Limits to Growth – A Visit With Jorgen Randers

Mar 13, 2012

This is day two of our lab experiment demonstrating the power of exponential growth. Yesterday we placed one grain of wheat in our beaker. Here’s what that looked like:

Exponential Growth ExperimentToday we will double the number of grains in our beaker. Tomorrow we’ll double that. This represents just under 3% growth per hour. It’s not too late for you to join us in this demonstration. Get your family involved, or co-workers, or fellow students. Share your photos, videos or experiment stories with us in the comments below.

For forty years, the scientists who developed the computer models behind the Club of Rome‘s Limits to Growth study have watched as their recommendations were ignored. Visiting with Dennis Meadows a couple of year ago I believe I could sense the toll that had taken. In my own case, I’ve been busting growth addiction for only 25% of that time, and I feel pretty weary at times.

One of the scientists, Jorgen Randers, retains a surprising amount of optimism. I caught up with Jorgen at the recent Perspectives on Limits to Growth symposium in Washington D.C. Here are a few moments from that conversation:

Every ten years, a decadal update to Limits to Growth has been published in book form. Several of those were penned by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers. We lost Dana Meadows shortly before the last update was published. This year, as we honor the study’s 40th anniversary, an updated volume will be published June 1, without the Meadows name. Keep your eyes open for 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years.

Jorgen Randers is professor of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, where he works on climate issues and scenario analysis. He was previously president of BI and deputy director general of WWF International (World Wildlife Fund) in Switzerland. He sits on the sustainability councils of British Telecom in the UK and the Dow Chemical Company in the United States. In 2006 he chaired the cabinet-appointed Commission on Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which reported on how Norway can cut its climate gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050.

Dave Gardner
Filmmaker

Dave Gardner is the director of the new documentary,


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