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Donella H. Meadows

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Donella H. Meadows

Donella H. "Dana" Meadows[1] (March 13, 1941 Elgin, Illinois – February 20, 2001, Hanover, New Hampshire) was a pioneering American environmental scientist, teacher and writer. She is best known as lead author of the influential book The Limits to Growth, which made headlines around the world.


Born in Elgin, Illinois, Meadows was educated in science, receiving a B.A. in chemistry from Carleton College in 1963, and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard in 1968. After a year-long trip with her husband, Dennis Meadows, from England to Sri Lanka and back, she became, along with him, a research fellow at MIT as a member of a team in the department created by Jay Forrester, the inventor of system dynamics as well as the principle of magnetic data storage for computers. She taught at Dartmouth College for 29 years, beginning in 1972.[2] She died in 2001 from a bacterial infection.[3]

Meadows was honored both as a Pew Scholar in Conservation and Environment (1991) and as a MacArthur Fellow (1994).[4] She received the Walter C. Paine Science Education Award in 1990. She also posthumously received the John H. Chafee Excellence in Environmental Affairs Award for 2001 presented by the Conservation Law Foundation.

Meadows wrote a weekly column called "The Global Citizen",[5] commenting on world events from a systems point of view. Many of these columns are compiled and published in a book.[6] Her work is widely recognized as a formative influence on hundreds of other academic studies, government policy initiatives, and international agreements.

Donella was a long-term member of the US Association for the Club of Rome, which has instituted an award in her memory "The US Association for the Club of Rome Donella Meadows Award in Sustainable Global Actions". This coveted award is given to a highly outstanding individual who has created actions in a global framework toward the sustainability goals of Donella expressed in her writings.


The Limits to Growth

Main article: The Limits to Growth

In 1972 she was on the MIT team that produced the global computer model "World3" for the Club of Rome and provided the basis for the book, The Limits to Growth. The book reported a study of long-term global trends in population, economics and the environment. The book made headlines around the world, and began a debate about the limits of Earth's capacity to support human economic expansion, a debate that continues to this day.[7]

The Balaton Group

In 1982 Donella Meadows and Dennis Meadows created an international "network of networks" for leading researchers on resource use, environmental conservation, systems modeling, and sustainability. Since its foundation the members have met at Lake Balaton in Hungary, every autumn. While the formal name for the network was the International Network of Resource Information Centres (INRIC), it became more popularly known as the Balaton Group[8] based on the location of its meetings.

Sustainability Institute and Donella Meadows Institute

Donella Meadows was the founder of the Sustainability Institute, combining research in global systems with practical demonstrations of sustainable living, including the development of a cohousing or ecovillage and organic farm at Cobb Hill in Hartland, Vermont in the United States. In 2011 the Sustainability Institute, originally located adjacent to Cobb Hill, was renamed the Donella Meadows Institute and moved its offices to Norwich, Vermont.

State of the Village Report

In 1990 Donella Meadows published the State of the Village Report under the title "Who lives in the Global Village?" [9] "If the world were a village of 100 people" has since been published in Spanish and Japanese.

Twelve leverage points

Meadows published Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System,[10] one of her best-known essays, in 1999. It describes what types of interventions in a system (of any kind) are most effective, and which are least effective.

See also

Systems science portal


Further reading

  • Donella H. Meadows, Jorgen Randers and Dennis L. Meadows Limits to Growth-The 30 year Update, 2004, hardcover ISBN 1-931498-51-2
  • Dennis L. Meadows, Donella H. Meadows, Eds. Toward Global Equilibrium: Collected Papers, Pegasus Communications, 1973, hardcover ISBN 0-262-13143-9
  • Donella H. Meadows and J. M. Robinson, The Electronic Oracle: Computer Models and Social Decisions, ISBN 0-471-90558-5
  • Donella H. Meadows, Global Citizen, ISBN 1-55963-058-2
  • Donella H. Meadows, et al. Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind, New American Library, 1977, paperback, ISBN 0-451-13695-0; Universe Books, hardcover, 1972, ISBN 0-87663-222-3 (scarce).
  • Donella H. Meadows et al. Beyond the limits : global collapse or a sustainable future, ISBN 1-85383-130-1
  • Donella H. Meadows (2008) Thinking in Systems - A primer (Earthscan) ISBN 978-1-84407-726-7
  • Dennis L. Meadows, Donella H. Meadows and Jorgen Randers, Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future, ISBN 0-930031-62-8
  • Donella H. Meadows, ISBN 0-471-10027-7
  • edited by Sandi Brockway, foreword by Marilyn Ferguson, introduction by Denis Hayes, preface by Donella H. Meadows, Macrocosm U. S. A.: Possibilities for a New Progressive Era..., ISBN 0-9632315-5-3
  • Michael J. Caduto, foreword by Donella H. Meadows, illustrated by Joan Thomson, Pond and Brook: A Guide to Nature in Freshwater Environments, ISBN 0-87451-509-2
  • Ikeda Kayoko, C. Douglas Lummis, Si El Mundo Fuera Una Aldea De 100 Personas/if The World Were A Village Of 100 People, Paperback, 64 pages, ISBN 84-7669-625-6. Japanese/English version: ISBN 4-8387-1361-4

External links

  • Donella Meadows Institute
  • The Global Citizen, bi-weekly column by Meadows
  • Another link for Global Citizen
  • The website of the Balaton Group (International Network of Resource Information Centers)
  • Cobb Hill website
  • A copy of her original Global Village report (based on 1000 people)
  • The Miniature Earth project based on Donella Meadows text

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