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A System Dynamics Perspective of World Human Consumption

General Assembly 2000 Event 204
Presenters: Willard R. Fey, Ann C. W. Lam

Abstract below. Video and article available at Ecocosm Dynamics.

World human consumption growth, driven by evolutionary human instincts and "rational thought", as amplified by technology, is the primary factor that causes the environmental deterioration of the Earth's life support system. The current 4% per year growth rate of the consumption exponential causes consumption to quadruple every thirty-five years. In combating this enormous destructive force, the human species finds itself in the midst of an unavoidable paradox. If consumption growth were stopped to preserve the environment; economic, social, and political crises would arise which could also threaten the survival of humanity. This is so because almost all human action, individual and group, is motivated by a desire for growth and sustained by the growth itself. This dilemma neutralizes all currently proposed solutions.

Investigations of the dominant forces that have contributed to this paradox reveal the critical importance of both natural science discoveries and biological, political, social, economic, and psychological human processes. Since all of these factors continuously interact, they must be studied together holistically in one feedback system model, if a way is to be found to effectively control world human consumption.

Therefore, we propose a new field of analysis, Ecocosm Dynamics, whose goals are:

  • to understand the origin and present nature of the global natural and human feedback structures that have created the "Paradox",
  • to understand the general human attitudes and instincts that have produced these feedback structures, and
  • to find effective, humane ways to establish and maintain global controls on the human presence, and to provide an appropriate planetary life support system is maintained in perpetuity.