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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity

Consequences of Civilized Patriarchy’s Control of Reproduction and Consumption .. SS-DEFCON 3: ECOLOGICAL OVERSHOOT TABLE OF CONTENTS: SS-DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot

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Planetary Boundary Tipping Points


Natural Capital: Source and Sustenance of all Life


Loss of Biodiversity


Climate Change


Nitrogen Cycle


Ocean Acidification


Changes in Land Use


Global Freshwater Use


State Shift in Earth's Biosphere


Peak Non-Renewable Natural Resources (NNR): Scarcity


Socialized Corporate Externality Costs: Trillion Dollar Thefts from Global Natural Capital Commons


Ecological Overshoot: Carrying Capacity


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PLANETARY BOUNDARY TIPPING POINTS [1] The living fabric of this planet - its ecosystems and biodiversity - are in rapid decline worldwide. This is visible and palpable and is variously due to commercial over-exploitation, or population pressures, or a raft of unhelpful policies, or some combination. At a very fundamental human level, however, it is due to the lack of awareness that there is a problem with human society being disconnected from nature, from the knowledge that our natural capital is the source and sustenance, not only of life, but our social and economic lives. [2]

Tragedy of the Commons (ToC) Principles:

[2.1] The Tragedy of the Commons is an ecological concept that refers to the depletion of a shared resource by individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one's self-interest, despite their understanding that depleting the common resource is contrary to their long-term best interests. Ecologist Garrett Hardin famously explored this social dilemma in ―The Tragedy of the Commons‖.1 [2.2] Social Trap is a term used by psychologists to describe a situation in which a group of people act to obtain short-term individual gains, which in the long run leads to a loss for the group as a whole; such as for example overfishing, energy "brownout" and "blackout" power outages during periods of extreme temperatures, overgrazing on the Sahelian Desert, and the destruction of the rainforest by logging interests and agriculture. Social fence refers to a short-term avoidance behavior by individuals that leads to a long-term loss to the entire group. [2.3] Garrett Hardin‘s Tragedy of the Commons, 1968 essay focussed on clarifying how the population problem was a moral problem, and required a moral solution. Hardin showed why Adam Smith's laissez-faire doctrine and belief that the invisible hand enables a system of individuals to pursue their private interests which will automatically serve the collective interest; is flawed. [2.4] Hardin‘s key metaphor, the Tragedy of the Commons (ToC) showed why Smith was wrong. Hardin argued that when a resource is held "in common," with many people having "ownership" and access to it, a self-interested "rational" actor will decide to increase his or her exploitation of the resource since he or she receives the full benefit of the increase, but the costs are spread among all users. When many people think this way, the tragic result is the overexploitation and ruin of the commons. Similar to the herdsman, couples expect to experience a large benefit from having a second child, or consuming above carrying capacity, without having to bear the full social and ecological cost of their choices. Hardin concluded


Hardin, G (1968/12/13)

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity that in the absence of restricting the consequences of the ‗tragedy of the commons‘, would be nuclear war. [3]

Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons Assumptions & Solutions: [3.1]

The world is biophysically finite.


The more people there are, and the more they consume, the less each person's share must be.


Technology (ie, agricultural) cannot fundamentally alter this.


We can't both maximize the number of people and satisfy every desire or "good" of everyone.


Practically, biophysical limits dictate we must both stabilize population, and consumption.


Both steps will generate opposition, since many people will have to relinquish their procreation and/or consumption behaviour.

[3.2] Over-population and overconsumption are example‘s of the tragedy of the commons (ToC). A.

Commons are un-owned or commonly-held "pool" resources that are "free," or not allocated by markets.


Hardin's ToC model assumes that individuals are short-term, selfinterested "rational" actors, seeking to maximize their own gains.


Such actors will exploit commons (have more babies, add more cattle to pastures, pollute the air, overconsume) as long as they believe the costs to them individually are less than the benefits.


The system of individual welfare insulates individuals from bearing the full costs of over-reproducing, and corporate welfare insulates corporations from bearing the costs of overproduction.


When every individual believes and behaves in this manner, commons are quickly filled, degraded, and ruined along with their erst-while exploiters.


A laissez-faire system (letting individuals choose as they like) will not "as if by an invisible hand" solve over-population and/or overconsumption.

[3.3] The "commons" system for breeding and consuming must be abandoned (as it has been for other resources). A.

In other words, something must restrain individual reproduction and consumption.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity B.

but it must not be individual conscience; appealing to conscience will only result in fewer people with conscience in the population (assuming here that it is genetic, or perfectly transmitted by learning).


It should be accomplished by "mutual coercion mutually agreed upon."


Sacrificing freedom to breed and consume will obtain for us other more important freedoms which will otherwise be lost.


"Coercive" restrictions on breeding and consuming could take a number of forms.


The "right" to determine the size of one's family and socio-economic consumption status, must be rescinded.


This will protect the conscientious traits in the population.



The problem is then to gain peoples' consent to a system of coercion.


People will consent if they understand the dire consequences of letting the population growth rate and consumption growth rate, be set only by individuals' choices.


Educating all people about the ToC, its consequences, and the alternatives to it, is necessary.


Then various restraints and incentives for low reproduction and consumption, below the commons carrying capacity limits, can and must be instituted.

I=PAT: Reducing Human Impact on the Environment requires

population & consumption reduction. [5] The impact of humans on the environment and the demands that people place on the resources available on the planet can be summarised by what is known as the Ehrlich or IPAT equation, I=PAT. I = impact on the environment or demand for resources, P = population size, A = affluence and T = technology. [6]

The two most important conclusions deriving from this relationship are that:

[6.1] the Earth can support only a limited number of people, at a certain level of affluence, in a sustainable manner; and SSD3 :: 4

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [6.2]

Population and Consumption must be reduced to below carrying capacity.

NATURAL CAPITAL: SOURCE & SUSTENANCE OF ALL LIFE [7] Our Natural Capital Commons: Nature and its resources and biodiversity are the source and sustenance of all of life. The overexploitation, overproduction and overconsumption of Nature’s natural capital above ecosystem carrying capacity levels, systematically reduces the ecosystem’s carrying capacity, and activates the ScarcityConflict Death Spiral: [8] Earth is home to millions of species, including humans. An approximate number of total number of eukaryotic2 species is likely to be 5 ± 3 million of which about 1.5 million have been already named. Current estimates of eukaryote phyla: A.

1.5 million fungi; 3,067 brown algae; 17,000 lichens;


321,212 plants (including: 10,134 red and green algae, 16,236 mosses, 12,000 ferns and horsetails, 1,021 gymnosperms, 281,821 angiosperms);


1,367,555 non-insect animals including: 1,305,250 invertebrates (2,175 corals, 85,000 mollusks, as many as 1.1 million arachnids, including ~1 million mites and ~100,000 other arachnids, 47,000 crustaceans, 68,827 other invertebrates); 63,649 vertebrates (31,300 fish, 7,093 amphibians, 9,768 reptiles, 9,998 birds, 5,490 mammals);


As many as 10–30 million insects.

[9] Earth‘s mineral resources and the products of the biosphere contribute resources that are used to support all of earth‘s species populations, including the mammalian human population. 29.2% (148.94 million km2, or 57.51 million sq mi) of planet earth is not covered by water and consists of mountains, deserts, plains, plateaus, and other geomorphologies. [10] Natural capital is the extension of the economic notion of capital (manufactured means of production) to environmental goods and services. A functional definition of capital in general is: "a stock that yields a flow of valuable goods or services into the future". Natural capital is thus the stock of natural ecosystems that yields a flow of valuable ecosystem goods or services into the future. For example, a stock of trees or fish provides a flow of new trees or fish, a A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes. Eukaryotes may more formally be referred to as the taxon Eukarya or Eukaryota. The defining membrane-bound structure that sets eukaryotic cells apart from prokaryotic cells is the nucleus, or nuclear envelope, within which the genetic material is carried. 2

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity flow which can be sustainable indefinitely. Natural capital also provide services like recycling wastes or water catchment and erosion control. Since the flow of services from ecosystems requires that they function as whole systems, the structure and diversity of the system are important components of natural capital.3

[10.1] Economic prosperity depends on the flow of services from at least four types of capital: natural capital (the direct level of reliance depends on the sector and country; although indirectly all of the economy is dependent on the biodiversity strength of nature and its natural resources), manmade capital (buildings, machines and infrastructure, all of which are dependent on natural capital resources for their manufacture, maintenance and operation), human capital (people and their education, skills and creativity, whose physical and psychological health is directly dependent on natural capital) and social capital (the links between people and communities in terms of cooperation, trust and rule of law; all of which once again relies on the health and biodiversity of natural capital, to avoid degeneration into scarcity-conflict relationships). [10.2] ‘Biodiversity’ is an umbrella term that covers all life on the planet, from the genetic level to terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitats and ecosystems. It underpins our global economy as well as human well-being. Biological diversity means ―the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of


Encyclopedia of the Earth

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems" (Article 2, convention on Biological Diversity (cBD)). The term covers all the variety of life that can be found on Earth (plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms), the diversity of communities that they form and the habitats in which they live. It encompasses three levels: ecosystem diversity (i.e. variety of ecosystems); species diversity (i.e. variety of different species); and genetic diversity (i.e. variety of genes within species). [10.3] Ecosystem means ―a dynamic complex of plant, animal and microorganism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit‖ (Article 2, cBD). Each ecosystem contains complex relationships between living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components (resources), sunlight, air, water, minerals and nutrients. The quantity (e.g. biomass and productivity), quality and diversity of species (richness, rarity, and uniqueness) each play an important role in a given ecosystem. The functioning of an ecosystem often hinges on a number of species or groups of species that perform certain functions e.g. pollination, grazing, predation, nitrogen fixing. [10.4] Ecosystem services refer to the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005a). These include: provisioning services (e.g. food, fibre, fuel, water); regulating services (benefits obtained from ecosystem processes that regulate e.g. climate, floods, disease, waste and water quality); cultural services (e.g. recreation, aesthetic enjoyment, tourism, spiritual and ethical values); and supporting services necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services (e.g. soil formation, photosynthesis, nutrient cycling). [11] Robert Costanza, et al (15 May 1997): The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital4; Nature, Vol. 387, 15 May 1997: ―The services of ecological systems and the natural capital stocks that produce them are critical to the functioning of the Earth‘s life-support system. They contribute to human welfare, both directly and indirectly, and therefore represent part of the total economic value of the planet. We have estimated the current economic value of 17 ecosystem services for 16 biomes, based on published studies and a few original calculations. For the entire biosphere, the value (most of which is outside the market) is estimated to be in the range of US$16–54 trillion (1012) per year, with an average of US$ 33 trillion per year. Because of the nature of the uncertainties, this must be considered a minimum estimate. Global gross national product total is around US$18 trillion per year.‖ ―Because ecosystem services are not fully ‗captured‘ in commercial markets or adequately quantified in terms comparable with economic services and manufactured capital, they are often 4

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity given too little weight in policy decisions. This neglect may ultimately compromise the sustainability of humans in the biosphere. The economies of the Earth would grind to a halt without the services of ecological life-support systems, so in one sense their total value to the economy is infinite. However, it can be instructive to estimate the ‗incremental‘ or ‗marginal‘ value of ecosystem services (the estimated rate of change of value compared with changes in ecosystem services from their current levels). There have been many studies in the past few decades aimed at estimating the value of a wide variety of ecosystem services. We have gathered together this large (but scattered) amount of information and present it here in a form useful for ecologists, economists, policy makers and the general public. From this synthesis, we have estimated values for ecosystem services per unit area by biome, and then multiplied by the total area of each biome and summed over all services and biomes.‖

Global change and the Earth System: A Planet under Pressure: The extent to which human activities are influencing or even dominating many aspects of Earth‘s environment and its functioning has led to suggestions that another geological epoch, the Anthropocene Era (a term coined by Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer), has begun:

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity • In the last 150 years humankind has exhausted 40% of the known oil reserves that took several hundred million years to generate; • Nearly 50% of the land surface has been transformed by direct human action, with significant consequences for biodiversity, nutrient cycling, soil structure, soil biology, and climate; • More nitrogen is now fixed synthetically for fertilisers and through fossil fuel combustion than is fixed naturally in all terrestrial ecosystems; • More than half of all accessible freshwater is appropriated for human purposes, and underground water resources are being depleted rapidly in many areas; • The concentrations of several climatically important greenhouse gases, in addition to CO2 and CH4, have substantially increased in the atmosphere; • Coastal and marine habitats are being dramatically altered; 50% of mangroves have been removed and wetlands have shrunk by onehalf; • About 22% of recognised marine fisheries are overexploited or already depleted, and 44% more are at their limit of exploitation; • Extinction rates terrestrial ecosystems midst of its first activities of a single

are increasing sharply in marine and around the world; the Earth is now in the great extinction event caused by the biological species (humankind).

