Dennis Meadows received a BA from Carleton College, a Ph.D. in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management, and holds four honorary doctorates.
He started working at the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the late 1960s. From 1970 to 1972 at MIT he was director of the "Club of Rome Project on the Predicament of Mankind". Further on Meadows has been a tenured professor in faculties of management, engineering, and social sciences. For many years he was the director of a graduate program based in business and engineering. He has facilitated workshops and developed innovative and complex strategic games all over the world for decades. In addition, Dr. Meadows has lectured in over 50 countries.
He has been the Director of three university research institutes: at MIT, Dartmouth College and the University of New Hampshire. He is the Past President of the International System Dynamics Society and the International Simulation and Games Association.
He has been a corporate board member and a consultant for government, industry and non-profit groups in the U.S. and many countries abroad. He co-founded the Balaton Group, an international network of over 300 professionals in over 30 nations involved in systems science, public policy and sustainable development. In the year 2008 he supported the project GPSO.
He has received numerous international awards for his work, including the Japan Prize in April 2009.
The Club of Rome is a global think tank that deals with a variety of international political issues. It was founded in April 1968 and raised considerable public attention in 1972 with its report The Limits to Growth. From 1970 to 1972 at MIT Meadows was director of the "Club of Rome Project on Predicament of mankind at MIT" which constructed the world model underlying that publication.
The Limits to Growth is a 1972 book modeling the consequences of a rapidly growing world population and finite resource supplies, commissioned by the Club of Rome. Meadows coauthored the book with Donella H. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III.
The book used the World3 model to simulate the consequence of interactions between the Earth's and human systems. The book echoes some of the concerns and predictions of the Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus in An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798).
The eventual purpose of The Limits to Growth was not to make specific predictions, but to explore how exponential growth interacts with finite resources. Because the size of resources is not known, only the general behavior can be explored.
There has been a major cultural shift in the thinking about global processes in the last three decades of the 20th century. In an 2004 interview Meadows explained:"In 1972 it was inconceivable to most people that the physical impact of humanity's activities could ever grow large enough to alter basic natural processes of the globe. But now we routinely observe, acknowledge, and discuss the ozone hole, destruction of marine fisheries, climate change and other global problems."
In their 1972 publication Limits to Growth their recommendations were focused on "how to slow growth". In the 2004 Limits to growth : the 30-year update the message has changed. Meadows explained: "Now we must tell people how to manage an orderly reduction of their activities back down below the limits of the earth's resources.."
In 2014, research at the University of Melbourne confirmed that the predictions from the book Limits to Growth were largely correct. Presently we are very close to tracking “business-as-usual” scenario from the book.
He has written or co-authored 10 books on systems, futures, and educational games, which have been translated into more than 30 languages. A selection:1970. Dynamics of commodity production cycles.
1973. Toward global equilibrium: collected papers. Eds.
1975. Beyond growth : essays on alternative futures. Edited with others.
1974. Dynamics of Growth in a Finite World
1977. Alternatives to growth-I : a search for sustainable futures : papers adapted from entries to the 1975 George and Cynthia Mitchell Prize and from presentations before the 1975 Alternatives to Growth Conference, held at the Woodlands, Texas. Eds.
1992. Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future
1995 "The Systems Thinking Playbook"
2004. Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. With Donella Meadows and Jørgen Randers. ISBN 978-1-931498-58-6