16 May 2012 | Draft
Club of Rome Reports and Bifurcations
a 40-year overview
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Significant bifurcations triggered by the history of the Club of Rome
Reports to the Club of Rome
Declarations and Statements of the Club of Rome
Comment on bifurcations of the Club of Rome initiative
Contrasting initiatives and concerns
Integrative exercise for the future
System dynamics, hypercycles and psychosocial self-organization
Requisite map for governance in the future?
As is to be expected, during the extended history of an organization, various initiatives were triggered by its approach as reflected in some 40 reports and declarations listed below. Notable "bifurcations" include the following.
1. The first "Report to the Club of Rome" arose from a project falling directly under the cognizance of the Executive Committee of the Club of Rome during its formative stages.. The Executive Committee had asked the Institut Battelle at Geneva to provide administrative support and act as managing agency for a project Work Group and asked Hasan Ozbekhan to undertake the overall direction of the project and ensure the operational responsibility for the Work Group, calling on consultants as required to transform the prospectus into an action plan. The consultants included Alexander Christakis, Erich Jantsch, and Aurelio Peccei. The "prospectus" in the form of a "report to the Club of Rome" was entitled: The Predicament for Mankind: Quest for Structured Responses to Growing World-wide Complexities and Uncertainties (1970). Its proposals were rejected in favour of the "Club of Rome Project on Predicament of Mankind at MIT" directed by Dennis Meadows from 1970 to 1972. This resulted in publication of what was became known as the first report to the Club of Rome (The Limits to Growth, 1972). A distinct report was later published by Hasan Ozbekhan (The Predicament of Mankind. In: C. West Churchman and Richard O. Mason, eds., World Modelling: A Dialogue, North-Holland, 1976).
2. The Limits to Growth had been based on the World3 model, a computer simulation model of interactions between population, industrial growth, food production and limits in the ecosystems of the Earth. It had added new features to Jay W. Forrester's World2 model and was documented in Dynamics of Growth in a Finite World (1974). The accomplishments of this group through the 1970s have been reviewed, by some of those involved, in an exceptionally honest book: Groping in the Dark; the first decade of global modelling (Donella Meadow, et al., 1982). The initiative was also reviewed by Sam Cole and Eleonora Barbieri Masini (Limits beyond the millennium: a retro-prospective on The Limits to Growth, Futures, 33, 1, February 2001). As shown by Graham Turner (A Comparison of the Limits to Growth with Thirty Years of Reality, CSIRO 2007), the original study provoked many criticisms which falsely stated its conclusions in order to discredit it.
Since World3 was originally created it has had minor tweaks to get to the World3/91 model used in the book Beyond the Limits and later was tweaked to get the World3/2000 model distributed by the Institute for Policy and Social Science Research. The original study immediately gave rise to vigorous criticism and alternative modelling initiatives(see Global Model Index, 1995), notably that coordinated through the Fundacion Bariloche (Argentina) and work through the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).
As a follow-up to their involvement in The Limits to Growth exercise, Donella H. Meadows and Dennis L. Meadows founded in 1982 the International Network of Resource Information Centers ("The Balaton Group") a cross-disciplinary, multi-cultural, and inter-generational meeting point for leaders and thinkers in sustainable development. Activities have involved: more than 30 books, more than a hundred conferences, and uncounted computer models, training programs, planning methods, and educational games as a result of collaboration amongst its members. An overview of many global models was made for UNESCO in 1987 (Wolf Dieter Eberwein and Heinrich Siegmann, Evaluating Long-term Developments by using Global Models, UNESCO, 1987, BEP/GPI/4). It could be argued that in recent years "global modelling" has focused on "global climate modelling" -- a dimension absent from the the factors originally taken into account.
3. The preoccupation with "Mankind" had been the focus of the International Futures Research Inaugural Conference (Oslo, 1967) convened by Mankind 2000 (founded in 1964), on the instigation of James Wellesley-Wesley, and resulting in publication of a selection of the papers (edited by Johan Galtung and Robert Jungk, Mankind 2000. Allen and Unwin, 1969). The narrow focus of The Limits to Growth on only 5 key problems was instrumental in the formulation of a collaborative project by Mankind 2000 and the Union of International Associations from 1972 to produce a Yearbook of World Problems and Human Potential (1976), subsequently updated as an Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential (1983-1986, 1988-1990, 1992-1995) before conversion into an online form (1997-2000) under a European Union contract (Ecolynx: Information Context for Biodiversity Conservation). Its many interlinked databases notably include profiles of 56,000 interlinked "problems" pereceived by international organizations, together with 32,000 remedial "strategies" envisaged by international constituencies. The distinction between the system dynamics approach of The Limits to Growth and that of the topological network approach of the Encyclopedia initiative is discussed separately (Global modelling perspective) and has been subsequently summarized (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2009).