[11.1] The graphs below depict the increasing rates of change in human activity since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Significant increases in rates of change occur around the1950s in each case and illustrate how the past 50 years have been a period of dramatic and unprecedented change in human history. (Steffen et al (2004) 5 Sources6).

Steffen, W., et al. 2004. Global change and the earth system: a planet under pressure. Springer-Verlag, New York, New York, USA. Ecology and Society 9(2): 2. 6 US Bureau of the Census (2000) International database; Nordhaus (1997) In: The economics of new goods. University of Chicago Press; World Bank (2002) Data and statistics; World Commission on Dams (2000) The report of the World Commission on Dams; Shiklomanov (1990) Global water resources; International Fertilizer Industry Association (2002) Fertilizer indicators; UN Centre for Human Settlements (2001); The state of the world‘s cities, (2001); Pulp and Paper International (1993) PPI‘s international fact and price book; MacDonalds (2002); UNEP (2000) Global environmental outlook 2000; Canning (2001) A database of world infrastructure stocks, 1950–95 World Bank; World Tourism Organization (2001) Tourism industry trends 5

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[11.2] The following graphs depict the Global-scale changes in the Earth System as a result of the dramatic increase in human activity: (a) atmospheric CO2 concentration7; (b) atmospheric N2 O concentration8; (c) atmospheric CH4 concentration9; (d) percentage total column ozone loss over Antarctica, using the average annual total column ozone, 330, as a base10; (e) northern hemisphere average surface temperature anomalies11; (f) decadal frequency of great floods (onein-100-year events) after 1860 for basins larger than 200 000 km2 with observations that span at least 30 years12; (g) percentage of global fisheries either fully exploited, overfished or collapsed13; (h) annual shrimp production as a proxy for coastal zone alteration14; (i) model-calculated partitioning of the human-induced nitrogen perturbation fluxes in the global coastal margin for the period since 185015; (j) loss of tropical rainforest and woodland, as estimated for tropical Africa,

Source: Etheridge et al. (1996) J. Geophys. Res. 101:4115-4128 Machida et al. (1995) Geophys. Res. Lett. 22:2921-2924 9 Blunier et al. (1993) J. Geophys. Res. 20:2219-2222 10 Image: J.D. Shanklin, British Antarctic Survey 11 Source: Mann et al. (1999) Geophys. Res. Lett. 26(6):759-762 12 Milly et al. (2002) Nature 415:514-517 13 FAOSTAT (2002) Statistical databases 14 WRI (2003) A guide to world resources, 2002-2004; FAOSTAT (2002) Statistical databases 15 Mackenzie et al. (2002) Chem. Geology 190:13-32 7 8

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity Latin America and South and Southeast Asia16; (k) amount of land converted to pasture and cropland17; and (l) mathematically calculated rate of extinction18.


Drivers of Planetary Changes:

[11.4] Demographics and Consumption above Carrying Capacity Limits: Over the past two centuries, both the human population and the economic wealth of the world have grown rapidly. These two factors have increased resource consumption significantly, registered in agriculture and food production, forestry, industrial

Richards (1990) In: The Earth as transformed by human action, Cambridge University Press; WRI (1990) Forest and rangelands 17 Klein Goldewijk and Battjes (1997) National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Bilthoven, Netherlands 18 Wilson (1992) The diversity of life, the Penguin Press 16

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity development, transport and international urbanisation and even recreational activities.




[11.5] In the developed world, affluence, and more importantly the demand for a broad range of goods and services such as entertainment, mobility, and communication, is placing significant demands on global resources. Between 1970 and 1997, the global consumption of energy increased by 84%, and consumption of materials also increased dramatically. While the global population more than doubled in the second half of the last century, grain production tripled, energy consumption quadrupled, and economic activity quintupled. Although much of this accelerating economic activity and energy consumption occurred in developed countries, the developing world is beginning to play a larger role in the global economy and hence is having increasing impacts on resources and environment.

Planetary Boundaries: A Safe Operating Space for Humanity: [12] The Earth system responds in complex ways to external forces. The most obvious external force is the energy from the sun, which changes over time. On timescales of hundreds of thousands of years, the Earth‘s position relative to the sun alters slightly, changing the amount of energy we receive. The Earth system responds to this external force by cycling between ice ages and warm periods in a regular pattern. [13] After the last ice age, which finished 12,000 years ago, the Earth system settled into a relatively stable warm period that has allowed human society to grow and develop, eventually becoming a global force. Without significant external interference, this period would have likely persisted for several thousand years to come. [14] In 2009, researchers (Rockstrom, 200919) made the first attempt to define planetary boundaries associated with thresholds or tipping points in the Earth system that threaten the current state. They identified nine interconnected boundaries. Ensuring these boundaries are respected, the authors argue, will reduce the risk of crossing dangerous thresholds that push the Earth system into a new state. But the authors also state that human activity has already driven the Earth system across three boundaries: climate, biodiversity loss and nitrogen useš.

Rockstrom Johan (24 Sep 2009): A safe operating space for humanity, Nature, 461, 472-475 PDF: 19

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[15] The boundaries concept is still in its infancy and is expected to be refined in the coming years to explore its full implications. However, it is a useful communication tool. It moves the discussion beyond sustainable resource use to focus on fundamental and uncontrolled changes to Earth‘s biological, chemical and physical processes, prompting society to rethink definitions of sustainable development. Furthermore, it has the potential to help policymakers take an interconnected approach to managing planetary risks.

Loss of Biodiversity [16]

At the Seventh Trondheim (Norway) Conference on Biodiversity and

Ecosystem Services Chairman Zakri Abdul Hamid said ―we are hurtling towards irreversible environmental tipping points that, once passed, would reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide essential goods and services to humankind.‖

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [17]

Alarming figures from the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP)

Global Environment Outlook-5 (GEO-5) include: [17.1]

With more than 30 per cent of the Earth's land surface used for

agricultural production, some natural habitats have been shrinking by more than 20 per cent since the 1980s. [17.2]

The world lost over 100 million hectares of forest from 2000 to 2005, and

has lost 20 per cent of its sea grass and mangrove habitats since 1970 and 1980 respectively. [17.3]

In some regions, 95 per cent of wetlands have been lost. Two-thirds of the

world's largest rivers are now moderately to severely fragmented by dams and reservoirs. [17.4]

Vertebrate populations have declined on average by 30 per cent since

1970; around 20 per cent of vertebrate species are now under threat. [17.5]

The extinction risk is increasing faster for corals than for any other group

of living organisms, with the condition of coral reefs declining by 38 per cent since 1980. Rapid contraction is projected by 2050. [18] In August 1999, Environment New Service, reported20: ―the current extinction rate is now approaching 1,000 times the background rate and may climb to 10,000 times the background rate during the next century, if present trends continue [resulting in] a loss that would easily equal those of past extinctions.‖ (Emphasis added) [19] A major report, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment21, released in March 2005 highlighted a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth22, with some 10-30% of the mammal, bird and amphibian species threatened with extinction, due to human actions. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) added23 that Earth is unable to keep up in the struggle to regenerate from the demands we place on it. [20] The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes in a video24 that many species are threatened with extinction. In addition, at threat of extinction are: (i) 1 out of 8 birds; (ii) 1 out of 4 mammals; (iii) 1 out of 4 conifers; (iv) 1 out of 3 amphibians; (v) 6 out of 7 marine turtles; (vi) 75% of genetic diversity of agricultural crops has been lost; (vii) 75% of the world‘s fisheries are fully or over 22 23 24 What kind of world do we want?, IUCN, December 2008 (Updated Jan 22, 2010) 20 21

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity exploited; (viii) Up to 70% of the world‘s known species risk extinction if the global temperatures rise by more than 3.5°C; (ix) 1/3rd of reef-building corals around the world are threatened with extinction; (x) Over 350 million people suffer from severe water scarcity. [21] The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) maintains the Red List25 to assess the conservation status of species, subspecies, varieties, and even selected subpopulations on a global scale.26 [22]

Declining Amphibian Populations:

[22.1] Amphibians are particularly sensitive to changes in the environment27. Amphibians have been described as a marker species or the equivalent of ―canaries of the coal mines‖ meaning they provide an important signal to the health of biodiversity; when they are stressed and struggling, biodiversity may be under pressure. When they are doing well, biodiversity is probably healthy. [22.2] Malcom MacCallum of the Biological Sciences Program, Texas A&M University calculated that the current extinction rate of amphibians could be 211 times the background amphibian extinction rate28. He added that ―If current estimates of amphibian species in imminent danger of extinction are included in these calculations, then the current amphibian extinction rate may range from 25,039–45,474 times the background extinction rate for amphibians. [23]

Reptiles Threatened by Deforestation, Habitat Loss & Trade:

[23.1] 19% of the world‘s reptiles are estimated to be threatened with extinction, according to a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Zoological Society of London29. Reptiles include species such as snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises. [23.2] The study noted that the extinction risk is not evenly spread. For example, the study estimated 30% of freshwater reptiles to be close to extinction. Freshwater turtles alone are at a 50% risk of extinction, as they are also affected by national and international trade. [23.3] Why are reptiles so sensitive to environmental conditions?: ―Reptiles are often associated with extreme habitats and tough environmental conditions, so it is easy to assume that they will be fine in our changing world. However, many species are very highly specialized in terms of habitat use and the climatic conditions they Threat status of comprehensively assessed species by IUCN. Source: IUCN, compiled by Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, May 2010, p. 28 27 28 29 Dr Monika Böhm (February 15, 2013): Almost one in five reptiles struggling to survive, IUCN 25 26

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity require for day to day functioning. This makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes.‖ [24]

Dwindling Fish Stocks:

