Carlos Alvarez Pereira, vice president of the Club of Rome is interviewed by WIRED about a book called The Limits to Growth, published in 1972. Interestingly, he’s both critical of capitalism and confident that a cultural movement “hidden in plain sight” means that we’ll be in a better position than we are now.
The computer modeling made it plain: If people continued to overextract finite resources, pollute on a massive scale, and balloon the human population in an unsustainable way, civilization could collapse within a century. It sounds like that modeling could have been done last week, what with climate change, water shortages, and microplastics corrupting every corner of the Earth. But in fact it dropped in the 1972 book The Limits to Growth, published by the Club of Rome, an international organization of intellectuals founded in 1968.
To mark the book’s 50 year anniversary, WIRED sat down with Alvarez Pereira to talk about how that future is shaping up, what’s changed in the half-century since Limits, and how humanity might correct course. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
WIRED: Presumably economists weren’t too fond of it because growth is inherent to capitalism. And unchecked growth really, a kind of maniacal, ecologically-destructive growth at all costs that’s built into the system.
CAP: What the system has done, as a mechanism to continue with growth at all costs, is actually to burn the future. And the future is the least renewable resource. There is no way that we can reuse the time we had when we started this conversation. And by building up a system which is more debt-driven—where we keep consumption going, but by creating more and more debt—what we’re actually doing is burning or stealing the time of people in the future. Because their time will be devoted to repaying the debt.