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climate change








A Future of Limitations

It would be easier if we lived in a world that was not finite. Natural resources would not run out. Oil wells would not run dry. The planet could rebound from human-generated pollution and changes. Fishing stocks would remain stable or even grow to meet demand. Available land would expand to meet our needs. And there would always be more wilderness waiting for us to explore it, conquer it, and turn it to our use.

In such a world, the future would pose no problem. Planning—husbanding resources for the next generation and keeping pollution under control—would be unnecessary. We could consume what we liked without penalty, except to our waistlines. If we chose, we could spread our suburbs into the woods and fields at will, and there would always be more space.

That world, of course, does not exist. In the midst of our emphasis on economic growth, consumption, and housing starts, it is sometimes hard to see this—to the point where, when the Club of Rome pointed out that the world is finite and resources limited, economists and pundits rushed to condemn their report.

This section includes essays on the meaning of limitations for the future and on reactions, both realistic and fantastic, to the fact that the world is not infinite.