In 1972, the book “Limits to Growth” was published. It argued that unchecked consumption and economic growth on our finite planet was leading the Earth towards ‘overshoot’ of its carrying capacity, followed by disaster.

In 2004 an updated edition was published; “Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update“. Analysis of data gathered over the time since the first edition showed that the original models appeared to be realistic. Oil industry expert Matthew Simmons was quoted on the cover of the 2004 edition:

“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.”

Praise for the Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update

These pages explore the themes discussed in the limits to growth and work by the Global Sustainability Institute in Global resource constraints.


17 responses to “

  1. the “population bomb” a book from the 1960’s predicted explosive population growth would exhaust global food and water resources that would result in the collapse of human civilizations. while population growth has tempered somewhat due to china’s 1 child policy and the reduced fertility of western nations, most 3rd world and emerging economies still have no population control policies – particularly india. at some point if there is a global drought – or such where global agricultural irrigation needs are not met, there could be an almost immediate collapse of the global economy and regional famines will ensue leading to civil unrest, collapse and anarchy. this could happen before 2030… it could happen within this decade.

  2. I began to research a family of areas, overpopulation, resource depletion, pollution, wars, and environment back in the seventies when I was in my twenties simply because it seemed as though we were on a collision course and hardly anyone was noticing. It’s just sadly amazing to me that any conscious person could not notice “it can’t continue to go on the way it is without serious repercussion”. Denial has proven to be astonishingly blinding even to the point it often appears we simply will not make it time to limit suffering or even to survive. Pedal to the metal and straight for the wall, but let’s try to make all the money we can on our way out, seems to be the motive force. I’m not so positive today.

  3. There is no such thing as unlimited growth. Unfortunately, human self-interest and voracity under any social form it may take, i.e. government, religion, business, military and so on, all seem interested in growth based on idem self-interest and not the interest of civilization and the future of this planet. Irresponsibility and vulgarity are rife, simply because the infrastructure cannot keep up with the population growth. Myth after myth continue to fuel irresponsible growth as in “all men are created equal” which is not true because many obsolete human species marked by Nature for extinction or stagnation are being interfered by the most advanced human specie for expediency, withal, which contributed and is contributing to an unprecedented world population explosion. No one should exploit anyone; but no one should interfere with Nature’s work. Leave the obsolete human species alone, including all animals; let them solve their own medical, economic, social, technical and so on problems by themselves. By helping obsolete or stunted humans pecies we are committing worldwide suicide. Maybe it is already too late to do anything, but one thing is for sure…Nature will solve all of the human problems in the harshest and most “inhumane’ ways, simply because Nature and the Universe don’t even know or care that we exist…

  4. There is no question that our resources are limited and will soon reach the limits causing a reversal of the human progress in culture, technology and life expectancy.
    However, this scenario is void in these studies of the demographic factors that will greatly and fundamentally affect the time line for these events as depicted in the article “Limit to Growth: 30 years update”..
    The large consumers of earth resources are primarily the western economic countries and population. The recent population study shows that the birth rate of the western world is below the sustainable growth, and more likely in years to come cause some of these to in fact vanish. Just like you had stated that the fish population with over fishing will leave the boats in the harbor idle, so will the homes and factories in Europe, Russia and the US remain idle following the collapse of their most productive and consuming people. As it is now, the birth rate of the African and the Muslims, is by far, many fold that of the western Caucasian people, and the culture, religion and practices of these growing masses did not in the past nor likely be more aggressive in the future in relation to the resources, or economic boon that is so prevalent in the western civilization of today and of the past 150 years.
    China had instituted a growth rate limit and so did India but the economic shortages of the future will more than any other legislation force the families to limit the bedroom encounters. The religious requirement for more and more children will change the demographic make up of this planet within 50 years to the extent that there will be no more a western civilization. The emphasis on leisure, pleasure and luxuries, will fade with the Caucasian demise, and the planet will have a breather of extension in time for its resources, perhaps sufficient for re-stocking the resources from the natural solar and planetary interaction of Dust and energy. However, the large number of people will need the food, and the simple plow and combine of today will not suffice to provide for the needed food. As the progress in the past was primarily due to enterprising western countries via cloning, genetically immune plants against parasites, and plants for better and greater crops, the decline in this process will eventually bring our planet to the limit of food to supply the needs of these masses that consume less material resources, but require just as much sustenance. Medicine will decline, communication will diminish and the boom that led to the demographic shift, will become the demise if this world.
    Not to mention the religious strife, the cultural conflict, the dominance ego and the war for resources, will help bring a decline at the end. There will be no more human population stabilization, unless earth is finally purged. And at that time, who knows what the climate of this stone ball will be like, and if life as we know will survive, or be replaced by the algae that could live in the Sulfur brine of the deep.

  5. what is the predicted date of the depression? The faster it comes the better!!!!!!

