Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers Dennis Meadow “Limits to Growth – the 30 year update”

ISBN 1 84407 144 8. “Limits to Growth – the 30 year update” was written by Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadow. Published in 2005 by Earthscan. The three authors are all (or were) University Professors (one has since passed away – Donella in 2001). In 1972 the original “Limits to Growth” was published by the same authors. It gave a message that was very timely if misunderstood and ignored – our planet will not support infinite growth in its economy and human population. Despite the fact this is stunningly self-evident it looks as if many are happy to ignore this fundamental truth. This book is the second follow up (the first being “Beyond the Limits” in 1992). It uses updated Computer Models and empirical data from the last 30 years to re-examine the basic assumptions. In 1972 they predicted over-shoot and that has now happened. The fact no one chooses to notice is akin to a man falling of a cliff who thinks he is flying. The original work was done at MIT and sponsored by the Club of Rome – an international group of Businessmen, Statesmen and Scientists funded by the Volkswagen Foundation in Germany. The “World3” Computer model they use is now freely available to anyone who wants to send off for the CD. In 1972 they predicted growth until 2015 and believed that there was plenty of time to head off disaster. This is not the impression you might get from the Skeptical Environmentalist who see no signs of growth limits. Lomberg suggested the Club of Rome work had predicted doom and gloom. In fact it did not. It was piece of scientific modelling showing possible future scenarios. You can argue about the assumption in the scenarios but the results remain the same. There are limits and we have passed them. A large part of the work is dedicated to exploring the World3 model to understand how societal collapse will happen and how it could be prevented. How can we bring ourselves back down to earth? The various scenarios in World3 produce interesting results if not always surprising. It can only indicate the general direction and timing. However its trending looks intuitive and occasionally eye-opening. One way or the other growth will stop – even if it means running out of people. The Message? If we are to avoid crashing and burning then we must fully exploit every renewable resource we have with better and better technology. Pollution must be controlled, land yield improved, land erosion prevented, energy efficiency maximised, etc. There is a solution. Markets and Technology are part of that solution but not the entire solution, they are imperfect, indeed markets can have a detrimental effect. Other important impacts will be felt if we stabilise our population, our industrial output and seek only sustainable development. After the hard science is over the book rather disappoints in the rather tree-hugging nature it disappears into less objective solutions – such as ‘love’. Great. However there are many good suggestions here even if this is not the purpose of the book. Recommended for anyone who wants the big picture of where we are going and how to stop disaster.

About post-carbon-man

A passionate advocate of a peaceful transition to a sustainable political-economy, Mark hails from a working class farming background. Today he is a Company Director and Chairman of the Low Carbon Chilterns Co-operative. Whilst at University (Engineering Masters) he was active in Conservative Student politics but has had no affiliation since. He has travelled widely on business covering the USA, Europe, Middle East and Central Asian Republics. In 2007 Mark founded Post-Carbon-Living and a year later co-founded Transition Town High Wycombe. He lives with is wife & daughter in a home they retrofitted to be carbon-neutral. Today he blogs about surviving politics on a shrinking planet and is passionate in his rejection of Nationalism.


Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers Dennis Meadow “Limits to Growth – the 30 year update” — 1 Comment

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