Articles by Donella Meadows

Below are articles Donella Meadows wrote between 1988 and her death in 2001, organized alphabetically. Click here to browse the articles as larger blurbs in chronological order.

A Development Worth Watching
1989—Costa Rica sets a good example with its “Strategy for Sustainable Development”

A Synopsis: Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
2004—A short summary of the updated findings to the original 1972 Limits to Growth study, including graphs and discussion of the ten scenarios modeled by the World3 computer model.

Ashoka: Innovators For The Public
1990—Program provides fellowships for more than 200 “public-service entrepreneurs” in Latin America and Asia

Beyond the Limits to Growth
1992—A short version of the twenty-year update to Limits to Growth, which found that the study’s original conclusions still held but needed to be strengthened.

BGH – Not The Only Choice 
1994—Comparing the full effects of chemically-generated increases in milk production with a non-chemical alternative

Breaking the Ice 
1995—Nations came together at the UN Climate Change Conference in Berlin to discuss cuts in fossil fuel emissions, but the discussions resulted only in the “Berlin Mandate” to come up with a concrete plan and timeline by 1997.

Dancing With Systems
Dana Meadows’s classic piece about how to successfully engage systems thinking in your work

Definition of Sustainability
1995—An in-depth explanation of “sustainability” as Donella Meadows uses the term: “a complete vision of the world I want to work for and live in”

Envisioning a Sustainable World
1994—Transcript of Dana’s famous speech from the Third Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Ecological Economics in Costa Rica

Four Not-So-Easy Things You Can Do To Save The Planet 
1990—Donella Meadows outlines four powerful actions that go beyond recycling and turning off the lights that every person can take to lead the way toward a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

Green-Washed Optimism: Reflections 
1995—A look at the vital role of scientists and environmentalists in reporting the state of the environment and the destructive power of destorted information in the media

Harvesting One Hundredfold: Key Concepts and Case Studies in Environmental Education 
1989—Donella Meadows’s extensive report to the United Nations Environment Programme about incorporating environmental knowledge and appreciation into school curriculums at all levels

Hope and Ozone 
1992—What is the basis for hope – and action – in the face of climatic catastrophe? This “multilogue” among the editors of IN CONTEXT explores those ideas.

Indicators and Information Systems for Sustainable Development
1998—An in-depth report to the Balaton Group about the nature and importance of indicators and how to use them in sustainability work

Is the Future Our Choice or Our Fate? 
2001—Donella Meadows reflects on the doomsday reactions that her team elicited from the public with the publication of Limits to Growth

Le Monde n’est pas une Marchandise. Moi Non Plus. (The World is not For Sale. Me Neither.) 
2000—A poignant and powerful look at one French farmer’s struggle to remain true to local, small-scale food production and community values in the face of global corporations and trade agreements

Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System 
Possibly Dana Meadows’s most famous and widely-read article, “Leverage Points” takes a systems view of creating change by assessing different entry points for change and how deeply they can impact a system.

Population, Poverty, and Planet Earth 
1992—Population is the issue no one wants to touch, yet the answer to the problem is as close as our own hear

Producing like there is a tomorrow: Patagonia mixes low growth with high ideals 
1993—Spurred by Patagonia’s realization that the continued growth of their company is detrimental to the environment and society, Donella Meadows looks at growth and alternative goals for businesses.

Rio’s Success: Asking the Right Questions 
1992—Donella Meadows examines the overlooked successes of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, noting, “what governments do is not all that happens. Especially in environmental development matters, the future is primarily in the hands not of governments, but of people who have babies, drive cars, turn lights on and off, buy stuff, generate garbage. On the level of people, the Earth Summit was a success.”

System Dynamics Meets The Press: A few good concepts can make a big difference 
1989—A reflection on the power and importance of systems dynamics to explain the world around us and the difficulty of aligning these goals with the structure of today’s media system.

The Best City In The World? Making a solid case for better urban planning 
1994—Donella Meadows explores the urban planning and focus on youth and environment in Curbita, Brazil as one road to much stronger, healthier cities.

The Future of the Army: Military institutions could be on the front lines in a very different kind of battle 
1989—Donella Meadows reflects on her  30-year planning meeting she attended with Military leaders, concluding, “We could be a lot more imaginative in giving [the military] a mission that is big enough, worthy enough, for its capacities.”

The Long Wave
1998—An examination of the “long wave” economic model that predicts political conservatism and sharp economic downturns on a 50-60 year timescale

The Question Of Leadership: A good leader sets the right goals, gets things moving, and helps us discover that we already know what to do 
1991—Donella Meadows explores the power of a strong leader and what one actually looks like

Thoughts While Cleaning The Living Room: Domestic work is undervalued – but it doesn’t need to be 
1989—A look at the social perceptions, gender biases, and wealth inequalities that perpetuate the undervalued state of domestic work

Tools for the Transition to Sustainability 
2004—This article, taken from Chapter 8 of Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update explores critical tools for moving towards sustainability, including networking, visioning, and truth-telling.

Turning Off The Hype: Czech schools say “no” to commercial hype 
1994—Donella Meadows tells the story of schools across the Czech Republic that declined to participate in a P&G competition, choosing instead to support a competition that promoted environmental wellbeing over increased consumption.

We Have The Money: But the budget doesn’t reflect our real needs 
1988—An examination of America’s budget and how it has changed over time to favor military spending more and more heavily at the cost of education and social programs.

Which Future?
1996—A look at two competing possible futures, one based on competition and globalization and the other on partnership and decentralization

Who Needs Florida, Anyway? Scientists need to help us prevent climate change, not adapt to it 
1989—Donella Meadows comments on the role of scientists in the environmental movement, noting that they need to take an active role in averting global climate change.

Whole Earth Models & Systems

1982—Donella Meadows considers what it means for policies to be informed by a systems thinking approach.

Food and Population: Policies for the United States

1976—Donella Meadows argues that the increasing imbalance between the human population and the main resource that sustains it – food – can only be improved with considerations of global change in policies, priorities, and social institutions.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About The Donella Meadows Project

The mission of the Donella Meadows Project is to preserve Donella (Dana) H. Meadows’s legacy as an inspiring leader, scholar, writer, and teacher; to manage the intellectual property rights related to Dana’s published work; to provide and maintain a comprehensive and easily accessible archive of her work online, including articles, columns, and letters; to develop new resources and programs that apply her ideas to current issues and make them available to an ever-larger network of students, practitioners, and leaders in social change.  Read More

Newsletter Sign Up

The Academy occasionally sends E-newsletters with updates on the work of our fellows, the Donella Meadows Project and more. Sign up here if you'd like to stay connected.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Select your interests below:

Contact Form