Club of Rome The Club of Rome is a non-profit, non-government (NGO), international, intellectual think-tank. It is presently headquartered in Germany. The Club of Rome brings together scientists, economists, businessmen, international high civil servants, heads of state and former heads of state from all five continents to explore the future of humankind. The Club of Rome operates under the guiding principle that each human being can contribute to the improvement of the world’s societies.
Club of Rome To explore change and – in this case – the world’s economy and population growth in relationship to resource exploitation and depletion, the Club of Rome developed a computer model simulating future outcomes of the world economy. The model is a dynamic system of feedback loops. A loop is a path that connects an action to its effect on surrounding conditions which, in turn, can influence further action. If one element is changed, other elements will respond, negatively or positively. The response “feeds back” to the original change prompting another response…and so on…
Club of Rome In 1972, the Club of Rome published The Limits to Growth. The report is sometimes referred to as the Pessimistic Model. Three conclusions were offered. With no major change in the physical, economic or social relationships that have traditionally governed world development, society will run out of the nonrenewable resources in 100 years. As a result, the economic system will collapse, manifested in massive unemployment, decreased food production and a decline in population as the death rate soars. There is no smooth transition, no gradual slowing down of activity; rather, the economic system consumes successively larger amounts of the non-renewable resources until they are gone. In the end, the system collapses.
Club of Rome 1972 Limits to Growth…continued A piecemeal approach to solving the individual problems will not be successful. Estimates were doubled and the model traced out an alternative vision based on this new higher level of resources. The collapse still occurs, but this time it is caused by excessive pollution generated by the increased pace of industrialization permitted by the greater availability of resources. If the depleted resource and pollution problems were jointly solved, population would grow unabated and the availability of food would become the binding constraint. In this model, the removal of one limit merely causes the system to subsequently reach another limit – with dire consequences.
Club of Rome 1972 Limits to Growth…continued An overshoot and collapse can be avoided only by an immediate limit on population and pollution, as well as a cessation of economic growth. The portrait painted shows only two possible outcomes: (1) Self-restraint and a policy on growth to avoid collapse, or (2) No change and societal collapse. One way or the other, growth will cease. The model and its predictions prompted immediate calls for a re-evaluation and changes to the world’s economic processes.
Club of Rome In 1976, the Club of Rome updated its computer model. Back casting was introduced to forecast the future (i.e., examine past events to predict future outcomes). That same year, the Club of Rome published The Next 200 Years: A Scenario for America and the World. The report was based on the new computer modeling. In this scenario, there is a continuing evolution of technology that pushes back the natural limits until they are no longer limiting. These ideas were developed as scenarios (e.g., increased food production by technological processes, and thus, there is no “natural limit”).
Club of Rome The 1976 model is called the Optimistic Model. The basic conclusion is human beings were comparatively few, poor and at the mercy of the forces of nature 200 years ago; whereas in 200 years, humans will be numerous, rich and in control of the forces of nature. In the past, there have been periods of exponential population growth. With technological change, the prediction is periods of similar growth will occur in the future. Growth will be followed by periods of birth rate decline. Thus, the overall population will be much higher, but the rate of growth will slow and eventually stop.
Club of Rome 1976 Optimistic Model…continued Philosophically, this technological evolution of society is natural. It is unwarranted and unethical to interfere. Tampering with the growth process would consign the residents of the poorest countries to a life of poverty and no hope. In contrast, continued growth provides continued betterment for everyone with the greatest benefits to the poor.
Club of Rome In 1992, the work was revisited. It is called the Revised Model and the report Beyond the Limits was produced. In this scenario, the world population continues to grow, technology is introduced into key sectors (e.g., agriculture), the entire world moves to a post-industrial stage, and pollution continues unabated. Eventually, the economy slows as resources are fully exploited and depleted.
Club of Rome 1992 Revised Model…continued As limits are met, sectors begin to decline. For example, food production decreases. Investments are applied to these sectors, but the decline continues as resources become fewer. As sectors decline, the population of the world decreases in response. The limits suggested in 1972 are reached, but the time frame is considerably longer.
Club of Rome What do the Club of Rome prediction mean to you? When published in 1972, Limits to Growth was called a publicity stunt and the modeling capability was criticized as unrealistic (i.e., the model could not capture, much less predict, the complexities and interrelatedness of the world). Regardless, is the idea useful? The Club of Rome is a lead NGO in the ideas of sustainability, holistic thinking, interdependence of nations and globalization for problems beyond the capacity of one nation. The Club of Rome has a youth branch called tt30 (Think Tank under 30). It was formed in 2001.