Friday, October 21, 2011

The Club of Rome is back

This picture was taken at the initial session of the meeting of the Club of Rome in Basel. Switzerland, held on Oct 17-18 2011 and titled "International conference on the future of energy."  From left to right, sitting at the tables, Guy Marin, mayor of Basel, Ian Johnson, secretary general of the Club  of Rome and Leena Srivastava of TERI (India). On the left, a glimpse of Martin Lees, former secretary general of the Club of Rome.

Yes, the Club of Rome is back. Actually, it had never gone away, but the demonization campaign that had been unleashed against its 1972 report, "The Limits to Growth," had largely convinced the public that the Club's approach to the world's problems had been based on a "wrong" model.

Instead, it turned out that the model was not wrong. The recent turmoil, the economic recession, the worries about "peak oil", and the rapid rise in the price of all mineral commodities have brought back the interest on "The Limits to Growth". That brings the sponsor of the report, the Club of Rome, again under the spotlight.

I am just back from a meeting on energy that the Club of Rome organized in Basel. When I have some time, I'll see to report on it in detail. For the time being, I can just note that I was surprised (but not so much) in finding at the meeting the kind of atmosphere that I had always imagined the Club's reunions would have. Of course, many things have changed from the time of the foundation of the Club, almost half a century ago. It may be that, today, the Club's activity is more focalized on practical solutions to the world's problems, whereas at the beginning it was more in understanding what the future had in store for humankind. But some elements of the Club's approach remain the same: the international vision, the "system approach", the attention to the interdependency of the ecosystem and the industrial system, the focus on the social problems and on the welfare of the poor.

That the Club of Rome could maintain its vision for all those years is all the more remarkable considering that it has been always defined as a "non-organization" that explicitly chose to avoid rigid and formal rules. It may be because of the personality of the founders, Aurelio Peccei, Alexander King, and several others. Or maybe it is because there is something intrinsically good in the Club's way of facing the world's problems. In any case, the Club of Rome still has a lot to say on how to manage our future.


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)