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The Limits to growth: A report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind Paperback – 1972

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Universe Books; Second edition (1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0876631650
  • ISBN-13: 978-0876631652
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 14.2 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 873,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The Limits to Growth was first published in the UK in 1972. It reflected the findings of a report commissioned in 1968 by thirty individuals from ten countries, including scientists, economists, educators, humanists, industrialists together with national and international civil servants. Out of the meeting, instigated by the Italian scholar and industrialist the late Dr Aurelio Peccei. Out of the commission grew the Club of Rome.

The commission was given to an MIT Project Team under the direction of Professor Dennis Meadows with financial support from the Volkswagen Foundation. The team's brief was to examine five basic variables that the Club of Rome considered would influence the shape of growth for planet earth in the foreseeable future. The five variables of growth were population, agricultural production, natural resources, industrial production and pollution.

The MIT team ran these variables through a computer model (World 3)which attempted to trace the interactive systems. The book is essentially an explantion of their findings. It starts with an explanation of the nature of exponential growth and highlights how people are much more familiar with the characteristics of linear growth and fail to appreciate the realities of the characteristics and speed with which exponential growth can develop in its more advanced stages. To illustrate the point, the book tells the famous story regarding the Persian courtier who presented a beautiful chessboard to his king. The king in turn was asked to give him one grain of rice for the first square of the board, 2 for the second, 4 for the third and so on. The king readily agreed thinking that this was a small price to show his appreciation.
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Format: Paperback
My partner's father gave me a copy of this book for Christmas, as we had been discussing politics and the "fate of the world", and he had mentioned that this book was an important commentary on the subject. In 2012, journalism and political debate concerning environmental and economic disaster serves as near-continuous background music to our daily lives, but when the Club of Rome met to discuss such concerns at the tail-end of the boom years of the 1960s, the idea of any kind of "limit" to the potential for human progress was confined largely to a few fringe groups. When the report was published, it was therefore widely and vocally discredited, as an affront to humanity; both to the capacity of its genius to overcome any challenge posed by its environment, and of course to its inalienable right to do whatever it pleases at all times with no regard for the consequences.

One would be very hard pushed to name a government entity that does not see growth as a byword for economic wellbeing. This has been symptomatic of society's response to the issue throughout the industrial era: when things are going well, put your head in the sand and pretend that things will be this way forever - that you can have boom without bust; that, as long as the market demands it, there will always be more resources; that more of everything is the best measure of a successful society.

While only the sudden onset of recession (very briefly!) inspired the Western media to re-examine the economic model of its society, the computations put forth by the scientists at MIT for the Club of Rome, made in an era of scarce extant data, have only become better supported by the passing of time and new information becoming available.
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By A Customer on 2 Aug. 2004
Format: Paperback
Despite an enormous attack against this book by economists and conservatives, it's point was and still is valid. Do not believe others that make claims about what this book contains, such as that they predict that there will be a catastrophe by 1990 or that once the cold war is over all will be OK. This is not true at all; they did not make any such predictions and you have to read it carefully to note that they are very cautious about calling the computer outcomes predictions at all. The book does not take into account technology changes explicitly, but changes in technology will only be of use if they have an effect on resources, pollution, nutrition, population control and all of these factors ARE part of the computer model. For example they would test the effect of increasing the abundance of known resources and seeing what happened. All of the outcomes show that overshoot occurs before 2100, even the models based on very unrealisticly optimistic values for resources, nutrition etc have this result.
Despite the limitations of the information available to the authors, some forecasts have proved surprisingly accurate - such as that the population would reach over 6 billion by the year 2000 - which it did. There are a number of other forecasts that researches have since found to be surprisingly accurate.
It is time that this work is taken seriously. It is foolishness to believe that technology alone can resolve the problems of overshoot before it produces serious effects on our standard of living. Signs of overshoot have already begun, as you can easily see from reading the book. For example pay attention to hypothetical impacts on services and think of the NHS in the UK and or medicare/aid in the US.
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