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on 26 September 2005
Overshoot: when demand overtakes supply.
I recall buying the original edition of this book back in 1972, and also recall the rubbishing it got from those who believed it was all scare mongering.
The events of the 1970's should have acted as wake-up call, but they now seem like a distant memory: the three-day-week, the power cuts, the petrol rationing coupons (never implemented).
Since 1972, growth has been given a huge boost by globalisation, and the take-offs in China and India.
When this book was published in its 1992 edition - 'Beyond the Limits' - the authors warned that unsustainability was already evident: deforestation, climate change, the ozone hole.
They point to the failure of various international summits to get a grip on the problem.
It seems that our elites are vaguely aware that there is a problem here, and mention it in passing to give the impression that they on the case. It is usually on the list of the many things the Prime Minister is going to sort out before dinner.
The Kyoto protocols were some sort of triumph. But the developing nations, like China and India were not included and George W Bush doesn't seem to be persuaded that there's a problem.
The lack of urgency is widespread: as the victims of Katrina and Rita now know better than the rest of us.
Yet it's all something we know. We all know, for example, that the oil is going to dry up some day, but what the heck? It won't be next week, will it?
But someday it is going to be someone else's next week.
When that time comes, all the lost local skills will suddenly be missed. For that is what it will be: a return to the local economy. Your food, your shelter, your clothing, will all have be sourced locally. In the UK's case it's drop-back over two hundred years, minus the skills that were around in those days.
So, for the third time since 1972, the authors lay it all before us: what needs to be done.
First, and most painfully, there is no time to be lost:
"The longer the world economy takes to reduce its ecological footprint and move towards sustainability, the lower the population and material standard of living that will be ultimately supportable. At some point delay means collapse."
In the chapter "Transitions to a Sustainable System" the authors show us just how dramatic the changes need to be.
They offer our elites the chance to start the changes now, while there is time to manage the changeover.
They all make sense, but they require something more than political action, they require an end to individualism as we have known it. This is the leap many people will not be able to make
Out must go the competition for individual power, status, and wealth which are the engines of the current society. Reflect on that: and you see the enormity of the task.
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on 4 August 2010
I seem to be becoming more and more critical and less and less tolerant these days. It's rare that I can read a contemporary book without silently cursing its inaccuracies or shortcomings.

This book, however, didn't present me a single opportunity to do so. Wonderfully well written and to the point. Genuine experts in their field.

We would all do well to heed their advice - put down whatever it is you are doing and listen a while.
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on 8 October 2009
While some of the book is a little heavy going it is overall complusive reading and not difficult to understand or follow. It is very thought provoking and should be compulsory reading by all generations. My generation [ the older one ] needs to understand the legacy they are leaving behind by not confronting the issues and hopefully the younger generations will read the book and get an insight as to how not to make the same mistakes.
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on 8 March 2010
This book is neither easy nor pleasant reading. However, it is not the purely pessimistic voice of doom or the rabid environmentalist tract that many reviews described when the first edition came out 30 years ago. Rather, it is a sort of cross between a primer on budgeting and the warning a doctor might give to an overweight smoker. A good budget rests on a few simple assumptions: Resources are limited; you must plan for the future; and if you overspend now, you'll run short later. A doctor's report would say, "You may not have symptoms now, but your habits will eventually cause your body to break down." Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows present such a warning to all of human civilization. They analyze resource consumption, economic distribution, population growth and pollution. Their sobering conclusions amount to an attempt to start humanity on the road to a more equitable, sustainable society. The effort required to read this book comes in part from the writing, which varies drastically in style, tone and organizational choices, and in part from the innate challenges of the material. That said, getAbstract recommends it to anyone who wishes to plan realistically for the future, whether you're a CEO who wants to do sustainable business, a national leader who wants to create thriving human institutions, a community member concerned about local pollution, or a parent who does not want his or her children to grow up in a wasteland.
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on 13 October 2012
Access to the models behind the 'Limits to Growth' publication are a welcome addition. I bought this to supplement class discussion on a university course and it's perfect for that role. However, for the price, I would have liked a pdf of the book included in the CD package, hence only four stars.
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on 5 May 2009
Good book, well written, the prophecies from the original book are proving to be true - there is time to save the human race but the political will is not there.
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on 22 May 2010
In 1972, the Club of Rome released their original "Limits to Growth", a work thoroughly trumpeted in the media as the ultimate doom-sayer vision. This is the 30-year update to the original.

It starts by establishing we live on a finite resource - the Earth. And with it comes limitations on fresh water, forests, species and ecosystems, non-renewables, materials, and pollution sinks. But these collide with the exponential growth we see in terms of population.

They build a computer model using these features, and experiment with different scenarios to attempt to locate a sustainable planet. Though obviously hugely theoretical, they find it requires birth control, significant investment in technology, decreased pollution, controlled land erosion, and an increase in resource efficiency.

There are numerous issues, however. The model is obviously limited in scope, doesn't even deal with the potential of wars and disease, and how an average family size of 4 would be possible to uphold in certain geographical areas is so far into theoretical territory I'm not sure how much weight you can put on the results.

Nevertheless, an interesting book, but ultimately, the only real lesson I take away from it is that of overpopulation.
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