4. Following publication by Ervin László of Goals for Mankind: a Report to the Club of Rome on the New Horizons of Global Community (1976) a discussion in 1978 between the author and Aurelio Peccei, founder and first president of the Club of Rome, led to the founding of the Club of Budapest in 1993 as a framework for creative people in diverse fields of art, literature, and the spiritual domains of culture. It is dedicated to the proposition that "only by changing ourselves we can change the world -- and that to change ourselves we need the kind of insight and perception that art, literature, and the domains of the spirit can best provide".
Whilst there have been periods in which a "Report to the Club of Rome" was unambiguous and formally approved, it would appear that publications have been produced following tentative approval but without necessarily being finally and formally approved. Some may take the form of addresses to meetings of the Club of Rome (CoR) or expressions of intent by its members (which may not subsequently take the originally intended form). The following checklist has been developed from a variety of sources (including past CoR websites), supposedly identifying such reports with varying degrees of credibility. It is intended to cover the range of such possibilities, whether or not the status of a document can be fully clarified -- those highlighted are the most questionable. It is of course the case that some reports have been produced in several language versions, possibly edited down to a reduced format.
Whilst the Club of Rome initiative, and the various "bifurcations", are all framed in terms of a concern with "mankind" or "humanity", they might be briefly distinguished by caricatures as:
As demonstrated by the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen, 2009), it is not what some assume to be the "facts" that elicits a political consensus or reflects the actual dynamics of a global psychosocial system. The challenge remains one of engaging with divergent "perceptions" and determing what scope there is for configuring them more fruitfully.
A "global" psychoanalyst, if such existed, might explore these schismatic outcomes as complementary modalities -- as "ways of knowing", ways of "framing" and "engaging" with assumed "realities". Significantly there are only anecdotal accounts concerning the unfruitful dynamics between these various modes and the lack of any suggestion as to how they might be "integrated" -- whatever that might mean in practice. Little effort has been put into understanding schismatic tendencies -- the origins of breakaway initiatives. Curiously those individually involved tend to maintain degrees of association between such contexts. Reference may be made in passing to the challenges of "personalities" and "egos", but with little effort to map out the array of individuals associated with that 40-year process and the degree of interaction between them -- or lack of it. Why not? Provocatively the question may be framed metaphorically as a question of "body odour" between "gurus" of any status (Epistemological Challenge of Cognitive Body Odour: exploring the underside of dialogue, 2006).
This possibility was perhaps implicit or embryonic in the interactions of those involved in the pre-1970 period and as such partly evident in Hasan Ozbekhan's original "prospectus" on The Predicament of Mankind: Quest for Structured Responses to Growing World-wide Complexities and Uncertainties (1970). Of interest in that respect is the description by Alexander Christakis of A Retrospective Structural Inquiry of the Predicament of Mankind Prospectus of the Club of Rome (In: John P. van Gigch and Janet McIntyre-Mills, Rescuing the Enlightenment from Itself Critical and Systemic Implications for Democracy: Prospectus of the Club of Rome, Springer, 2006) with respect to use of the Structured Design Science (SDS) paradigm:
Christakis quotes the following paragraphs from the 1970 prospectus (adding emphases):
In subsequent development of the thinking articulated in the commentaries on the online Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, and in those on its sub-projects, emphasis has been placed on the challenge of cognitive configuration capable of eliciting psychoactive "engagement" in order to achieve strategic "traction" (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2009). The analytical "way of knowing" does not currently give credence to the challenge of its eroding credibility -- following decades of insightful comment on the "predicament" and hopeful appeals for "change". The climate change debate, with its associated modelling exercises (and significant omissions), are an illustration of this (Insights for the Future from the Change of Climate in Copenhagen, 2010), raising the question of Climate change used as a fig leaf -- to conceal a more challenging issue?.
Whilst implicit in the original inspiration of the early 1970s, the psychosocial dynamics of the response to any predicament have not been addressed -- as exemplified by the above schismatic bifurcations. These indicate, in the terms of Gregory Bateson, the degree to which: We are our own metaphor. A speculative exploration developed in that period is indicative of the possibility (World Dynamics and Psychodynamics: a step towards making abstract "world system" dynamic limitations meaningful to the individual, 1971).
In a world of "spin", increasingly "engagement" and strategic "traction" are becoming intimately associated with a "non-linear" marriage between complexity and imagination (Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007; Relevance of Mythopoeic Insights to Global Challenges, 2009). The challenge of "hearts and minds" is not restricted to the engagement with terrorism.
