The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update

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Overview

In 1972 four young scientists at MIT wrote a book called The Limits to Growth that shocked the world and became an international best-seller. Using the World3 computer model, the authors looked into the future and sounded an alarm, for the first time showing the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet. Their book gained worldwide attention and became the cornerstone of a global debate on how to achieve a sustainable future.

Twenty years later the authors wrote Beyond...

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Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update

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Overview

In 1972 four young scientists at MIT wrote a book called The Limits to Growth that shocked the world and became an international best-seller. Using the World3 computer model, the authors looked into the future and sounded an alarm, for the first time showing the consequences of unchecked growth on a finite planet. Their book gained worldwide attention and became the cornerstone of a global debate on how to achieve a sustainable future.

Twenty years later the authors wrote Beyond the Limits, a follow-up volume that showed humanity was already overshooting Earth's limits. Beyond the Limits again provoked a national debate and galvanized the scientific and environmental academics leaders to incorporate Limits to Growth into the core environmental studies curriculum.

Now Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update brings data on overshoot and global ecological collapse to the present moment. It provides a short course in the World3 computer model, types of growth, and the various kinds of overshoot likely to occur in the current century. While it remains to be seen whether public policy will respond effectively and in time to problems such as climate change, this book makes a compelling case for the vital need for a Sustainability Revolution.

The CD

This disc is intended for serious students of Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. It permits users to reproduce and examine the details of the ten scenarios published in the book. The CD can be run on most Macintosh and PC operating systems. With it you will be able to:

  • Reproduce the three graphs for each of the scenarios as they appear in the book
  • Graph the eleven individual parameters for each scenario
  • Create comparative plots to examine the behavior of one parameter under the assumptions for two or more scenarios
  • Print out 47 key variables in five-year increments from 1900 to 2100 for any of the scenarios

The CD also includes:

  • Full model equations compatible with STELLA
  • Eighty-five JPEG files of the important book illustrations for use in lectures and classroom discussions

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Thirty years ago, The Limits to Growth was widely but erroneously attacked for prophesying doom, ignoring price, and denying adaptation. Today, with the global dynamics and challenges it foresaw now obvious to all, and the reforms it urged more vital than ever, its timely update remains an exceptionally valuable tool for understanding the unfolding future and creating the kind of future we want. Is there intelligent life on Earth? Work like this suggests grounds for cautious optimism."—Amory B. Lovins, CEO, Rocky Mountain Institute
Publishers Weekly
Updated for the second time since 1992, this book, by a trio of professors and systems analysts, offers a pessimistic view of the natural resources available for the world's population. Using extensive computer models based on population, food production, pollution and other data, the authors demonstrate why the world is in a potentially dangerous "overshoot" situation. Put simply, overshoot means people have been steadily using up more of the Earth's resources without replenishing its supplies. The consequences, according to the authors, may be catastrophic: "We... believe that if a profound correction is not made soon, a crash of some sort is certain. And it will occur within the lifetimes of many who are alive today." After explaining overshoot, the book discusses population and industrial growth, the limits on available resources, pollution, technology and, importantly, ways to avoid overshoot. The authors do an excellent job of summarizing their extensive research with clear writing and helpful charts illustrating trends in food consumption, population increases, grain production, etc., in a serious tome likely to appeal to environmentalists, government employees and public policy experts. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781931498869
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/31/2004
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,060,574
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Meet the Author

A woman whose pioneering work in the 1970s still makes front-page news, Donella Meadows was a scientist, author, teacher, and farmer widely considered ahead of her time. She was one of the world's foremost systems analysts and lead author of the influential Limits to Growth—the 1972 book on global trends in population, economics, and the environment that was translated into 28 languages and became an international bestseller. That book launched a worldwide debate on the earth's capacity to withstand constant human development and expansion. Twenty years later, she and co-authors Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers reported on their follow-up study in Beyond the Limits and a final revision of their research, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, was published in 2004.

