Laureates of the Japan Prize
The 2009 (25th) Japan Prize
Transformation towards a Sustainable Society in Harmony with Nature
Contribution towards a sustainable world as founded in the 1972 Report titled The Limits to Growth
Dr. Dennis L. Meadows served as Research Director for the project on "The Limits to Growth," for the Club of Rome in 1972. Employing a system simulation model called "World3," his report demonstrated that if certain limiting factors of the earth’s physical capacity-such as resources, the environment, and land-are not recognized, mankind will soon find itself in a dangerous situation. The conflict between the limited capacity of the earth and the expansion of the population accompanied by economic growth could lead to general societal collapse. The report said that to avert this outcome, it is necessary that the goals of zero population growth and zero expansion in use of materials be attained as soon as possible. The report had an enormous impact on a world that had continued to grow both economically and in population since World War II.
The report sparked a great debate worldwide about the value of the zero growth theory that it proposed. The report was extremely significant in that it sounded a loud alarm about global society’s urgent need for sustainable development, and it engendered broad interest throughout the world. Since its initial publication, Dr. Meadows has continued to study the causes and consequences of physical growth on a finite planet. He co-founded the Balaton Group, a famous environmental research network. He has published many educational games and books about sustainable development that are used around the world. Together with his wife, the late Dr. Donella Meadows and Dr. J. Randers, he has twice co-authored updates to "The Limits to Growth", in 1992 and 2004. In these updates, an improved world model was used to point out that the limiting features of the earth's physical capacity, about which "The Limits to Growth" had sounded a warning, have continued to deteriorate, and that the time left for solving the problem is growing short; the authors also urged that mankind not delay in taking the measures necessary to address the situation.
This series of reports, especially the first "The Limits to Growth," presented the conflict between the earth’s physical limitations and the growth of mankind in clear, logical terms, and marked the beginning of mankind’s efforts to achieve a sustainable society. "The Limits to Growth" also became a major underpinning of "The Global 2000 Report to the President," a famous report presented by a US presidential commission in 1980. Moreover, we may take note of the UN’s World Commission on the Environment and the Development (commonly known as the Brundlandt Commission). This commission is famous for a 1987 report titled "Our Common Future." The Commission was created based on a proposal made by the Ad hoc Group on Global Environmental Problems, a deliberative body of the Japanese Government operated under the auspices of the Secretary of the Environment Agency. The Ad hoc Group’s establishment was inspired by "The Limits to Growth" and "The Global 2000 Report to the President." Thus it could be said that Dr. Meadows’ "The Limits to Growth" provided the spark that ignited mankind’s movement towards sustainable development.
Based on the foundations established in "The Limits to Growth" over the past 30 years Dr. Meadows has consistently proposed, through model analyses, efforts aimed at forming a sustainable society. He has continued to exert a large influence on the entire world. This, it is believed, is highly praiseworthy and deserving of the 2009 Japan Prize, which is intended to honor contributions in the area of "Transformation towards a sustainable society in harmony with nature."