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The Limits to Growth: The 30-year Update [Hardcover]

by Donella H. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis L. Meadows
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)


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Book Description

November 1, 2004 184407143X 978-1844071432 Revised edition
'If you only read one book ... make this it!' L. Hunter Lovins, co-author of Natural Capitalism 'It is time for the world to re-read Limits to Growth! The message of 1972 is more real and relevant in 2004, and we wasted 30 valuable years of action by misreading the message of the first book' Matthew R. Simmons, founder, Simmons & Company International, the world's largest energy investment banking firm 'If you want to understand what's going on Earth, read it.' Patrick Whitefield, Permaculture In 1972, Limits to Growth shocked the world and forever changed the global agenda by demonstrating that unchecked growth on our finite planet was leading the Earth towards ecological 'overshoot' and pending disaster. The book went on to sell millions of copies and ignited a firestorm of controversy that burns hotter than ever in these days of soaring oil prices, wars for resources and human-induced climate change. This substantially revised, expanded and updated edition follows on from Limits to Growth and its sequel Beyond the Limits, which raised the alarm that we have already overshot the planet's carrying capacity. Marshalling a vast array of new, hard data, more powerful computer modelling and incorporating the latest thinking on sustainability, ecological footprinting and limits, this new book presents future overshoot scenarios and makes an even more urgent case for a rapid readjustment of the global economy toward a sustainable path. This is compelling, essential and, indeed, essential reading for all concerned with our common future.


Editorial Reviews

From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

'If you only read one book... make this it!' Hunter Lovins, co-author of Natural Capitalism; 'An impressive sequel... [that] shuns gloom and doom to be boldly pragmatic about the future' Kirkus Reviews

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 362 pages
  • Publisher: Earthscan; Revised edition edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184407143X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844071432
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,527,494 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
153 of 168 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Distinctions Between "Growth" and "Progress" September 21, 2004
Format:Paperback
In the Authors' Preface, they provide important background information to their "30-Year Update": Published in 1972, "The Limits to Growth (LTG) reported that global ecological constraints (related to resource use and emissions) would have significant influence on global developments in the twenty-first century. LTG warned that humanity might have to divert much capital and manpower to battle these constraints -- possibly so much that the average quality of life would decline sometime during the twenty-first century." Then in 1992, the authors conducted a 20-year update of their original study and published the results in Beyond the Limits. "In BTL we studied global developments between 1970 and 1990 and used the information to update the LTG and the World3 computer model. BTL repeated the same message: In 1992 we concluded that two decades of history mainly supported the conclusions we had advanced 20 years earlier."

However, BTL (1992) offered one new finding: "...humanity had already overshot the limits of Earth's support capacity. This fact was so important that we chose to reflect it in the title of the book." If you have not already read one or both of the two earlier volumes, these brief excerpts from the Authors' Preface to Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update will suggest a context within which to understand and appreciate the significance of what Meadows, Randers, and Meadows share in this third volume.

If I understand their key point, it is this: Humanity's consumption of Earth's resources (i.e. humanity's "ecological footprint") proceeds at an increasingly faster rate than Earth's available resources can accommodate (i.e. its "carrying capacity").
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36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, but only part of the story August 12, 2007
Format:Paperback
No one likes limits, but they're with us all our lives, from the restrictions our parents place on us as children to the limits that society and Mother Nature compel us to adhere to as adults. The authors do a clear and thorough job of explaining how physical limits affect the Earth and the human society evolving within it.
Updating their mathematical model and learning from three decades of experience since the original 1972 study, the authors reinforce their earlier finding that persistently overshooting the Earth's carrying capacity could lead to any one of a variety of unhappy scenarios for humanity. While expressing due respect for technology development and the effects of free markets, they emphasize that these are necessary but not sufficient tools for getting us through the 21st century.
The authors have been criticized as doomsayers whose predictions have proven wrong. Such criticism obviously has come from people who have not actually read their work. They have not produced just a single computer run of their model and then proclaimed, "This is what will happen." They have done hundreds of runs to attempt to illustrate how important variables - such as population growth, industrial production, technological development, and pollution - interact to shape future scenarios in a 100-year timeframe. A thorough reading of this book demonstrates that rather than being disproven, their original scenarios are looking ominously accurate.
Chapter 5 is the book's good-news story, providing a case study on how the world got together to tackle the ozone depletion problem over the last quarter century. This and the final two chapters demonstrate that the authors have not given in to hopelessness.
The most critical shortcoming of the authors' work is one they clearly acknowledge.
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sounds a much-needed warning that is hard to refute February 17, 2005
Format:Paperback
Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a look at the resources of the planet and how they are being used, using the tools of systems dynamics computer modeling, with an eye to seeing if the current practices of unchecked growth in the use of resources is a viable, sustainable approach to living (an idea that on it's face appears to be an obvious no-brainer). The authors have produced two prior books on these issues, Limits to Growth and Beyond the Limits. The central questions are these: Are current policies leading to a sustainable future, or collapse? What can be done to create a human economy that provides sufficiently for all? They quote another researcher who points out that humanity surpassed sustainability in the 1980s, a statement that is congruent with their computer modeling.

The basic idea is that resource use will exceed resource capacity, a condition called overshoot, which will lead to collapse of many of the institutions of humanity, as we know them. They define a sustainable society as one that `meets the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.' Sounds very similar to the current state of the social security program, which will be bankrupt in the near future, without major changes.

One major limit to the consumption of resources that is often not considered, are `sinks', methods, ways and places of disposing of waste products generated by humanity. The authors make this a focus by using a phrase called `ecological footprint of humanity', defined as `the land area that would be required to provide the resources (grain, feed, wood, fish, and urban land) and absorb the emissions (carbon dioxide) of global society.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluable study
The LTG 30-year update is a more rigorous analysis of all the variables affecting the global ecosystem than the original 1972 study. Read more
Published 24 days ago by Jon Willis
4.0 out of 5 stars A Collision Course
The authors tell us why the world's population growth is on a collision course with too much growth. The authors explain very well why there are limits to growth. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Birder
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Scientific Prediction
While I agree that the planet is reaching its carrying capacity, I am not sure that this theory, that we are approaching our capacity to provide ourselves with clean air, water,... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Carioca56
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Everyone should read this book. We purchased several of these books. We handed them out to friends and family in hopes that they will read the book and then pass it on to someone... Read more
Published 2 months ago by A. Poovey
5.0 out of 5 stars A Necessary Update
Meadows' update on the original Limits to Growth brings a helpful focus to the modeling used to project resource depletion and all of the other projections provided in this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bibliophile
5.0 out of 5 stars Sobering
I read the original in the early 1970s, got this mostly for my grandkids. Haven't tried out the CD-ROM yet
Published 8 months ago by A. Forsyth
2.0 out of 5 stars A rehash of research - nothing new here
The data is too old to be useful today. I understand an update is in the works but the conclusions are unlikely to change. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Park Price
5.0 out of 5 stars Important
Daunting, but optimistic however still not without a hint of skepticism. A fantastic read that reminded me of how important and interconnected everything really is. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ashley Crowther
5.0 out of 5 stars Limits to growth, a prophecy
A story that everyone needs to read. It is reality for a world living in fantasy land. This is serious advice for a world that is about to end. This is a great and valuable book. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Placide D. Nicaise
4.0 out of 5 stars ST_SD
A rather interesting book of System Dynamics and System Thinking thoughts and also a must read book when reflecting on some deeper problems.
Published 15 months ago by ekeberg, pererik
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