THE DILEMMA OF SUSTAINABILITY
Difficult questions sometimes require difficult and complex answers. Richard Heinberg and Dr. William Reese have an uncanny understanding of the complexities surrounding overconsumption and population growth, and both possess and uncanny ability to cut through the noise and simply explain truths which many wish simply weren’t true. They advocate for positions that many ignore – because they aren’t easy topics to digest or to work on. The truth is, we must work on overpopulation and overconsumption, because so many of our world’s problems become unsolvable without addressing these issues head on.
THE DILEMMA OF SUSTAINABILITY
“On average, species in every class have disappeared by 2/3! Over the past 50 years”
Depleted species. Unfortunately, yes. Depleted water, forests, and top soil, resoundingly yes. Depleted minerals and metals, absolutely yes. Depletion is true across the board. Are you tuning in? I hope so because this is just the beginning of an eye-opening and thought-provoking conversation. Spoiler Alert! The 30 minutes you spend listening to this podcast has the ability to upend everything you thought to be normal and true over the course of your life. Or it will break down concepts you’ve known in new ways, helping you communicate complex realities. In the 30 minutes you spend listening to this podcast, the human population will have grown by 3,810 people. Over the course of my life, the human population has grown by nearly 3.5 billion people.
This is the Current World Population
Net Growth Since You’ve been on this site
The most simplistic definition of overshoot: Too many people consuming and too much pollution. Too much waste being dumped into the ecosystem of the place we call home. That is a soundbite we can work with. That is a definition that makes sense and we can build on to help people change their habits and behaviors.
Growth is only a 200-year-old phenomenon. It took human beings 250,000 years to reach the first billion people in the 1800s. I’m not a mathematician, but this basic math blows my mind. We have an enormous problem here. Our perception of what is normal, is far from normal. In the last 30 years, we have used more than half the fossil fuels ever used by humanity. In the next 30 years, if the economy doubles, we will have used as much fossil fuels as all of humanity ever has. That doesn’t sound normal, and that doesn’t sound sustainable. Keep in mind, we use energy to exploit everything else. That definitely isn’t sustainable, nor is it moral, or just, or ethical.
Across the world, people are desperate because of the issues Richard and Bill talk about. In your community, right now, people are running out of water. In your community, right now, resources are becoming more expensive and more competition exists to acquire them. In your community, right now, species are fighting for their mere existence. And if we don’t change course, the battles we’re facing will only get harder, and perhaps more violent.
In the first episode of our limited series podcast, contributors Dr. William Rees and Richard Heinberg address the following questions:
- What is Earth Overshoot and why we need to address overconsumption and population growth?
- Why will turning a blind eye on Earth Overshoot will make things worse?
- How are we currently living through the most abnormal era in human history?
- Why is perpetual economic growth a myth and why do we need to get rid of it?
- Why do we need a smaller economy and a massive shift in lifestyles?
- Why is renewable energy not as sustainable as we think and why is it not a solution to our current ecological crisis?
- How can we transform society by reorienting its values from economic growth to human well-being?
- Why do we need a voluntary and humane global population program?
- Why is changing the global mindset about Earth Overshoot and getting involved politically essential?
They make us question what is normal, what is sustainable, and answer many fundamental questions about population growth and sustainability. The first one minute of conversation has the power to upend normalized and engrained beliefs about our modern era – what is normal? Population growth is not only unsustainable, it also isn’t normal.
We have a chance to examine what society considers normal. Perpetual growth? Normal. Fossil Fuels? Totally Normal. More factory farming and meat production? Normal, unless you ask the forests. If only trees could talk. They would disagree. Luckily for us, Dr. William Reese and Richard Heinberg not only disagree, but they have spent decades speaking with people across the world on why our normalized behavior isn’t all that normal, and have also gotten people across the world to change their behavior.
If you are like me, and you don’t want to continue participating in a “business as usual” extractive economy and society, then listen to the podcast here.
EPISODE 1. THE DILEMMA OF SUSTAINABILITY
To satisfy the needs and desires of 8 billion people, we currently need 1.8 planet Earths. But because there is just one planet, we are overshooting its capacity by using more resources than Earth can regenerate and dumping more waste than it can assimilate.
Dr. William Rees is an ecologist, ecological economist, former Director and Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning in Vancouver. He has authored hundreds of academic papers and popular articles on humanity’s (un)sustainability crisis. Bill is best known for originating and co-developing ecological footprint analysis (EFA) with Mathis Wackernagel and other graduate students. EFA is now widely used by scientists, businesses, governments, and institutions to monitor human demands on ecosystems and document population overshoot.
Richard Heinberg is Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute, and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He is the author of fourteen books and hundreds of articles on society’s current energy and environmental sustainability crisis. His latest book is Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival. He has also delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues on six continents.