In addition to the above bifurcations, the Club of Rome initiative -- together with those bifurcations in some sympathy with it -- has evoked several movements in opposition to what it represents, especially as a consequence of perceived elitism, exacerbated by any secretiveness and western bias:
Whatever the flavour of such opposition, to the extent that the individuals and groups associated with the Club of Rome are considered (if only by themselves) to be at the centre of global leadership, the widespread sense that this leadership is manifestly defective needs to be taken into account as a reality (Emergence of a Global Misleadership Council misleading as vital to governance of the future? 2007).
With respect to the earlier comment of achieving "engagement" and strategic "traction" with "hearts and minds", it would be naive to reject any of these views as simply misinformed, if not delusional -- even deliberately elicited through other secret agendas. Again, in a world where "spin" is of considerable political importance, it may be irrelevant whether such views are perceived to be "misinformed" in any way. The issue is whether they engage attention and acquire credibility. Any posture assuming the credibility of declarations by eminent authorities (purporting to formulate a "correct" understanding) is now increasingly mistaken beyond the immediate sway of those authorities (Abuse of Faith in Governance, 2009). The credibility of science, as so visibly represented by climate change scientists, is now suspect (George Monbiot, The trouble with trusting complex science, The Guardian, 8 March 2010). Many have noted the erosion in the credibility of the Vatican as a result of the cover-up of cases of sexual abuse by clergy.
Each of these modalities is, to different degrees, a reflection of the imagination with which it is necessary for any form of governance to engage in order to achieve "traction" -- an imagination typically deprecated by analysis except with respect to theoretical speculation:
Viable governance for the future would seem to need to incorporate such dimensions rather than seeking to marginalize them -- for in seeking to do so it increasingly alienates itself from voters. The challenge may be one of reframing all strategic initiatives through new metaphors that can be readily communicated (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).
The dysfunctional fragmentation associated with the above bifurcations, recalls the much-quoted warning of George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Following recent concern with an integrative approach to the future, it would seem appropriate to point to possibilities that remain to be explored (Self-reflexive Challenges of Integrative Futures, Futures, 40, 2, March 2008).
Given that the Club of Rome initiatives of the past, and the bifurcations, together reflect a primarily western bias, the emergent role of China on the global scene suggests the special merit of giving some consideration to frameworks emerging from that culture. This is consistent with the argument of Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999) as separately discussed (Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000). The relevance of traditional cultural concepts has recently been recognized in relation to China's foreign policy (David Lai, Learning from the Stones: a go approach to mastering China's concept, Shi, Strategic Studies Institute, United States Army War College, 2004).
Of particular relevance to this exercise is the emerging recognition of the relevance of Chinese insights in cybernetics (Maurice Yolles and Paul Iles, The Knowledge Cybernetics of Culture: the case of China, International Journal of Knowledge and Systems Sciences, 3, 4, December 2006; Maurice Yolles and Zude Ye, From Knowledge Cybernetics to Feng Shui, 2005). There is some irony to this given that Chinese culture was one of the early inspirations for the binary coding system fundamental to computer operation.
The above-mentioned Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential contained an experiment in the interpretation of the Chinese classic, the I Ching (or Book of Changes), for contemporary strategic issues, given the appreciation of its traditional role in Chinese governance (Transformation Metaphors -- derived experimentally from the Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching) for sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, policy, network, community and lifestyle, 1997).
A much-debated, western synthesis is the AQAL framework of the Integral Movement, instigated by Ken Wilber, which endeavours to integrate eastern perspectives (Steve McIntosh, Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution: how the integral worldview is transforming politics, culture and spirituality, 2007). The question is whether such inherently integrative perspectives would reframe the Club of Rome initiative and its bifurcations -- if new responses to the "predicament of mankind" are to be envisaged. It is of course also the case that any such initiative, however integrative its intentions, evokes bifurcations which presumably need to be understood as a feature of change itself, as tentatively discussed (Coherent Patterns of Schism Formation, Bifurcation and Disagreement -- and the associated bonding, encounters and agreements they evoke, 2001) -- as indeed implied by the interrelated conditions of the "Book of Changes".
This possibility is explored more extensively in an Annex on System Dynamics, Hypercycles and Psychosocial Self-organization: exploration of Chinese correlative understanding (2010).
Where is the map to navigate a turbulent emerging future? How best to understand the form and shape of the space "populated" by the above initiatives?
