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In recent decades there has been considerable discussion in academia and the media about the environmental impacts of human activity, especially those related to climate change and biodiversity. Far less attention has been paid to the diminishing resource base for humans. Due to our inattention, resource depletion and population growth have been continuing relentlessly. The most immediate of these issues appears to be a decline in oil production, a phenomenon commonly referred to as «peak oil,» because global production of conventional oil appears to have reached a maximum and may now be declining. However, a set of related resource and economic issues are continuing to come home to roost in ever greater numbers and impacts—water, wood, soil, fish, gold, and copper—so much so that author Richard Heinberg [1, 2] speaks of «peak everything.» We believe that these issues were set out well and basically accurately by a series of scientists in the middle of the last century and that events are demonstrating that their original ideas were mostly sound. Many of these ideas were spelled out explicitly in a landmark book called The Limits to Growth, published in 1972 . In the 1960s and 1970s, during our formative years in graduate school, our curricula and our thoughts were strongly influenced by the writings of ecologists and computer scientists who spoke clearly and eloquently about the growing collision between increasing numbers of people—and their enormously increasing material needs—and the finite resources of the planet. The oil-price shocks and long lines at gasoline stations in the 1970s confirmed in the minds of many that the basic arguments of these researchers were correct and that humans were facing some sort of limits to growth. It was extremely clear to us in 1970 that the growth culture of the American economy had limits imposed by nature, such that, for example, the first author made very conservative retirement plans based on his estimate that we would be experiencing the effects of peak oil just about the time of his expected retirement in 2008. In fact it was a wise decision, as many less conservative plans lost one third to one half of their value in the crash of 2008.
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Hall, C.A.S., and J.W. Day Jr. 2009. Revisiting the limits to growth after peak oil. American Scientist 97: 230–237. See also Turner, Graham M. 2008. A comparison of the limits to growth with 30 years of reality. Global Environmental Change 18: 397–411, which arrives at much the same conclusions. CrossRef
Heinberg, R. 2007. Peak everything: Waking up to the century of declines. Gabriola Island B.C: New Society Publishers.
Meadows, D.H., D.L. Meadows, J. Rander, and W.W. Behrens III. 1972. The limits to growth. Washington, DC: Potomac Associates.
Roberts, P. 2008. The end of food. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Hardin, G. 1968. The tragedy of the commons. Science 162: 1243–1248. CrossRef
Ehrlich, P. 1968. The population bomb. New York: Ballantine Books.
Pimentel, D., L.E. Hurd, A.C. Bellotti, M.J. Forster, I.N. Oka, O.D. Sholes, and R.J. Whitman. 1973. Food production and the energy crisis. Science 182: 443–449. CrossRef
Odum, H.T. 1973. Environment, power and society. New York: Wiley Inter science.
Steinhart, J.S., and C. Steinhart. 1974. Energy use in the US food system. Science 184: 307–316. CrossRef
Brown, Lester R. 2009. Could food shortages bring down civilization? Scientific American 300 (5): 50–57. CrossRef
Forrester, J.W. 1971. World dynamics. Cambridge: Wright-Allen Press.
Charles Hall. Webpage: http://www.esf.edu/efb/hall/
Barnett, H., and C. Morse. 1963. Scarcity and growth: The economics of natural resource availability. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Tierney, J. 1990. Betting the planet. New York Times Magazine. December 2: 79–81. See also Passell, P., M. Roberts, and L. Ross. 2 April 1972 “Review of limits to growth”. New York Times Book Review.
Hall, C.A.S. 2000. Quantifying sustainable development: The future of tropical Economies. San Diego: Academic.
Cleveland, C.J. 1991. Natural resource scarcity and economic growth revisited: Economic and biophysical perspectives. In Ecological economics: The science and management of sustainability, ed. R. Costanza. New York: Columbia University Press.
Smil, V. 2007. Light behind the fall: Japan’s electricity consumption, the environment, and economic growth. Japan Focus, April 2.
Hall, C. 2004. The myth of sustainable development: Personal reflections on energy, its relation to neoclassical economics, and Stanley Jevons. Journal of Energy Resources Technology 126: 86–89. CrossRef
Hamilton, A., S.B. Balogh, A. Maxwell, and C.A.S. Hall. 2013. Efficiency of edible agriculture in Canada and the U.S. over the past 3 and 4 decades. Energies 6: 1764–1793. CrossRef
Campbell, C., and J. Laherrere. 1998. The end of cheap oil. Scientific American. 78–83.
Hall, C.A.S., J.G. Lambert, S. B. Balogh. 2014. EROI of different fuels and their implications for society. Energy Policy 64: 141–152.
- Are There Limits to Growth? Examining the Evidence
Charles A. S. Hall
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