Book Review: Come On! A Report to the Club of Rome: New Frontiers

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May 1, 2018

The full Review has been published in Cadmus Journal Vol. 3, Issue 4 and is available here:

Book Review of Come On! (May 2018)

Introduction

Come On! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet. A Report to the Club of Rome. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and Anders Wijkman (CoR Co-Presidents), with 34 more CoR Members. New York: Springer Science, Jan 2018, 220 pp, $29.99.The Club of Rome is an unusual organization with an unusual history. The initial 1972 report to CoR on the predicament of mankind warned of “exponential” population growth, and potential collapse around 2100, due to overshoot. The Limits to Growth went viral, to use a contemporary term, receiving a huge amount of worldwide publicity and pushback by economists. Arguably, success was due to an early use of a computer model, sponsorship by a mysterious club, and the OPEC oil crisis in early 1973 that dramatically highlighted resource scarcity, albeit only oil and temporary at that.But there were many other books on population/resource issues in the early 1970s1, and there were even books in the early 1950s explicitly noting “limits to growth.”2 The 1974 second report to the CoR,3 arguing for a nuanced distinction between undifferentiated and organic growth, has scarcely been noticed. Since its extraordinary lift-off in the early 1970s, the CoR has sponsored more than 40 reports, distributed by a wide variety of publishers, many of them obscure (see the CoR website for a colorful array of book covers and brief descriptions). Come On!, prepared for the CoR’s 50th anniversary in 2018, attempts to synthesize some of these reports. Rather than an anthology of several dozen essays, von Weizsäcker and Wijkman have melded together a wide variety of contributions received in draft form by 34 CoR members and a few non-members. The result is somewhat encyclopedic, with lots of ideas to chew on, arranged in three long chapters, each with numbered parts and sub-parts.But first an explanation for the unusual title. In casual language, it is often spelled “C’mon,” meaning “don’t try to fool me.” Chapter 1 is thus titled “C’mon! Don’t Tell Me the Current Trends Are Sustainable!”, while Chapter 2 is “C’mon! Don’t Stick to Outdated Philosophies.” Chapter 3, “Come On! Join Us on an Exciting Journey Towards a Sustainable World” employs the other usage of “Come On” as an invitation to join the authors. Despite the casual style, the authors admit that “this book Come On!is hard stuff. It will not be easy to digest.


Michael Marien (mmarien@twcny.rr.com): Senior Principal of the SSG and a Fellow of the World Academy of Art & Science, publisher of Cadmus and Eruditio. He founded and edited Future Survey, a monthly publication of the World Future Society (1979-2008). He wrote more than 20,000 abstracts of futures-relevant books, reports, and articles and has published more than a hundred articles in futures publications.

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