Donella Meadows, Lead Author of The Limits to Growth, Has Died
Donella H. Meadows, 59, a pioneering environmental scientist and writer, died Tuesday, February 20, 2001, in New Hampshire after a brief illness. She was best known to the world as the lead author of the international bestselling book The Limits to Growth, published in 1972. The book, which reported on a study of long-term global trends in population, economics, and the environment, sold millions of copies and was translated into 28 languages. She was also the lead author of the twenty-year follow-up study, Beyond the Limits (1992), with original co-authors Dennis Meadows and Jørgen Randers.
Professor Meadows, known as "Dana" to friends and colleagues, was a leading voice in what has become known as the "sustainability movement," an international effort to reverse damaging trends in the environment, economy, and social systems. Her work is widely recognized as a formative influence on hundreds of other academic studies, government policy initiatives, and international agreements.
Dana Meadows was also a devoted teacher of environmental systems, ethics, and journalism to her students at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where she taught for 29 years. In addition to her many original contributions to systems theory and global trend analysis, she managed a small farm and was a vibrant member of her local community. Genuinely unconcerned with her international fame, she often referred to herself simply as "a farmer and a writer."
Donella Meadows was born March 13, 1941 in Elgin, Illinois, and educated in science, earning a B.A. in chemistry from Carleton College in 1963 and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University in 1968. As a research fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she was a protégé of Jay Forrester, the inventor of system dynamics as well as the principle of magnetic data storage for computers.
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 Limits to Growth. The book made headlines around the world, and began a debate about the limits of the Earth's capacity to support human economic expansion that continues to this day. Her writing appearing most often in the form of a weekly column called "The Global Citizen," nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1991 has been published regularly in the international press since that time.
In 1981, together with her former husband Dennis Meadows, Donella Meadows founded the International Network of Resource Information Centers (INRIC), also called the Balaton Group (after the lake in Hungary where the group meets annually). The group built early and critical avenues of exchange between scientists on both sides of the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War.
As the Balaton Group's coordinator for eighteen years, she facilitated what grew to become an unusually effective process of information sharing and collaboration among hundreds of leading academics, researchers, and activists in the sustainability movement. Professor Meadows also served on many national and international boards and scientific committees, and taught and lectured all over the world. She was recognized as a 1991 Pew Scholar and as a 1994 MacArthur Fellow for her work. In 1992 the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) presented her with an honorary doctorate.
In 1996, Professor Meadows founded the Sustainability Institute, which she described as a "think-do-tank." The Institute combines cutting edge research in global systems with practical demonstrations of sustainable living, including the development of an ecological village and organic farm in Hartland Four Corners, Vermont.
Donella Meadows is survived by her mother, Phoebe Quist of Tahlequah Oklahoma; her father, Don Hager of Palatine; a brother, Jason Hager, of Wisconsin; cousins and nephews; and a large community of colleagues and friends, both international and local, in the organizations that she founded and assisted._________
Obituary prepared by members of the Balaton Group (INRIC)
Donella Meadows, 59, of Hartland Four Corners, Vermont, died Tuesday, February 20, 2001, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, New Hampshire, after a brief illness. She was an Adjunct Professor at Dartmouth College and Director of the Sustainability Institute with headquarters in Hartland.
Donella Meadows was born March 13, 1941 in Elgin, Illinois, and trained as a scientist, earning a B.A. in chemistry from Carleton College in 1963 and a Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University in 1968.
Donella Meadows taught at Dartmouth College from 1972 until her death. She was on the faculty of the interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program and the graduate program of the Resource Policy Center. In 1983 she resigned her tenured professorship to devote more time to international activities and writing. She retained an Adjunct Professorship at Dartmouth, teaching environmental journalism and, more recently, environmental ethics.
In 1972 Meadows was on the team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology that produced the global computer model "World3" for the Club of Rome. She was the principal author of the book The Limits to Growth, which described that model, and sold millions of copies in 28 languages. In 1991 she collaborated with her co-authors, Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers, on a twenty-year update to The Limits to Growth, called Beyond the Limits. She was also co-author of two technical books, published in 1973 and 1974 by the MIT Press, Toward Global Equilibrium and The Dynamics of Growth in a Finite World.
Since then she has been involved in numerous studies of social, environmental, energy, and agriculture systems. She chronicled the emerging field of global modeling in her 1981 book Groping in the Dark: the First Decade of Global Modeling. In 1983 she criticized the state of the art of social system modeling using nine case studies in The Electronic Oracle: Computer Models and Social Decisions.
Since 1985, Donella Meadows has written a weekly newspaper column, "The Global Citizen," self-syndicated in more than 20 papers nationwide. The column was awarded second place in the 1985 Champion-Tuck national competition for outstanding journalism in the fields of business and economics. "The Global Citizen" also received the Walter C. Paine Science Education Award in 1990 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1991. Selected columns were published in 1991 as a book, also called The Global Citizen.
With Dennis Meadows she founded and coordinated INRIC, the International Network of Resource Information Centers, also called the Balaton Group. INRIC is a coalition of systems-oriented analysts and activists in 50 nations, all of whom work to promote sustainable, high-productivity resource management. Through INRIC, Meadows developed training games and workshops on resource management, which she presented in Hungary, Kenya, Costa Rica, Portugal, Singapore, Germany, and the United States. She helped to organize an annual conference in Hungary at which Balaton Group members exchange information and plan joint projects.
During 1988-90 Meadows worked with television producers at WGBH-TV in Boston to develop the ten-part PBS series "Race to Save the Planet." She was writing a college textbook, tentatively titled A Sustainable World: an Introduction to Environmental Systems, to accompany the programs as part of an Annenberg/CPB telecourse.
Donella Meadows served on the Board of Directors of the Hunger Project, the Winrock International Livestock Research Center, and the Trust for New Hampshire Lands. She was a co-founder and served on the Boards of the Upper Valley Land Trust and the Center for a New American Dream, and had been a consultant to the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress. She was a member of the Committee for Population, Resources, and the Environment of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society.
Meadows had been a visiting scholar at the East-West Center in Honolulu, the Resource Policy Group in Oslo, Norway, the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, and the Environmental Systems Analysis Group of the University of Kassel in Germany.
In 1991 Donella Meadows was selected as one of ten Pew Scholars in Conservation and the Environment. Her three-year award supported her international work in resource management with a systems point of view. In 1994 she was awarded a five-year MacArthur Fellowship by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Meadows lived for 27 years on a small, communal, organic farm in Plainfield, New Hampshire, where she worked at sustainable resource management directly. In 1999 she moved to Cobb Hill in Hartland Four Corners, Vermont. There she worked with others to found an eco-village, maintain an organic farm, and establish headquarters for the Sustainability Institute. Development of both the co-housing village and the Institute will continue.
Donella Meadows' mother, Phoebe Quist, has referred to her daughter as an "earth missionary." Meadows described herself in light-hearted Website profiles as "an opinionated columnist, perpetual fund-raiser, fanatic gardener, opera-lover, baker, farmer, teacher and global gadfly."
Donella Meadows is survived by her mother of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, her father, Don Hager of Palatine, Illinois, a brother, Jason Hager, of Waterford, Wisconsin, and cousins and nephews.
Memorial donations may be made to The Sustainability Institute or to Cobb Hill Cohousing, both at 3 Linden Road, Hartland, VT 05048.
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