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The Limits to growth: A report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind Paperback – February 18, 1974

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Universe Books; 2nd edition (February 18, 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0876631650
  • ISBN-13: 978-0876631652
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover
"Limits to Growth," was the pathbreaking report to the Club of Rome. It caused outrage worldwide. Released just before the first oil crisis in 1973, the Report drew on the growing awareness of environmental impacts of human activity and predicted dire consequences if the then present rate and scale of natural resource consumption was not tempered.
The Report was also pathbreaking because it used a sophisticated simulation model that showed that intervention in one part of the ecological system has unexpected impacts on other pasrts of that system.
The Report should be required reading for all those interested in the human footprint. Justifiably, it generated heated controversy, with many labeling the Club of Rome as neo-Malthusian doomsayers. The fact that the analysis of the Report is still relevant today is an indication of its historic significance.
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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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Format: Paperback
Although there are those who remain in denial about the foresight and wisdom of this book, today we are left in no doubt: there *are* limits to growth, and those who refuse to accept such realities accelerate the demise of our planet while also ignoring the depradations upon the public of corporations, religions, crime families and networks, and the "states" whose officials they all bribe and subvert.

The good news is that an entire literature has developed from this one little book, and there is a growing public awareness--as well as growing financial and corporate awareness--of the urgency of harmonizing our human behavior with the larger Earth system of which we are a part.

On the dark side:
Pandora's Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy
The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink
High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health
High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them

A handful of current references that can trace their heritage back to this book, which is still worth reading today:
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