Cornucopian Myth: William Catton (#107 Encore)


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“The age of growth and the age in which growth is going to be considered a good thing is coming to an end.” The late sociologist William R. Catton was certain of this, but spent a significant portion of his professional life attempting to understand why mainstream society was reluctant to prove his point. Catton authored the landmark book, Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, published in 1980. He brought important sociological perspective to a subject dominated by biologists and physicists. He observed that our lives are built around an obsolete cultural belief system, developed when the size of human civilization had not yet outgrown the carrying capacity of the planet. According to scientists at the Global Footprint Network, human civilization surpassed a sustainable scale (a combination of population and consumption) in the 1970s. Catton observed a lag between that reality and the dominant worldview that affects our rate of consumption – of both renewable and nonrenewable resources. Bill Catton passed away on January 5, 2015. At the time of my conversation with Bill Catton, he had just published his third book, Bottleneck: Humanity's Impending Impasse. For more information and links to Catton's work, visit We're sharing some of the best episodes of Season One while we take a break, before launching a 3rd season of Conversation Earth. Vote for a 3rd season at

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