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Limits to Growth Mass Market Paperback – October 1, 1972

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Signet (October 1, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451057678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451057679
  • Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Donella H. Meadows was a pioneering environmental 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. She was Adjunct Professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College, the founder of the Sustainability Institute and co-founder of the International Network of Resource Information Centers.

Customer Reviews

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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Andy Johnson on April 11, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This book explains a lot more about our current economic and environmental predicament than most of us want explained. In a very few pages, it details the problem with positive feedback loops in economies and societies that lead to uncontrolled growth in population and industrialization. The book details multiple reasons why growth in these areas is fundamentally unsustainable. The current peak oil problem is just the first of many problems that the authors foresaw 30 years ago, that very few people, and no-one in power took seriously.

In 1970 a group of scientists developed an extensive computer model of "the world system" which accounted in a general way for population, food production, industrialization, capital flows, pollution, natural resources, and other variables. When running this model they found that it nearly always showed a population crash before the year 2100, often as early as 2030. This book details the logic behind the model and the "systems thinking" that is necessary to understand the world's economic and physical status.

The public response to this book back in the 1970s involved mostly negative reactions, a great deal of (sometimes intentional) misunderstanding, and very little positive action. Unfortunately for us, everything in the book is still valid today, and even more pertinent than it was in 1970. The problem in a nutshell is that populations and industries grow exponentially, while the planet we live on is not increasing in size or capacity.

The authors have written followup volumes which give updates and detail more of the issues than did the original book. They regretfully admit that the projections of the 1970 model are still valid today, more than 30 years later.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David Zetland on June 16, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This 1972 book is subtitled "A report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind."

The collective authors -- much like the IPCC group -- wrote this book after meeting from 1968 to 1970. Their purpose was to work with the complexity of many trends -- poverty, environmental degredation, weakening institutions, urban sprawl, insecure employment, rejection of traditional values, inflation and so on. Their remit was to examine the factors that would limit growth: population, agricultural production, natural resources, industrial production and pollution. They used the most advanced computer models to map out the future dynamics of these five factors, as they influenced each other, with positive and negative feedback, over decades. (As you know, I am skeptical of models -- and especially of computer models -- but they can be useful as a means of visualizing interactions that are too complicated to describe.)

The Club concludes that:

1. Current (1970!) behavior will limit growth within 100 years. "The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity" [p 29]
2. It's possible to avoid this result, to establish ecological and economic stability.
3. If we want the second outcome, we'd better get to work.

This struck me as both prescient and sad. Since 1970, we have surely made some progress on natural resources and industrial & agricultural production, but we have not done very well on population control or pollution. Certainly not on the scale that the Club's authors suggested.

The main point of the book is that exponential growth (in pollution or population) will exhaust finite resources. This is a mathematical fact that the authors pound into the reader.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Wingo on July 6, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have read, re read, and written about the mindset of this book for over 20 years. I read the other reviews of this book which are a testament to the success of its propaganda. The premise of the book is real, which is that there are limits within a closed physical system (the Earth). The book was crafted by systems analysts that used computer models to generate projections about the future of our global civilization. Every single one of their projections have been proven false. This link is simply one example where every prediction of the exhaustion of a physical resource from the time of the book (1972) until today has been proven false ([...] They were mistaken about the means whereby population growth can be curbed. The most effective means of population control is the one that they said would not work, which is the increase in wealth of the people. It is only in the western nations where economic growth has created a high level of wealth that population has been voluntarily controlled rather than through the force of arms. Technological progress has also far outstripped their most optimistic scenarios until this point in our history. Indeed it can be argued that if the influence of this book had been less with the political class, our level of sustainable global wealth would be far higher today.

The key to the future is energy here on the Earth and the effective exploitation of the physical resources of our solar system, that are thousands of times greater than here on the Earth. Unfortunately, political science students have been unduly influenced by this book, up to and including our current president and a former vice president. Abandoning the mindset of Limits to Growth is the key to a successful future for our global civilization.
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