World Model
Standard Run,
The Limits to
Growth
(1972)

The Limits to Growth is a 1972 report on exponential economic and population growth in a finite world. Commissioned by international think tank the Club of Rome, a team of MIT researchers led by Donella and Dennis Meadows built a computer model called World3 to simulate the interactions between resource consumption, industrial output, population size, food production, and Earth’s ecosystems. After modelling data from 1900-70, the team developed a range of possible scenarios through 2100. On a “business as usual” trajectory (World Model Standard Run), the model predicted “overshoot and collapse”—in the economy, environment, and population—before 2070. Often criticized as doomsday fantasy, a 2014 University of Melbourne research paper found that the report’s forecasts are accurate, 40 years on.