Some keywords from "Overshoot"

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These definitions are from Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change by William J. Catton, Jr.. Do not read this book if your dream in life is to sit on as much money as Billy Boy Gates #3. There is only need in the world for one like he. Besides, the Mexicans have overcharged themselves and everybody else to bring up Carlos Slim&Trim, "El Nuevo Numero Uno."

Age of Exuberance:
the centuries of growth and progress that followed the sudden enlargement of habitat available to Europeans as a result of voyages of discovery; a period of expansion when a species takes exuberant advantage of the abundant opportunities in a eminently suitable but previously inaccessible habitat. [Imagine a roe and a buck deer placed upon an island covered with forage and where there are no predators. They will happily be fat and multiply as fast as they can. That was what it was like when the Europeans came from over the sea to the new world, the Americas. Their superior weapons and method of social organization allowed them to largely ignore the fact that the Indians were already there.]

Ecological Exuberance:
the lavish use of resources by members of a freely expanding population who are, at a given time, significantly fewer in number than the maximum permitted by the carrying capacity of their habitat. [The catfish are jumping, the corn is high; your daddy's rich and your mammy's good lookin'.]

Culture of Exuberance:
the total complex of beliefs and practices associated with the opportunities for expansive life in the Age of Exuberance; a culture founded upon the myth of limitlessness. [The American Dream; there will always be more tomorrow of that which we now perceive as wealth than there is today, no matter how many more people there are.]

Myth of Limitlessness: the belief (more implicit than explicit, perhaps) that the world's resources are sufficient to support any conceivable human population engaged in any conceivable way of life for any conceivable duration; derivatively, the belief either that a given resource is inexhaustible or that substitutes can always be found. [The belief that there is enough material and energy for everybody on the Earth to have a car, and a house with three garages, that it's just a matter of working for it. That way, driving a guzzler has absolutely nothing to do with somebody else's poverty.]

Cornucopian Paradigm: a view of past and future human progress that disregards the carrying capacity concept, pays no attention to the finiteness of the world or to differences between takeover and drawdown, and accepts uncritically the myth of limitlessness. [This is the way TV urges most people to think, because the big boys are always after more money, no matter what. There will never be too many people or gasoline guzzlers, too much carbon dioxide, or enough stuff to spend money on.]

Cosmeticism: faith that relatively superficial adjustments in our activities will keep the New World new and will perpetuate the Age of Exuberance.[Thinking that nuclear and wind power, smaller cars, and better light bulbs will allow everything to just keep on truckin' the way it is.]

Ostrichism: obstinately persistent belief in the myth of limitlessness; the unrealistic supposition that nothing basic has changed; refusal to face facts. [Thinking that it doesn't matter if species are increasingly going extinct, the climate getting worse, the poor more desperate, the people more numerous, the moneyed increasingly blind and isolated swamped in their things and power —that is the way the world has always been and always shall be.]

Realism: recognition that the Age of Exuberance is over and that overpopulation and resource depletion must inexorably change human organization and human behavior. [Realizing that the only thing that is going to get us to the other shore beyond the darkness is a great change.]

Paradigm: an underlying shared idea of the fundamental nature of whatever it is that a collectivity of minds seeks to understand: an idea that guides inquiry and thought by defining what seems real, how things are presumed to work, and how additional facts about this reality and these processes may presumably be obtained. [The habit of understanding the world that lies even deeper than our awareness. Now, it is belief in the fairness of money and its ability to lead us into the future.]

Ecological Paradigm:
in general, a view of the web of life that recognizes a common chemical basis for all types of organisms (including man), emphasizes the dependence of all life processes upon flows of energy and exchanges of chemical substance between organism and environment, and expects living forms inevitably to have effects upon each other by these exchanges; in this book, rejection of the notion of human exemption for ecological principles and affirmation of the view that ecological concepts are essential for understanding human experience. [A way of understanding the world that is only in its beginning; in which we understand our actions upon the ecological systems to have global consequence and our destiny becomes that of a species dependent upon our relations with one another and the biosphere, rather than this current concept fostered by our economic system of isolated individuals, each getting his own.]

Human Exemptionalism: the notion that human beings are so fundamentally unlike other living creatures that principles of ecology (and perhaps many of the principles of other branches of biology, too) are inapplicable to us. [Thinking that the possession of consciousness somehow exempts us from the cycles and consequences of nature, such as being able to overpopulate our planet beyond its long term capacity to support us.]

