates to cause a collapse of our life-supporting ambient, bringing mass famine in some areas, industrial breakdown in others, a drastic shortening of lifespans nearly everywhere.

This terrifying scenario stems primarily from the work of Jay Forrester and a team of scientists at M.I.T. who have projected, by means of computerized models, the complex interactions of human activity and the environment. The models form the basis for two clarion calls for an immediate halt to the destruction of the environment-"A Blueprint for Survival,"[i] signed by some 30 eminent British scientists, and a much touted and widely circulated book, "The Limits to Growth,"[ii] sponsored by The Club of Rome, an international "invisible college" of 70 scientists and specialists. Essentially, both studies tell us the same thing-that if we are to preserve the life-supporting capabilities of our all-important film of air, water and soil, economic growth must be brought to a halt as rapidly as possible. For the projections on which the two studies rest show that even if population growth halts within two generations, even if we discover "unlimited" new resources, and even if we remove three-quarters of

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