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Old 11-29-2012, 11:20 AM #1
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The Limits of Growth

This isn't another climate change thread. I know most of you don't understand climate change, let alone think it's occurring.

So instead, let's take a look at something real and indisputable: finite resources.

In the 1970's, the Club of Rome commissioned a report called The Limits of Growth. It was compiled by scientists at MIT, who used computer models to demonstrate what would happen if current consumption and growth rates continued. Unfortunately, markets are rather short-sighted. Their predictions were not very pretty, for one thing predicting an economic collapse by 2030.

Recently a physicist in australia has analyzed the report:
http://www.manicore.com/fichiers/Tur...rical_data.pdf

Summary in The Smithsonian:
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/scienc...f-Growth.html#



Criticism from a "free market" approach:
http://reason.com/archives/2012/04/1...40-year-update

To me the criticism mostly reads as denialism of the finite nature of our planet. Regardless of whether or not it occurs by 2030, we will run out of our finite resources. We will achieve a limit on food production while maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Thoughts?
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:10 PM #2
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:46 PM #3
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This isn't another climate change thread. I know most of you don't understand climate change, let alone think it's occurring.
The biggest debate centers around the cause of climate change, not whether it is taking place or not.

Anyway, those are some interesting projections and I definitely think society as we know it is in trouble if we can't find a viably sustainable source of energy quickly.
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:52 PM #4
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While we can get into the accuracy of these projections, I cannot imagine anyone doubting the limitations of agriculture without new innovation (be that as simple as faster crop output to as complex as farming on the moon). In the food production department it seems our population growth has out reached our innovation rate. So either we need to reduce population growth or increase innovation rates. Or both. This is undeniable.
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:56 PM #5
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The biggest debate centers around the cause of climate change, not whether it is taking place or not.
No it's not. That's just the next logical step of denialism, now that flat-out rejection of climate change is seen as ridiculous.

If you acknowledge that Carbon, Methane and others are greenhouse gasses and that we emit huge amounts of both through various industrial and agricultural practices, to argue that we aren't influencing the climate is a cognitively dissonant position.

But let's talk about oil reserves or arable land or clean water instead.
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:27 PM #6
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Human caused global warming bores me, because the things being argued aren't really about human caused global warming. They are about something else entirely.
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Old 11-29-2012, 02:03 PM #7
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No it's not. That's just the next logical step of denialism, now that flat-out rejection of climate change is seen as ridiculous.

If you acknowledge that Carbon, Methane and others are greenhouse gasses and that we emit huge amounts of both through various industrial and agricultural practices, to argue that we aren't influencing the climate is a cognitively dissonant position.

But let's talk about oil reserves or arable land or clean water instead.
Lol dude.


Anyway, as TheSilentAssassin pointed out... Innovation is the solution. There is no index for innovation or even an adjustment to the trendlines for it and I'd say we've made great leaps in efficiency. The biggest crisis we are facing in the next ~20 years is sustainable energy.
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Old 11-29-2012, 02:07 PM #8
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Anyway, as TheSilentAssassin pointed out... Innovation is the solution. There is no index for innovation or even an adjustment to the trendlines for it and I'd say we've made great leaps in efficiency. The biggest crisis we are facing in the next ~20 years is sustainable energy.
You cannot innovate an unlimited food supply out of plants growing on an acre of land. Whether we hit it in 20 years or 40, there is a limit and it is fast approaching.

As a scientist it always amuses me to hear people pull the magical innovation card. Innovation is a slow, painstaking process, riddled with fits and bursts... population growth is exponential.
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Old 11-29-2012, 02:09 PM #9
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As a scientist it always amuses me to hear people pull the magical innovation card. Innovation is a slow, painstaking process, riddled with fits and bursts... population growth is exponential.
Even more painstaking when it's underfunded and ridiculed.
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Old 11-29-2012, 02:30 PM #10
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You cannot innovate an unlimited food supply out of plants growing on an acre of land. Whether we hit it in 20 years or 40, there is a limit and it is fast approaching.

As a scientist it always amuses me to hear people pull the magical innovation card. Innovation is a slow, painstaking process, riddled with fits and bursts... population growth is exponential.
Hydroponics is real. Aquaculture is real. 1 acre of land is a lot taller than it is square. Skyscrapers are real. All of the pieces are in place, it is up to an entrepreneur to make it profitable.

Don't play the scientist card either... I actually work R&D programs with scientist and engineers (PM me and I'll tell you a little more) and am well aware of what it takes to make an idea reality. Like I said, typically the most difficult hurdle to overcome is how to make it profitable.
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Old 11-29-2012, 02:50 PM #11
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Hydroponics is real. Aquaculture is real. 1 acre of land is a lot taller than it is square. Skyscrapers are real. All of the pieces are in place, it is up to an entrepreneur to make it profitable.
None of this changes the fact that resources are finite. How much of that 1 "cubic" acre of land is arable? I'd wager most of it is clay. Skyscrapers are also very expensive, and congested cities do not lend themselves to healthy ecosystems. Earth isn't getting any bigger.

