Friday, December 11, 2009

Dennis Meadows: 'I think we are too late'

'Copenhagen Is About Doing As Little As Possible'
Spiegel Online: With his 1972 book, The Limits to Growth, Dennis Meadows was one of the first to war about the looming environmental crisis. The US economist spoke about the need to drastically change our behavior and why he doesn't expect much from the global climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Spiegel Online: Mr. Meadows, you simulated the future of the Earth back in 1972 with less computing power than a Blackberry. How good was your model on the limits to growth?

Dennis Meadows: Amazingly good, unfortunately. We are in the midst of an environmental crisis, which we predicted then. The difference is that we have lost 40 years during which humanity should have acted... Copenhagen? I don't take it seriously... If we rely on conferences instead of changing our lifestyles then things look bad... If people were to come together there with a fresh mind to achieve something then it would look different. This conference is essentially about doing as little as possible, not as much as possible.

Spiegel Online: You ask people to make personal sacrifices in order to preserve the environment and resources?

Meadows: I don't ask for it but I say if we don't change our behavior then we will be in serious trouble. People are getting sidetracked if they think that new green technology will solve all the problems. There is no magic button... I think we are too late. It might have been possible to prevent serious climate change in the 1970s and 1980s, but it isn't any more. We have pumped enough carbon dioxide already into the atmosphere to cause global warming. We are on a roller coaster at the top of the hill and all we can do is hold on tight...

Spiegel Online: You don't have a recipe for saving the world?

Meadows: We don't have to save the world. The world will save itself, like it always has. Sometimes it takes a few million years until the damage is repaired and a new balance has been established. The question is much more: How do we save our civilization?...

Spiegel Online: How will the necessary changes come about?

Meadows: Through a series of crises. It is only when there are abrupt climate changes, unpleasant ones, that the willingness will come about to really do something... Our first book had 13 different scenarios for how the Earth and humanity would develop. Of these, eight or nine were catastrophic, the others were not. But no one was interested in the positive scenarios. They weren't reported upon and people didn't try to live them out.
Image source here.