This is the first of a three-part podcast created by Katy Shields and Vegard Beyer. The series tells the true story of why the 1970s book "The Limits to Growth" was, after positive initial reception, fought and since ignored.
That book was based on a pioneering MIT project that combined the most advanced computing power of the era with the very latest and best scientific research about humanity's impact on our environment. Using a new form of modelling called Systems Dynamics, a team of brilliant young scientists, led by Doctors Dennis and Donella (Dana) Meadows, built a model of the world and used it to create and test scenarios about humanity's future. They found that if we continued on our path of unfettered economic growth, we risked triggering a collapse in our modern civilization by the middle of the 21st century. But they also described a scenario in which collapse could be avoided, if humanity shifted its goal from growth-at-all-costs, to delivering prosperity for all within the planet’s limits.
The Limits to Growth became a worldwide bestseller and is widely agreed to have kick-started the environmental movement. Yet it was attacked and demolished by mainstream scientists, business interests and, most notably, economists, who refused to acknowledge the possibility that humankind may not be able to seek undifferentiated growth in our economic activity, indefinitely. Because of this, it remains a polemical and largely misunderstood book to this day, despite recent studies supporting the team's original findings, not to mention the growing body of scientific evidence indicating we have indeed breached many of the planet's ecological limits and now find ourselves on a pathway, this century, to an unlivable world.
The story is told from the perspective of Dana Meadows, the book's late author and sustainability pioneer, leveraging an unpublished written account. Kicking off in Harvard in the late 1960s, Part 1 explores how the project came to be, and how the young scientists found themselves thrust into what would arguably become one of the most controversial – but also prescient – scientific projects of all time.
For the full credits and acknowledgements, see About the Podcast.