sustainability – your responsibility.

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MIT «DEN GRENZEN DES WACHSTUMS» WURDE DENNIS MEADOWS 1972 ÜBER NACHT BERÜHMT, SEINE VERÖFFENTLICHUNGEN SCHRIEBEN EIN STÜCK WISSENSCHAFTSGESCHICHTE. IM INTERVIEW MIT DEM STUDIO!SUS WARNT DENNIS MEADOWS NACH MEHR ALS DREISSIG JAHREN: WIR MÜSSEN UNSER DENKEN UND HANDELN GRUNDLEGEND VERÄNDERN, DAMIT EIN BESSERES LEBEN MÖGLICH WIRD.

STUDIO!SUS: In the 1970s you started publishing on environmental and sustainability issues. What was your motivation to start working on these topics?

Dennis Meadows: Initially I did not have any special interest in environmental or development issues. My undergraduate degree was in Chemistry, and I worked with the US Atomic Energy Commission for some time. Then I did my PhD in Management, focusing on computer modelling techniques. My thesis advanced a theory of why prices of pork rise and fall. Afterwards I took a year away from university. With my wife I drove from London to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and back – 100 000 kilometres in one year. The trip showed me how human neglect can turn fruitful pastures and forests into wastelands. It showed how societies rise and fall over centuries. I decided to try and understand these processes and analyze how they might be slowed or reversed. When I came back from the trip, there was, very much by luck, a chance for me to work for the Club of Rome on these issues. I took it and found my life’s work.

STUDIO!SUS: In your E TH lecture on January 21st 2005 you defined sustainability as: «It is not a destination; it is how we make the trip». What should a sustainable company look like in your opinion?

  I don’t think a company by itself can ever be totally sustainable. Sustainability is a feature of a culture or society. But companies can do things that make it easier for their host society to come into a condition of sustainability. Companies can reduce energy use and shift from use of fossil fuels to use of renewable. Companies can increase recycling and reduce use of non renewable materials. These things are obvious. They are already attempted by thousands of firms, and are not really at the centre of the effort. Sustainability is more an attitude and a set of social goals than it is a recycling plan. So to be really helpful companies could use their moral and economic resources to reinforce the idea that quality of social life is more important than acquiring more material goods. Companies can encourage honest government leaders and emphasize the importance of equitable income distribution in a society. A company could announce that it was going to quit growing in material terms and start increasing the quality of life for its employees (I doubt many publicly traded companies could do this; but those that are held privately can).

STUDIO!SUS: On the lecture you said: «Prices are politically determined and therefore they are not valid as indicators for sustainable development». Nevertheless, do you think the financial system could be a driver for sustainable development?
When society identifies a set of goals and operational principles that will make it more sustainable, some of these can be translated into market prices. For example, if society gets serious about reducing CO2 emissions, it can create a market for emission rights. So markets will be an important tool. The problem is that now we use markets to tell us what our goals should be. That is a very bad religion. For example, markets do not assign any cost to the extinction of an animal species. But society could decide that, in principle, it will not erase genetic information in any species. If it did that, it could develop a system of prices that would help achieve the goal.

STUDIO!SUS: Is sustainable investment sufficient to make the economy sustainable or is it just a way for investors to feel good?
It is not enough in itself, but it is useful. The economy will only become sustainable when people change their goals and ethics. For example, they must value the environment because it is important not because it offers products or services that generate income inDennis Meadows, geb. 1942, studierte Chemie in Montana und absolvierte zusätzlich ein Management-Studium am M.I.T.. Heute ist er Leiter des Instituts für Politik und sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung a. d. University of New Hampshire. Mit den «Grenzen des Wachstums» wurde D. Meadows 1972 schlagartig berühmt. Der Bericht des Club of Rome stellte das Versprechen ewig steigenden Konsums in Frage. current markets. Value the welfare of people in the future, even though they cannot participate in current market transactions. Deliberately work to reduce the gap between the wealthy and the poor. Quit using the rate of physical expansion, and the growth in GNP, as indicators of success. If those things are accomplished, then there will be many interesting investments to make.

STUDIO!SUS: Can you give us a recent example that could motivate us students for sustainable development?
Well, that depends on the goals of the students, which are, of course, very, very different. But students who wish to acquire wealth could look at the wind energy industry, which is the fastest growing sector of the energy business. Those who wish to remain fit can look at data on the health effects of food that is organically produced. Or look at the number of cities that have joined in the effort to reduce their carbon emissions. There are many success stories.



Dennis Meadows, geb. 1942, studierte Chemie in Montana und absolvierte zusätzlich ein Management-Studium am M.I.T.. Heute ist er Leiter des Instituts für Politik und sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung a. d. University of New Hampshire. Mit den «Grenzen des Wachstums» wurde D. Meadows 1972 schlagartig berühmt. Der Bericht des Club of Rome stellte das Versprechen ewig steigenden Konsums in Frage