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Donella H. Meadows quotes (showing 1-30 of 81)

“People don't need enormous cars; they need admiration and respect. They don't need a constant stream of new clothes; they need to feel that others consider them to be attractive, and they need excitement and variety and beauty. People don't need electronic entertainment; they need something interesting to occupy their minds and emotions. And so forth. Trying to fill real but nonmaterial needs-for identity, community, self-esteem, challenge, love, joy-with material things is to set up an unquenchable appetite for false solutions to never-satisfied longings. A society that allows itself to admit and articulate its nonmaterial human needs, and to find nonmaterial ways to satisfy them, world require much lower material and energy throughputs and would provide much higher levels of human fulfillment.”
Donella H. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
“Remember, always, that everything you know, and everything everyone knows, is only a model. Get your model out there where it can be viewed. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“There is too much bad news to justify complacency. There is too much good news to justify despair.”
Donella H. Meadows
“A vision should be judged by the clarity of its values, not the clarity of its implementation path

[in Mediated Modeling page 43]”
Donella H. Meadows
tags: life
“There are no separate systems. The world is a continuum. Where to draw a boundary around a system depends on the purpose of the discussion.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“We can't impose our will on a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“You think that because you understand “one” that you must therefore understand “two” because one and one make two. But you forget that you must also understand “and.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“You maybe able to fool the voters, but not the atmosphere.”
Donella H. Meadows
“Let's face it, the universe is messy. It is nonlinear, turbulent, and chaotic. It is dynamic. It spends its time in transient behavior on its way to somewhere else, not in mathematically neat equilibria. It self-organizes and evolves. It creates diversity, not uniformity. That's what makes the world interesting, that's what makes it beautiful, and that's what makes it work.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“We don't think a sustainable society need be stagnant, boring, uniform, or rigid. It need not be, and probably could not be, centrally controlled or authoritarian. It could be a world that has the time, the resources, and the will to correct its mistakes, to innovate, to preserve the fertility of its planetary ecosystems. It could focus on mindfully increasing quality of life rather than on mindlessly expanding material consumption and the physical capital stock.”
Donella H. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
“Sustainability is a new idea to many people, and many find it hard to understand. But all over the world there are people who have entered into the exercise of imagining and bringing into being a sustainable world. They see it as a world to move toward not reluctantly, but joyfully, not with a sense of sacrifice, but a sense of adventure. A sustainable world could be very much better than the one we live in today.”
Donella H. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
“Purposes are deduced from behavior, not from rhetoric or stated goals.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Thou shalt not distort, delay, or withhold information.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“No one can define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. No one can define or measure any value. But if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren’t designed to produce them, if we don’t speak about them and point toward their presence or absence, they will cease to exist.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“So, what is a system? A system is a set of things—people, cells, molecules, or whatever—interconnected in such a way that they produce their own pattern of behavior over time.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“a system must consist of three kinds of things: elements, interconnections, and a function or purpose.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“The difference between a sustainable society and a present-day economic recession is like the difference between stopping and automobile purposefully with the brakes versus stopping it by crashing into a brick wall. When the present economy overshoots, it turns around too quickly and unexpectedly for people and enterprises to retrain, relocate, and readjust. A deliberate transition to sustainability would take place slowly enough, and with enough forewarning, to that people and businesses could find their places in the new economy.”
Donella H. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
“But rules for sustainability, like every workable social rule, would be put into place not to destroy freedoms, but to create freedoms or to protect them. A ban on bank robbing inhibits the freedom of the thief in order to assure that everyone else has the freedom to deposit and withdraw money safely. A ban on overuse of a renewable resource or on the generation of a dangerous pollutant protects vital freedoms in a similar way.”
Donella H. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
“You can drive a system crazy by muddying its information streams.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“A system* is an interconnected set of elements that is coherently organized in a way that achieves something.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“An important function of almost every system is to ensure its own perpetuation.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Missing information flows is one of the most common causes of system malfunction. Adding or restoring information can be a powerful intervention, usually much easier and cheaper than rebuilding physical infrastructure.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“One of the strangest assumptions of present-day mental models is the idea that world of moderation must be a world of strict, centralized government control. For a sustainable economy, that kind of control is not possible, desirable, or necessary.”
Donella H. Meadows, The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update
“Addiction is finding a quick and dirty solution to the symptom of the problem, which prevents or distracts one from the harder and longer-term task of solving the real problem.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Systems thinkers see the world as a collection of stocks along with the mechanisms for regulating the levels in the stocks by manipulating flows.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“This ancient Sufi story was told to teach a simple lesson but one that we often ignore: The behavior of a system cannot be known just by knowing the elements of which the system is made.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“Model utility depends not on whether its driving scenarios are realistic (since no one can know that for sure), but on whether it responds with a realistic pattern of behavior.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“The most damaging example of the systems archetype called “drift to low performance” is the process by which modern industrial culture has eroded the goal of morality. The workings of the trap have been classic, and awful to behold. Examples of bad human behavior are held up, magnified by the media, affirmed by the culture, as typical. This is just what you would expect. After all, we’re only human. The far more numerous examples of human goodness are barely noticed. They are “not news.” They are exceptions. Must have been a saint. Can’t expect everyone to behave like that. And so expectations are lowered. The gap between desired behavior and actual behavior narrows. Fewer actions are taken to affirm and instill ideals. The public discourse is full of cynicism. Public leaders are visibly, unrepentantly amoral or immoral and are not held to account. Idealism is ridiculed. Statements of moral belief are suspect. It is much easier to talk about hate in public than to talk about love.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“A system just can’t respond to short-term changes when it has long term delays. That’s why a massive central-planning system, such as the Soviet Union or General Motors, necessarily functions poorly.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer
“We know a tremendous amount about how the world works, but not nearly enough. Our knowledge is amazing; our ignorance even more so. We can improve our understanding, but we can't make it perfect.”
Donella H. Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer

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