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Limits to Growth – 40th Anniversary

40 years ago today, a group of MIT scientists made their first public report on a study that came to be known as Limits to Growth. They had used systems dynamics to build a computer model of human activity on Earth. They called the model World3. Today I want to share a clip from GrowthBusters about that landmark study:

The business-as-usual scenario played out by World3 sounded an alarm – that we need to make some changes if we want to avoid overshooting the capacity of the planet and the ugly collapse that would ensue. For the next 40 years we kept hitting the snooze button.

Now, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of that study, it is time for a new wake-up call. From today through Earth Day, I intend to honor that study and reawaken the discussion surrounding limits to growth on a finite planet. I’m not alone in this quest. Many brilliant, articulate experts have agreed to share their thoughts with us. And the Club of Rome, which commissioned that original Limits to Growth study, will have a lot going on, too. I have some twists, turns and surprises planned along the way. So fasten your seatbelt!

We’ll start by conducting our own demonstration of exponential growth. Please invite your family, your kids, your friends or colleagues to be your lab partner as you do this yourself at home or office. If you missed my post a few days ago with the video about wheat on a chessboard, please review. Once you’ve viewed the YouTube video recounting this fable, we can proceed. I think this will be very powerful for anyone who is unconcerned about how fast our system could be overwhelmed.

What we’ll do is take a large, clear container – a jar, a beaker, or a pitcher, and we’ll proceed to add grains of wheat: 1 grain the first day, twice that the second day. Each day, your beaker should have twice as many grains as it had the day before. This will simulate ordinary, exponential growth.We’re doing this simulation at GrowthBusters world headquarters, too. So I’ll be posting photos here. Ready? Begin! Add one grain to your beaker.

Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner is the director of the new documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth, which uncovers the cultural forces that keep us pursuing growth in the face of overwhelming evidence we’ve outgrown the planet.

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    Dave Gardner


    If you’re doing your own exponential growth demonstration at home or office, please share photos, video, reactions from family or co-workers, etc. with us here. For videos, post your video to YouTube, title it Limits to Growth – (add your own subtitle here) and post a link here. Thanks!


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