Mapping the set: It might be assumed that the reports to the Club of Rome, as a set, constitute the reference points on a map for governance in the future. The report on The Limits to Growth was intended to serve that purpose to some degree. The many other reports listed above do indeed constitute markers for such governance. But as a set they have not been integrated into any kind of coherent map. They have not been "branded" as a set to create a common identity for image-building and marketing purposes. In their tendency to respond to specific issues, they necessarily avoid elaborating a framework for those that preceded them, or for those to follow. There is no such framework, although references to The Limits to Growth still serve as a reminder of what might have been possible -- however much that possibility has been deprecated. The relation of any one report to the set may only be indirect, incidental and possibly opportunistic.
It is appropriate to note that there now exist software applications (such as Leximancer) which can ingest large quantities of documents and generate integrative concept maps from the set of documents as a whole. Clearly it would be a simple matter to do that for the above set of reports to the Club of Rome. The question is why is no case made for doing so and why exploring the result would be challenging. Is there a sense in which neither governors nor governed want anything that might function like a "map"?
The various bifurcations in their own way endeavour to map out frameworks but they also do not constitute a map. Together these initiatives, and the frustration at their inadequacies, justify the loss of credibilty of governance -- irrespective of scandals and other examples of misleadership. The challenge is complicated by an assumption that increasing "globalization" is effectively "flattening" Earth, as argued by Thomas L. Friedman (The World Is Flat, 2005) -- a view previously cirticized (Irresponsible Dependence on a Flat Earth Mentality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2008). The sense of flatness -- a "flat map" -- is however useful if it is intended to frame all those who do not agree with the globalization agenda (with which the Club of Rome has been significantly assumed to be associated) as having "fallen over the edge" -- to "where monsters and dragons dwell". Equally, those opposed to any such "alternative" agendas may be assumed, from that perspective, to have also "fallen over the edge" -- logical for a "flat" Earth with two "sides". This antiquated approach to mapping -- reminiscent of those of deprecated ancient myths -- does not contribute to resolving the challenge of integrating both perspectives (All Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord through polyphony? 2007).
Criteria for a useful map?: This leads to the question what might constitute a valued map? What might be the characteristics of such a map? Of particular interest is the design of any "map" to traverse the chaos of the global civilizational collapse which may be anticipated (Karen A. Cerulo, Never Saw It Coming: cultural challenges to envisioning the worst, 2006; Jared M. Diamond, Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed, 2005). This has been explored as a speculative exploration into designing "maps" enabling a degree of past civilization to survive into the present (Minding the Future: thought experiment on presenting new information, 1980). Another approach, in the light of current reflections by a number of authors on cognitive engagement with the environment is, controversially, to consider the territory as the map -- a practice common in indigenous societies (The Territory Construed as the Map: in search of radical design innovations in the representation of human activities and their relationships, 1979).
It could be fruitfully assumed that each of the initiatives, and their components, could be understood as a consequence of a form of speciation within an ecosystem of modelling/mapping approaches. The emergence of new initiatives would then be an effort to establish a distinct competitive advantage, whether or not the older efforts continue to co-exist with the newer, at least to some degree. The maps could then each be seen as partial approaches to a more comprehensive understanding. Mapping the "location" of the initiatves in relation to one another would then constitute a significant exercise in self-reflexivity -- compensatoing for the tendency of each to imply claims for more comprehensive significance that is appropriate.
Why is self-reflexivity resisted in relation to mapping psychosocial dynamics (Consciously Self-reflexive Global Initiatives: Renaissance zones, complex adaptive systems, and third order organizations, 2007)? Factors for an "eightfold way" which merit discussion include:
Essentially these points raise the question of whether designing a map of value for global governance should build in factors regarding the process of how it is designed, used and comprehended -- notably with respect to what may be ignored, as previously discussed (Mapping the Global Underground, 2010; Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009). Basically the question is how self-reflexive is the map?
Configuring "sides" and "braiding" discourse: Part of the challenge of "global" democracy is to configure the many "sides" into as close an approximation to the sphere constituted by the "globe" in reality (Spherical Configuration of Categories -- to reflect systemic patterns of environmental checks and balances, 1994). This is a cognitive challenge as well as a socio-political challenge, discussed separately in terms of polyhedral governance (Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors, 2008; Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2009). Whilst it is accepted as a fact that there are people on the other" side" of the world who are awake (whilst those on this "side" are asleep), it is remains difficult to integrate the reality of this awareness -- as jet lag so ably demonstrates.
