The limits to growth: the 30-year update

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Chelsea Green Pub., 2004 - Nature - 338 pages
In 1972, three scientists from MIT created a computer model that analyzed global resource consumption and production. Their results shocked the world and created stirring conversation about global 'overshoot,' or resource use beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. Now, preeminent environmental scientists Donnella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows have teamed up again to update and expand their original findings inThe Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Global Update. Meadows, Randers, and Meadows are international environmental leaders recognized for their groundbreaking research into early signs of wear on the planet. Citing climate change as the most tangible example of our current overshoot, the scientists now provide us with an updated scenario and a plan to reduce our needs to meet the carrying capacity of the planet. Over the past three decades, population growth and global warming have forged on with a striking semblance to the scenarios laid out by the World3 computer model in the originalLimits to Growth. While Meadows, Randers, and Meadows do not make a practice of predicting future environmental degradation, they offer an analysis of present and future trends in resource use, and assess a variety of possible outcomes. In many ways, the message contained inLimits to Growth: The 30-Year Updateis a warning. Overshoot cannot be sustained without collapse. But, as the authors are careful to point out, there is reason to believe that humanity can still reverse some of its damage to Earth if it takes appropriate measures to reduce inefficiency and waste. Written in refreshingly accessible prose,Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Updateis a long anticipated revival of some of the original voices in the growing chorus of sustainability.Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Updateis a work of stunning intelligence that will expose for humanity the hazy but critical line between human growth and human development.

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I read "Limits to Growth" (1972) while in college and found it a very well done study, especially considering the limited power of computers at that time and the difficulty in collecting data before the internet (and Google). I recently read "Mankind at the Turning Point" (1974), the second report to the Club of Rome, which created a different model, one incorporating regional data (instead of worldwide averages). This sounded like a good refinement to the original model, BUT, in striving for regional answers it FAILED by ignoring some threats that undermine the rest - atmospheric pollution a global threat (greenhouse gases), and sea level rise (local effects vary), and fresh water aquifer exhaustion.
I was hoping to find a review here that would inform me of the model used in the 30-year update. Unfortunately the only 'reader' review was from a person who hadn't read the book, wouldn't read it, and declared it a pack of lies(!). ESP I suppose? The WORLD3 model (the original from 'Limits') appears to be used again in this book - while I am looking for a revised and expanded regional model - something more helpful for regional decision making for adaptation, since inaction seems to be our 'plan'.

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PREVIOUS REVIEW: Around 1972, I read 'The limits to growth', in the library, while employed in chemical engineering department at the University of Calgary. It was nonsense propaganda then. I refuse to read its sequel. Likewise I refuse to watch the sequel of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth", all lies.
In response to the above reviewer's derision: Your opinion might be held credible if, rather than touting a dated, dubious connection to on-going scientific research, you'd provided specific examples of how these publications are nonsensical. Enlighten the rest of us, please.


Technology Markets and Overshoot
Transitions to a Sustainable System
Tools for the Transition to Sustainability

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About the author (2004)

Trained as a biophysicist, American scientist Donella H. Meadows earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Early in her career, Meadows was a member of a joint Harvard-MIT research group that developed a computer simulation model clarifying relationships between growth and finite resources on the earth. Using this model, the Club of Rome sponsored extensive research that resulted in the best-selling book, "The Limits to Growth" (1972), co-authored by Meadows and others. Attention was focused on a doomsday prognosis if growth continued unchecked. Meadows and her associates, however, presented options for achieving a sustainable society if there were a movement away from dependence on growth, equity in wealth, and if technologies were used to enhance efficiency of natural-resource use. "Toward Global Equilibrium" (1973) and "Dynamics of Growth in a Finite World" (1974) are companion technical volumes to "The Limits to Growth." They present reports on the simulation models, examinations of economic, political, and ethical implications of the findings, and a detailed description of the computer model, World3. In addition to her research sponsored by the Club of Rome, Meadows, as one of the editors of "Groping in the Dark" (1982), fully articulates that basic human needs can be met in the future if social and political structures, as well as values, do not hinder efforts for sustainability and equity. Meadows states that equity, rather than individual and national-wealth aggrandizement, is increasingly recognized as a major factor in planetary survival. Twenty years after "The Limits to Growth," Meadows and others in "Beyond the Limits" (1992) find that some options for a sustainable future have narrowed. However, they claim that new technologies can, if employed wisely, contribute to sustainability. The book emphasizes social-policy options rather than models. After working for two years on the Club of Rome research project, Meadows became a member of the faculty at Dartmouth College where she is systems analyst and adjunct professor in the Environmental Studies Program. Meadows has a lifestyle that reflects her views about sustaining finite resources and valuing equity rather than personal economic gain. Although she remains an academic, her interests have shifted from biophysics toward philosophy. She has lived in a commune, studies Zen Buddhism, and believes that people today are ultimately responsible for a future that holds "unspeakable horrors or undreamed-of wonders.

Donella Meadows, who died unexpectedly in 2001, was a systems analyst and adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College and wrote the nationally syndicated newspaper column "The Global Citizen." Jorgen Randers is a policy analystis, professor and former President of the Norwegian School of Management. He is also the former Deputy Director General of WWF International. Randers lives in Oslo, Norway. Dennis Meadows is a professor of Systems Management and director of the Institute for Policy and Social Science Research at the University of New Hampshire. He lives in Durham, New Hampshire.

Dennis Meadows is Emeritus Professor of Systems Policy and Social Science Research at the University of New Hampshire, where he was also Director of the Institute for Policy and Social Science Research. In 2009 he received the Japan Prize for his contributions to world peace and sustainable development. He has authored ten books and numerous educational games, which have been translated into more than 15 languages for use around the world. He earned his Ph.D. in Management from MIT, where he previously served on the faculty, and has received four honorary doctorates for his contributions to environmental education.