[24.1] IPS reports that fish catches are expected to decline dramatically in the world‘s tropical regions because of climate change30. Furthermore, ―in 2006, aquaculture consumed 57 percent of fish meal and 87 percent of fish oil‖ as industrial fisheries operating in tropical regions have been ―scooping up enormous amounts of fish anchovies, herring, mackerel and other small pelagic forage fish to feed to farmed salmon or turn into animal feed or pet food.‖ [24.2] A research article in the journal, Science, warned commercial fish and seafood species may all crash by 204831. At the current rate of loss, it is feared the oceans may never recover. Extensive coastal pollution, climate change, over-fishing and the enormously wasteful practice of deep-sea trawling are all contributing to the problem, as Inter Press Service (IPS) summarized32. [24.3] Loss of Biodiversity‘s effect on aquatic ecosystems: Ecosystems are incredibly productive and efficient—when there is sufficient biodiversity33. Each form of life works together with the surrounding environment to help recycle waste, maintain the ecosystem, and provide services that others—including humans—use and benefit from. [24.4] For example, as Steve Palumbi of Stamford University (and one of the authors of the paper) noted34, the ocean ecosystems can (i) Take sewage and recycle it into nutrients; (ii) Scrub toxins out of the water; (iii) Produce food for many species, including humans; (iv) Turns carbon dioxide into food and oxygen. [24.5] With massive species loss, the report warns, at current rates, in less than 50 years, the ecosystems could reach the point of no return, where they would not be able to regenerate themselves. Dr. Boris Worm comments: ―Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world‘s ocean, we saw the same picture emerging. In losing species we lose the productivity and stability of entire ecosystems. I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are— beyond anything we suspected.‖ [25]

Declining Ocean Biodiversity: 32 33 34 Dr. Boris Worm, Losing species, Dalhousie University, November 3, 2006 30 31

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [25.1] It is not just fish in the oceans that may be struggling, but most biodiversity in the seas. This includes mammals (e.g. whales, dolphins, polar bears), birds (e.g. penguins), and other creatures (e.g. krill). [25.2] The Census of Marine Life35 is a global network of researchers and scientists. They‘ve been involved in a decade-long initiative to assess diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans. A better understanding of these complex systems is clearly important given our dependence on the marine ecosystem in various ways. [Brief explanation of why we need to monitor ocean biodiversity, Ocean Observations Biodiversity Video36, Census on Marine Life, November 28, 2007] [25.3] This first Census of Marine Life (CoML) hopes to act as a baseline of how human activity is affecting previously unexplored marine ecosystems. A database37 of global marine life has also published as well as numerous videos38 (also on YouTube39) images40, and reports: 201041.) [25.4] The Census was able to determine, that over-fishing was reported to be the greatest threat to marine biodiversity in all regions followed by habitat loss and pollution. One of the summary reports42 also added that ―the fact that these threats were reported in all regions indicates their global nature.‖ A collection of regional and overview reports were also published on the Public Library of Science web site [25.5] In the past century, commercial whaling has decimated numerous whale populations, many of which have struggled to recover. [25.6] Increasing rapid ocean acidification, caused by the oceans absorbing more carbon dioxide than usual (because it is emitted by humans more than it should) also affects marine ecosystems, as explained at the climate change and biodiversity page43. [26]

Loss of Forests and Biodiversity:

[26.1] A 20-year study has shown that deforestation and introduction of nonnative species has led to about 12.5% of the world‘s plant species to become critically rare44. (In fact, as an example, a study suggests that the Amazon damage 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 35 36

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity is worse than previously thought45, due to previously undetected types of selective logging and deforestation.) [26.2] A report from the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development suggests that the forests of the world have been exploited to the point of crisis46 and that major changes in global forest management strategies would be needed to avoid the devastation. [26.3] What also makes this a problem is that many of the endangered species are only found in small areas of land, often within the borders of a single country. [26.4] New species of animals and plants are still being discovered. In Papua New Guinea, 44 new species of animals were discovered recently in the forests. Logging may affect these animals‘ habitats, though. The loss of rainforests around the world, where many species of life are found will mean that potential knowledge, whether medicinal, sustenance sources, or evolutionary and scientific information etc. could be lost. [26.5] Brazil, which is estimated to have around 55,000 species of flora, amounting to some 22% of the world‘s total and India for example, which has about 46,000 and some 81,000 animal species (amounting to some 8% of the world‘s biodiversity), are also under various pressures, from corporate globalization, deforrestation, etc. So too are many other biodiverse regions, such as Indonesia, parts of Africa, and other tropical regions.47 [27]

Sustainable Forests or Exponential Profits?:

[27.1] Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest48: ―It is true that cutting down forests or converting natural forests into monocultures of pine and eucalyptus for industrial raw material generates revenues and growth. But this growth is based on robbing the forest of its biodiversity and its capacity to conserve soil and water. This growth is based on robbing forest communities of their sources of food, fodder, fuel, fiber, medicine, and security from floods and drought.‖ [27.2] The overly corporate-led form of globalization that we see today also affects how natural resources are used and what priorities they are used for. [27.3] We hear more about sustainable forestry practices by the large logging multinationals. However, what does that really mean? Who is it sustainable for? Society and the environment, or for the logging companies? By replanting trees that 47 Comparing actual area of Brazilian portion of the Amazon deforested each year between 1990 and 2009 including the projected rate based on Brazilian government targets to reduce deforestation by 80% by 2020, and cumulative total deforestation as a percentage of the estimated original extent of the Brazilian Amazon (4.1 million km2). Source: Brazilian National Space Research Agency (INPE), graph compiled by Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010) Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, May 2010, p.33 48 Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest, (South End Press, 2000), p.1 45 46

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity will grow quickly and allow them to be felled for ―sustained‖ logging sounds like a good strategy. However, the trees that are favored for this (eucalyptus) require a lot of water to grow so quickly. As John Madeley points out: ―[T]he [eucalyptus] trees achieve this rapid growth by tapping large quantities of groundwater, impoverishing surrounding vegetation and threatening to dry up local water courses.‖49 [27.4] Madeley continues by describing the impact that the use of chemicals to treat woodpulp from the eucalyptus has on local fisheries and on food production. This has had terrible effects on indigenous people within such regions. 10 years on from the above, Inter Press Service notes similar things, as activists around the Amazon complain about tree plantations50. [28]

Illegal Timber Trade On A Large Scale:

[28.1] Some government institutions even buy illegal timber51 from pristine forests. For example, it is claimed52 that UK buys all of its Mahogany from pristine forests in Brazil where 80% of all timber is traded illegally. Even though Brazil has now tried to introduce a moratorium on Mahogany logging for two years, this has been slammed53 by some as too little, too late. [29]

Legal Timber Trade On A Large Scale:

[29.1] Under much secrecy, there is a push from USA and Asian economies to reduce tariffs54 for wood and paper products. Also at the WTO Ministerial meeting in November 1999, opening more markets for easier access 55 was the agenda, which included forests. [30] Consider the following observations and conclusions from established experts and institutions summarized by Jaan Suurkula, M.D. and chairman of Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology (PSRAST): World-wide cooperation required to prevent global crisis; Part one— the problem56: The world environmental situation is likely to be further aggravated by the increasingly rapid, large scale global extinction of species. It occurred in the 20th century at a rate that was a thousand times higher than the average rate during the

John Madeley, Big Business Poor Peoples; The Impact of Transnational Corporations on the World‘s Poor, (Zed Books, 1999) p.76. 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 Jaan Suurkula, World-wide cooperation required to prevent global crisis; Part one— the problem, Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology, February 6, 2004 [Emphasis is original] 49

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity preceding 65 million years. This is likely to destabilize various ecosystems including agricultural systems. …In a slow extinction, various balancing mechanisms can develop. Noone knows what will be the result of this extremely rapid extinction rate. What is known, for sure, is that the world ecological system has been kept in balance through a very complex and multifaceted interaction between a huge number of species. This rapid extinction is therefore likely to precipitate collapses of ecosystems at a global scale. This is predicted to create large-scale agricultural problems, threatening food supplies to hundreds of millions of people. This ecological prediction does not take into consideration the effects of global warming which will further aggravate the situation. Industrialized fishing has contributed importantly to mass extinction due to repeatedly failed attempts at limiting the fishing. A new global study concludes that 90 percent of all large fishes have disappeared from the world’s oceans in the past half century, the devastating result of industrial fishing. The study, which took 10 years to complete and was published in the international journal Nature, paints a grim picture of the Earth‘s current populations of such species as sharks, swordfish, tuna and marlin. …The loss of predatory fishes is likely to cause multiple complex imbalances in marine ecology. Another cause for extensive fish extinction is the destruction of coral reefs. This is caused by a combination of causes, including warming of oceans, damage from fishing tools and a harmful infection of coral organisms promoted by ocean pollution. It will take hundreds of thousands of years to restore what is now being destroyed in a few decades. …According to the most comprehensive study done so far in this field, over a million species will be lost in the coming 50 years. The most important cause was found to be climate change. …NOTE: The above presentation encompasses only the most important and burning global environmental problems. There are several additional ones, especially in the field of chemical pollution that contribute to harm the environment or upset the ecological balance.


The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

(IPBES)57, is a new international science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystems, set up to assist governments and citizens to better understand the 57

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity state, trends and challenges facing the natural world and humanity in the 21st century. [32]

The six Biodiversity-related conventions are: [32.1]

The Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS)58;


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild

Fauna and Flora (CITES)59; [32.3]

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and

Agriculture (ITPGRFA)60; [32.4]

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands61;


The World Heritage Convention (WHC)62; and


The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)63.

Global Diversity Outlook (GBO-3): [33] The UN‘s 3rd Global Biodiversity Outlook64, reports that the rate of biodiversity loss has not been reduced because the 5 principle pressures on biodiversity are persistent, even intensifying: (a) Habitat loss and degradation due to overpopulation and overconsumption; (b) Climate change (a consequence of Population and Economic Growth Agenda); (c) Excessive nutrient load and other forms of pollution (a consequence of Population and Economic Growth Agenda); (d) Over-exploitation and unsustainable use (a consequence of Population and Economic Growth Agenda); (e) Invasive alien species. Most governments report to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity that these pressures are affecting biodiversity in their country (see p. 55 of the report). [34]

The Global Biodiversity Outlook is the flagship publication of the Convention

on Biological Diversity. Drawing on a range of information sources, including National Reports, biodiversity indicators information, scientific literature, and a study assessing biodiversity scenarios for the future, the third edition of Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-365) summarizes the latest data on status and trends of biodiversity and draws conclusions for the future strategy of the Convention. 60 61 62 63 64 65 58 59

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [35]

Its goals are to: (1) Promote the conservation of the biological diversity of

ecosystems, habitats and biomes, (2) Promote the conservation of species diversity; (3) Promote the conservation of genetic diversity; (4) Promote sustainable use anbd consumption; (5) Reduce pressures from habitat loss, land use change and degradation, and unsustainable water use; (6) Control threats from invasive alien species; (7) Address challenges to biodiversity from climate change and pollution; (8) Maintain capacity of ecosystems to deliver goods and services and support livelihoods; (9) Maintain socio-cultural diversity

of indigenous and local

communities; (1) Ensure the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources; (11) Ensure Parties have improved financial, human, scientific, technical and technological capacity to implement the Convention. It failed to make any significant progress on any of its goals. Species in all groups with known trends are, on average, being driven closer to extinction, with amphibians facing the greatest risk and warm water reef-building corals showing the most rapid deterioration in status. Among selected vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups, between 12% and 55% of species are currently threatened with extinction. Species of birds and mammals used for food and medicine are on average facing a greater extinction risk than those not used for such purposes. Preliminary assessments suggest that 23% of plant species are threatened.


