On Thursday March 1st 2012, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launching of Limits to Growth, the first report to the Club of Rome, a symposium entitled “Perspectives on Limits to Growth: Challenges to Building a Sustainable Planet” was hosted in Washington, DC by the Club of Rome and the Smithsonian Institution’s Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet.
The joint symposium of Club of Rome and the Smithsonian Institution celebrated the 40th anniversary of the launching of Limits to Growth, the first report of the Club of Rome published in 1972. This book, which sold over ten million copies in various languages, was one of the earliest scholarly works to recognize that the world was fast approaching its sustainable limits. Forty years later, the planet continues to face many of the same economic, social, and environmental challenges as when the book was first published.
The symposium, which was held in the Rasmuson Theater of the National Museum of the American Indian on the Mall, was divided into two sessions. The morning session focused on the lessons of Limits to Growth and consisted of presentations by two of the original authors of the work, Dennis Meadows and Jørgen Randers. These talks were complemented by an outside perspective from Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute and author of World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse.
The afternoon session addressed the difficult challenges of preserving biodiversity, adjusting to a changing climate, and solving the societal issues now facing the planet. Dr. Doug Erwin, Senior Scientist and Curator of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History and author of Extinction (Columbia University press), addressed how climate has structured biodiversity over long periods of time in the geologic history of the planet. Prof. Richard Alley, a well-known geoscientist from Pennsylvania State University and presenter and author of the of the PBS series and book Earth: The Operator’s Manual, spoke on climate change in the present-day world. Finally, Neva Goodwin, the Director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University and lead author of Microeconomics in Context and Macroeconomics in Context, addressed the many societal challenges that must be addressed in a world without growth, from ecological health to restructuring corporations for social responsibility. The symposium ended with a thought-provoking panel discussion among the speakers on future steps for building a sustainable planet. The panel was moderated by Dr.Eva J. Pell, Under Secretary for Science.