Limits to Consumption

If we continue consuming non-renewable natural resources as we have, we could complete our decimation of other species by the end of the next decade, and risk extinction ourselves by mid-century.

Continuing our increase in consumption, we would need new technologies to live without Nature's free services, and then, gradually, devour our entire planet and others. Natural laws prohibit us from sustaining positive exponential growth for very long.

ABOVE: If, starting at the end of 2007, the ecological footprint changes exponentially, humanity will reach a set of successive transitions to keep our population growing. The range of times for each transition is bracketed by a "low" and "high" estimate.

  • The "life" transition is reached when the populations of most other species crash. The "population" transition is reached when our own population crashes as a result of our consumption habits. To avoid any loss of human population, we must decrease waste by more than a hundred-fold; and to avoid the crash of other species, we must decrease waste by several hundred-fold before the middle of this century.
  • If we survive these transitions and develop technologies for consuming mass independent of Nature's systems, we will consume the entire Earth by the "Earth" transition.
  • Beyond that, we will be limited by how fast we can travel. When the radius of our sphere of consumption is increasing at the maximum speed, we will reach the "space" transition, and growth will be forced to slow down.

Detailed projections and methodology:


Additional Analysis:




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