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The Limits to Growth: A report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind

Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens

A Potomac Associates book, 1972

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About the Book

Limits to Growth, a study of the patterns and dynamics of human presence on earth, pointed toward environmental and economic collapse within a century if "business as usual" continued. In 1972, the book's findings sparked a worldwide controversy about the earth's capacity to withstand constant human and economic expansion. More than 40 years later, with more than 10 million copies sold in 28 languages, this "little book with powerful ideas" endures as a touchstone for anyone seeking to understand the complex relationships underlying today's global environmental and economic trends.

To celebrate the book's 40th anniversary, the Club of Rome and the Smithsonian Institute hosted a symposium, Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet, in Washington, D.C. in 2012.


About the Authors

Donella H. Meadows

Dr. Donella Meadows, the lead author of Limits to Growth and its updates, was a professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College until her death in 2001. She inspired hundreds of students in her courses on environmental systems, ethics, and journalism during her tenure, but her influence spread far beyond the classroom. A scientist, author, teacher, and farmer committed to helping society create a sustainable path, she was one of the world's foremost systems analysts and lead author of Limits to Growth and its 20- and 30-year updates. A MacArthur Fellow and Pew Scholar, Dr. Meadows is most widely remembered for her nationally-syndicated column, "The Global Citizen", which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Dr. Meadows was also the founder of the Sustainability Institute and Cobb Hill Cohousing and co-founder of the Balaton Group.

In honor of her legacy as a faculty member and as an inspiring voice for societal transformation, the Sustainability Institute, now known as the Donella Meadows Institute, donated her papers to Dartmouth's Rauner Library, where they reside as the Donella Meadows Collection.

Dennis L. Meadows

Dr. Dennis Meadows is professor emeritus of Systems Policy at the University of New Hampshire and president of the Laboratory for Interactive Learning. Winner of the 2009 Japan Prize for "contributions in the area of transformation towards a sustainable society in harmony with nature", he is co-founder of the Balaton Group and past president of both the International System Dynamics Society and the International Simulation and Gaming Association.

Dr. Meadows was a professor at the Tuck School of Business and Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College between 1972 and 1988.

Jørgen Randers

Dr. Jørgen Randers is professor of Climate Strategy at the Norwegian Business School. He has served as deputy director general of the World Wide Fund for Nature and chair of the Norwegian Commission on Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

Dr. Randers is most recently the author of 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years.

William W. Behrens

Dr. William Behrens is co-founder of ReVision Energy, a renewable energy contracting company based in Maine and New Hampshire.


About the Electronic Publication

This electronic publication of the first edition of Limits to Growth was made possible with funding from the Donella Meadows Institute and permission of the authors. The Dartmouth College Library Digital Production Unit scanned a first edition, 5th printing of the paperback book, and made the adjustments necessary to produce the best possible quality high resolution PDF for downloading and printing. The front and back covers were scanned in color and the body of the text in black and white for clarity of the text and figures. A lower resolution PDF was generated for viewing within the page turner application Issuu. The Dartmouth College Library Text Markup Unit prepared the TEI markup. The Digital Library Technologies Group prepared the stylesheet for the HTML and developed the management system for the files. Shaun Akhtar, the intern during most of this project, provided assistance in many ways throughout the project.

The HTML version includes in-line images of the many charts and graphs. You can download figures, graphs and tables from the HTML version of Limits to Growth. Your file name will include the project title of "meadows_ltg", the page number and the figure number, so please keep that information to cite these images if you use them in presentations.

After the completion of the original project, the Dartmouth Digital Library Program converted Limits to Growth into two e-book formats: EPUB and MOBI. These are available at the "Download Mobile Version" link above. Instructions for downloading the files to your computer or other device can also be found at that link.

Please send comments and corrections to Barbara DeFelice, project lead, at Barbara.DeFelice@dartmouth.edu.


Rights Information

Published with permission of Dennis Meadows, Jørgen Randers, William Behrens III, the Sustainability Institute (on behalf of lead author Donella Meadows), and William Watts, President of Potomac Associates.

Dartmouth College Library assigns a Creative Commons BY-NC license to the digital work and associated web site.

Creative Commons License


Bibliographic Information

Published by Universe Books, New York, 1972. ISBN 0876631650, 205 pages. GF75 .L5.

DOI: 10.1349/ddlp.1


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Last Updated: 6/16/15