Event report

Herrenhausen Symposium "Already Beyond? – 40 Years Limits to Growth"


40 years ago, the Volkswagen Foundation funded the study "Limits to Growth". To celebrate this anniversary, 150 scientists, including Dennis Meadows, one of the authors of the study, met on November 28 and 29, 2012, in Herrenhausen to discuss current and future problems of globalization.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the “Limits to Growth” study by Dennis Meadows and others, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, as well as to underline its relevance for the years to come and the future of humankind, a two-day symposium "Already Beyond? – 40 years 'Limits to Growth'" was held on 28th and 29th November 2012 in Hanover, Germany.

Program Overview

Wednesday, November 28

  • Feeling a bit uneasy? – Limits to Growth and 21st Century Policies, Attitudes, and Lifestyle.
  • Where shall they all go? – Demographic Challenges and Limited Space.
  • Growth with less? – The Limits of Economic Growth.
  • Can we remain ignorant? – Climate Change and its Impact on Global Governance.

Thursday, November 29

  • What shall we eat, what shall we drink? – Global Water and Food Management.
  • What happens if Fossile Energies are depleted? – Finite Resources and Renewable Energies.
  • Saved by Society? – Life in the Anthropocene.
Dennis L. Meadows steht am Podium.

Dennis L. Meadows, Co-Author of the study "The Limits to Growth", during the Opening of the Herrenhausen Symposium.

Background of "Limits to Growth"

A bit more then 40 years ago, a small group of researches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston dared to look into the future. They summarized their results in a book that would become one of the most influential texts of the 20th century: "The Limits to Growth". One of its leading authors was the economist Dennis L. Meadows. 40 years later, the Volkswagen Foundation organized a conference with the title: "Already Beyond? 40 Years Limits to Growth". During the conference experts looked at the effects of the study and what it means for us today. Dennis L. Meadows gave the opening address.

In the context of the Herrenhausen Symposium "40 Years Limits to Growth" by the Volkswagen Foundation (November 28 -- 29, 2012), Dennis Meadows was interviewed by Christiane Grefe (DIE ZEIT) during the final session of the conference "WISSENSWERTE" in Bremen on November 27, 2012.

Audio Recordings from the Symposium

During the symposium selected presentations have been recorded.

Feeling a bit uneasy? – Limits to Growth and 21st Century: Policies, Attitudes, and Lifestyle

Keynote by Dennis L. Meadows, Laboratory of Interactive Learning, New Hampshire, USA

Where shall they all go? – Demographic Challenges and Limited Space

Chair Roland Rau, University of Rostock, Germany; Keynote David Lam, University of Michigan, USA; Discussants: Tyler J. Frazier, University of Berlin (TU), Germany and a Junior Researcher from the Winter School

Growth with less? – The Limits of Economic Growth

Chair Rüdiger Pethig, University of Siegen, Germany; Keynote Sir Partha Sarathi Dasgupta, University of Cambridge, UK; Discussants: Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay, Queen Mary, University of London, UK and a Junior Researcher from the Winter School

Can we remain ignorant? – Climate Change and its Impact on Global Governance

Chair Helga Nowotny, European Research Council, Vienna, Austria; Keynote Dirk Messner, German Development Institute, Bonn, Germany; Discussants: Felix Ekardt, Research Unit Sustainability and Climate Policy, Leipzig, Germany and a Junior Researcher from the Winter School

What shall we eat? What shall we DRINK? – Global Food AND WATER Management

Chair Junior Researcher from Winter School; Keynote Matin Qaim, University of Göttingen, Germany; Discussant Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland

What happens if Fossile Energies are Depleted? – Finite Resources and Renewable Energies

Chair Stefan Bringezu, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, and Energy; with Mark Jaccard, Wikus van Niekerk, Sibylle Günter, and a Junior Researcher from the Winter School

Saved by Society? – Life in the Anthropocene

Chair Daniel Alexander Schacht, Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany, Keynote Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Discussant: Dennis L. Meadows, Harald Welzer

What is at stake for future research and research funding?

Chair Wilhelm Krull, VolkswagenStiftung; Anthea Case, Arcadia Fund; Helga Weyerts-Schweda, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; Joan Maling, National Science Foundation; Nikolaus P. Himmelmann, Universität Köln

Winter School "Limits to Growth Revisited", Visselhövede, November 24 to December 1, 2012

Winter School on "Limits to Growth Revisited", which was addressed to 60 young researchers of all relevant fields, took place in the week running up to the symposium. Following the event, the participants developed a "White Paper" report which shows their perspectives on the various subjects discussed within the Winter School.

Program and Selected Lectures

Dr. Wilhelm Krull, VolkswagenStiftung
Welcome Note (PDF, 66.5 KB)

Plenary Session 1: "How to Rock the World. Limits to Growth and its Impact"
Dr. Frank Uekoetter
Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, University of Munich, Germany

Lecture: How To Rock the World. Limits to Growth and its Impact (PDF, 61 KB)

Plenary Session 2: "Models vs. Reality: From Early Conceptual via Linear to More Advanced Models" 
Professor Jürgen Kurths
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany
Lecture: Models vs. Reality – Problems, Modelling, Challenges (pdf) (PDF, 1.5 MB)
Lecture: Complex Networks Approach (pdf) (PDF, 6.4 MB)

Plenary Session 3: "The Limits to (Population) Growth - Personal Perspectives of a Demographer"
Professor Roland Rau
Department of Demography
University of Rostock, Germany

Plenary Session 4: "Global Food Security and Natural Resource Scarcities: What are Sustainable Strategies"
Professor Matin Qaim
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development
University of Göttingen, Germany
Lecture: Global food security and natural resource scarcities: what are sustainable strategies? (pdf) (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Keynote: System Dynamics
Professor Stefan Pickl, 
University of the Armed Forces München