To Choose A Future is the culmination of an ambitious attempt to assess the resource and environmental problems that the United States may face over the next fifty years. The consequences of alternative population and economic growth rates, technological change, and trade, environmental, and nuclear policies are examined using large-scale, computer-based models, as well as more conventional methods.
The authors suggest that their study should be viewed as one step in the continual assessment of the longer-run impacts of given actions and events. Indeed, this study makes a notable contribution to developing a methodology that can help society to make better choices regarding the future. In terms of the richness of detail, discussion of the data and assumptions, and scenario development, Ridker and Watson have moved well beyond previous large-scale modeling efforts. Furthermore, when the results are viewed broadly, To Choose a Future represents a comprehensive, quantitative, and persuasive refutation of the more pessimistic of the "limits to growth" projections.
The methodology is geared to the long run, for which it is assumed that profit considerations and educated guesses regarding physical stocks and technological changes will determine the use and availability of resources. As is conventional in such studies, there is little allowance for the influence of political or institutional disruptions such as war or cartels, which recent history suggests can have important impacts on at least the short- and medium-term availability of resources. Thus the results do not offer direct policy guidance. The study does provide, however, useful insights as to the longer-term implications of policies such as phasing out nuclear power, setting energy prices at various levels, and establishing alternative environmental standards and levels of agricultural exports. But the results are not forecasts; rather, they are highly conditional projections dependent at times on controversial data and on the assumptions and judgments of the authors.
There is always the possibility that research results will be taken out of context and used inappropriately. The danger of such misuse is especially great for a study such as this which deals with issues of current im