  6. William Cravens

    I followed the link to this site from a recent Yahoo news article on updates of the original 1972 report. As an engineer, I agree that serious technical attention must be paid to these issues. We must also, however, be wary of claims to “scientifically” handle major human issues. There has been a strong tendency in the previous century for such claims to degenerate into very cruel and inhuman ideologies such as Communism and National Socialism. Over-population is one problem that threatens us, but another is unrestrained and tyrannical government. If adopted seriously, the measures proposed by the ‘LTG’ movement will place unlimited and/or poorly-defined powers into the hands of a “global government” which, having the stated goal of “saving the planet”, lacks only convenient rationalizations for doing anything it’s policy-makers wish. Over-population, starvation, and death are indeed terrifying problems, but they are “natural” problems. Mother Nature is never lacking for a “solution” to her difficulties. The question is always whether we can “stomache” her solutions! But the problem of Mankind’s wickedness… the lust for power, the unbridled pursuit of personal gain, the cruel indifference to the sufferings of others… these are not so easily “solved”, because the people offering the solutions are, themselves, part of the problem. Yes, indeed, there is much indifference and cruelty in the “Big Business” world on which many modern innovators lay the blame. We must keep in mind, however, that “Big Government” is for the most part just like “Big Business” except it also wields the power of the Law. There is nothing frightening about Bill Gates or Exxon that should not also frighten us about Barack Obama or the United Nations. There are dangers on both sides of the fence.

  7. interesting stuff……i believe i will write a book on it . . .

  8. like to hear more

  9. OscarBullFrog

    twitter i don;t do, but yuo are bookomarked …. that;s for sure … and i;ll receive new post alerts as well.

  10. It seems the economic system is built to collapse because it did not take the sustainability of the planet (where every resource comes from) into account. The people who controll the banking system have enticed whole populations to a life style that cannot be sustained because at the rate we are going we will need 4 planets to sustain burgeoning populations who have burgeoning consumption needs. In the name of survival and mindless pursuits of status and prosperity humans are consuming and hoarding more than ever before whithout paying heed to whether supply can cope with demand. People all over the world are unware as well as to the overall status of Mother Earth and the banking / economic system. I fear that “someone” will take a drastic action to reduce the populations of the world and thus many innocent lives will be sacrificed.

  11. To my knowledge, EROI was first described by W.Fred Cottrell in “Energy & Society” (1955) – not by Charles Hall – though Hall may have coined that term. See page 26 of the 2009 edition of Cottrell’s work – “Surplus Energy” – which defines this concept. There may be even earlier publications, but that’s the earliest I’ve seen – it predates the first of Hall’s publications by decades.

  12. How this ties in with biology, history and social evolution are explained in “The Last Civilization.” It brings it all together. I know: I authoried it, —Charles Brough

  13. Do you plan to update this site now that Randers has released ‘2052’ ?

  14. Seems to me that some blame religion for the growing population, since many denominations (especially the Roman Catholic Church) oppose abortion. (The RCC also opposes birth control, though most Protestant churches permit it.) We should keep in mind, however, that those churches also teach that we should have a strong commitment to the traditional family, and that this commitment has a powerful effect on limiting population growth. And there is much evidence that, as a society becomes more middle-class, as better health care reduces mortality among babies and young children, and as more people have better access to education and a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, they naturally cut back on the number of children they have, and focus on the quality of their family life, rather than just on the quantity.

    The primary “accelerants” as it were (to use the analogy of a fire gone out of control) are: POVERTY: people bring many children into the world, fearing that some of them will die young, and they are desperate to have children grow up to take care of them in their old age… and ILLEGITIMACY: feral teenagers swarming in the cities, breeding with each other like stray animals, and bringing into this world millions of new mouths to feed for which they (espec. the fathers) take no responsibility whatsoever.

    How to solve these problems? Poverty is a hard one… I am a believer in free enterprise and individual responsibility, but there can be no denying that milllions of people who work hard (or who very much want to work) are either out of work, or grossly underpaid, by those who are only looking to their (or their organization’s) bottom line. Socialist-style government redistribution is a proven failure. We need, somehow, to find a way to include the state of the people in our economy in the “bottom line”. The “Bottom Line” must have a social, and environmental, and ethical dimension. This may sound to some like “backdoor communism”, but truthfully we already have it to some small degree. If we did not, then consider… the far-and-away most profitable investments in our world today are things such as the illegal drug traffic, the illicit sex industry, and the international weapons trade. We try to ban the first, suppress the second, and at least regulate the third, all because they are held to be either evil or potentially destructive. We need the business leaders of the western world to start looking at poverty, illiteracy, and illegitimacy in a similar fashion. The manager who can stand in front of his board and boast “I increased profits by 10% last year, by cutting wages and benefits and laying off workers.” has to rethink that kind of measure. He needs to ask himself if we really are ALL better off, in the LONG RUN, as a result, or did we “foul our own nest”, eat our seed corn, burn the furniture… i.e. have we profitted a few for the moment at the expense of everyone’s future? Needless to say, he will not (and cannot) think this way until his upper management, board of directors, stockholders, etc. think that way.

    I cannot overemphasize… someone like Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi just kicking the door in and waving laws, regulations, and taxation around like a broadsword will NOT help. Investors, owners, managers, etc. will recoil from such ham-fisted measures in disgust, and we will reap nothing from it. Socialism, folks, is a failure pure and simple. But confiscatory Socialism and Robber Baron dog-eat-dog Capitalism CANNOT be the only two options we have! We should have more faith in God than this… we should be WISER than this.

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