British writer and environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, co-founder of Forum for the Future, a prominent sustainable development charity in the United Kingdom, selected Chelsea Green’s own Limits to Growth as one of five best books for saving the world!
Read Jonathon’s explanation of his choice in an interview with Five Books, below.
Tell me about Limits to Growth.
This is a report produced in 1972, but it’s still as current now as it was then and is still available today. It was commissioned by the Club of Rome and produced by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. What they did was simply to look at projections for world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production and resource depletion and draw up models of what would happen to the earth in those areas. At the heart of it was the message that we need to make wiser use of the earth’s finite resources. That is true now and it was true 30 years ago. We have to get into a different mindset about the earth’s resources. It’s not saying that everything is going to run out tomorrow, but if we get smart there is no reason why the earth shouldn’t be able to sustain us way into the future.
When is it all going to run out?
Tricky question! But if we take, for example, the aluminium can – we are all familiar with that – if it was in a closed loop cycle, if nearly every can were recycled, then, clearly the amount of aluminium that would need to be mined would be very small. It’s easy to see how the economy can keep churning with renewable resources in that way, but with oil and gas, these are strictly finite. There are a lot of hydrocarbons in the world and, though not everybody agrees with me, I think there will always be a lot simply because we will stop using them for environmental reasons long before it runs out.
So, this is a report without laughs in it?
You want laughs?
Well, I suppose I mean – is it readable?
Yes, it’s written for the layperson so it’s very readable. I wouldn’t choose anything unreadable unless you think Moby-Dick is unreadable.
Read more about Limits To Growth: The 30 Year Update by Donella Meadows, Dennis Meadows, and Jorgen Randers.