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Founded in Rome in early 1968 by a group of European businesspeople and scientists, the Club of Rome is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization (NGO) that serves as an international think tank on global issues. The Club of Rome is run by an Executive Committee of eleven members that appoints a president, vice presidents, a secretary-general, and a treasurer. The president of the club represents the organization to the outside world; HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan became president of the Club of Rome in 1999.
Individual membership in the Club of Rome is restricted to those who are elected by the Executive Committee. There are three levels of individual membership. (1) Active members are persons of established reputation whose work is international in scope and whose views on global issues are congruent with the Club of Rome. Serving terms of five years, the number of active members is limited to one hundred. The Club of Rome’s professed aim is to balance membership in this category by regions, cultures, professions, age, and gender. The public listing of active members reveals men and women from such fields as banking, private industry, academe, government (both elective office and bureaus), and other NGOs. (2) Associate members are individuals who are involved with the work of the club or wish to cooperate in the future. They may apply for membership or be recommended by a member of the club and are elected by the Executive Committee for five-year terms. Again, associate members are drawn from those who have attained distinction in a variety of fields, though those from academe and research institutes dominate this category. (3) Honorary members are persons of high reputation or office whose work can support the mission of the club. Honorary members must be proposed by a member of the club and are elected by the Executive Committee. The membership of this group is dominated by former high government officials, though there are a few academics as well.
The professed mission of the Club of Rome is to “act as a global catalyst of change” by sponsoring studies and conferences and issuing reports and news releases that focus on long-term global problems and their interrelationships. The club is committed to an interdisciplinary perspective that highlights both the increasing interdependence of and problems among nation-states. From its first report in 1972, titled The Limits to Growth, the Club of Rome has dedicated itself to identifying the most critical problems facing humanity; analyzing the interrelationships of these problems on the basis of an interdisciplinary, holistic, and global perspective; and positing future scenarios based on humanity’s response to these problems. The club has identified a number of significant global issues, referred to as world problematique, facing humanity, including: depletion and pollution of the environment; demographic problems of both growth and aging; uneven development within and between nations; the decline of traditional values; dysfunctional governments; the quality and distribution of work; the sociocultural impact of new technologies; dysfunctional educational systems; the globalization of the economy; and international financial disorder.
The best-known report sponsored by the Club of Rome was its first, The Limits to Growth. The book was based on multiple simulations of a “systems dynamics” computer model of five major human activities: industrial production, population, agricultural production, resource use, and pollution. The basis of systems dynamics is the assumption that the often complex and intricate interrelationships between components of a system are essential in determining the behavior of the components as well as of the overall system itself. Accordingly, levels and rates of change in each of the sectors were interrelated through mathematical formulae that sought to simulate the impact of growth in one sector (for example, a growth in agricultural production) on levels and rates of change in the other four sectors. The model was then run under differing assumptions regarding physical limits to growth (supposing the known reserves of resources versus doubling those known reserves). The results of the simulations lent support to the idea of physical limits to continued growth consisting of resource depletion and pollution, with the authors arguing that if present growth trends continue, these limits will probably be reached within the next century; the typical mode of hitting these limits was one of “overshoot and collapse.” Rather than a simple prediction of doom, however, the report argues that the world can move quickly to establish a condition of economic and population stability that is sustainable and a state of global equilibrium that more equitably distributes resources to each person on earth.
The Club of Rome’s main focus is upon global problems associated with population and economic growth. It espouses a neo-Malthusian agenda of limiting population growth and promoting sustainable economic development in order to address perceived problems of environmental degradation.
- Club of Rome. http://www.clubofrome.org.
- Meadows, Donella, Dennis Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William H. Behren III. 1972. The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome’s Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York: Universe.
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