Limits to Growth and Sustainable Development

Posted on Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sean McDonagh's 2nd reflection from the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development's 19th session in New York reflects on the ground-breaking 'Limits to Growth' study published in 1972 and charts developments over the intervening period.

Even before that global event, a small group of thinkers were beginning to ask

the question, whether there are upper limits to the Earth’s capacity to cope with 

human activity? One of the first books to systematically address the issue was 

called Limits to Growth. It was published in 1972.

The book’s various chapters addressed a variety of economic, social and ecological issues from the 

perspective of sustainability, beginning with the notion of ‘overshoot.’ This 

term refers to whether human activity at this moment in time has overshot the 

capacity of the Earth and some vital ecosystems to renew. Another chapter 

attempted to identify the main forces driving the dynamics of growth in a finite 

world. Other chapters looked at the impact of technology on sustainable 

development and considered how to move from the current unsustainable 

framework of development to a sustainable way of living on the planet. 

Full Document can be downloaded below