Species Populations and Extinction Risks:

The population of wild vertebrate species fell by an average of nearly one- third (31%) globally between 1970 and 2006, with the decline especially severe in the tropics (59%) and in freshwater ecosystems (41%). Observed trends in populations of wild species include: » Farmland bird populations in Europe have declined by on average 50% since 1980. » Bird populations in North American grasslands declined by nearly 40% between 1968 and 2003, showing a slight recovery over the past five years; those in North American dry lands have declined by nearly 30% since the late 1960s. » Of the 1,200 water bird populations with known trends, 44% are in decline. » 42% of all amphibian species and 40% of bird species are declining in population. Species in all groups with known trends are, on average, being driven closer to extinction, with amphibians facing the greatest risk and warm water reef-building corals showing the most rapid deterioration in status. Among selected vertebrate, invertebrate and plant groups, between 12% and 55% of species are currently threatened with extinction. Species of birds and mammals used for food and medicine are on average facing a greater extinction risk than those not used for such purposes. Preliminary assessments suggest that 23% of plant species are threatened.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity


Terrestrial Ecosystems:

Tropical forests continue to be lost at a rapid rate, although deforestation has recently slowed in some countries. Net loss of forests has slowed substantially in the past decade, largely due to forest expansion in temperate regions. Deforestation, mainly conversion of forests to agricultural land, is showing signs of decreasing in several tropical countries [See Box 5 and Figure 7], but continues at an alarmingly high rate. Just under 130,000 square kilometres of forest were converted to other uses or lost through natural causes each year from 2000 to 2010, compared to nearly 160,000 square kilometres per year in the 1990s. Savannas and grasslands, while less well documented, have also suffered severe declines. The extent of other terrestrial habitats is less well documented. It is estimated that more than 95 per cent of North American grasslands have been lost. Cropland and pasture have replaced nearly half of the cerrado, the woodlandsavanna biome of Central Brazil which has an exceptionally rich variety of endemic plant species. Between 2002 and 2008, the cerrado was estimated to have

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity lost more than 14,000 square kilometres per year, or 0.7% of its original extent annually, well above the current rate of loss in the Amazon. Abandonment of traditional agricultural practices may cause loss of cultural landscapes and associated biodiversity. Terrestrial habitats have become highly fragmented, threatening the viability of species and their ability to adapt to climate change. One-quarter of the world's land is becoming degraded. The condition of many terrestrial habitats is deteriorating. The Global Analysis of Land Degradation and Improvement estimated that nearly one quarter (24%) of the world‘s land area was undergoing degradation, as measured by a decline in primary productivity, over the period 1980-2003. Degrading areas included around 30% of all forests, 20% of cultivated areas and 10% of grasslands. Despite more than 12 per cent of land now being covered by protected areas, nearly half (44%) of terrestrial eco-regions fall below 10 per cent protection, and many of the most critical sites for biodiversity lie outside protected areas. Of those protected areas where effectiveness of management has been assessed, 13% were judged to be clearly inadequate, while more than one fifth demonstrated sound management, and the remainder were classed as ―basic‖. Indigenous and local communities play conserving very substantial areas of cultural value.

a significant role in high biodiversity and

Cultural and biological diversity are closely intertwined. Biodiversity is at the centre of many religions and cultures, while worldviews influence biodiversity through cultural taboos and norms which influence how resources are used and managed. As a result for many people biodiversity and culture cannot be considered independently of one another. This is particularly true for the more than 400 million indigenous and local community members for whom the Earth‘s biodiversity is not only a source of wellbeing but also the foundation of their cultural and spiritual identities. The close association between biodiversity and culture is particularly apparent in sacred sites, those areas which are held to be of importance because of their religious or spiritual significance. Through the application of traditional knowledge and customs unique and important biodiversity has often been protected and maintained in many of these areas over time. For example: » In the Kodagu district of Karnataka State, India, sacred groves maintain significant populations of threatened trees such as Actinodaphne lawsonii and Hopea ponga. These groves are also home to unique microfungi.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity » In central Tanzania a greater diversity of woody plants exists in sacred groves than in managed forests. » In Khawa Karpo in the eastern Himalayas trees, found in sacred sites have a greater overall size than those found outside such areas. » Coral reefs near Kakarotan and Muluk Village in Indonesia are periodically closed to fishing by village elders or chiefs. The reef closures ensure that food resources are available during periods of social significance. The average length and biomass of fish caught in both areas has been found to be greater than that at control sites. » Strict rituals, specific harvesting requirements and locally enshrined enforcement of permits regulate the amount of bark collected from Rytigynia kigeziensis (right), an endemic tree in the Albertine Rift of western Uganda which plays a central role in local medicine. This keeps bark collection within sustainable limits.


Some Estimated Values of Biodiversity:

» It has been estimated that the real income of poor people in India rises from US$ 60 to $95 when the value of ecosystem services such as water availability, soil fertility and wild foods is taken into account – and that it would cost US$ 120 per capita to replace lost livelihood if these services were denied. » Insects that carry pollen between crops, especially fruit and vegetables, are estimated to be worth more than US$ 200 billion per year to the global food economy. » Water catchment services to New Zealand‘s Otago region provided by tussock grass habitats in the 22,000 hectare Te Papanui Conservation Park are valued at more than US$ 95 million, based on the cost of providing water by other means.


Inland Water Ecosystems:

Inland water ecosystems have been dramatically altered in recent decades. Wetlands throughout the world have been and continue to be lost at a rapid rate. Between 56% and 65% of inland water systems suitable for use in intensive agriculture in Europe and North America had been drained by 1985. The respective figures for Asia and South America were 27% and 6%. » 73% of marshes in northern Greece have been drained since 1930. 60% of the original wetland area of Spain has been lost. » The Mesopotamian marshes of Iraq lost more than 90% of their original extent between the 1970s and 2002, following a massive and systematic drainage project. Following the fall of the former Iraqi regime in 2003 many drainage structures have been

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity dismantled, and the marshes were reflooded to approximately 58% of their former extent by the end of 2006, with a significant recovery of marsh vegetation. Water quality shows variable trends, with improvements in some regions and river basins being offset by serious pollution in many densely-populated areas. Of 292 large river systems, two-thirds have become moderately or highly fragmented by dams and reservoirs. Inland water ecosystems are often poorly served by the terrestrial protected areas network, which rarely takes account of upstream and downstream impacts. Governments are reporting increased concern about the ecological condition of wetland sites of international importance (Ramsar sites).


Some estimated values of inland water biodiversity:

Âť The Muthurajawela Marsh, a coastal wetland located in a densely populated area of Northern Sri Lanka, is estimated to be worth US$150 per hectare for its services related to agriculture, fishing and firewood; US$ 1,907 per hectare for preventing flood damage, and US$ 654 per hectare for industrial and domestic wastewater treatment. Âť The Okavango Delta in Southern Africa is estimated to generate US$ 32 million per year to local households in Botswana through use of its natural resources, sales and income from the tourism industry. The total economic output of activities associated with the delta is estimated at more than US$ 145 million, or some 2.6% of Botswana‘s Gross National Product.


Marine and Coastal EcoSystems:

Coastal habitats such as mangroves, seagrass beds, salt marshes and shellfish reefs continue to decline in extent, threatening highly valuable ecosystem services including the removal of significant quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; but there has been some slowing in the rate of loss of mangrove forests, except in Asia. Tropical coral reefs have suffered a significant global decline in biodiversity since the 1970s. Although the overall extent of living coral cover has remained roughly in balance since the 1980s, it has not recovered to earlier levels. Even where local recovery has occurred, there is evidence that the new reef structures are more uniform and less diverse than the ones they replaced. There are increasing grounds for concern about the condition and trends of biodiversity in deepwater habitats, although data are still scarce. About 80 percent of the world marine fish stocks for which assessment information is available are fully exploited or overexploited.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity Fish stocks assessed since 1977 have experienced an 11% decline in total biomass globally, with considerable regional variation. The average maximum size of fish caught declined by 22% since 1959 globally for all assessed communities. There is also an increasing trend of stock collapses over time, with 14% of assessed stocks collapsed in 2007.


Estimated Values of Marine and Coastal Biodiversity:

The world‘s fisheries employ approximately 200 million people, provide about 16% of the protein consumed worldwide and have a value estimated at US$ 82 billion. The value of the ecosystem services provided by coral reefs ranges from more than US$ 18 million per square kilometer per year for natural hazard management, up to US$ 100 million for tourism, more than US$ 5 million for genetic material and bioprospecting and up to US$ 331,800 for fisheries. The annual economic median value of fisheries supported by mangrove habitats in the Gulf of California has been estimated at US$ 37,500 per hectare of mangrove fringe. The value of mangroves as coastal protection may be as much as US$ 300,000 per kilometre of coastline. In the ejido (communally owned land) of Mexcaltitan, Nayarit, Mexico, the direct and indirect value of mangroves contribute to 56% of the ejido‘s annual wealth increase.


Genetic Diversity:

Genetic diversity is being lost in natural ecosystems and in systems of crop and livestock production. Important progress is being made to conserve plant genetic diversity, especially using ex situ seed banks. An example of the reduction in crop diversity can be found in China, where the number of local rice varieties being cultivated has declined from 46,000 in the 1950s to slightly more than 1,000 in 2006. Standardized and high-output systems of animal husbandry have led to an erosion of the genetic diversity of livestock. At least one-fifth of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction. The availability of genetic resources better able to support future livelihoods from livestock may be compromised. Twenty-one per cent of the world‘s 7,000 livestock breeds (amongst 35 domesticated species of birds and mammal) are classified as being at risk, and the true figure is likely to be much higher as a further 36 per cent are of unknown risk status.


Current Pressures on Biodiversity and Responses:

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [35.10]

The persistence and in some cases intensification of the five principal

pressures on biodiversity provide more evidence that the rate of biodiversity loss is not being significantly reduced. The overwhelming majority of governments reporting to the CBD cite these pressures or direct drivers as affecting biodiversity in their countries. They are: » Habitat loss and degradation; » Climate change » Excessive nutrient load and other forms of pollution; » Over-exploitation and unsustainable use; » Invasive alien species. [35.11]

Habitat Loss and Degradation:

Habitat loss and degradation create the biggest single source of pressure on biodiversity worldwide. For terrestrial ecosystems, habitat loss is largely accounted for by conversion of wild lands to agriculture, which now accounts for some 30% of land globally. In some areas, it has recently been partly driven by the demand for biofuels. For inland water ecosystems, habitat loss and degradation is largely accounted for by unsustainable water use and drainage for conversion to other land uses, such as agriculture and settlements. In coastal ecosystems, habitat loss is driven by a range of factors including some forms of mariculture, especially shrimp farms in the tropics where they have often replaced mangroves.


Climate Change:

Climate change is already having an impact on biodiversity, and is projected to become a progressively more significant threat in the coming decades. Loss of Arctic sea ice threatens biodiversity across an entire biome and beyond. The related pressure of ocean acidification, resulting from higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, is also already being observed.


Pollution and Nutrient Load:

Pollution from nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) and other sources is a continuing and growing threat to biodiversity in terrestrial, inland water and coastal ecosystems. In inland water and coastal ecosystems, the buildup of phosphorous and nitrogen, mainly through run-off from cropland and sewage pollution, stimulates the growth of algae and some forms of bacteria, threatening valuable ecosystem services in systems such as lakes and coral reefs, and affecting water quality. It also creates ―dead zones‖ in oceans, generally where major rivers reach the sea. In these zones, decomposing algae use up oxygen in the water and leave large areas virtually devoid of marine life. The number of reported dead zones has been roughly

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity doubling every ten years since the 1960s, and by 2007 had reached around 500.

