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The Tyee: Margaret Atwood and Limits to Growth

What is it about Limits to Growth that drives Conservative writers to foaming-at-the-mouth, red-faced apoplexy? Why do they feel the need to abuse, misquote, and straight-out lie about its predictions? I mean, honestly—have they even read it?

From Canadian online newspaper The Tyee:

On Oct. 24, in the Ottawa Citizen, columnist Dan Gardner attacked Margaret Atwood for “slack, lazy writing” and mocked Maclean’s editor Ken Whyte for not grilling her more thoroughly or “fact checking” her environmental opinions.

Gardner refers to his target as “Margaret F***ing Atwood,” whose status as a “celebrity intellectual” protects her from the sort of tough editing that he endures whenever he submits a column. Canwest widely reprinted the attack, published a week later in the Vancouver Sun.

What did Atwood say that so riled Mr. Gardner? First of all, she suggested in reference to the economic crisis that we need “fair regulations” and that there were important things in life “unconnected to money.” Worse, in the Maclean’s interview, she referred to the 1972 Limits to Growth report written by Harvard biophysicist Donella Meadows and her colleagues, the Club of Rome.

Gardner says, “If this were a writer of lesser stature, Mr. Whyte would have followed up with, ‘the 1972 report of the Club of Rome? You mean the one that said world supplies of zinc, gold, tin, copper, oil and natural gas would be completely gone by 1992? You mean that report?'”

The glitch regarding Gardner’s rigorously edited column is that the Club of Rome book says no such thing.

‘Irresponsible nonsense’

Conventional growth economists and conservative pundits routinely ridicule The Limits to Growth, although few provide precise critique of the content. Within a week of its publication, in Newsweek magazine, Yale economist Henry C. Wallich dismissed the book as “a piece of irresponsible nonsense.”

“There are no great Limits to Growth,” U.S. president Ronald Reagan declared in 1985, “when men and women are free to follow their dreams.” He added later, “because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.”

This inspiring Reaganism serves as the official neo-con rebuff to any talk of environmental limits, paraphrased by Margaret Thatcher, two U.S. Bush administrations, and by the Harper government in Canada. Danish anti-environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg simplifies it: “Smartness will outweigh the extra resource use.” Dreams. Ideas. Smartness. These powers of human imagination will obliterate physics and biology.

Read the whole article here.

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