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Review: Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot, a recently published book, is a jaw-dropping exposé which challenges the very essence of sustainable development.

Mixing quotes from renowned world figures, facts, and photos of Earth’s resources being plundered to quench our thirst for economic growth, this book is yet a sobering reminder that humans can’t handle rapid population growth while seeking unlimited economic growth within our planet’s capacity.


Image credit via Population Media Center/Carney & Associates

Consider, in 1987, the Earth’s population was at 5 billion. In 1999, it reached 6 billion, and then in 2011, 7 billion. By 2025, the book estimates 8 billion will inhabit this planet, and 9.6 billion by 2050. Humans have exhausted 150% of planet Earth’s renewable capacity yearly, while needing two planets by 2030 to keep up our livelihoods, according to this book.

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot’s brutal, no holds barred honesty is its biggest asset in grabbing the reader’s attention. It pulls no punches on what needs to happen to avert a disaster suggested by many environmentalists: limiting population growth and consumption, not relying on technological solutions. By planned parenting, contraceptives, and empowering women in developing nations, William Ryerson, founder and president of the Population Media Center, suggests global population can stabilize to 8.3 billion by 2050, and eventually level off to 6.7 billion by 2100 (which is based on low-end UN low-variant demographic predictions).

If the message of limiting population and consumption does not get you, then taking a trip through haunting photos of our footprint on Earth will, with quotes from Robert F. Kennedy, Naomi Klein, and others adding deeper context beyond these photos in the book:


“Black Friday” Shoppers: “We will find neither national purpose nor personal satisfaction in a mere continuation of economic progress, in an endless amassing of worldly goods.” —Robert F. Kennedy Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA; © Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman.


Fire: “Public infrastructure around the world is facing unprecedented stress, with hurricanes, cyclones, floods and forest fires all increasing in frequency and intensity. it’s easy to imagine a future in which growing numbers of cities have their frail and long-neglected infrastructures knocked out by disasters and then are left to rot, their core services never repaired or rehabilitated.” —Naomi Klein More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet; © R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post.


Computer Dump: “Even as a waste disposal site, the world is finite.” —William R. Catton Jr. Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana; © Peter Essick.


Trash Wave: “Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.” —Jacques-Yves Cousteau Indonesian surfer Dede Surinaya catches a wave in a remote but garbage-covered bay on Java, Indonesia, the world’s most populated island; © Zak Noyle.

Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot is the An Inconvenient Truth for the deep ecology crowd. It does for deep green photo books what An Inconvenient Truth did with regards to global warming and Our Choice did for the green technology crowd.

While some cleantech advocates and environmental economists disagree (including myself) with some of the ideas here (namely, on handling economic growth), this book does what it does best: it puts a broken mirror in front of all of us, and challenges us to look at the bigger picture on our planet in how we manage our natural resources.

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Written By

is expected to complete the Professional Development Certificate in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto by December 2017. Adam recently completed his Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College Continuing & Online Learning. Adam also graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications in 2011. Adam owns a part-time tax preparation business. He also recently started up Salay Consulting and Social Media services, a part-time business which provides cleantech writing, analysis, and social media services. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or check out his business


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