Overshoot (population)

In environmentalism, the concept of overshoot is the belief that the human population, or its resource consumption patterns, has or in the future may rise above the sustainable use of resources. The "overshoot" is that proportion of the population or environmental footprint which must be eliminated in order for human society on Earth to be sustainable.[1][2]

A decline in population as a consequence of overshoot has been termed 'collapse'. The trajectory undergone by such a population has been called 'overshoot-and-collapse'.

Overshoot can occur due to lag effects. Reproduction rates may remain high relative to the death rate.[3] Entire ecosystems may be severely affected and sometimes reduced to less-complex states due to prolonged overshoot.[4] The eradication of disease can trigger overshoot when a population suddenly exceeds the land's carrying capacity. An example of this occurred on the Horn of Africa when smallpox was eliminated. A region that had supported around 1 million pastoralists for centuries was suddenly expected to support 14 million people. The result was overgrazing, which led to soil erosion.[5]

Human overpopulationEdit

Dennis Meadows and Donella Meadows presented their computer-based model of the future of the human population in their 1972 book The Limits to Growth. This study predicted the Earth would reach a carrying capacity of ten to fourteen billion people after some two hundred years, after which the human population would collapse.[6] This simulation modelled human populations after the overshoot and collapse seen in yeast cells in a petri dish. It was highly controversial and generally dismissed as nonsense.[7]

William R. Catton, Jr., a sociologist, wrote about relationships between human societies and their environment, as well as his beliefs that there were too many people and more needed to die, in his 1980 book Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. He wrote that humanity would overshoot Earth's carrying capacity, due to both overpopulation and overconsumption.[8][9][10]

The Global Footprint Network purports to be able to measure how much the human economy demands against what the Earth can renew.[11][12] The Optimum Population Trust (now called Population Matters) has listed what they believe is the overshoot (overpopulation) of a number of countries, based on the above.[13]

Domestic non-human overshootEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Global Footprint Network. (2010). The Ecological Footprint Atlas 2010
  2. ^ schreef, Nathan Surendran (2014-12-01). "Humans in ecological overshoot: Collapse now to avoid a larger catastrophe". The Seneca Effect. Retrieved 2017-05-16.
  3. ^ Schmitz, Oswald J. (2013). Ecology and Ecosystem Conservation. Island Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-1597265980. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  4. ^ Howes, Michael (2011). "Development and Ethical Sustainability". In Newman, Julie (ed.). Green Ethics and Philosophy: An A-to-Z Guide Volume 8 of The SAGE Reference Series on Green Society: Toward a Sustainable Future-Series Editor: Paul Robbins. SAGE Publications. p. 114. ISBN 978-1452266220. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  5. ^ Debora MacKenzie (10 October 2011). "Low-key projects keep Horn of Africa famine at bay". NewScientist. Reed Business Information. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  6. ^ Meadows, Donella; Jørgen Randers; Dennis Meadows (2004). Limits to growth: The 30-year update. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company. p. 337. ISBN 1-931498-51-2.
  7. ^ Sharpe, M.E. (2015). Economic Abundance: An Introduction. M.E. Sharpe. p. 67. ISBN 978-0765628084. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  8. ^ William R. Catton, Jr. (1980). Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 9780252008184.
  9. ^ Ryerson, W. F. (2010), "Population, The Multiplier of Everything Else", in McKibben, D. (ed.), The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century Sustainability Crisis, Watershed Media, ISBN 978-0-9709500-6-2
  10. ^ Brown, L. R. (2011). World on the Edge. Earth Policy Institute. Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-08029-2.
  11. ^ Mathis Wackernagel, Niels B. Schulz, Diana Deumling, Alejandro Callejas Linares, Martin Jenkins, Valerie Kapos, Chad Monfreda, Jonathan Loh, Norman Myers Richard Norgaard and Jørgen Rander (May 16, 2002). Tracking the ecological overshoot of the human economy. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  12. ^ Wackernagel, Mathis; Lin, David; Evans, Mikel; Hanscom, Laurel; Raven, Peter (2019). "Defying the Footprint Oracle: Implications of Country Resource Trends". Sustainability. 11 (7): 2164. doi:10.3390/su11072164.
  13. ^ "New index highlights most overpopulated countries". populationmatters.org. Optimum Population Trust. 10 April 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2012.

Further readingEdit