The number of observed ―dead zones‖, coastal sea areas where water oxygen levels have dropped too low to support most marine life, has roughly doubled each decade since the 1960s. Many are concentrated near the estuaries of major rivers, and result from the buildup of nutrients, largely carried from inland agricultural areas where fertilizers are washed into watercourses. The nutrients promote the growth of algae that die and decompose on the seabed, depleting the water of oxygen and threatening fisheries, livelihoods and tourism. Source: Updated from Diaz and Rosenberg (2008). Science


Overexploitation and unsustainable use:

Overexploitation and destructive harvesting practices are at the heart of the threats being imposed in the world‘s biodiversity and ecosystems, and there has not been significant reduction in this pressure. Changes to fisheries management in some areas are leading to more sustainable practices, but most stocks still require reduced pressure in order to rebuild. Bushmeat hunting, which provides a significant proportion of protein for many rural households, appears to be taking place at unsustainable levels. Overexploitation is the major pressure being exerted on marine ecosystems, with marine capture fisheries having quadrupled in size from the early 1950s to the mid 1990s. Total catches have fallen since then despite increased fishing effort, an indication that many stocks have been pushed beyond their capacity to replenish.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity The FAO estimates that more than a quarter of marine fish stocks are overexploited (19%), depleted (8%) or recovering from depletion (1%) while more than half are fully exploited.


Invasive Alien Species:

Invasive alien species continue to be a major threat to all types of ecosystems and species. There are no signs of a significant reduction of this pressure on biodiversity, and some indications that it is increasing. Intervention to control alien invasive species has been successful in particular cases, but it is outweighed by the threat to biodiversity from new invasions. In a sample of 57 countries, more than 542 alien species, including vascular plants, marine and freshwater fish, mammals, birds and amphibians, with a demonstrated impact on biodiversity have been found, with an average of over 50 such species per country (and a range from nine to over 220).


Combined pressures and underlying causes of biodiversity loss:


The direct drivers of biodiversity loss act together to create multiple

pressures on biodiversity and ecosystems. Efforts to reduce direct pressures are challenged by the deep-rooted underlying causes or indirect drivers that determine the demand for natural resources and are much more difficult to control. The ecological footprint of humanity exceeds the biological capacity of the Earth by a wider margin than at the time the 2010 target was agreed. [35.18]

The pressures or drivers outlined above do not act in isolation on

biodiversity and ecosystems, but frequently, with one pressure exacerbating the impacts of another. For example: » Fragmentation of habitats reduces the capacity of species to adapt to climate change, by limiting the possibilities of migration to areas with more suitable conditions. » Pollution, overfishing, climate change and ocean acidification all combine to weaken the resilience of coral reefs and increase the tendency for them to shift to algae-dominated states with massive loss of biodiversity. » Increased levels of nutrients combined with the presence of invasive alien species can promote the growth of hardy plants at the expense of native species. Climate change can further exacerbate the problem by making more habitats suitable for invasive species. » Sea level rise caused by climate change combines with physical alteration of coastal habitats, accelerating change to coastal biodiversity and associated loss of ecosystem services. An indication of the magnitude of the combined pressures we are placing on biodiversity and ecosystems is provided by humanity‘s

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity ecological footprint, a calculation of the area of biologicallyproductive land and water needed to provide the resources we use and to absorb our waste. The ecological footprint for 2006, the latest year for which the figure is available, was estimated to exceed the Earth‘s biological capacity by 40 per cent. This ―overshoot‖ has increased from some 20 per cent at the time the 2010 biodiversity target was agreed in 2002.


Biodiversity Tipping Point:


A tipping point is defined, for the purposes of this Outlook, as a situation

in which an ecosystem experiences a shift to a new state, with significant changes to biodiversity and the services to people it underpins, at a regional or global scale.

The mounting pressures on biodiversity risks pushing some ecosystems into new states, with severe ramifications for human wellbeing as tipping points are crossed. While the precise location of tipping points is difficult to determine, once an ecosystem moves into a new state it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to return it to its former state. Source: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity

Tipping points also characteristics:








» The change becomes self-perpetuating through so-called positive feedbacks, for example deforestation reduces regional rainfall, which increases fire-risk, which causes forest dieback and further drying. » There is a threshold beyond which an abrupt shift of ecological states occurs, although the threshold point can rarely be predicted with precision. » The changes are long-lasting and hard to reverse.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity » There is a significant time lag between the pressures driving the change and the appearance of impacts, creating great difficulties in ecological management. Tipping points are a major concern for scientists, managers and policy–makers, because of their potentially large impacts on biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being. It can be extremely difficult for societies to adapt to rapid and potentially irreversible shifts in the functioning and character of an ecosystem on which they depend. While it is almost certain that tipping points will occur in the future, the dynamics in most cases cannot yet be predicted with enough precision and advance warning to allow for specific and targeted approaches to avoid them, or to mitigate their impacts. Responsible risk management may therefore require a precautionary approach to human activities known to drive biodiversity loss.


Terrestrial Ecosystems: There is a high risk of dramatic loss of

biodiversity and degradation of services from terrestrial ecosystems if certain thresholds are crossed. » The Amazon forest, due to the interaction of deforestation, fire and climate change, undergoes a widespread dieback, changing from rainforest to savanna or seasonal forest over wide areas, especially in the East and South of the biome. » The Sahel in Africa, under pressure from climate change and over-use of limited land resources, shifts to alternative, degraded states, further driving desertification. » Island ecosystems are afflicted by a cascading set of extinctions and ecosystem instabilities, due to the impact of invasive alien species. [35.22]

Inland water ecosystems: there is a high risk of dramatic loss of

biodiversity and degradation of services from freshwater ecosystems if certain thresholds are crossed. » Freshwater eutrophication caused by the build-up of phosphates and nitrates from agricultural fertilizers, sewage effluent and urban stormwater runoff shifts freshwater bodies, especially lakes, into an algaedominated (eutrophic) state. » Changing patterns of melting of snow and glaciers inmountain regions, due to climate change, cause irreversible changes to some freshwater ecosystems. [35.23]

Marine and Coastal Systems: There is a high risk of dramatic loss of

biodiversity and degradation from marine and coastal systems if certain thresholds are crossed. » The combined impacts of ocean acidification and warmer sea temperatures make tropical coral reef systems vulnerable to collapse. Coastal wetland systems become reduced to narrow fringes or are lost entirely, in what may be described as a ―coastal squeeze‖ due to sea level rise. » The collapse of large predator species in the oceans, triggered by overexploitation, leads to an ecosystem

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity shift towards the dominance of less desirable, more resilient species such as jellyfish. [35.24]

Reducing biodiversity loss:


A key lesson from the failure to meet the 2010 biodiversity target is that

the urgency of a change of direction must be conveyed to decision-makers beyond the constituency so far involved in the biodiversity convention. [35.26]

The real benefits of biodiversity, and the costs of its loss, need to be

reflected within economic systems and markets. [35.27]

2010 Biodiversity Target was not met, due to failure to address the

underlying causes & failure by leaders to prioritize the importance of biodiversity, while prioritizing corporate bailouts: For the most part, the underlying causes of biodiversity have not been addressed in a meaningful manner; nor have actions been directed ensuring we continue to receive the benefits from ecosystem services over the long term. Moreover, actions have rarely matched the scale or the magnitude of the challenges they were attempting to address. In the future, in order to ensure that biodiversity is effectively conserved, restored and wisely used, and that it continues to deliver the benefits essential for all people, action must be expanded to additional levels and scales. Direct pressures on biodiversity must continue to be addressed, and actions to improve the state of biodiversity maintained, although on a much larger scale. In addition, actions must be developed to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss, and to ensure that biodiversity continues to provide the ecosystem services essential to human wellbeing. [Source: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity]. The overall message of this Outlook is clear. We can no longer see the continued loss of biodiversity as an issue separate from the core concerns of society: to tackle poverty, to improve the health, prosperity and security of present and future generations, and to deal with climate change. Each of those objectives is undermined by current trends in the state of our ecosystems, and each will be greatly strengthened if we finally give biodiversity the priority it deserves. In 2008-9, the world‘s governments rapidly mobilized hundreds of billions of dollars to prevent collapse of a financial system whose flimsy foundations took the markets by surprise. Now we have clear warnings of the potential breaking points towards which we are pushing the ecosystems that have shaped our civilizations. For a fraction of the money summoned up instantly to avoid economic meltdown, we can avoid a much more serious and fundamental breakdown in the Earth‘s life support systems.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [35.28]

GDO-3 Conclusion: Primary Failure to address Underlying causes

of Loss of Biodiversity: [35.29]

Although Biodiversity from terrestrial, marine, coastal, and inland water

ecosystems provides the basis for ecosystems and the services they provide that underpin all human social and economic well-being; numerous biodiversity related conventions; biodiversity and ecosystem services are declining at an unprecedented rate and the world failed to reach the CBD target of a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010; because of, primarily; a failure to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss. ―In 2002, the world‘s leaders agreed to achieve a significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 .. this third edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook concludes that the target has not been met. Moreover, the Outlook warns, the principal pressures leading to biodiversity loss are not just constant but are, in some cases, intensifying. The consequences of this collective failure, if it is not quickly corrected, will be severe for us all. Biodiversity underpins the functioning of the ecosystems on which we depend for food and fresh water, health and recreation, and protection from natural disasters. Its loss also affects us culturally and spiritually‖ Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General, United Nations; Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3)


Underlying Causes: » Demographic change; » Economic activity; »

Levels of international trade; » Per capita consumption patterns, linked to individual wealth; » Cultural and religious factors; » Scientific and technological change.

Climate Change ―We can't muster the force of nations to really begin fundamental changes in their energy systems, their construction, their lifestyle patterns, without a profound understanding of the urgency of the situation. We've got to act now.‖ – Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, 1996-1999, Climate Change is a Global Security Threat ―The rate of change is happening at 300 times faster than any other extinction time in earth history, except that of the Asteroidal impact. [On feedback loops] The distinction between just a feedback process and a runaway feedback process is very, very important indeed. You can have feedback that slowly increases, if you like, the risk and puts the temperature up a bit higher. Runaway feedback says the system responds so much to

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity an increase in temperature that it becomes faster in the way it changes the climate with rising temperature. So the hotter it gets, the faster it gets hotter, and the hotter it gets, the faster it gets hotter faster, until you move into a process that‘s completely uncontrollable. And instead of coming up to a new equilibrium temperature that may be a bit high, it goes on going up faster and faster until something runs out—there‘s no more methane to release or we‘ve run out of forests to burn or something …―The danger of moving into a runaway climate change scenario is now clear and is beginning to be quantified in the last few months. It‘s probably the greatest threat that we face as a planet.‖ (from 11:15ff.) - Artic Methane: Why the Sea Ice Matters66 "If we don't take action now, every day, every year that goes by, the options for dealing with the effects of climate change and the effects of energy security become much much more expensive, and in fact some of the options completely go over the next ten to twenty years; if we don't start taking some prudent actions now." – Vice Admiral Dennis McGinnis; Climate Patriots: A Military Perspective on Energy, Climate Change and National Security67

[36] Large-scale climate change assessments do not include consideration of (A) aggravating Tipping Points (Positive Feedback loops) or (B) mitigating Collapse of Industrial Civilization (Negative Feedback loops): 

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change68 (late 2007): 1 C by 2100

Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research (late 200869): 2 C by 2100

United Nations Environment Programme (mid 200970): 3.5 C by 2100

Hadley Centre for Meteorological Research71 (October 2009): 4 C by 2060

Global Carbon Project, Copenhagen Diagnosis72 (November 200973): 6 C, 7 C by 2100

International Energy Agency (November 201074): 3.5 C by 2035

United Nations Environment Programme (December 201075): up to 5 C by 2050

International Energy Agency: World Energy Outlook (November 201176): 6 C by 2035 68 69 70 71 72 73 ExecSummary: 74 IEA (2010): World Energy Outlook:,27324,en.html 75 UNEP 2010 Annual Report 66 67

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [37] Tipping Elements (Positive Feedback Loops) in the Earth’s Climate System77.

