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Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil.To feed the world, to clean the air and water, we need to change what we do with our soils.This podcast looks at the many variants of regenerative food growing. How? Why? When?We must be the ChangeUnderground!


78 Overshoot as the Problem | #worldorganicnews 2017 08 21




Systemic Change Driven by Moral Awakening Is Our Only Hope

There’s No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss

Small Farms


This is the World Organic News for the week ending 21th of August 2017.

Jon Moore reporting!

This week we focus upon one post from Damn the Matrix Or why the world is going to hell, entitled: Systemic Change Driven by Moral Awakening Is Our Only Hope by Richard Heinberg.


Our core ecological problem is not climate change. It is overshoot, of which global warming is a symptom. Overshoot is a systemic issue. Over the past century-and-a-half, enormous amounts of cheap energy from fossil fuels enabled the rapid growth of resource extraction, manufacturing and consumption; and these in turn led to population increase, pollution and loss of natural habitat and hence biodiversity.

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In essence, because we can extract more than the planet can replace each year we are eating our futures. Climate change is the point where we meet this overuse of resources as the planetary systems react to our actions. There are, I would argue, other points where this systematic misuse of resources will slap us in the face. One would be the plastic garbage pools in the oceans. These are less of an immediate issue to most people than heat waves which are direct experiences. And of course it’s not just heat waves. Increasing climate variability seems to be, from the viewpoint of the individual for more important than huge collections of plastics in the middle of oceans most people never travel across or simply fly over.

But the point of the article is well made. Climate change is a symptom not a cause. The cause of the visible symptoms is the overshoot.

So all the attempts in the world to de-carbonise the energy systems will not fix the problem of overshoot but might mitigate climate change but it’s not likely to end the arising of new symptoms. Much a like a medieval medico sniffing the urine of the patient to diagnose an illness caused by a disharmony in the four vital fluids would lead to changes in diet and therefore the scent of the urine, if the cause was actually cancer, it didn’t help. The medico was doing their best, they were just operating in the a false paradigm. Changing the energy system will change the temperature but will not stop the collapse of ecosystems. The ecosystems which support life itself. We are looking to “fix” in a reductionist manner, each symptom. The disease rolls on.

So a misdiagnosing of the current conditions as the disease is adding to long term creation of further symptoms.


The human system expanded dramatically, overshooting Earth’s long-term carrying capacity for humans while upsetting the ecological systems we depend on for our survival. Until we understand and address this systemic imbalance, symptomatic treatment (doing what we can to reverse pollution dilemmas like climate change, trying to save threatened species and hoping to feed a burgeoning population with genetically modified crops) will constitute an endlessly frustrating round of stopgap measures that are ultimately destined to fail.

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As I have argued in earlier episodes, the Green movement, in particular are guilty, with the best of intentions, of this sort of stop gap approach. The hydra headed nature of transnational corporations means each “win”in air quotes by the Green movement is swamped by many other areas of planetary rape and pillage.

To understand this we need a system wide approach. There were hints this was becoming the new paradigm in the 1960s and 1970s. Both ecology as a discipline and such popular cultural expressions of the thought system in the novels of Frank Herbert based on the Dune series are examples. In Herbert’s first work, Dune, in particular, is an understanding of the complexity and self sustaining nature of ecological systems that underpins the novel. They have an inertia within them which resists external threats.

There comes a time when even this inertia is overcome. In the novels, the desserts are made to bloom, in the real world, rainforests are converted to soya bean and cattle production.

The danger is the greatest symptom becomes the focus of the spot fire chasing green movement.


However, in recent decades, as climate change has come to dominate environmental concerns, there has been a significant shift in the discussion. Today, most environmental reporting is focused laser-like on climate change, and systemic links between it and other worsening ecological dilemmas (such as overpopulation, species extinctions, water and air pollution, and loss of topsoil and fresh water) are seldom highlighted. It’s not that climate change isn’t a big deal. As a symptom, it’s a real doozy. There’s never been anything quite like it, and climate scientists and climate-response advocacy groups are right to ring the loudest of alarm bells. But our failure to see climate change in context may be our undoing.

End Quote.

The author, Richard Heinberg, points out the “Reduce, reuse, recycle.”  mantra is perhaps the only way to avoid the overshoot, year after year. It does mean a change in how we live that the techno fix of moving from fossil fuel to carbon free energy does not call for.


The ecological argument is, at its core, a moral one—as I explain in more detail in a just-released manifesto replete with sidebars and graphics (“There’s No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss”). Any systems thinker who understands overshoot and prescribes powerdown as a treatment is effectively engaging in an intervention with an addictive behavior. Society is addicted to growth, and that’s having terrible consequences for the planet and, increasingly, for us as well. We have to change our collective and individual behavior and give up something we depend on—power over our environment. We must restrain ourselves, like an alcoholic foreswearing booze. That requires honesty and soul-searching.

End quote.

In the process of powering down, removing tractors from farming, returning to diverse smallholdings where people are systems leaders rather than energy and energy equivalents managers there is hope. We no longer need ten offspring to produce food from smallholdings, we no longer need tractors and chemicals and outside inputs from corporations to feed the world and we definitely need to educate the female half of the world’s population. This last point is critical. The evidence shows that the higher the level of female education, the lower the family size and the less stress, therefore, on global systems. A more highly educated population maybe troublesome for authoritarian and even corporation driven pseudo democracies but it is imperative for the planet and its life sustaining systems.

And don’t think smallholder food production leads to endless drudgery and peasant economies, quite the opposite in fact. It also leads to more biodiversity and more stable landscapes. There’s a link in the show notes to support this argument.

I can’t think of a better summary than the one from the article which inspired this episode:


The good news is that systemic change is fractal in nature: it implies, indeed it requires, action at every level of society. We can start with our own individual choices and behavior; we can work within our communities. We needn’t wait for a cathartic global or national sea change. And even if our efforts cannot “save” consumerist industrial civilization, they could still succeed in planting the seeds of a regenerative human culture worthy of survival.

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And on that happy note we will end this week’s episode.

If you’ve liked what you heard, please tell everyone you know any way you can! I’d also really appreciate a review on iTunes. This may or may not help others to find us but it gives this podcaster an enormous thrill! Thanks in advance!

Any suggestions, feedback or criticisms of the podcast or blog are most welcome. email me at

Thank you for listening and I'll be back in a week.





Systemic Change Driven by Moral Awakening Is Our Only Hope

There’s No App for That: Technology and Morality in the Age of Climate Change, Overpopulation, and Biodiversity Loss

Small Farms

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