“The limits to growth”, a prescient classic according to Nature

While Nations gathered in Paris to negotiate an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, Nature magazine published a special “Paris Climate Talk” edition in the run-up to COP21. For this issue, Nature asked Adam Rome, environmental historian at the University of Delaware in Newark, to revisit the classics that first made sustainability a public issue in the 1960s and 1970s.

The five books identified as the most influential are (in chronological order):

5 covers


  1. The Meaning of the Twentieth Century: The Great Transition by Kenneth E. Boulding (1964)
  2. Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller (1969)
  3. The Closing Circle: Nature, Man, and Technology by Barry Commoner (1971)
  4. The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III (1972)
  5. Only One Earth: The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet by Barbara Ward and René DuBos (1972)

Why were these 5 books selected as the as pioneering books? “They had a freshness, urgency and breadth that are hard to credit today, and they are still remarkably relevant” writes Prof. Rome. The authors were all “big-picture, interdisciplinary thinkers par excellence”. These books portray sustainability not just an environmental challenge but something bigger than that. They explain that to develop a sustainable society, we need a to think holistically.  We are proud that the Club’s “The Limits to Growth” is one of the selected titles.
Read “Sustainability: The launch of Spaceship Earth” in Nature.