2052 by Jorgen Randers
In our fast changing world it's a brave man that makes predictions as far ahead as 2052. But Jorgen Randers is an old hand at this; he was one of the authors of the famous book Limits to Growth published in 1972. Based on an early computer model, the book suggested that if the trends up to 1972 were to continue unchanged "the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next 100 years", with a resulting "sudden and rather uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity". Forty years on, and aided by an updated computer model, Jorgen Randers revisits these predictions in his new book, 2052.
2052 is a worthwhile - albeit dense - read, although Randers' pessimism about humankind's likelihood of rising to meet the challenges ahead is at times uncomfortable. He warns about undue optimism stating "to this day, six billion people are being misled into believing that there are no natural constraints and they can have it all because human ingenuity will come to the rescue." Instead he says "I believe the world will be sufficiently stupid to postpone meaningful action."
Randers' modelling suggests that world population will peak at around 8 billion in 2040, before returning to current levels by 2075. He suggests that global GDP growth will continue, but only slowly, so that the global economy will be twice as big in 2052 as it is now. In mature economies with shrinking populations - such as much of Western Europe - he foresees negative growth. But this global doubling of growth will put further strain on the planet he says, even taking into account improved efficiencies. As a result he predicts that disaster and adaptation costs will explode in coming decades.
He also thinks that limiting consumption will require "benevolent authoritarianism", because persuasion to live within limits will not work.
Climate impacts on food production will not really bite until after 2052, he believes, after which they will be extreme. But despite this by 2052 we will have further eaten into natural ecosystems leaving a "tiny reserve of unused, biologically productive nature".
The road to 2052 will not be smooth. "There will be increasing inequality, tension, and social strife. Some nations will collapse. Many will fray at the bottom. But by 2052 a new urban and virtual civilisation will be discernible, far distanced, however, from our natural human roots".
In short the conclusion of 2052 is strikingly similar to that in Limits to Growth - the world will "overshoot and collapse".
It is very difficult to disagree with this analysis when, for example, one looks at the glacial pace of change in international negotiations to stop climate chaos. But Randers' predictions are just that - predictions. Randers would I think agree that these need not come to pass if humans use their ingenuity, empathy and collaborative abilities to shape a better world. Here at Friends of the Earth we have not given up hope.
And, as is clear from reading 2052, organisations like ours are needed more than ever.
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