Even if we stretch everything as far as our imagination can take us, that still leaves us with a finite amount of room for agriculture and a population that continues to grow. Pretending there are no limits on natural resources is irresponsible.

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I actually work R&D programs with scientist and engineers (PM me and I'll tell you a little more) and am well aware of what it takes to make an idea reality.
But you haven't demonstrated an ability to think all the way through anything.

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Like I said, typically the most difficult hurdle to overcome is how to make it profitable.
And yet you haven't quite gotten to how all this is leading to economic collapse... just. one. more. step... almost there...
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Old 11-29-2012, 02:58 PM #12
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Like I said, typically the most difficult hurdle to overcome is how to make it profitable.
And really, that's the problem with the entire system. Rather than doing what's right, we look to do what's profitable. Hence the world's problems, quite literally.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:01 PM #13
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None of this changes the fact that resources are finite. How much of that 1 "cubic" acre of land is arable? I'd wager most of it is clay. Skyscrapers are also very expensive, and congested cities do not lend themselves to healthy ecosystems. Earth isn't getting any bigger.

Even if we stretch everything as far as our imagination can take us, that still leaves us with a finite amount of room for agriculture and a population that continues to grow. Pretending there are no limits on natural resources is irresponsible.



But you haven't demonstrated an ability to think all the way through anything.



And yet you haven't quite gotten to how all this is leading to economic collapse... just. one. more. step... almost there...
Dude you're just like most other scientist and the is a big part of the reason scientist always need to be managed. The solution doesn't have to be 100%. It seldom always has to get us all the way there, it just has to get us over the next hurdle. Who said anything about new construction to house these systems? What you don't get is that if we find a solution that lasts us 50 years, then the next big hurdle may render all of this obsolete. Sometimes it really is possible to over-think things.

Don't patronise me. This is just another chicken little story that will be solved in due time.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:09 PM #14
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And really, that's the problem with the entire system. Rather than doing what's right, we look to do what's profitable. Hence the world's problems, quite literally.
I agree, but the fact of the matter is that there are solutions (read innovations) that can solve most of the immediate issues. Aquaponics is a very real solution, but it doesn't make a lot of money. Microalgae for biofuel is a plausible solution. Like you said is that until a salesman can make it profitable for the private sector or get government grants then we won't see it widespread.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:14 PM #15
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None of this changes the fact that resources are finite. How much of that 1 "cubic" acre of land is arable? I'd wager most of it is clay. Skyscrapers are also very expensive, and congested cities do not lend themselves to healthy ecosystems. Earth isn't getting any bigger.

Even if we stretch everything as far as our imagination can take us, that still leaves us with a finite amount of room for agriculture and a population that continues to grow. Pretending there are no limits on natural resources is irresponsible.
Obviously as long as there is a limit to physical space in this universe (which I would say is hard to refute) there will limits on agriculture. In the same way, we have limits on population because there is a fixed limit on how many people can physically fit inside our universe. In both cases, however, we are far from a universal limit.

We have hit a situation limit (or soon will). We cannot produce enough based on what we are doing and what we consume. Increasing innovation on agriculture is a solution. Is it the optimal solution? No, we should be both innovating and reducing population via effective population control methods.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:32 PM #16
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I've tried bringing up peak oil arable land and population growth.

Apparently thorium and skyscraper farms will solve all problems

Good luck getting a sensible conversation out of this topic
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:33 PM #17
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Dude you're just like most other scientist and the is a big part of the reason scientist always need to be managed.
Is it comfortable making a living riding the coattails of other people's actual work? Do you ever get pangs of guilt, thoughts of "oh, I'm not actually contributing at all"...

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The solution doesn't have to be 100%. It seldom always has to get us all the way there, it just has to get us over the next hurdle.
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What you don't get is that if we find a solution that lasts us 50 years, then the next big hurdle may render all of this obsolete. Sometimes it really is possible to over-think things.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire for all eternity? Is that seriously your argument?

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Who said anything about new construction to house these systems?
Nobody.

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Don't patronise me. This is just another chicken little story that will be solved in due time.
Says the guy who doesn't understand the problem.

And I would like to point out it is innovation without foresight that got us in this situation to begin with. Innovations in sanitation and antibiotics fueled a population boom, while creating drug-resistant bacteria that will thrive on increasing population densities. Innovations in agriculture helped as well, while simultaneously depleting soil and reducing food quality and arable land. Innovations in water distribution have driven all of this, while straining our water tables to the point of being undrinkable.

