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Special Issue "40th Anniversary of 'The Limits to Growth'"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2012)

Special Issue Editors

Managing Editor
Dr. Shu-Kun Lin (Website)

MDPI AG, St. Alban-Anlage 66, CH-4052 Basel, Switzerland
Interests: Gibbs paradox; entropy; symmetry; similarity; diversity; information theory; thermodynamics; process irreversibility or spontaneity; stability; nature of the chemical processes; molecular recognition; open access journals
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Jørgen Randers (Website)

Norwegian Business School BI, 0442 Oslo, Norway
Phone: +47-92 24 06 87
Interests: futures research; sustainable development; climate strategy; system dynamics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In 1972, a book entitled “The Limits to Growth“ raised awareness of our planet’s limited resources and the challenges caused by continuous population growth. On the 40th anniversary of this renowned book, Sustainability is dedicating a special issue to this important piece of literature. This special issue aims at revisiting and analyzing the limits to growth of contemporary societies and the current status of resource consumption.

Dr. Shu-Kun Lin
Managing Editor

Prof. Dr. Jørgen Randers
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • limits to growth
  • finite resources
  • consumption
  • population growth

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Avoiding the Limits to Growth: Gross National Happiness in Bhutan as a Model for Sustainable Development
Sustainability 2013, 5(9), 3640-3664; doi:10.3390/su5093640
Received: 2 July 2013 / Revised: 2 August 2013 / Accepted: 12 August 2013 / Published: 26 August 2013
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (999 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In their 30-year update to Limits to Growth, Meadows et al. call for a vision of sustainable development that includes systemic change brought on by new perspectives on the purpose of development, new ways of measuring progress, and changes in social [...] Read more.
In their 30-year update to Limits to Growth, Meadows et al. call for a vision of sustainable development that includes systemic change brought on by new perspectives on the purpose of development, new ways of measuring progress, and changes in social norms. Here, I discuss Meadows et al.’s work in the context of the literature on sustainable development and well-being as well as the development trajectory of Bhutan. I suggest that Bhutan’s development approach mirrors Meadows et al.’s recommendations and provides one model for sustainable development. The ideal of maximizing Gross National Happiness (GNH) exemplifies Bhutan’s commitment to holistic development and dovetails with arguments about the shortcomings of approaches that emphasize economic growth. I provide examples of how GNH has been put into practice, describe how happiness is being measured, and discuss the emergence of social norms and a shared Bhutanese identity that may contribute to sustainable development. Bhutan’s development success suggests that an alternative to growth-centric development is viable. However, while Bhutan’s standard of living has increased, the country faces challenges, the most important of which may be their ability to manage rising consumption levels. Importantly, other nations have begun measuring well-being and considering similar development approaches. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue 40th Anniversary of 'The Limits to Growth')
Open AccessArticle The Impact of Climate, CO2 and Population on Regional Food and Water Resources in the 2050s
Sustainability 2013, 5(5), 2129-2151; doi:10.3390/su5052129
Received: 29 March 2013 / Revised: 19 April 2013 / Accepted: 2 May 2013 / Published: 10 May 2013
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (2378 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Population growth and climate change are likely to impact upon food and water availability over the coming decades. In this study we use an ensemble of climate simulations to project the implications of both these drivers on regional changes in food and [...] Read more.
Population growth and climate change are likely to impact upon food and water availability over the coming decades. In this study we use an ensemble of climate simulations to project the implications of both these drivers on regional changes in food and water. This study highlights the dominant effect of population growth on per capita resource allocation over climate induced changes in our model projections. We find a strong signal for crop yield reductions due to climate change by the 2050s in the absence of CO2 fertilisation effects. However, when these additional processes are included this trend is reversed. The impacts of climate on water resources are more uncertain. Overall, we find reductions in the global population living in water stressed conditions due to the combined effects of climate and CO2. Africa is a key region where projected decreases in runoff and crop productivity from climate change alone are potentially reversed when CO2 fertilisation effects are included, but this is highly uncertain. Plant physiological response to increasing atmospheric CO2 is a major driver of the changes in crop productivity and water availability in this study; it is poorly constrained by observations and is thus a critical uncertainty. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue 40th Anniversary of 'The Limits to Growth')
Open AccessArticle Microfoundations for Sustainable Growth with Eco-Intelligent Product Service-Arrangements
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1141-1160; doi:10.3390/su5031141
Received: 8 December 2012 / Revised: 20 February 2013 / Accepted: 8 March 2013 / Published: 19 March 2013
