The Club of Rome and the Sustainability Movement

Back in February, I was surprised to learn that prominent anti-corporatist and sustainability advocate David Korten, is a member of the Club of Rome. The latter, along with Bilderbergers, the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, is an important think tank in the Round Table network of world elites Bill Clinton’s mentor Carroll Quigley describes in his 1966 book Tragedy and Hope. Korten, co-founder of the Positive Futures Network and Yes! Magazine, is a former project specialist in Southeast Asia for the Ford Foundation and the US Agency for International Development (which both receive major CIA funding for their “development” work). Korten reportedly abandoned the pro-corporate world of right wing foundations and think tanks when he left the Ford Foundation in 1992. The author of When Corporations Rule the World, he has become an extremely popular speaker at anti-corporate and Occupy events.

On learning of Korten’s Club of Rome membership, I asked my self whether a true anti-corporatist would join a Round Table organization of corporate elites. The business executives who participate in Round Table think tanks are legally obligated to make profits and shareholders their highest personal and professional priority. In essence this demands that they do everything in their power to suppress wages, benefits, income tax and environmental regulations. In fact, I can envision no beneficial role whatsoever for corporate think tanks in a truly democratic society. No society run by its own citizens is going to allow upper 1% and the so-called intellectuals who work for them to decide how they rest of us should live.

The History of the Club of Rome

An Internet search reveals there are four main sources of information about the Club of Rome (COR): the Club of Rome website; Lyndon Larouche’s prolific attacks against the Club of Rome; Illuminati and New World Order sites drawing on Larouche’s work; and various climate change denial sites, which portray the entire sustainability movement as an anti-growth conspiracy originating with the COR. The climate change denial movement receives major financial support from billionaire oil barons David and Charles Koch and the Big Coal lobby.1 I suspect many of the New World Order websites also receive a significant chunk of corporate funding, though this is more difficult to trace.

The Club of Rome grew out of a 1965 international conference called “The Conditions of World Order.” It was held on oil magnate David Rockefeller’s private estate in Bellagio Italy. It was sponsored by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (a well-known CIA front.2 ), the Ford Foundation (another well-known conduit for CIA funding), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Twenty-one “scholars, writers, and scientists” attended this preliminary conference. They issued a report stating that the risk of “nuclear conflagration” made it “incumbent upon intellectuals of the world to play a decisive role in the formation of pressure groups in favor of world order.”

Italian industrialist Aurelie Pecei (major shareholder in Fiat and Italian telecom giant Olivetti), called a follow-up conference, again at Bellegio, in 1968. This second conference resulted in the creation of the Club of Rome (COR), a “think tank” of 75 scientists, industrialists, economists, heads of state and four token liberals: peace activist Norman Cousins; co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW) Betty Friedan; Jean Houston, author and pioneer in the “human potential” movement, and Amory Lovins, the environmental scientist who went on to found the Rocky Mountain Institute (dedicated to fostering sustainable business development models).

Limits to Growth

According to the Club of Rome website, their mission is to “maintain a thorough interest” (translation: to lobby governments) in environment and resources, globalization, world development, social transformation (translation: using propaganda to influence popular thinking), and peace and security. They are best known for their 1972 book Limits to Growth, which the COR commissioned a group of MIT researchers to write. Using a mathematical model based on “system dynamics” they examined the future evolution of the global economy by tracking a number of variables across a variety of possible future scenarios. Their conclusion: unless specific measures were taken, the world’s economy would likely collapse some time in 21st century. This collapse would be caused by a combination of resource depletion, overpopulation, and growing pollution.

Attacked Across the Political Spectrum

Limits to Growth raised enormous interest, selling at least twelve million copies in thirty languages. The 1973 oil crisis, a year after its publication, seemed to confirm the authors’ predictions about the global economy’s vulnerability to resource scarcity. The book, which had major influence over the Carter administration, was totally repudiated by later neoliberal leaders (e.g. Reagan and Thatcher) who came to power promoting an unlimited growth agenda. The Catholic Church attacked Limits to Growth for the emphasis it placed on controlling overpopulation. Likewise the John Birch Society and other extreme right groups attacked it for being part of a liberal Rockefeller-initiated conspiracy to create a world government. Even the political left attacked it as a scam to convince workers that a proletarian paradise was impossible.

