ecostory 4/2007
The "Club of Rome" - so what?
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"The Club of Rome was doomsaying years ago.
And look, we're still here!"

Thus and similar were the reactions of a well-known economist of the Financial Times and the Chairman of the Board of one of the largest Swiss banks after I questioned the wisdom of economic growth on a finite planet.

It is as if the world has stopped since 1972, when the Club of Rome's "Limits to Growth" became both a bestseller and the most-hated book for the discipline of economics. Worse than Karl Marx, whose "The Capital" could at least be academically discussed.

As if the finiteness of our planet were a theory that could simply be discarded by the magic formula "Club of Rome". Since the end of the dark middle ages science has recognised that the Earth is a globe that does not grow. Nevertheless most opinion-leaders act as if the present size of the earth were small and its future size large.

Every primary school kid will be able to tell us that that is impossible.

The reality, however, is even worse. Because of the huge expansion of human populations and per capita consumption, the earth has become relatively smaller, for all environmental purposes (Compare The Earth is Shrinking):

"The Limits to Growth" had the audacity to question the holy grail of growth. It threatened to halt business expansion and increasing profits. So everything was undertaken to discredit the book that said not much more than that resources will run out. Some predictions were a bit on the short side, which the authors acknowledged in their 1992 update.

But for humanity, having lived on Earth since at least 4000 generations or 100000 years, it does absolutely not matter whether the end of resources comes this or the next generation. Fact is that all resources are finite and that human production and pollution by far exceeds the Earth's carrying capacity.

This however, is of no interest to the learned people who manage our academia and multinationals and the opinionated anonymous scribblers of The Economist.

They have once heard of the Club of Rome and this is the end of ecological science for them. Back to business, that's where the money is.

"Stop thinking, concrete will guide you" was popular saying in those days. (Stoppt das Denken. Beton wird Euch lenken.)

Replace "concrete" by "money" and you have the world 2007.

Helmut Lubbers
  • The Living Planet Facts and Figures WWF's and Wackernagel's "Footprint" account
  • Ecologocal Footprint" compared to "Environmental Impact"
  • footprints and sustainability
  • Area-based Sustainability - William Rees 1995
  • sustainability
  • ecological footprint - wikipedia
  • Votre opinion - Ihre Meinung
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