Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change
William R. Catton (1980)
Though, ‘Overshoot’, is ostensibly a book about biophysical limits, the theme that runs through it is about the human propensity for denying obvious facts: Our ability to deceive not only others, but more importantly, ourselves.
As with the first review in this four-part miniseries, ‘Farewell to Growth’ (2007), any book that posits the ‘end of affluence’ will inevitably attract the misanthrope, and their arch-enemy, the Cornucopian.
There’s a lovely exchange from one of the more comical ‘X-Files’ episodes that’s very descriptive:
“I wanna be abducted by aliens.”
“Why, whatever for?”
“…I just wanna be taken away into some place where I don’t have to worry about finding a job.”
Those who celebrate the book are as equally interesting as those who hate it: Celebrating the ‘end of society’ can be just as escapist as the cult-like belief that ‘technology will save us’; yet, as Catton describes, both misanthropy and Cornucopianism are a means of denying the demonstrable trends unfolding before our eyes.
Catton summarises the scope of the book in the Preface:
“In a future that is as unavoidable as it will be unwelcome, survival and sanity may depend upon our ability to cherish rather than to disparage the concept of human dignity… I have tried to show the real nature of humanity’s predicament not because understanding its nature will enable us to escape it, but because if we do not understand it we shall continue to act and react in ways that make it worse.”
That’s why this book has as many ‘haters’ as it does devotees: It attacks people’s ‘cult-like’ belief in the innovative power of technology; and disturbs the ‘comfortable classes’ by reminding them of the impermanence of those comforts.
…click on the above link to read the rest…