The potentials of a uranium and thorium based economy were not unknown at the time of the publication of the LtG, so why was the resource potential of uranium or thorium acknowledged by the LtG and the Club of Rome? I have no definitive answer, but I would like to point to the anti-nuclear moral panic which gripped Western Civilization beginning in the late 1960's. There is little reason to doubt that the anti-nuclear moral panic influenced the Club of Rome's judgement about the desirability of a nuclear future. We have some evidence for this from the Source Watch entry on Carl Johan Friedrich Böttche, a Club of Rome co-founder.
Frits Böttcher is in his country a well known skeptic about the greenhouse effect. Böttcher stated during a discussion on televion about the greenhouse effect that there was no carbon dioxide problem. Another member of that discussion asked him after the broadcast was over, "You do know that's incorrect, don't you?" to which Böttcher replied "Yes, but I am against nuclear power energy."The LtG became poplar because it neatly packaged several moral panics. Population and pollution were already the subject of major moral panics by the time thew LtG was published. Moral panics all follow a simple formula, X is a worsening problem that is “getting out of hand” and threatens public wellbeing. We need to do something about X now. Moral panics are ideological and political tools. And indeed we often see the public being manipulated by competing moral panics in the media. For example, there is a moral panic about Anthropogenic Global Warming, and a conflicting moral panic that insists that AGW is a hoax.
Some moral panics are derived from valid concerns, while some are baseless. Thus, as formulated in the late 1960's and early 1970's the moral panic about pollution was greatly overstated. Pollution problems were being addressed al over the Industrial world as a result of the killer London Smog of 1952. Pollution is in 2010 still a problem, but far less of a problem than it was in 1970. Forrester's model wrongly predicted increasing "pollution" would increase between 1970 and 2010. But what about CO2, hasn't CO2 atmospheric concentrations increased since 1970? Yes it has, but CO2 was not what Forrester or the Club of Rome understood by pollution in 1960's and 1970.
A second Moral Panic that effucted Forrester and the LtG was the overpopulation panic which was triggered by the 1968 publication of the Population Bomb, by Paul Ehrlich. Indeed, Forrester's World Dynamics appears to have a most unfortunate affinity for Ehrlich population theories. Now there is little doubt that Ehrlich's theory was absurdly mistake. Ehrlich had predicted,
“In the 1970’s, the world will undergo famines hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death … At this late date, nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate …”Of course the huge wave of famine with hundreds of millions of deaths never happened. But facts are such little trivial things, At least Jay Forrester had the good sense die before his great famine had been forecasted by the computer. Perhaps the reason Ehrlich was in such a hurry was that he was being spurred on by David Brower.
Ehrlich introduced the concept that
Indian economist Amartya Sen noted something that Ehrlich ignored, namely
I = P × A × T (where I = Environmental Impact, P = Population, A = Affluence, T = Technology)This formula lacks empirical foundation and there is ample evidence that a relatively small number of nomadic sheep and goat herders,can cause enormous environmental damage. The controversial theory that Mayan Civilization collapsed for ecological reasons, actually entails a collapse with what amounted to stone age technology, since the Mayans lacked metal tools and had draft animals wheeled transportation, or simple mechanical devices like pulleys. Thus if the collapse of Mayan civilization can be attributed to an environmental collapse due to exceeding the carrying capacity of the land, advance technology would not have played a big role in that disaster. Finally, demographers have demonstrated that affluence appears to bring, if anything, population stabilization, and even long term population declines, not from starvation, disease and war, but from decreased reproduction. Despite a population growth rate that has tripled the number of people in India since 1960's Ehrlich's projected famines and population collapse shows no sign of appearing. Thus it would appear that Ehrlich has greatly underestimated the carrying capacity of India soil.
Indian economist Amartya Sen noted something that Ehrlich ignored, namely
90 percent of which is taking place in the developing countries.Yet the moral panic about population growth occurred in
the richer countries of the world and has much to do with the current anxiety in the West about the "world population problem."What is the black box called "the population explosion hiding? According to Sen, it is
belief that destitution caused by fast population growth in the third world is responsible for the severe pressure to emigrate to the developed countries of Europe and North America. In this view, people impoverished by overpopulation in the "South" flee to the "North." Some have claimed to find empirical support for this thesis in the fact that pressure to emigrate from the South has accelerated in recent decades, along with a rapid increase in the population there.Sen points to the source of the Western anxiety,
Fears of Being Ungulfed
A closely related issue concerns what is perceived as a growing "imbalance" in the division of the world population, with a rapidly rising share belonging to the third world. That fear translates into worries of various kinds in the North, especially the sense of being overrun by the South. Many Northerners fear being engulfed by people from Asia and Africa, whose share of the world population increased from 63.7 percent in 1950 to 71.2 percent by 1990, and is expected, according to the estimates of the United Nations, to rise to 78.5 percent by 2050 AD.Thus behind Ehrlich's Population Bomb, behind Forrester's World Dynamic Model, and behind the Club of Rome's fear of uncontrolled global economic development is the Western fear of loss of control to the Asian other, fear of the Yellow Peril.
It is easy to understand the fears of relatively well-off people at the thought of being surrounded by a fast growing and increasingly impoverished Southern population. As I shall argue, the thesis of growing impoverishment does not stand up to much scrutiny; but it is important to address first the psychologically tense issue of racial balance in the world (even though racial composition as a consideration has only as much importance as we choose to give it). Here it is worth recollecting that the third world is right now going through the same kind of demo-graphic shift—a rapid expansion of population for a temporary but long stretch—that Europe and North America experienced during their industrial revolution. In 1650 the share of Asia and Africa in the world population is estimated to have been 78.4 percent, and it stayed around there even in 1750.7 With the industrial revolution, the share of Asia and Africa diminished because of the rapid rise of population in Europe and North America; for example, during the nineteenth century while the inhabitants of Asia and Africa grew by about 4 percent per decade or less, the population of "the area of European settlement" grew by around 10 percent every decade.
Even now the combined share of Asia and Africa (71.2 percent) is considerably below what its share was in 1650 or 1750. If the United Nations' prediction that this share will rise to 78.5 percent by 2050 comes true, then the Asians and the Africans would return to being proportionately almost exactly as numerous as they were before the European industrial revolution. There is, of course, nothing sacrosanct about the distributions of population in the past; but the sense of a growing "imbalance" in the world, based only on recent trends, ignores history and implicitly presumes that the expansion of Europeans earlier on was natural, whereas the same process happening now to other populations unnaturally disturbs the "balance."