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The Limits to Growth Revisited (SpringerBriefs in Energy / Energy Analysis) Paperback – June 1, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1441994158 ISBN-10: 1441994157 Edition: 2011th

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

“The Limits to Growth” (Meadows, 1972) generated unprecedented controversy with its predictions of the eventual collapse of the world's economies. First hailed as a great advance in science, “The Limits to Growth” was subsequently rejected and demonized. However, with many national economies now at risk and global peak oil apparently a reality, the methods, scenarios, and predictions of “The Limits to Growth” are in great need of reappraisal. In The Limits to Growth Revisited, Ugo Bardi examines both the science and the polemics surrounding this work, and in particular the reactions of economists that marginalized its methods and conclusions for more than 30 years. “The Limits to Growth” was a milestone in attempts to model the future of our society, and it is vital today for both scientists and policy makers to understand its scientific basis, current relevance, and the social and political mechanisms that led to its rejection. Bardi also addresses the all-important question of whether the methods and approaches of “The Limits to Growth” can contribute  to an understanding of what happened to the global economy in the Great Recession and where we are headed from there.

  • Shows how “The Limits to Growth” is a subject more relevant today than when the book was first published
  • Demonstrates how scenario-building using system dynamics models or other methods is an essential tool in understanding possible futures
  • Examines the factors that may lead to the rejection of good science when the conclusions are unpleasant
  • Separates the reality that the future can never be predicted with certainty from the need to prepare for it
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Product Details

  • Series: SpringerBriefs in Energy / Energy Analysis
  • Paperback: 119 pages
  • Publisher: Springer; 2011 edition (June 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1441994157
  • ISBN-13: 978-1441994158
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,614,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Dick_Burkhart on December 29, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a mathematician I regard the Limits-to-Growth studies as by far the best mathematical economics ever done. It should be the foundational work for the study of macro economics. The fact that most economists either ignore or actually reject this remarkable work is a damning indictment of the state of mainstream economics.

Ugo Bardi not only gives an intuitive explanation of the methodology of the "systems dynamics" developed by Jay Forester and elaborated by Dennis and Donella Meadows, but also lays out the sordid history of misrepresentation and political / ideological attacks against this methodology. This is one of the key reasons that the field of economics has performed so poorly in recent decades. The situation is so bad that today geologists with a good knowledge of world oil resources and markets routinely forecast long term global economic trends far better than any Noble prize winner in economics.

The top economists have blinded themselves by a narrow ideology centered around private markets and production using simplistic models and outmoded concepts, ignoring the foundational role of natural resources and the environment, not to mention what the social sciences, philosophy, and religion have to teach about what should be the ultimate goal of economics: "sustainable well-being". Physicists like Professor Bardi are far better equipped to understand economics from a global perspective than economists themselves, who are poorly trained in science and advanced mathematics.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Peter Fawcett on September 30, 2011
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As we approach the 40th anniversary of LTG this compact monograph (just over 100 pages) forms a valuable review, especially for readers who might not have seen the original or the subsequent updates in 1992 and 2004 or the Second Report to the Club of Rome (Mesarovic et al). Readers might well be encouraged to look out these and many other pertinent references given by the author, so as to fully appreciate the world modeling which LTG conveyed and why it evoked bitter controversy.

As Ian Johnson puts it in the Foreword, " (the) book allows us to better understand the controversy following the release of LTG (in 1972) and at the same time gain insights into dynamic modeling and some of the key arguments debated."
About half of the content is devoted to the modeling, half to the controversies.

A brief review of background - Malthus, the Classical Economists, Vernadsky, Hubbert, Carson, Ehrlich - leads to the dynamic systems modeling work of Forrester and his subsequent cooperation with the Club of Rome, a moderate/liberal group of industrial and academic leaders motivated by equity issues, so as to develop terrestrial resource quantification models. The author gives a useful overview of the challenges of modeling/simulation for complex systems and constructively compares LTG with more recent work. He notes the essentially heuristic goal of such modeling - often misunderstood - and the importance of understanding validation and "robustness" (convergence?) of these dynamic simulations.

The controversies are shown to have arisen from distinctions between i) resource limits of planet Earth as against the powers of human ingenuity and ii) growth in material throughput as against growth in economic activity: i.e. physical measures vs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James McIlvaine on October 16, 2013
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This book is a thoughtful and thorough reassessment of the "The Limits to Growth." It is a book that humans will surely ignore, much as it did "The Limits to Growth," at its peril. The book will be ignored because the conclusions, regardless of how scientifically robust, are unpleasant. To achieve a sustainable status quo world wide will require both change and cooperation. Politicians abhor both. And it is politicians who set policy, not scientists. Older readers may read the book and be grateful for their age. Younger readers should read the book and demand action, understanding that the sacrifices that may be required in the rich world are essential. I suggest reading this book concurrently with some study of the climate change issue. The Limits to Growth Revisited explains in layman's terms the application and limits of models. Models must be used to study complex systems, either the world economy (population, finite mineral resources, agriculture, pollution, industry) or the global climate. In the beginning all models are rudimentary and in the end no model is perfect. But these are the only tool we have to predict where our current actions will lead us.

A minor editing error places an abstract at the beginning of each chapter that simply repeats the first parts of each chapter. One quickly learns to ignore the abstract, so this is no great detriment.
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By A. Ali on June 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
It's difficult to know who the book is written for. Metaphorically speaking, it's trying to tersely describe an elephant to a blind man. I say "tersely" because the book is 104 pages (which makes it expensive at $46). It's unlikely to hold the attention of laymen because of its frequent references to technical results; at the same time the nitty-gritty math and computer code isn't there to attract the attention of modelers and computer coders, who might like to create and test their own computer simulations. For myself, it's way too brief and I would have liked a monograph replete with math formulas, computer code, and models that was around four times the size of this 104-page booklet.
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