Limits to Growth and Public Health


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ISEE symposium presentation, Basel 2014 (International Society for Environmental Epidemiology) .. first-ever symposium on this topic at an international public health conference.

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  • Looking Back on the Limits of Growth
    Forty years after the release of the groundbreaking study, were the concerns about overpopulation and the environment correct?
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    By Mark Strauss
    Smithsonian magazine, April 2012, Subscribe
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    Chart Sources: Meadows, D.H., Meadows, D.L., Randers, J. and Behrens III, W.W. (1972) (Linda Eckstein)
    Photo Gallery (1/2)
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    Thinking About Futurism
    Is it Too Late for Sustainable Development?
    Recent research supports the conclusions of a controversial environmental study released 40 years ago: The world is on track for disaster. So says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s,The Limits to Growth.
    Written by MIT researchers for an international think tank, the Club of Rome, the study used computers to model several possible future scenarios. The business-as-usual scenario estimated that if human beings continued to consume more than nature was capable of providing, global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030.
    However, the study also noted that unlimited economic growth was possible, if governments forged policies and invested in technologies to regulate the expansion of humanity’s ecological footprint. Prominent economists disagreed with the report’s methodology and conclusions. Yale’s Henry Wallich opposed active intervention, declaring that limiting economic growth too soon would be “consigning billions to permanent poverty.”
    Turner compared real-world data from 1970 to 2000 with the business-as-usual scenario. He found the predictions nearly matched the facts. “There is a very clear warning bell being rung here,” he says. “We are not on a sustainable trajectory.”
    Read more: Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
  • Kubiszewski, I., R. Costanza, C. Franco, P. Lawn, J. Talberth, T. Jackson and C. Aylmer (2013). "Beyond GDP: Measuring and achieving global genuine progress." Ecological Economics 93(0): 57-68.
  • Here is another indicator, of a precious earthly fluid, called oil. Essentially, we are bleeding our home planet of stored fossil fuel. This chart was published last month in Nature. One of the authors is Sir David King, the former chief scientist of the UK. It also shows the abysmal failure of brown economics. The red line show the price of oil in US$ since 1998, and here it is smoothed out.
    The blue-green line shows oil production. As we saw with the tuna, as the price rises, the production will be stimulated, and for a while, until about 2005, it was. Since then there has been a plateau, even though the price has continued to rise.
    Fatah Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency agrees with Sir David King.
    Murray, J. and D. King (2012). "Climate policy: Oil's tipping point has passed." Nature 481: 433-435.
    International Energy Agency. World Energy Outlook. 2008
    Butler, C. D. (2010). "The climate crisis, global health, and the medical response " World Medical Journal 56(2): 56-58.
  • Limits to Growth and Public Health

    1. 1. CRICOS #00212K ISEE/ISES/ISIAQ, Basel, Switzerland, August 21, 2013 Professor Colin Butler (Australian Research Council Future Fellow) Limits to growth and environmental epidemiology: a conceptual framework
    2. 2. CRICOS #00212K Prof Jouni Jaakkola: Sustainable housing, Limits to Growth and climate change Dr Atanu Sarkar: Agricultural practices, food production, food security and governance in South Asia Prof Tee L. Guidotti: Health and sustainability: a taxonomy of relationships Dr Mary Jo Flavel: Ecosystems, biodiversity, and Limits to Growth Prof Colin Soskolne: Scientific factors that obscure and obstruct our understanding of the Limits to Growth 2
    3. 3. CRICOS #00212K A/Prof Colin D Butler ( National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health Australian National University, Australia Three wise epidemiologists Nikko Toshogu Shinto Shrine, Tokyo. Photo: Rangaku 1976, 2008 Limits to growth and public health: where is environmental epidemiology? APOLOGIES: future generations 23rd ISEE meeting, Barcelona, September, 2011 3
    4. 4. CRICOS #00212K King (1990) Health is a sustainable state. Lancet Butler (2008) Sustainable health for all by the year 2100? Int J Pub Hlth Hanlon & Carlisle (2008) Do we face a third revolution in human history? If so, how will public health respond? J Pub Hlth McMichael & Butler (2011) Promoting global population health while constraining the environmental footprint. Ann Rev Publ Hlth Brijnath, McMichael & Butler (2012) Rio+20: Don’t forget health in sustainability talks. Nature Butler and Weinstein (2013) The future of global health. Reasons for alarm and a call for action. World Med J 4 “Peak health” President Royal Society 2005-2010
    5. 5. CRICOS #00212K5 Peak health?
    6. 6. CRICOS #00212K Kubiszewski, Costanza et al, 2013 6 Global GPI/capita & GDP/capita Genuine Progress GDP
    7. 7. CRICOS #00212K1998 2000 2004 2008 2011 Adapted from Murray & King, Nature. 2012; 481: 433-5. Apparent production cap 2005: Plateau Oil Production (million barrels/day) Oil price (US$ per barrel) 7 Limits to growth 3rd carbon age? Risk to water, catastrophic climate change
    8. 8. CRICOS #00212K 8 Green Revolution: 3 main grains
    9. 9. CRICOS #00212K “Yield plateaus are evident: wheat, maize in China perhaps irrigated maize in the USA., Korea and China for rice” (Ken Cassman) 9 Limits to growth
    10. 10. CRICOS #00212K (nominal prices) 10Limits to growth
    11. 11. CRICOS #00212K From forecasting and models (1970s) to abundant data and evidence .. not sufficiently acted on by policy makers, under- appreciated within academia 1.Persistently high energy price 2.Stagnant economic “growth” 3.Flattened genuine progress 4.Return of famines 5.Increasing civil wars 6.Numerous interactions: systemic nature 7.“Health for all” a dream 8.Retreat of civilization and strengthening “fortress world” 11
    12. 12. CRICOS #00212K before you slash your wrists 12
    13. 13. CRICOS #00212K Édouard Le Roy Paul Crutzen noösphere (planetary thinking, sharing) 13