Published on Mar 9, 2012
Roberto D. Peccei is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA, a member of the Executive Committee of the Club of Rome, and President of the Fondazione Aurelio Peccei. As a physicist his principal interests lie in the interface between particle physics and cosmology, and as a member of the Club of Rome he is broadly interested in the kind of economics that need to be developed to ensure a sustainable world. Peccei was born in Italy, completed his secondary school in Argentina, and came to the United States in 1958 to pursue university studies in physics. He obtained a B.S. from MIT in 1962, and M.S. from NYU in 1964 and a Ph.D. from MIT in 1969. After a brief period of postdoctoral work at the University of Washington, he joined the faculty of Stanford University in 1971. In 1978, he returned to Europe as a staff member of the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany. He joined the Deutsches Elektron Synchrotron (DESY) Laboratory in Hamburg, Germany, as the Head of the Theoretical Group in 1984. He returned to the United States in 1989, joining the faculty of the Department of Physics at UCLA. Soon thereafter, he became Chair of the Department, a position he held until becoming Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences of the College of Letters and Sciences in1994. For the last decade, he was Vice Chancellor for Research at UCLA, overseeing all research programs in the university. In July of 2010, he returned to the faculty. Peccei was the Schroedinger Professor at the University of Vienna in 1983, the Boris Jacobsohn Lecturer at the University of Washington in 1986, the Phi Beta Kappa Lecturer at UCLA and the Emilio Segre Professor at the University of Tel Aviv in 1992, and delivered the first Abdus Salam Memorial Lecture in Pakistan in 1997. He has served on numerous advisory boards both in Europe and the United States in the last 25 years. He presently also serves as the Chair of the External Advisory Board of the Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Japan. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics in the United Kingdom, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the World Academy of Arts and Sciences.
It Is Too Late for Sustainable Development
My formal remarks will have three goals: explain the essential and still unique contribution of our 1972 report to the Club of Rome, describe how my own understanding about the interaction of limits with physical growth on the planet has changed over the past 40 years, and justify my proposal that humanity’s focus should now be more on resilience than on sustainability. It is far too late to achieve sustainable development, as that term is commonly understood. A precipitous decline in resource and energy use is coming in the next decades, and the most important goal now is to adopt policies that will reduce its negative impacts on the values that are most important to us. Dennis Meadows was appointed to the MIT faculty in 1969. In 1970 he assembled a team of 16 scientists to conduct a two-year, computer-model based study on the long-term causes and consequences of physical growth on the planet Earth. That project was funded by the Club of Rome and lead to 3 reports, one of which, The Limits to Growth, was presented for the first time to the public in the Smithsonian Institution Castle in March 1972. The book was eventually translated into about 35 languages, and it was selected as one of the most influential environmental books of the 20th century. He worked subsequently with Jørgen Randers and with Donella Meadows, senior author of Limits to Growth, to produce a second edition in 1994 and a third edition in 2004. Before becoming Professor Emeritus of Policy Systems in 2004, Dennis Meadows was a professor for 35 years at MIT, Dartmouth College, and the University of New Hampshire earning tenure in schools of engineering, management, and the social sciences. He has received numerous honorary doctorates in the US and Europe for his contributions to environmental education. His many awards include the 2009 Japan Prize. He has co-authored 10 books and designed numerous computer-based strategic planning games that are used in many nations to teach principles of sustainable resource use. He remains very active, especially in Europe and Japan, speaking, writing, and advising corporate and government leaders on issues related to growth.