Club of Rome

views updated May 21 2018

Club of Rome


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 Romes 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 humanitys 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 Romes 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.

SEE ALSO Birth Control; Elites; Limits of Growth; Malthus, Thomas Robert; Malthusian Trap; Natural Resources, Nonrenewable; Overpopulation; Population Control


Club of Rome.

Meadows, Donella, Dennis Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William H. Behren III. 1972. The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Romes Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York: Universe.

Frank W. Elwell

Club of Rome

views updated May 29 2018

Club of Rome

In April of 1968, 30 people, including scientists, educators, economists, humanists, industrialists, and government officials, met at the Academia dei Lincei in Rome. The meeting was called by Dr. Aurelio Peccei, an Italian industrialist and economist. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss "the present and future predicament of man." The "Club of Rome" was born from this meeting as an informal organization that has been described as an "invisible college." Its purpose, as described by Donella Meadows, is to foster understanding of the varied but interdependent componentseconomic, political, natural and socialthat make up the global system in which we all live; to bring that new understanding to the attention of policy-makers and the public worldwide; and in this way to promote new policy initiatives and action. The original list of members is listed in the preface to Meadows's book entitled The Limits to Growth, in which the basic findings of the group are eloquently explained.

This text is a modern-day equivalent to the hypothesis of Thomas Malthus, who postulated that since increases in food supply cannot keep pace with geometric increases in human population, there would therefore be a time of famine with a stabilization of the human population. This eighteenth century prediction has, to a great extent, been delayed by the "green revolution" in which agricultural production has been radically increased by the use of fertilizers and development of special genetic strains of agricultural products. The high cost of agricultural chemicals which are generally tied to the price of oil has, however, severely limited the capability of developing nations to purchase them.

The development of the Club of Rome's studies is most potently presented by Meadows in the form of graphs which plot on a time axis the supply of arable land needed at several production levels (present, double present, quadruple present, etc.) to feed the world's population based upon growth models.

She states that 7.9 billion acres (3.2 billion ha) of land are potentially suitable for agriculture on the earth; half of that land, the richest and most accessible half, is under cultivation today. She further states that the remaining land will require immense capital inputs to reach, clear, irrigate, or fertilize before it is ready to produce food. One can imagine the impact such conversion will have on the environment .

The Club of Rome's studies were not limited to food supply but also considered industrial output per capita, pollution per capita, and general resources available per capita. The key issue is that the denominator, per capita, keeps increasing with time, requiring ever more frugal and careful use of the resources; however, no matter how carefully the resources are husbanded, the inevitable result of uncontrolled population growth is a catastrophe which can only be delayed. Therefore stabilizing the rate of world population growth must be a continuing priority.

As a follow-up to the Club of Rome's original meeting, a global model for growth was developed by Jay Forrester of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This model is capable of update with insertion of information on population, agricultural production, natural resources , industrial production, and pollution. Meadows's report The Limits to Growth represents a readable summary of the results of this modeling .

A new branch of the Club of Rome is the TT30, a group of people around the age of 30 who form a "think tank." This group is primarily concerned with problems of today, future issues, and how to deal with them.

[Malcolm T. Hepworth ]



Dror, Yehezkel. The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome. Frank Cass & Co, 2001.

Forrester, J. W. World Dynamics. Cambridge, MA: Wright-Allen Press, 1971.

Meadows, D. H., et al. The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York: Universe Books, 1974.


The Club of Rome, Rissener Landstr 193, Hamburg, Germany 22559 +49 40 81960714, Fax: +49 40 81960715, Email: [email protected], <>