The excellent documentary ‘Last Call’ focuses on the team of scientists who worked on the ‘Limits to Growth’ research over 40 years ago. It was recently screened at the British House of Commons (the irony was not lost on the audience), the silence that reigned in the ancient room was palpable. This is not a feel good movie but it is certainly one worth watching, perhaps several times.

After writing my review, I was still feeling very moved by the whole notion that such an important warning had been ignored by a so-called civilised global population. It is fairer to say the warnings were derided and ridiculed in favour of corporate, political and individual greed, that has, over the decades, consumed us all.

I then emailed Dennis Meadows, one of the key authors, and asked if he could supplement my review with a few words intended to encourage my generation, who are left with a future that is as uncertain as it is daunting. He joked at the outset that even if he knew the answer, he could unlikely condense it into one short email, however, he did send a few paragraphs that I am pleased to be sharing below:

Humanity now faces an existential crisis:

Old patterns of thought and action used to produce improved welfare; now they do not.

Some alternative paths of development could be attractive in comparison with the current one; but our culture is so focused on growth that any suggestion of alternatives is automatically understood to be a counsel of doom.

We have moved into a period of crisis that will last decades. The larger the crisis, the more pressure there is to think short-term. But fundamental solutions to problems like climate change or the growing gap between rich and poor require long-term thinking and the capacity to sacrifice now for gains later. Our political systems are quite inadequate for this.

It is no longer realistically possible to entertain the notion of indefinite progress. Rather than give up their fantasies and search for alternatives, people tend just to ignore the problems, or view them only through the lens of self interest.

All the above not withstanding, there are options for action now that will give us better outcomes than we will get otherwise. Finding those options and motivating people to pursue them is the challenge.

It means the problem is not essentially one of technology. No doubt new technologies will be developed and some of them could be helpful. But the main issue is to develop cultures, norms, institutions that are more compatible with a steady state. I hope your work might help achieve that. I worked on it for 40 years, and now I am passing the baton.


Dennis Meadows

Trailer for the documentary 'Last Call':