We're going to be too busy innovating our way out of our previous innovations to come up with new innovations to screw us over in 50 years.

Pile on a changing climate and growing population... your confidence in the capability of innovation is reckless, but I guess I would expect nothing less from a "manager".

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We have hit a situation limit (or soon will). We cannot produce enough based on what we are doing and what we consume. Increasing innovation on agriculture is a solution. Is it the optimal solution? No, we should be both innovating and reducing population via effective population control methods.
Innovation in agriculture can only carry us so far in the near future. I'm all for it, but I seriously doubt any combination of innovation in several fields will sufficiently address the problems we are facing.

The argument blueshifty is making is: "don't worry bro, innovation will always outpace our problems", which is just ****ing stupid.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:37 PM #18
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I've tried bringing up peak oil arable land and population growth.

Apparently thorium and skyscraper farms will solve all problems

Good luck getting a sensible conversation out of this topic
It's not about that... it is about the evolution of ideas. We don't have to find a permanent solution, we just have to find one that gets us over the near to mid-term problems. Spiral development is an evolution. To look for a 100% solution is utopian an will never be implemented. Small changes or trials get the ball rolling.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:49 PM #19
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Is it comfortable making a living riding the coattails of other people's actual work? Do you ever get pangs of guilt, thoughts of "oh, I'm not actually contributing at all"...
Cute, but no.

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Out of the frying pan and into the fire for all eternity? Is that seriously your argument?
And is your argument that you can seriously take into account every single variable that will affect society, now and in the future, and plan accordingly? That is absolutely absurd. As society evolves then so do our ideas/ innovations.


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Says the guy who doesn't understand the problem.

And I would like to point out it is innovation without foresight that got us in this situation to begin with. Innovations in sanitation and antibiotics fueled a population boom, while creating drug-resistant bacteria that will thrive on increasing population densities. Innovations in agriculture helped as well, while simultaneously depleting soil and reducing food quality and arable land. Innovations in water distribution have driven all of this, while straining our water tables to the point of being undrinkable.

We're going to be too busy innovating our way out of our previous innovations to come up with new innovations to screw us over in 50 years.

Pile on a changing climate and growing population... your confidence in the capability of innovation is reckless, but I guess I would expect nothing less from a "manager".
I don't disagree that we should look ahead and try to be more responsible, but it is impossible to know beyond reasonable doubt what the landscape of the future will look like. I am not sure innovation, at this point, will fix anything... all we can hope for is that we contain past discretion and move forward with less intrusive new solutions. Take all the stabs you want at what I do, but in the end each person in the team carries their weight.

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Innovation in agriculture can only carry us so far in the near future. I'm all for it, but I seriously doubt any combination of innovation in several fields will sufficiently address the problems we are facing.

The argument blueshifty is making is: "innovation will always outpace our problems", which is just ****ing stupid.
That is not true, because if it was then we'd never live with the consequences of our actions and we both know that isn't the case.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:57 PM #20
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And is your argument that you can seriously take into account every single variable that will affect society, now and in the future, and plan accordingly? That is absolutely absurd. As society evolves then so do our ideas/ innovations.
No. My proposition would be to acknowledge the problems we've created and are facing, and put a concerted effort towards solving them as best we can before they become full-blown catastrophes.

I don't believe it is prudent to leave it up to "the market", venture capitalists, and those who can scrape together enough cash to address these issues. The potential damage is great, and we have too great a predictive power to wait for an inherently reactionary system to mitigate the effects.


Sorry for the cheap shots, I let my feathers get ruffled when you said "and this is a big part of the reason scientist always need to be managed."
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Old 11-29-2012, 04:09 PM #21
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No. My proposition would be to acknowledge the problems we've created and are facing, and put a concerted effort towards solving them as best we can before they become full-blown catastrophes.

I don't believe it is prudent to leave it up to "the market", venture capitalists, and those who can scrape together enough cash to address these issues. The potential damage is great, and we have too great a predictive power to wait for an inherently reactionary system to mitigate the effects.
This is an absolutely beautiful dose of what should be contrasted against our unfortunate reality. I just don't have an answer as to how we change the paradigm.

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Sorry for the cheap shots, I let my feathers get ruffled when you said "and this is a big part of the reason scientist always need to be managed."
No worries man, sorry it rubbed you wrong. My biggest battle working with JHU was that they had a tendency to try to tweak after a baseline had been set. In order to bring anything to market we have to just draw a line in the sand and say "this is what we can achieve in our time frame" then run with it. By the time you get that idea out, the next one is in work. When you are the brilliant mind it is hard to let your second best get out the door, but as a manager... not so much.
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