Only rarely does a book truly change the world. In the nineteenth century, such a book was Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. For the twentieth century, it was The Limits to Growth. Not only did this best-selling 1972 publication help spur the environmental movement, but it showed that the underlying dynamics of the modern industrial world are unsustainable on the timescale of a couple of human lifetimes. This was profoundly important information, and it was delivered credibly and clearly, so that every policy maker could understand it. Sadly, the book was rejected by powerful people with vested interests in the Western growth-based economic model that was overtaking the rest of the world. Today we are starting to see the results of that rejection.

Climate Strike Northampton 20 September 2019 (Image: T. Larkum)

Climate Strike Northampton 20 September 2019 (Image: T. Larkum)

Of the book’s four authors, only Dennis Meadows and Jørgen Randers are active (Donella Meadows died in 2001). I recently reached out to Dr. Meadows, whom I’ve gotten to know during the past few years, to see if he would be willing to engage in a short discussion, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Limits to Growth. He graciously agreed.

Richard Heinberg: Dennis, it is an honor to have this opportunity to interview you. Congratulations on having co-authored the most important book of the past century. I’m delighted that you’re willing to reply to a few questions.

First, how is reality tracking with the scenarios you and your colleagues generated 50 years ago?

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