Jorgen Randers is professor of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, where he works on climate issues and scenario analysis. He was previously president of BI and deputy director general of WWF International (World Wildlife Fund) in Switzerland. He lectures internationally on sustainable development and especially climate, and is a nonexecutive member of a number of corporate boards. He sits on the sustainability councils of British Telecom in the UK and the Dow Chemical Company in the United States. In 2006 he chaired the cabinet-appointed Commission on Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which reported on how Norway can cut its climate gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050. Randers has written numerous books and scientific papers, and was coauthor of The Limits to Growth in 1972, Beyond the Limits in 1992, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update in 2004, and 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years in 2011. Randers lives in Oslo, Norway.

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.

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Table of Contents

Book Chapters:

1. Overshoot

2. The driving force: exponential growth

3. The limits: sources and sinks

4. World3: the dynamics of growth in a finite world

5. Back from beyond the limits: the ozone story

6. Technology, markets, and overshoot

7. Transitions to a sustainable system

8. Tools for the transition to sustainability

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 8, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Serious critique of contemporary technological society

    This book is neither easy nor pleasant reading. However, it is not the purely pessimistic voice of doom or the rabid environmentalist tract that many reviews described when the first edition came out 30 years ago. Rather, it is a sort of cross between a primer on budgeting and the warning a doctor might give to an overweight smoker. A good budget rests on a few simple assumptions: Resources are limited; you must plan for the future; and if you overspend now, you'll run short later. A doctor's report would say, "You may not have symptoms now, but your habits will eventually cause your body to break down." Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows present such a warning to all of human civilization. They analyze resource consumption, economic distribution, population growth and pollution. Their sobering conclusions amount to an attempt to start humanity on the road to a more equitable, sustainable society. The effort required to read this book comes in part from the writing, which varies drastically in style, tone and organizational choices, and in part from the innate challenges of the material. That said, getAbstract recommends it to anyone who wishes to plan realistically for the future, whether you're a CEO who wants to do sustainable business, a national leader who wants to create thriving human institutions, a community member concerned about local pollution, or a parent who does not want his or her children to grow up in a wasteland.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 13, 2014

    This was the text for a course in modelling and simulation in a

    This was the text for a course in modelling and simulation in a San Jose State University Master's program, Cybernetic Systems.
    The purpose was to examine the assumptions on interactions of complex systems. The system dynamics model was developed by professor Jay Forrester using the computer language, "Dynamo." The "World Model" could be computer run over and over
    with user chosen initial state variables, environmental resources, capital investment, world population, etc. The execution of the model predicted collapse of the world system, regardless of initial state settings.

    The urban dynamics model attracted the attention of urban planners around the world, eventually leading Forrester to meet a founder of the Club of Rome. He later met with the Club of Rome to discuss issues surrounding global sustainability; the book World Dynamics followed. World Dynamics took on modeling the complex interactions of the world economy, population and ecology, which understandably met with much misunderstanding (see also Donella Meadows and Limits to Growth). Forrester has made numerous other contributions to System Dynamics, and has promoted System Dynamics in education down to the present day.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2007

    Serious critique of contemporary technological society

    This book is neither easy nor pleasant reading. However, it is not the purely pessimistic voice of doom or the rabid environmentalist tract that many reviews described when the first edition came out 30 years ago. Rather, it is a sort of cross between a primer on budgeting and the warning a doctor might give to an overweight smoker. A good budget rests on a few simple assumptions: Resources are limited you must plan for the future and if you overspend now, you¿ll run short later. A doctor¿s report would say, ¿You may not have symptoms now, but your habits will eventually cause your body to break down.¿ Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows present such a warning to all of human civilization. They analyze resource consumption, economic distribution, population growth and pollution. Their sobering conclusions amount to an attempt to start humanity on the road to a more equitable, sustainable society. The effort required to read this book comes in part from the writing, which varies drastically in style, tone and organizational choices, and in part from the innate challenges of the material. That said, we recommend it to anyone who wishes to plan realistically for the future, whether you¿re a CEO who wants to do sustainable business, a national leader who wants to create thriving human institutions, a community member concerned about local pollution, or a parent who does not want his or her children to grow up in a wasteland.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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