Drawdown Method of Extending Carrying Capacity: an inherently temporary expedient by which life opportunities for a species are temporarily increased by extracting from the environment for use by that species some significant fraction of an accumulated resource that is not being replaced as fast as it is drawn down. [Creating the possibility for more people to be alive by exhausting resources faster than they are being replaced.]


Detritus Ecosystem: an ecosystem in which detritivores play a major part. As organic detritus accumulates in a given habitat, there is a temporary increase in carrying capacity for detritus consumers. Insofar as these are capable of increasing much faster that the detritus accumulates, however, their introduction to the community after detritus has already accumulated, or their release from some constraint that had earlier held back their use of the accumulation, tends to result in a cycle of bloom and crash. They irrupt and then as the detritus supply is exhausted, they die off. [Species can evolve that learn to feast off of accumulated dead remains, increase their exhaustion of that stored energy rapidly while it exists, run into the peak, and then die off.]

Detritovore: an organism that subsists by consuming detritus; by extension, any organism that uses the accumulated remains of long-dead organisms, including industrial human communities which are "detritovorous" insofar as they depend on massive consumption of the transformed organic remains from the Carboniferous period known as fossil fuels. [We are living off of the supply of dinosaur blood which can only run out because they are no longer walking the Earth, as well as off the other hydrocarbons, all of which are accumulations of dead organic matter.]

Takeover Method of Extending Carrying Capacity:
increasing opportunities for one species by reducing opportunities for competing species. [Creating the possibility for more people to be alive by extinguishing other species.]

Carrying Capacity:
the maximum population of a given species which a particular habitat can support indefinitely (under specified technology and organization in the case of the human species. [In the case at the beginning of the deer, if there was some way that they could learn to stop increasing their population at a number where the forage grew back as quickly as it was being eaten, then they would have a lifestyle in harmony with the environment, capable of continuing into the future without end. That number would be the carrying capacity of the island. For humans, the carrying capacity can be enlarged within limits with changes in technology and organization. What is important is to see the limits before one runs into them like a brick wall, and to realize which of the two ways of change best promises to fulfill any need to adapt —technology has been given the credit for everything, but it has been upon the back of the dinosaurs. If technology can no longer carry the ball then we are forced toward a different organization, and in all probability, a much smaller population.]

Phantom Carrying Capacity: illusory or extremely precarious capacity of an environment to support a life form or a way of life; that portion of a population that cannot be permanently supported when temporarily available resources become unavailable. [The millions and millions of houses that have been built around the idea of always having automobiles, and which will be almost worthless without them.]

Redundancy Anxiety:
a morbid apprehension arising from population pressure, based on the more or less conscious realization that if there is an excess of population in relation to carrying capacity, the population may include oneself, not just others. [Realizing that if there are too many people in the world, then one's own goose might be cooked.]

Link to Pasts and Their Futures, Four Models of OvershootCarrying Capacity Deficit, Overshoot: the condition wherein the permanent ability of a given habitat to support a given form of life is less than the quantity of that form already in existence. [The deer multiply beyond the number where the forage can grow back. In their hunger they devour it down to the roots where it grows back even more slowly, and almost all the deer then die off. This happened at St. Matthew Island. It also happened with people at Easter Island.

The way to understand overshoot in terms of human being is to give up for a minute the fantasy that there is nothing that science cannot do. Look around at the degree to which our society is based upon the current supply of dinosaur blood, and imagine that supply declining every year after year from now until forever. Then, reflect upon the attitudes that so many people have and that are so encouraged by the profit seekers: "I've got the money to buy an SUV and to fill the gas tank, and if that's what I want to do that's what I'm going to do";"If they don't have enough money to have a life, it's because they are either lazy or their government is rotten";"If the world is going to run out of oil, then I had better hurry up and use what I can while it's still here";"We can't let jobs and growth be taken away to save some silly endangered specie";"It is God's Will that brings children into the world";"The End of the World is coming and we at least are going to go to heaven, so why worry?" Even if somehow the reality of dinosaur blood exhaustion does not leave us beyond the capacity of the Earth to sustain us, our attitudes surely will. This is overshoot.]

Diachronic Competition: a relationship between generations in which living organisms satisfy their wants at the expense of their descendants.[This is where people don't know what to do with themselves other than want what the TV pushes them toward, such as retiring on golf curses in the desert watered with drinking water. They have to enjoy now the money they've got, regardless of the trashed out world that they leave behind.]

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