Potential future tipping elements in the climate system, overlain on global human populations density, as identified by Lenton et al. (2008)78

Consequences of Major Tipping Points in the Earth's Climate System: [38]

The Report: Major Tipping Points in the Earths Climate System and

Consequences for the Insurance Sector79, was commissioned jointly by Allianz, a leading global financial service provider, and WWF, a leading global environmental NGO; and was prepared by Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research80 and Andlug Consulting81.

IEA: (2011) World Energy Outlook:,20549,en.html 77 Lenton T et al (7 Feb 2008): Tipping Elements in the Earth's Climate System; PNAS, Vol 105, 1786-1793 78 T. M. Lenton et al., Tipping Elements in the Earth's Climate System. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 105, 1786 (2008). 79 Lenton Tim (Nov 2009): Major Tipping Points in the Earth's Climate System and Consequence for the Insurance Sector; UEA/Tyndall Center, WWF & Allianz 80 Prof. Tim Lenton, University of East Anglia (UEA)/Tyndall Centre (Tipping points, science, outcomes and research focus); Anthony Footitt, UEA/Tyndall Centre (consequence analyses and report production) 76

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [39]

The phrase ‗tipping point‘82 captures the intuitive notion that ―a small change

can make a big difference‖ for some systems. The term ‗tipping element‘83 has been introduced to describe those large-scale components of the Earth system that could be forced past a ‗tipping point‘ and would then undergo a transition to a quite different state. [40]

This definition includes cases where the transition is faster than the forcing

causing it (also known as ‗abrupt‘ or ‗rapid‘ climate change) and cases where it is slower. It includes transitions that are reversible (where reversing the forcing will cause recovery at the same point it caused collapse) and those that exhibit some irreversibility (where the forcing has to be reduced further to trigger recovery). It also includes transitions that begin immediately after passing the tipping point and those that occur much later (offering a challenge for detection). [41]

In some cases, passing the tipping point is barely perceptible but it still makes

a qualitative impact in the future. These cases can be thought of as analogous to a train passing the points on a railway track – a small alteration can cause the trajectory of a system to diverge smoothly but significantly from the course it would otherwise have taken. [41.1]

Artic Sea Ice:

Observed changes in sea ice cover are more rapid than in all IPCC Assessment Report 4 AR4 model projections and the Arctic could already be committed to becoming largely ice-free each summer, within the next few decades. What are the key concerns and impacts? • Amplified global warming - as Arctic ice melts this exposes a much darker ocean surface, leading to more sunlight being absorbed and hence accelerated ice melt (the ice-albedo feedback). • Ecosystem change – effects on arctic ecosystems and species including the iconic polar bear.


News Articles: Warm Atlantic water is defrosting the Arctic as it shoots

through the Fram Strait (Science, January 2011). This breakdown of the

Dr. Andrew Dlugolecki, Andlug Consulting (insurance implications and research focus) ‗Tipping point‘ - the critical point (in forcing and a feature of the system) at which a transition is triggered for a given ‗tipping element‘. 83 ‗Tipping element‘ – a component of the Earth system that can be switched under particular conditions into a qualitatively different state by a small perturbation 81 82

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity thermohaline conveyor belt is happening in the Antarctic as well84. | Aaron Franklin (16 March 2013): Tipping Points85; Artic News.


Combined Sea Level Rise (SLR) from Greenland and West

Antarctic Ice Sheets and continental ice caps: IPCC (2007) chose not to include the uncertain contribution of changing mass of polar ice sheets in their projections of future sea level rise. As such, a ‗No Tipping‘ scenario for global SLR from IPCC gives global SLR at around 0.15 m by 2050. There is a convergence on minimum global sea level change being of the order of 75 cm in 2100 and absolute maximum being of the order 2 m. On the basis of this, a ‗Tipping‘ Scenario of around 0.5 m of global sea level rise by 2050 is a reasonable starting assumption. The main impact associated with melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS), West Antarctic Ice Sheets (WAIS) and small continental ice caps, is sea level rise.


Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS):

The GIS is currently losing mass (i.e. water) at an accelerating rate. It will be committed to irreversible meltdown if the surface mass balance goes negative (i.e. mass of annual snow fall < mass of annual surface melt). 85 84

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity Whilst the time-scale for the GIS to melt completely is at least 300 years, because it contains up to 7 m of global sea level rise, its contribution to sea level rise over the whole of this time-scale means that it can still have a significant impact on societies this century. What are the key concerns and impacts? • Sea level rise - depending on the speed of decay, the GIS could contribute up to 16.5–53.8 cm to global sea level rise this century (19). • Regionally increased sea level rise - as water added to the ocean takes time to be globally distributed this leads to sea level rise that is larger than the global average in some regions. Here, the greatest initial sea level rises are predicted down the North Eastern seaboard of the USA (21) affecting a number of US port megacities including Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Providence.


West Antartic Ice Sheet (WAIS):

Recent observations suggest that the WAIS is losing mass and contributing to global sea level rise at a rate that has increased since the early 1990s. The WAIS is thought to be less sensitive to warming than the GIS but there is greater uncertainty about this. Unlike GIS, in the case of WAIS it is a warming ocean rather than a warming atmosphere that may be the control that forces the WAIS past a tipping point. Recent expert elicitation gives somewhat higher probabilities of WAIS disintegration under medium (2–4 °C above 1980–1999) and high (>4 °C) global warming than in an earlier survey. What are the key concerns and impacts? • Sea level rise - a worst case scenario is WAIS collapse within 300 years with a total of ~5 m of global sea level rise (i.e. >1 m per century). Other recent estimates give the maximum potential contribution of the whole of Antarctica to sea level rise this century as 12.8– 61.9 cm (19).


News Article: Summer ice melt in Antarctica is at its highest level in a

thousand years86: Summer ice in the Antarctic is melting 10 times quicker than it was 600 years ago, with the most rapid melt occurring in the last 50 years (Nature Geoscience87, April 2013) [41.7]

Continental Ice Caps:

Smaller continental ice caps are already melting and much of the ice contained in them globally could be lost this century. 86 87

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity Such ice caps are generally not considered tipping elements because individually they are too small and there is no identifiable large-scale tipping threshold that results in coherent mass melting. An exception may, however, be glaciers of the Himalayas (the Hindu-Kush-HimalayaTibetan glaciers or ‗HKHT‘ for short) (9). HKHT glaciers represent the largest mass of ice outside of Antarctica and Greenland. No tipping point threshold has as yet been identified for the region as a whole but IPCC AR4 suggests that much of the HKHT glaciers could melt within this century. What are the key concerns and impacts? • Reduction in river flow - the HKHT glaciers feed rivers in India, China and elsewhere. A dwindling contribution to river flows will have major implications for populations depending on those rivers and this may be aggravated by other shifts such as in the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM – see further down). In India alone, melt-water from Himalayan glaciers and snowfields currently supplies up to 85% of the dry season flow and initial modelling suggests that this could be reduced to about 30% of its current contribution over the next 50 years.


News Article: Cracking of glaciers accelerates in the presence of increased

carbon dioxide88 (Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, October 2012) [41.9]

Permafrost (and its carbon stores):

In simple terms, permafrost is soil and/or subsoil that is permanently frozen throughout the year (and has often been frozen for thousands of years). Observations suggest that permafrost is melting rapidly in some regions, particularly parts of Siberia, and future projections suggest the area of continuous permafrost could be reduced to as little as 1.0 million km2 by the year 2100, which would represent almost total loss (30). An abrupt change in the rate of permafrost shrinkage has been forecast around now, and large areas such as Alaska are projected to undergo the transition from frozen to unfrozen soil in the space of ~50 years (30). Because there is no clear mechanism for a large area to reach a melting threshold nearly simultaneously, melting of most of the world‘s permafrost is probably not a tipping element. However, frozen loess (windblown dust) of Eastern Siberia is an exception (31) and could release 2.0–2.8 GtC yr-1 (7.3–10.3 Gt CO2e yr-1) mostly as CO2 but with some methane - over about a century, removing ~75% of the initial carbon stock. However, to pass this tipping point requires an estimated >9 °C of surface warming, which would only be reached this century under the most extreme scenarios.


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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity What are the key concerns and impacts? • Amplified global warming - In addition to problems of subsidence of structures such as buildings and pipelines, the key concern is that when permafrost melts, the large quantities of carbon it contains are returned back into the atmosphere as methane and carbon dioxide. In addition, frozen compounds called clathrates under the permafrost may be destabilized and result in the release of methane and carbon dioxide. There have been claims that these responses and the associated release of GHGs will lead to ‗runaway‘ global warming as a positive feedback mechanism. These claims are, however, grossly exaggerated and amplification of global temperature change is modest compared to other well known climate feedbacks.


News Reports: Methane hydrates are bubbling out the Arctic Ocean

(Science, March 2010) | Siberian methane vents have increased in size from less than a meter across in the summer of 2010 to about a kilometre across in 2011 (Tellus, February 2011) | Methane is being released from the Antarctic, too (Nature, August 2012) | Exposure to sunlight increases bacterial conversion of exposed soil carbon, thus accelerating thawing of the permafrost89 (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, February 2013) [41.11]

Boreal Forests:

Widespread die-back of the southern edges of boreal forests has been predicted in at least one model when regional temperatures reach around 7 °C above present, corresponding to around 3 °C global warming. What are the key concerns and impacts? • Forest fires, productivity and forest pests & diseases - Under such circumstances, boreal forest would be replaced by large areas of open woodlands or grasslands that support increased fire frequency. • Warning signs of ecosystem changes are already apparent in Western Canada where an infestation of mountain pine beetle has caused widespread tree mortality, and fire frequencies have been increasing.


News Article: Peat in the world‘s boreal forests is decomposing at an

astonishing rate (Nature Communications, November 2011) | Russian forest and bog fires are growing (NASA, August 2012). [41.13]

Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC):

Sometimes called the ‗ocean conveyor belt‘ the thermohaline circulation (THC) has a profound effect on climate. Collapse of the THC is the archetypal example of a tipping element with the 89

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity potential tipping point being a shut-off of deep convection and North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) formation in the Labrador Sea. Best estimates are that reaching the threshold for total THC collapse requires at least 3–5 °C warming within this century. IPCC AR4 views the threshold as more distant and transition of the THC would probably take the order of another 100 years to complete. However, whilst total collapse of the THC may be one of the more distant tipping points, a weakening of the THC this century is robustly predicted by IPCC AR4 models and will have similar (though smaller) effects as a total collapse. What are the key concerns and impacts? • Complex and combined impacts on other climate variables and tipping elements - THC collapse would tend to cool the North Atlantic and warm the Southern Ocean, causing a Southward shift of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in the atmosphere. • It would raise sea level dynamically by ~1 m in parts of the North Atlantic, including ~0.5 m along the Atlantic coasts of North America and Europe, and reduce sea level in the Southern Ocean. • THC collapse would also have implications for a number of hydrological tipping elements (discussed in Section 2.4).