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (901 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper argues that the contemporary growth paradigm needs to be reconsidered on a micro level of consumption and product service-systems. This becomes necessary since a dynamic link between macro strategies and micro implementation of sustainable growth is missing up to date. [...] Read more.
This paper argues that the contemporary growth paradigm needs to be reconsidered on a micro level of consumption and product service-systems. This becomes necessary since a dynamic link between macro strategies and micro implementation of sustainable growth is missing up to date. Therefore, mainstream sustainability strategies of efficiency and consistency are extended by sufficiency in order to integrate strategies for individual welfare within their social environment. Limits to and drivers for growth are revised and updated socially in terms of qualitative values, diminishing marginal utility or symbolic social distinction. We elaborate a definition of sustainable growth that fosters individual welfare by enhancing social enactment within the boundaries of environmental space. Shifting focus on social aspects in design fosters more sustainable production and consumption patterns while sustaining individual welfare. We derive latent indications for eco-intelligent product service-arrangements and evaluate to concepts by referring to introduced definitions and according indications. With doing so, we illustrate new pathways for the translation of sustainable growth and strategies into product service-systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue 40th Anniversary of 'The Limits to Growth')
Open AccessArticle Mind Sized World Models
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 896-911; doi:10.3390/su5030896
Received: 10 December 2012 / Revised: 31 January 2013 / Accepted: 8 February 2013 / Published: 4 March 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (735 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
One of the factors that led to the wide rejection of the 1972 “Limits to Growth” report was the inability for most people to understand the model used in the study. In the present paper, the author builds simple “mind sized” world [...] Read more.
One of the factors that led to the wide rejection of the 1972 “Limits to Growth” report was the inability for most people to understand the model used in the study. In the present paper, the author builds simple “mind sized” world models designed to convey to readers the main qualitative features of world modeling. These models turn out to provide results comparable to real-world historical cases and are similar to those generated by the more complex “World3” model used for the “Limits to Growth” study. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue 40th Anniversary of 'The Limits to Growth')
Open AccessArticle Asymptotic Behavior of a Delay Differential Neoclassical Growth Model
Sustainability 2013, 5(2), 440-455; doi:10.3390/su5020440
Received: 27 November 2012 / Revised: 17 January 2013 / Accepted: 22 January 2013 / Published: 31 January 2013
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (687 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
A neoclassical growth model is examined with a special mound-shaped production function. Continuous time scales are assumed and a complete steady state and stability analysis is presented. Fixed delay is then assumed and it is shown how the asymptotic stability of the [...] Read more.
A neoclassical growth model is examined with a special mound-shaped production function. Continuous time scales are assumed and a complete steady state and stability analysis is presented. Fixed delay is then assumed and it is shown how the asymptotic stability of the steady state is lost if the delay reaches a certain threshold, where Hopf bifurcation occurs. In the case of continuously distriubuted delays, we show that with small average delays stability is preserved, then lost at a threshold, then it is regained if the average delay becomes sufficiently large. The occurence of Hopf bifurcation is shown at both critical values. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue 40th Anniversary of 'The Limits to Growth')
Open AccessArticle Growth Is the Problem; Equality Is the Solution
Sustainability 2013, 5(2), 432-439; doi:10.3390/su5020432
Received: 30 November 2012 / Revised: 21 January 2013 / Accepted: 22 January 2013 / Published: 30 January 2013
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (133 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
While the world economy has become more efficient in one sense, i.e., ecological damage per dollar's worth of economic output, growth in human population size and per-capita production and consumption of goods and services have together far outpaced these gains. Grievous [...] Read more.
While the world economy has become more efficient in one sense, i.e., ecological damage per dollar's worth of economic output, growth in human population size and per-capita production and consumption of goods and services have together far outpaced these gains. Grievous environmental harm has resulted, whether measured in terms of human sustainability through the ecological footprint, or non-human welfare through such indicators as the living planet index and the number of threatened species. Many have therefore called for a reorientation of economic priorities away from growth, and toward equality as a more environmentally-friendly way to enhance human well-being. In this paper, I test the merits of this proposal through analysis of a few key national economic and ecological variables across time and space. The results confirm the hypothesis that equality does far less harm to ecosystems than growth does. In fact, equality seems to benefit one crucial aspect of environmental quality, namely biological diversity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue 40th Anniversary of 'The Limits to Growth')

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