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Apparently common sense views about continuing indefinite growth do not "make sense'' in terms of mathematics, economics and the future of our planet, a visiting academic says.
Prof Susan Krumdieck, a professor of mechanical engineering at Canterbury University, spoke last night on "global warming and transitional engineering: what do we do?''.
She addressed more than 150 people at the University of Otago on the mining/minerals industry, organised by the Wise Response Society and the Dunedin branch of the Engineering New Zealand Young Engineers.
She also yesterday gave a talk on facing the "climate challenge'' at the Mineral Forum in Dunedin, and will take part in a forum panel discussion on coal today.
Using practical examples, including picking fruit from an orchard and selling it, Prof Krumdieck discussed the way that ultimately unsustainable industries often began by exploiting "low-hanging fruit'', but this became questionable if the desire for easy gains were continued far into the future.
Some conventional economic approaches which had long been used to support business decisions had failed to warn against the dangers faced by businesses and society, given climate change challenges.
Eventually the apples began to run out, and some options, such as chain-sawing the trees to gain the last few fruit, were clearly unsustainable, she warned.