News article: The Beauford Gyre apparently has reversed course90 (U.S.

National Snow and Ice Data Center91, October 2012) [41.15]

El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO):

The El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO) is the most significant natural mode of coupled ocean-atmosphere variability in the climate system. Changes in ENSO and a corresponding change in Pacific temperatures occurred around 1976. Prior to 1976 there were low amplitude El Niño events with 2–3 year frequency, subsequently there have been larger amplitude events with 4–5 year frequency. The first coupled model studies predicted a shift from current ENSO variability to more persistent or frequent El Niño conditions. However, in response to a stabilized 3–6 °C warmer climate, the most realistic models simulate increased El Niño amplitude (with no change in frequency). Increase in El Niño amplitude is consistent with the recent observational record. Paleo-data also indicate different ENSO regimes under different climates of the past. What are the key concerns and impacts?

90 91

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity • Complex and combined impacts on other climate variables and tipping elements - higher amplitude El Niño events would have impacts in many regions and on other tipping elements.


Amazonian Rainforest:

The Amazon rainforest is well known as a rich cradle of biodiversity. However, it could be threatened by coupled changes in the water cycle and vegetation involving: • An increase leading to









• Amazon rainforest die-back. The Amazon region is sensitive to changes in both ENSO and the THC, suffering drying during El Niño events, and when the North Atlantic is unusually warm. In 2005, large sections of the western Amazon basin experienced severe drought resulting in significant impacts in a number of regions. The 2005 drought has been linked to an anomalously warm tropical North Atlantic. Recent studies suggest that droughts similar to that of 2005 will increase in frequency in future projections assuming increasing greenhouse gas forcing and decreasing sulphate aerosol (cooling) forcing in the North Atlantic. The 2005 drought was an approximately 1-in-20-yr event, but a 2005-like drought in Amazonia is forecast to become a 1-in-2-yr event by 2025 (at 450 ppmv CO2e) and a 9-in-10-yr event by 2060 (at ~600 ppmv CO2e) with the threshold depending on the rate of increase of CO2 (3). The trees of the Amazon rainforest help maintain rainfall by recycling water to the atmosphere (a positive feedback). They can tolerate short droughts by using their deep roots to access soil water. However, if droughts become more frequent and the dry season continues to get longer, a number of studies have forecast that the forest could reach a threshold beyond which widespread die-back occurs. Potentially up to ~70% of to climate changedriven Widespread die-back would effectively irreversible scale.

the Amazon rainforest could be lost due die-back by late this century (36). occur over a few decades and would be on any politically meaningful time-

The most recent work (37) suggests that the Amazon rainforest could be committed to long-term die-back long before any response is observable, finding, for example, that the risk of significant loss of forest cover in Amazonia rises rapidly for a global mean temperature rise above 2 °C. What are the key concerns and impacts? • Drought impacts – with effects on wildfire, hydroelectric generation, agricultural production and related service industries, river navigation and livelihoods more generally.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity • Die-back impacts – many, including biodiversity loss, decreased rainfall, effect on livelihoods, and creation of a significant carbon source that amplifies global warming.


News Article: Drought in the Amazon triggered the release of more carbon

than the United States in 2010 (Science, February 2011) [41.18]

West African Monsoon (WAM) and the Sahel:

The most pronounced hydrological change in the observed climate record was the recent (1960s to 1980s) drought in the Sahel. Key drivers for this were the weakening of the Atlantic North South sea surface temperature (SST) and the weakening of the THC. New results show that more severe, earlier intervals of drought in West Africa were linked to weakening of the THC (44, 45). Recent simulations suggest a tipping point or threshold for THC weakening below which the subsurface North Brazil Current reverses, abrupt warming occurs in the Gulf of Guinea, and the West African Monsoon (WAM) shifts such that it does not seasonally reach the Sahel, and there is an increase in rainfall in the Gulf of Guinea and coastal regions (44). However, in a future simulation with one of the shift of the WAM unexpectedly leads to wetting the Sahel and parts of the Sahara back toward seen around 6000 years ago. Such transitions occur within years and their reversibility (or is currently unresolved.

IPCC AR4 models, and greening of conditions last can potentially irreversibility)

What are the key concerns and impacts? • Uncertain outcome – there is a recent history of failed efforts to make multidecadal forecasts of rainfall in the Sahel. Currently it is unclear whether the Sahel will experience wetting or drying in future. In the best-case scenario, tipping the WAM may provide a net benefit by changing regional atmospheric circulation in a way that wets large parts of the Sahel.


Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) and other Monsoons in South East

Asia: The arrival of Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) rainfall is, generally, remarkably reliable, occurring annually in June or July (depending on location). Greenhouse warming would on its own be expected to strengthen the monsoonal circulation, however, the observational record shows declines in ISM rainfall which have been linked to an ‗atmospheric brown cloud‘ (ABC) haze created by a mixture of black carbon (soot) and sulphate aerosols. This ABC haze tends to weaken the monsoonal circulation and, in simple models, there is a tipping point for the regional planetary albedo (reflectivity) over the continent which, if exceeded, causes the ISM to collapse altogether.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity Regional black carbon (soot) emissions from China and India have increased significantly in recent decades. The most pronounced regional hotspot of black carbon emissions is in North Eastern China, which may be linked to a distinct southward shift of monsoonal precipitation in China. What are the key concerns and impacts? • Interference with monsoon cycle and drought frequency - owing to its reliability, agriculture, livelihoods and economy have grown to depend upon the ISM. Increasing aerosol forcing of the system could weaken the monsoon, but if then removed, greenhouse warming could trigger a stronger monsoon, producing a ‗roller coaster ride‘ for many millions of people as, if switches occur, they could happen from one year to the next.


South Western North America (SWNA):

On decadal and longer time-scales, drought in Western North America (WNA) is linked to periods of increased sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the North Atlantic, which have been linked to strengthening of the THC (50). Recent drought could also have been contributed to by the removal of aerosol forcing. Aridity in South-western North America (SWNA) is robustly predicted to intensify and persist in future and a transition is probably already underway and will become well established in the coming years to decades, akin to perpetual drought conditions. As such, levels of aridity seen in the 1950s multiyear drought or the 1930s Dust Bowl are predicted to become the new climatology by mid-century. Western North America (WNA) has already experienced increased winter air temperature, a declining snow pack (linked to more precipitation falling as rain instead of snow and earlier snow melt), and a shift to earlier run-off (increasing in spring, decreasing in summer), all of which have been attributed to anthropogenic (greenhouse gas and aerosol) forcing (51). Increasing aridity in SWNA may still not qualify formally as a tipping element unless a threshold can be identified. However, evidence suggests that the changes are either imminent or already underway. What are the key concerns and impacts? • Prolonged drought impacts – with impacts on wildfire probability and consequences for agriculture, water resources and water markets.


How Insurance Corporations Can Send Effective Loud Economic

Warning Signals to Society: Acting on Early Warnings: Recent work on the topic of climate tipping points and widespread media and policymaker response to it suggests that the first,

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity general type of early warning is underway and, indeed, this report contributes to this. However, regardless of the accuracy of forecasts and warnings, getting to the point where action is taken on the basis of such early warnings (to at least mitigate their impacts) is arguably a much greater challenge. The insurance sector could play a potentially valuable role here if it can enshrine the increased probability of an approaching tipping point in terms of greatly increased premiums or even the refusal to insure certain items in certain locations. Such changes would send an economic signal to society at large that may be more effective as an early warning than any number of scientific reports or newspaper headlines.

Nitrogen Cycle

Global distribution of coastal marine hypoxic systems (dead zones) that are associated with eutrophication, i.e. the ecosystem response to the addition of artificial or natural substances, such as nitrates and phosphates, through fertilizers or sewage, to an aquatic system. (Diaz and Rosenberg 200892). The Human Footprint â&#x20AC;&#x201C; normalized human influence â&#x20AC;&#x201C; is expressed as a percent (Sanderson et al. 200293).










Consequences: [42]

The Human Alteration of the Global Nitrogen Cycle94 report presents the

consensus reached by a panel of eight scientists95 chosen to include a broad array of Diaz RJ, Rosenberg R. (2008): Spreading dead zones and consequences for marine ecosystems. Science 321, 629 93 Sanderson E. W, Jaiteh M, Levy M. A. (2002): The Human Footprint and the Last of the Wild. Bioscience 52, 891 94 Vitousek et al (1997): Human Alteration of the Global Nitrogen Cycle: Causes and Consequences, Issues in Ecology, Number 1, Spring 1997; Ecological Society of America [Peter M. Vitousek, Chair, John Aber, Robert W. 92

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity expertise in this area. The report underwent peer review and was approved by the Board of Editors of Issues in Ecology. It summarizes the findings of the panel, which were reported in full in the journal Ecological Applications (Volume 7, August 1997), and discusses and cites more than 140 references to the primary scientific literature on this subject. Human activities are greatly increasing the amount of nitrogen cycling between the living world and the soil, water, and atmosphere. In fact, humans have already doubled the rate of nitrogen entering the land-based nitrogen cycle, and that rate is continuing to climb. This human-driven global change is having serious impacts on ecosystems around the world because nitrogen is essential to living organisms and its availability plays a crucial role in the organization and functioning of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s ecosystems. In many ecosystems on land and sea, the supply of nitrogen is a key factor controlling the nature and diversity of plant life, the population dynamics of both grazing animals and their predators, and vital ecological processes such as plant productivity and the cycling of carbon and soil minerals. This is true not only in wild or unmanaged systems but in most croplands and forestry plantations as well. Excessive nitrogen additions can pollute ecosystems and alter both their ecological functioning and the living communities they support. Most of the human activities responsible for the increase in global nitrogen are local in scale, from the production and use of nitrogen fertilizers to the burning of fossil fuels in automobiles, power generation plants, and industries. However, human activities have not only increased the supply but enhanced the global movement of various forms of nitrogen through air and water. Because of this increased mobility, excess nitrogen from human activities has serious and long-term environmental consequences for large regions of the Earth.


The impacts of human domination of the nitrogen cycle that they

identified with certainty include: â&#x20AC;˘ Increased global concentrations of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere as well as increased regional concentrations of other oxides of nitrogen (including nitric oxide, NO) that drive the formation of photochemical smog;

Howarth, Gene E. Likens, Pamela A. Matson, David W. Schindler, William H. Schlesinger, and G. David Tilman] 95 Dr. Peter M. Vitousek, Panel Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305 || Dr. John Aber, Complex Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824-3525 || Dr. Robert W. Howarth, Section of Ecology and Systematics, Corson Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853 || Dr. Gene E. Likens, Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Cary Arboretum, Millbrook, NY 12545 || Dr. Pamela A. Matson, Soil Science, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720 || Dr. David W. Schindler, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2E9, CANADA || Dr. William H. Schlesinger, Departments of Botany and Geology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0340 || Dr. David Tilman, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108-6097

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity • Losses of soil nutrients such as calcium and potassium that are essential for long-term soil fertility; • Substantial acidification of soils and of the waters of streams and lakes in several regions; • Greatly increased transport of nitrogen by rivers estuaries and coastal waters where it is a major pollutant.



