ecoglobe Overshoot
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"Overshoot" means having gone too far.

We, the human race, we have gone too far.
Too many people are consuming too much resources - far beyond the carrying capacity of the planet.

Our impact on the earth can be represented by the equation I = P x A x T

      Impact (our footprint) = Population (size) × Affluence (welfare) × Technology.

Our impact is far too high, as can readily be see by the irreparable damage we have inflicted on our environments, waters, seas, lands, forests, mountains, wildlife and fish, and the climate.

William R. Catton Jnr. explained humanity's overshoot situation in his 1982 book
Overshoot, The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change".

The front page includes the following definitions:

  • carrying capacity: maximum permanently supportable load.
  • cornucopian myth: euphoric belief in limitless resources.
  • drawdown: stealing resources from the future.
  • cargoism: delusion that technology will always save us from
  • overshoot: growth beyond an area’s carrying capacity, leading to
  • crash: die-off.


    Sustainability: The balances are maintained if a resource is not consumed at a higher rate than needed for regeneration.

    In a situation of overshoot we see only one remedy: making the necessary steps back. That means a reduction of our population size and our per capita resource consumption.
    Less people leading a far more frugal life style.
    Then we would have a chance to avoid total depletion and the demise of humankind in final resource wars. How this could be achieved in time, in an orderly and socially acceptable way, is a mystery.
    Since miracles are exceptions, these scenarios seem unstoppable and leading to this kind of post-modern world.
    "Limits To Growth" (1972) Meadows, Meadows, Randers & Behrens)
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    The Sky "Might" Be Falling!

    Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change

    William Robert Catton

    Reviewer: Patrick Renau from Mt. Baker, Washington.

    From Amazon.com's website

    Although now 20 years old, Overshoot remains as pertinent and important today as ever. At heart, it is about the implications of our profligate use of the world's oil reserves. We are using, in the blink of an eye, a resource that took billions of years to form—with no thought of what will happen when it runs out. This book examines the consequences of our shortsightedness. It is an excellent resource about an issue that is fundamental to our society today. It is on my "top 10" list—books I consider essential reading for any literate person who cares about the world, the future, or their place in either. —Editor

    Being the first reviewer of this title verifies the specificity of the subject matter. Trying to be a skeptic among both extremes of environmental thought can be a tough act, especially after reading such explosive "documentation" of what Catton blatantly subtitles "The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change". His research is thick and juicy; his claims believable. Written in 1980, the concerns maintain an ever-increasing credibility of the much earlier "Tragedy of the commons" analogy, in that, limited resources and unlimited consumption will eventually come to a head.

    This book shines a giant flashlight on what many don't what to look at. I'm still on the fence, but looking into the other yard now. Highly recommend this for those in the light though it is written for those in the dark. Could be one of the most important books in this lifetime, if not the next.

    Patrick Renau manages a ski resort in Washington. He has a Masters degree in Earth Science and an undergraduate in business. He has written 11 reviews for Amazon.com.


    Circular Versus Linear Ecosystems

    From the book Overshoot by William Catton

    (see review on page 4)

    Whatever the origins of human redundancy, and whatever the sequel to it, we needed to see (but were not seeing) that what had happened to us between the wars, and especially what happened to us since World War II, had not resulted merely from politics or economics in the conventional sense. The events of this period had simply accelerated a fate that began to overtake us centuries ago. The population explosion after 1945 and the explosive increase of technology during and after the war were only the most recent means of that acceleration.

    Human communities once relied almost entirely on organic sources of energy—plant fuels and animal musclepower—supplemented very modestly by the equally renewable energy of moving air and flowing water. All of these energy sources were derived from ongoing solar income. As long as man's activities were based on them, this was, as church men said, "world without end." That phrase should never have been construed to mean "world without limit," for supplies can be perpetual without being infinite.

    Locally, green pastures might become overgrazed, and still waters might be overused. Local environmental changes through the centuries might compel human communities to migrate. As long as resources available somewhere were sufficient to sustain the human population then in existence, the implication of Liebig's law was that carrying capacity (globally) had not yet been overshot. If man was then living within the earth's current income, it was not from wisdom, but from ignorance of the buried treasure yet to be discovered.

    Then the earth's savings, and new ways to use them, began to be discovered. Mankind became committed to the fatal error of supposing that life could thenceforth be lived on a scale and at a pace commensurate with the rate at which treasure was discovered and unearthed…

    Homo sapiens mistook the rate of withdrawal of savings deposits for a rise in income. No regard for the total size of the legacy, or for the rate at which nature might still be storing carbon away, seemed necessary. Homo sapiens set about becoming Homo colossus without wondering if the transformation would have to be quite temporary. (Later, our pre-ecological misunderstanding of what was being done to our future was epitomized by that venerable loophole in the corporate tax laws of the United States, the oil depletion allowance. This measure permitted oil "producers" to offset their taxable revenues by a generous percentage, on the pretext that their earnings reflected depletion of "their" crude oil reserves. Even though nature, not the oil companies, had put the oil into the earth, this tax write-off was rationalized as an incentive to "production." Since "production" really meant extraction, this was like running a bank with rules that called for paying interest on each withdrawal of savings, rather than on the principal left in the bank. It was, in short, a government subsidy for stealing from the future.)

    For a much longer excerpt from Overshoot, see the Brain Food website at http://www.dieoff.org/page15.htm

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    Joachim Monkelbaan and William R Catton at the ASPO conference, Washington, November 2011