Environmental Health, Planetary Boundaries and Limits to Growth

Colin BUTLER, Kerryn Higgs, Rosemary McFarlane

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookEntry for encyclopedia/dictionarypeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Published almost 50 years ago, the Limits to Growth remains relevant to contemporary environmental health, though, paradoxically, this relevance is scarcely recognized. The seminal ideas it presented provide a useful background, as do the later Planetary Boundaries analyses, with which to consider key issues in contemporary environmental health. To be more than reactive, it is necessary to understand the complexity and interactions of integrated environmental health risks, including the possibility of significant global population decline within the current century.

This contribution provides an overview to the Limits to Growth, linking it especially to the “planetary boundaries” of climate change, biodiversity loss and novel entities (including artificial substances and genetically modified organisms). The gradual increase in the amount of primary energy required to generate useable energy is also argued to be an under-recognized contributing factor to the decline in real wages growth for much of the world's population since then, although this aspect may be improving.

These elements have positive and negative health effects, which we discuss.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Environmental Health
EditorsJerome Nriagu
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9780444639523
ISBN (Print)9780444639516
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameReference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences


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