Welcome to the age of diminishing returns

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ugo Bardi speaks about limits to growth





This is the video record  of the talk on resource depletion I gave in the University of Bielefeld, Germany, in November of 2012. It is almost one hour and a half long, so I am not sure that anyone would really want to watch it. In any case, if you are interested in the subject, you may try.

The gist of the talk, anyway,  is that depletion is not an isolated problem. Minerals are part of the geological cycles of the Earth. When we extract a mineral and we disperse it all over the ecosystem we cause changes of all kinds, besides the obvious fact that we use non renewable resources. So, for instance, when we extract fossil fuels we alter the climate. The two problems: fossil fuel depletion and climate change are two sides of the same coin. And that is true of all the minerals we use - in most cases depletion is just one side of a larger problem.




Thanks to professor Marcus Kracht for having organized this presentation in Bielefeld.

11 comments:

  1. My computer has a hard time with streaming video; can you perchance upload the lecture slides?

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    1. Well, I think that uploading the slides it wouldn't help much - the slides contain very little text and can't be really understood outside the context of a speech. But I am writing a whole book on this subject. Will come out in June!

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  2. Ugo, thanks for great speech!! BTW, have you seen this 155 esseys about What *should* we be worried about? at John Brockman EDGE website.

    You are right - No mention of peak oil, and well, economic growth is driven by population growth... and we should be worried about low birth rates (Matt Ridley)... well well,

    Alex

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    1. Had seen it. A disaster - main problem is depopulation..... no way....

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  3. Great Lecture. backlinged your lecture on my blog...mrs carolin baker from canada thinks human are to sticked to adaptation, so there is no way than the hard collapse-like way.

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  4. Your lecture was inspiring. The part about volcanoes -- something with which I was totally unfamiliar -- gave a needed perspective. Thank you for all your work in putting the presentation together.

    I agree with you that the most important next thing is find a way to teach more people to think "systems." In the long run, that is the only way to convince people to change their behavior.

    I look forward to your book.


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  5. You have mentioned briefly calibration of such models for real data in your presentation. I remember that in original study Limits to Growth, they used only ONE variable for resources. That is some improvement from models of economic growth where resources are missing, but still...do you really think that attempts to calibrate such models for real data are something more than exercise in futility?

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    1. It depends on what you want to do. The more variables you include in the model, the more uncertainty you introduce. It is always a compromise between versatility and robustness. The 1972 model was robust and it stood well to the test of time - so it did the job it was designed to do.

      Later models were developed to include more variables, but the whole effort was killed by the negative propaganda campaign that followed the publication of the 1972 study. There we stand: still today world modeling has a ring of heresy and there is no financing for it. We prefer to go into the future blindfolded

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    2. What would you suggest for somebody interested in applying system dynamics modeling on the problem of economic growth and resource depletion? I am picking tools for my dissertation...standard economic growth models are fundamentaly flawed as they are based on Cobb-Douglas production function, econometric models also did not impressed me.
      I have realized that there is strong similarity between models of system dynamics applied on economic system and Wassily Leontief's Input-Output model, which is a rare case of good work in the field of Economics.
      I have "Limits to Growth: The Thirty Year Update" in my bookshelf and I guess that your book "The Limits to Growth Revisited" also could serve me well on the start.

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    3. There are many ways of modeling these systems. I find myself at ease with system dynamics; it is flexible, usable and (within limits) intuitive. But there are several other modeling methods; it is up to you to choose one. I am sorry that I don't know much about Leontief's approach, but I am sure it is something interesting to explore.

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Who

Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)