The most vicious attacks against the Club of Rome and Limits to Growth originated from a former leftist turned right-wing fascist and would be FBI/CIA collaborator.S3 Larouche, a prolific researcher, brags about the letter he received from Club of Rome attorneys, threatening him with legal action.4

The Club of Rome and the New World Order

Larouche seems to be the main source of claims that the Club of Rome (COR) is part of a 300-year-old secret sect called the Illuminati and is responsible for a variety of depopulation schemes, as well as a plot to establish a one world government. Much of the inflammatory language on New World Order (NOW) sites is attributed to the Club of Rome but actually originates from Larouche publications.

One example is the 1980 “Global Future: A Time to Act,” which stresses the importance of enacting population policies. Numerous New World Order websites claim this report calls for sterilization and abortion. The original report, available from Law Digital Commons, makes no mention whatsoever of either. This claim actually originates from a 1982 article in Laroche’s Intelligence Review called “Global 2000: Blueprint for Suicide.”

Do Corporations Fund Right Wing Conspiracy Websites?

The owners of these right-wing websites are often dismissed as deluded paranoids. However the consistency of the messages promoted suggests a more sinister and coordinated propaganda agenda. These sites play an important role in discrediting legitimate academic and journalistic research into genuine government crimes (also known as SCADS or State Crimes Against Democracy). Moreover, blaming all the ills of the world on secretive fraternal groups, be they Illuminati, Freemasons, Rothschilds, or Knights of Malta, is very effective in diverting attention from the far more important role corporate lobbies play in undermining the so-called democratic governments of industrialized countries.

The paranoid urban legends created by these right-wing sites also camouflage the reality that the Club of Rome is a powerful anti-democratic group run by corporate elites. Although its membership is a matter of public record, there is also no question that meetings between corporate elites and lawmakers exert major influence on the government and public policy.

Club of Rome Predictions Come True

Over the past few years, skyrocketing energy and food costs, melting ice caps, and unrelenting economic turmoil have clearly borne out the dire predictions Limits to Growth made in 1972. Ironically, Lyndon Larouche and other New World Order critics have also been vindicated (to some extent), owing to the regional and global economic consolidation that has occurred with the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the European Union (EU), the single-currency Eurozone and the western hemisphere trading bloc known as the Free Trade of the Americas Area (FTAA). Most New World Order websites cite the 1973 Club of Rome report entitled “Regionalized Adaptive Model of the Global World System: and their 1976 book Mankind at the Turning Point. Both propose dividing the world into ten regional entities (North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the rest of the developed word, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, South and Southeast Asia and China) under a single global government.

Are There Natural Links Between the COR and the Sustainability Movement?

So where does David Korten stand in relation to all this? To his credit, Korten has invested substantial personal wealth in the Positives Futures Network and Yes! Magazine. Yet the fundamental themes of his writing and presentations suggest he is unlikely to be manning the barricades any time soon. At present, the anti-corporate movement seems to be split into two main camps. The first believes that the corporatocracy can be brought down by convincing a critical mass of people to withdraw from the corporate economy by forming their own regional and local networks based on sustainable models of development and democratic self-governance. The second, for which environmental activist Derrick Jensen is a major spokesperson, believes that the corporate elite will destroy the earth’s biosphere long before this transformation is complete — through catastrophic climate change, mass species extinction, nuclear Armageddon and/or continued poisoning of our air, water and food with life threatening toxic chemicals. Jensen argues, in the book Endgame and the recent film End:Civ Resist or Die, that the powerful corporate elites must be stopped, by force if necessary. In contrast, Korten appears to be solidly in the first camp. His writings and presentations cover a range of topics about building the community networks necessary to support the post carbon world he envisions. Yet they are short on strategic vision about the best way to bring about this new, non-corporate society.

Currently there seems to be plenty of room for both camps in the anti-corporate movement. However as the Occupy and global anti-austerity movement continue to grow in size and influence, Koreten and other sympathetic members of round table elites such as the Club of Rome will be forced to make a choice: whether to side with those of us willing to actively engage in dismantling capitalism or with the police and military personnel who will seek to shoot us down in the streets.

  1. See “Koch Brothers funding climate change denial machine” and “Climate change denial research.” []
  2. See “The CIA and the cultural cold war revisited.” []
  3. ee Lyndon Larouche watch. []
  4. See Club of Rome Complaint. []

Dr. Bramhall is a retired American psychiatrist and political refugee in New Zealand. She has published a free, downloadable non-fiction ebook 21st Century Revolution. Her first book The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led her to leave the US in 2002. Email her at: stuartbramhall@yahoo.co.nz. Read other articles by Stuart Jeanne, or visit Stuart Jeanne's website.