To the extent that the initiatives (and those identified with them) effectively constitute or are associated with threads of discourse, the challenge of "mapping" may also be expressed as one of "weaving" together variously coloured threads (Interweaving Thematic Threads and Learning Pathways: noonautics, magic carpets and wizdomes, 2010). The braiding braiding together of threads in this way may indeed be implicit in the relations between "conversations" amongst the participants in the above initiatives over the years. The question is what explicit form this might take that would be as fruitful as the mythical Ariadne's thread -- for the guidance of global governance out of the labyrinth of challenges. Given the distinctive implicit "colouring" of the hexagrams, their pattern above might be considered indicative of cognitive "braiding" possibilities -- especially inthe light of the knowledge cybernetics explored by Maurice Yolles (as mentioned above)..
Given the potential cognitive implication of self-reflexivity in relation to governance, "braiding" can then be appropriately considered in the light of the argument of Douglas Hofstadter (Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, 1979). Such a braid offers a further possibility of considering a simplistic caricature of the potential implicit in what the future may recognize as the "functionally requisite" bifurcations above (ignoring the cross-overs between them):
Given the shared original governance preoccupation with the "predicament of mankind", the potential implicit in these approaches can be reframed in terms of the refinement recently brought to his original argument by Hofstadter in I Am a Strange Loop (2007). There he sought to clarify the central message of Gödel, Escher, Bach by demonstrating how the properties of self-referential systems can be used to describe the unique properties of human minds -- and consequently of the human identity at the core of the "predicament" and any strategically relevant effort to comprehend it. Of course if the myth of Ariadne (and the navigation by governance out of the labyrinth of that predicament) is to be taken further, consideration can be given to handling the Minotaur dwelling in that labyrinth (Viable Global Governance through Bullfighting: challenge of transcendence, 2009). Paradoxically, an essential feature of the predicament for many individuals in navigating their lives is the sense in which the Minotaur is an extremely appropriate caricature of their own experience of global governance -- exemplified by 9/11 and its consequences (Promoting a Singular Global Threat -- Terrorism: strategy of choice for world governance, 2002). The "Minotaur" has become the strategic "elephant in the living room" serving to mirror denial and to enhance the credibility of the above-mentioned conspiracy theories.
Recognition of Le Chatelier's Principle: Of relevance to the threatening labyrinthine dynamics of the Minotaur is the insight of management management cybernetician Stafford Beer (on Le Chatelier's Principle as applied to social systems):
Immediately predating Ozbekhan's original proposal to the Club of Rome, it would seem that these dyanmics could usefully be built into any future consideration of global strategic management.
Psychoactive engagement: More intriguing is the assumption that the desirable global map is something to be "looked at" rather than being a new kind of psychoactive medium through which people can engage and by which they can be engaged. Steps in this direction are evident in the technology of situation rooms and in the experimental, scientific immersion environment of Allosphere (Topology of Valuing: psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations, 2008). A case can be made for the dramatically increasing role of interactive video games as a collective transformation towards an engaging, interactive map of relevance to governance (Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005).
It is not recognized how much is built into assumptions about the appropriatness of the flat surface on which the texst of the above reports are all written. By contrast, a torus holds an interesting position in the discussion of the relationship between form and medium as fundamental to advanced theories of communication. This notably featured in the work of Niklas Luhmann (Die Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft, 1997) as discussed by Michael Schiltz (Form and Medium: a mathematical reconstruction, Image [&] Narrative, 6, 2003) in relation to the calculus of indications of George Spencer-Brown (Laws of Form, 1969/1994). Schiltz notes that form/medium is "the image for systemic connectivity and concatenation", as described by Humberto Maturana and Francesco Varela. He further notes, that the notion of "space" is the key to reflexivity appropriate to any discussion of form and medium, citing Spencer-Brown (see discussion in Comprehension of Requisite Variety for Sustainable Psychosocial Dynamics, 2006).
There is however a certain irony to the fact that the I Ching itself has been used as a kind of map as with the geomantic compass (Feng Shui compass or luopan). Whilst these, and their western equivalents, are now deprecated as technologies of any value (except in construction work in Asia), they are indicative of a dimension missing from the kinds of mapping representation upheld as desirable for decision-making and govenance. Put succinctly, blockbuster movies and videos -- like Avatar (2009) -- have immensely greater capacity to engage the populations of the world (Relevance of Mythopoeic Insights to Global Challenges: cognitive integration implied by the Lord of the Rings, 2009). Whether "map", "myth" or "compass", perhaps there is a need to shift to a preoccupation with these (and other possibilities) as richer metaphors offering enhanced coherence in governance (Guiding Metaphors and Configuring Choices, 1991; In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007).
The question is what can be learnt about framing the future from what in reality engages people? Have the set of reports to the Club of Rome, as a set, been designed with this in mind?
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