population overshoot

Insider

Getting to a Future That Has a Future

It all depends on how well we manage contraction
Tuesday, October 15, 2013, 7:18 PM

Executive Summary

  • The 3 fundamental activities society will need to prioritize in order to manage our contracting economy & resources
  • How food production will need to evolve if we are to continue to feed ourselves in the future
  • How pursuing "growth" is wasting us precious time and energy
  • Mandatory transition will be needed across all sectors: transportation, health care, urban planning, manufacturing, trade, etc..

If you have not yet read Part I: Growth is Obsolete, available free to all readers, please click here to read it first.

The problem of growth in its current context is first a problem of language, but  do not make the mistake of supposing that this is just a semantic argument. Language is the human animal's primary tool-kit for accomplishing anything in groups, whether it is hunting bison or putting a spacecraft on the moon. If you use the wrong tool you are likely to mismanage the task. Now the primary task facing humans in this moment of history is managing contraction and our goal should be to manage it in a way that minimizes the potential for hardship and suffering. It must be obvious, then, that "growth" in the broad sense that we use the term is not conducive to facilitate "contraction" in the broad sense. The promiscuous use of the word "growth" in our economic debates only confuses us and paralyzes our ability to construct a coherent narrative about what is happening in the world and how we might enter a plausible future which extraordinary events are now shaping.

Three Fundamental Activities

I propose that we substitute the term "activity" for "growth" in our public debates over how our economy can function in the face of the manifold crises of population overshoot, climate change, peak cheap oil, and capital scarcity. There are an endless number of purposeful activities we can undertake to address these large problems that do not connote growth. The three fundamental categories of these activities can be stated with precision, namely:

  1. re-localizing
  2. downscaling, and
  3. de-complexifying.

The quality in common with all of them is indeed the opposite of growth. Yet they all imply a range of positive actions that we can undertake as communities to make new arrangements for the human project to continue in a favorable way.

I will describe the particulars in a moment, but first the point must be made that... » Read more

Blog

America the Vulnerable

History warns we're sleepwalking towards collapse
Monday, May 27, 2013, 7:13 PM

For most people, the collapse of civilizations is a subject much more appetizingly viewed in the rearview mirror than straight ahead down whatever path or roadway we are on.

Jared Diamond wrote about the collapse of earlier civilizations to great acclaim and brisk sales, in a nimbus of unimpeachable respectability. The stories he told about bygone cultures gone to seed were, above all, dramatic. No reviewers or other intellectual auditors dissed him for suggesting that empires inevitably run aground on the shoals of resource depletion, population overshoot, changes in the weather, and the diminishing returns of complexity.

Yet these are exactly the same problems that industrial-technocratic societies face today, and those of us who venture to discuss them are consigned to a tin-foil-hat brigade, along with the UFO abductees and Bigfoot trackers. This is unfortunate, but completely predictable, since the sunk costs in all the stuff of daily life (freeways, malls, tract houses) are so grotesquely huge that letting go of them is strictly unthinkable. We’re stuck with a very elaborate setup that has no future, but we refuse to consider the consequences... » Read more