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Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change Paperback – June 1, 1982
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The issue is our ecological footprint.
Catton uses the term "Age of Exuberance" to represent the time since 1492 when first a newly discovered hemisphere and then the invention of fossil-fuel-driven machines allowed Old-World humans to escape the constraints imposed by a population roughly at earth's carrying capacity, and instead to grow (and philosophize and emote) expansively. He then reminds us that we are soon to be squeezed by the twin jaws of excessive population and exhausted resources, as our current population is utterly dependent on the mining and burning of fossil energy and its use to exploit earth's resources in general. In spring 2005, the buzz about "the end of cheap energy" is reaching quite a pitch, and when and if the "peak oil" scenario (or other environmental limit-event) is reached, the impact on our social / political world will be enormous. Already the US is brandishing and using its superior weaponry to sieze control of oil assets; this same kind of desperate struggle may well erupt at all levels of society if we don't find a way to identify the problem, anticipate its consequences, and find solutions.Read more ›
Catton's basic approach starts off sounding a little Malthusian: we humans are just one more animal on this planet, and our overpopulation of it relative to what can realistically be supported is going to start placing us under great pressure, as would happen with any other animal in the same boat. Our methods of maintaining our numbers are gradually wiping out the biodiversity we need for our civilization to sustain itself.
This process cannot continue indefinitely, it must crash -- and such a crash would be natural and normal, even commonplace. It can be graphed happening time and again to numerous species which overshoot their necessary resource base. They begin with the exuberance of having more than enough support to grow, but then this growth takes them past the point at which sufficient resources are available, and they die off. This is nature's way, and we should not think we are immune.
Yeast making wine in a vat will be subject to the same process, a surge and then a sudden die-off. It happened to humanity on Easter Island (for example), and now it is happening to us. We can take a lesson from yeast if we will, and recognize the process. "We need a clear-headed ecological interpretation of history," says the author at the start (and of course goes on to provide an excellent one.)
Growth, says Catton, has become a kind of disease in our recent history.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
First, the good part. This book is compelling, sweeping, and novel. It's a sobering vision of society, the economy, and the environment. Catton is to be commended for that. Read morePublished 2 months ago by floobedy
This book was way ahead of its time when it was published 35 years ago. It is clearly written, compelling, and well-researched. Read morePublished 5 months ago by David Hopkinson
This readable 1980 classic presents the basic concepts of how humans have interacted with and effected the rest of the environment. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Andrew Dancer III
I really wanted to like and respect "Overshoot" by William Catton, but reading this in 2014, more than 40 years after its initial writing in 1973 (not published until the... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Glenn Gallagher
William Catton’s book, Overshoot, describes the process by which most modern societies have achieved overshoot — a population in excess of the permanent carrying capacity of the... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Richard Reese (author of Sustainable or Bust)