They are also confident that human alterations of the nitrogen cycle have: • Accelerated losses of biological diversity, especially among plants adapted to low-nitrogen soils, and subsequently, the animals and microbes that depend on these plants; • Caused changes in the plant and animal life and ecological processes of estuarine and nearshore ecosystems, and contributed to long-term declines in coastal marine fisheries.

Dead Zones: ―The primary culprit in marine environments is nitrogen and, nowadays, the biggest contributor of nitrogen to marine systems is agriculture. It's the same scenario all over the world..‖ (R. Diaz, Marine Biologist, The College of William and Mary)


‗Dead Zones‘ are areas of the Ocean where the bottom water has become anoxic

(i.e. has low or zero dissolved oxygen concentration), very few organisms are able to survive in such low oxygen conditions. Dead zones occur along large sections of the coastline of major continents and are continuing to spread over the sea floor, destroying the habitat of many organisms. [45]

These dead zones are created when the organic matter produced by

phytoplankton at the surface of the ocean (in the euphotic zone) sinks to the bottom (the benthic zone), where it is broken down by the action of bacteria, a process

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity known as bacterial respiration. This is problematic because while phytoplankton use carbon dioxide and produce oxygen during photosynthesis, bacteria use oxygen and give off carbon dioxide during respiration. The bacteria use up the oxygen dissolved in the water which is essential to all of the other oxygen-respiring organisms on the bottom of the ocean, such as crabs, clams and shrimp, and also those swimming in the water, such as fish and zooplankton. The overall impact is to make large parts of the ocean uninhabitable for the majority of organisms. For further explanation there is an excellent review of dead zones in the â&#x20AC;&#x2014;Science Focusâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC; section of the NASA website96, which provided much of the core information for this post.97


An influential paper on dead zones is from Diaz and Rosenberg, published in

Science in 2008, they state that oceanic dead zones have spread exponentially since the 1960s and that this formation of dead zones is exacerbated by anthropogenic influences on nitrogen entering the ocean due to riverine runoff of fertilizers and the burning of fossil fuels. This extra nutrient input fuels coastal eutrophication and the accumulation of particulate organic matter, which encourages microbial

96 97

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity activity and the consumption of dissolved oxygen in bottom waters. The resulting lack of oxygen causes fish to migrate away from affected waters and the death of large numbers of less mobile organisms. [47]

Spreading Dead Zones and Consequences for Marine Ecosystems98: Dead zones in the coastal oceans have spread exponentially since the 1960s and have serious consequences for ecosystem functioning. The formation of dead zones has been exacerbated by the increase in primary production and consequent worldwide coastal eutrophication fueled by riverine runoff of fertilizers and the burning of fossil fuels. Enhanced primary production results in an accumulation of particulate organic matter, which encourages microbial activity and the consumption of dissolved oxygen in bottom waters. Dead zones have now been reported from more than 400 systems, affecting a total area of more than 245,000 square kilometers, and are probably a key stressor on marine ecosystems.

Ocean Acidification

Diaz Robert (15 Aug 2008): Spreading Dead Zones and Consequences for Marine Ecosystems; Science, Vol 321, No 5891 pp 926-929 98

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Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—in addition to contributing to

climate change—is absorbed by the ocean, making sea water more acidic and leading to a suite of changes in ocean chemistry. Preliminary evidence suggests ocean acidification will have negative effects on corals, shellfish, and other marine life, with wide-ranging consequences for ecosystems, fisheries, and tourism.

Ocean Acidification: National Strategy to Meet Challenges of Changing Ocean: [49]

In September 2010, the National Research Council published the report,

―Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean‖99 as requested by Congress, which reviews the current state of scientific knowledge on ocean acidification, and identifies gaps in that knowledge, particularly with respect to information useful to policy makers and federal agencies; and provides scientific advice to help guide the national ocean acidification research program. 1. Ocean chemistry is changing at an unprecedented rate and magnitude due to human-made carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. The average pH of ocean surface waters has decreased by about 0.1 pH unit – from about 8.2 to 8.1 – since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and model projections show an additional 0.2-0.3 drop by the end of the century, even under optimistic scenarios of carbon dioxide emissions. 2. Changes in seawater chemistry are expected to affect marine organisms that use carbonate to build shells or skeletons. For NRC-Ocean Studies Board (2010): Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean 99

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity example, decreased concentrations of calcium carbonate make it difficult for organisms such as coral reef-building organisms, and commercially important mollusks like oysters and mussels, to grow or to repair damage. If the ocean continues to acidify, the water could become corrosive to calcium carbonate structures, dissolving coral reefs and even the shells of marine organisms. 3. It is currently not known how various marine organisms will acclimate or adapt to the chemical changes resulting from acidification. Based on current knowledge, it appears likely that there will be ecological winners and losers, leading to shifts in the composition of many marine ecosystems. 5. More information is needed to fully understand and address the threat that ocean acidification may pose to marine ecosystems and the services they provide. Research is needed to assist federal and state agencies in evaluating the potential impacts of ocean acidification, particularly to: (i) understand processes affecting acidification in coastal waters; (ii) understand the physiological mechanisms of biological responses; 8. International collaboration will be critical to the success of the program. Ocean acidification is a global problem that requires a multinational research approach. Such collaborations also afford opportunities to share resources, including expensive largescale facilities for ecosystem-level manipulation, and expertise that may be beyond the capacity of a single nation.


NOAA Pacific Marine Environment Laboratory Ocean Acidification Resources

page100 includes a list of reports and informational websites, frequently asked questions about ocean acidification, interviews with scientists, resources for educators, and scientific reports.

Changes in Land Use [51]

More than 40% of Earth's land has been cleared for agriculture. Global

croplands cover 16 million km². That's almost the size of South America. Global pastures cover 30 million km². That's the size of Africa. Agriculture uses 60 times more land than urban and suburban areas combined. Irrigation is the biggest use of water on the planet. We use 2,800 cubic kilometres of water on crops every year. That's enough to fill 7,305 Empire State Buildings every day. Today, many large rivers have reduced flows. Some dry up altogether. The Aral Sea, has been turned to desert due to the Soviets diverting water to the dessert to grow cotton for export.


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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity The Colorado River, no longer flows to the ocean. Fertilizers have more than doubled the phosphorus and nitrogen in the environment, resulting in widespread water pollution and massive degradation of lakes and rivers. Agriculture is the biggest contributor to climate change. It generates 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. That's more than the emissions from all electricity and industry, or from all the world's planes, trains and automobiles. Most agricultural emissions come from tropical deforestation, methane from animals and rice fields, and nitrous oxide from over-fertilizing. There is nothing we do that transforms the world more than agriculture. And there's nothing we do that is more crucial to our survival. [Jonathan Foley101]

Jonathan Foley, TED: The Other Inconvenient Truth 101

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [52]

Two Agri-Cultures: Law of Limited Competition and Totalitarian

Agriculture: [52.1] Current Arable land is a category of agricultural land, which, according to Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) definition, additionally includes land under permanent or perennial crops, such as fruit plantations, as well as permanent pastures, for grazing of livestock. In 2008, the world's total arable land amounted to 13,805,153 km², and 48,836,976 km² was classified as "agricultural land."102 [53] In Genetic feedback and human population regulation 103, Russell Hopfenberg says that in terms of agricultural land use practices, the world is divided into two different Agri-cultures: ―Lack of cultural variability is precisely the situation in which the human species finds itself. Except for a tiny minority of tribal peoples on the planet, the human species can be seen as participating in a monoculture. This monoculture, called civilization (Quinn 1992; Cohen 1995), has as its foundation, the basic feature of continually increasing food production. As Cohen (1995) stated, ―The ability to produce food allowed human numbers to increase greatly and made it possible, eventually, for civilizations to arise.‖ Farb (1978) pointed out that ―intensification of production to feed an increased population leads to a still greater increase in population.‖ He also asserted ―the population explosion, the shortage of resources, the pollution of the environment, exploitation of one human group by another, famine and war—all have their roots in that great adaptive change from foraging to production.‖ Farb‘s statement makes clear that the ―adaptive change from foraging to production‖ is coming into focus as one that has provided some relatively short-term benefits and many long-term difficulties. These difficulties may ultimately lead to an environment that is no longer capable of sustaining human life (Pimm et al. 1995).‖


Primitivism Agriculture in accordance to the Ecological Law of

Limited Competition: ―Junk-food chains, including KFC and Pizza Hut, are under attack from major environmental groups in the United States and other developed countries because of their environmental impact. Intensive breeding of livestock and poultry for such restaurants leads to deforestation, land degradation, and contamination of water sources and other natural resources. .. Overall, animal

FAO Resources page". 2010. 103 Hopfenberg, R. (2009) 102

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity farms use nearly 40 percent of the world‘s total grain production. In the United States, nearly 70 percent of grain production is fed to livestock. … In Indian Agriculture, women use up to 150 different species of plants (which the biotech industry would call weeds) as medicine, food, or fodder. For the poorest, this biodiversity is the most important resource for survival. … What is a weed for Monsanto is a medicinal plant or food for rural people.‖ — Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest104

[54.1] Prior to Totalitarian Agriculture, humans engaged in Agriculture in accordance to the Law of Limited Competition. Daniel Quinn defines the Ecological Law of Limited Competition as such: you may compete to the full extent of your capabilities but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. [54.2] Essentially what this means is that you cannot claim ownership of all the food. You can compete for the food that you need, but you cannot say "all the food is mine and no one else who wants any can have some." You can fight for food but you cannot act in a genocidal fashion, setting out to kill those who compete with you merely because they compete with you. [54.3] A lion and a hyena may compete with each other to determine who gets to eat the dead antelope. However the lions may not rally together and set out to eliminate hyenas lest they challenge them for any of their kills. To do so would be to operate outside the boundaries of the law. [54.4] How the Law is Self Eliminating: If the lions did rally together and kill of all the hyenas then there would be more food for them. Their population would increase and their territory would expand. But there would still be other competitors for their food. So the lions set up a special task force to go out and eliminate other species that compete for food and living space. [54.5] Elimination doesn't occur instantly. It takes place when there is nowhere left to expand, no competitors left to destroy. If a species destroys their competitors then there is more food available to them. With more food they can support a higher population. And with a higher population they need more living space so they expand their territory. But as they expand their territory they meet more competitors who are eating food that could be theirs. So they destroy them, taking all the food in the new territory. With all this new food population expands again and so does territory.


Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest, (South End Press, 2000), pp. 70-71, 104-105.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [54.6] And then it happens all over again. This way of life works for a short period of time. It doesn't eliminate the species instantly. Elimination only takes place when there is nowhere left to expand into, no competitors left to destroy. [54.7] When this happens the way of life implodes. So many competitors have been destroyed that the biodiversity of the ecosystem has been fatally weakened. All that the landscape now supports is the lawbreaker and the lawbreaker's food. With biodiversity gone and the food chain destroyed the food supply of the lawbreakers will fall apart and when the food supply falls apart the lawbreaker is eliminated. [54.8] Quinn argues that humans are the only species to have broken this law, beginning with Agriculture, 10 000 years ago. Takers exterminate their competitors, which is something that never happens in the wild. In the wild, animals will defend their territories and their kills and they will invade their competitors' territories and pre-empt their kills. Some species even include competitors among their prey, but they never hunt competitors down just to make them dead, the way ranchers and farmers do with coyotes and foxes and crows. What they hunt, they eat." When animals go huntingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;even extremely aggressive animals like baboonsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;it's to obtain food, not to exterminate competitors or even animals that prey on them." [54.9] Takers systematically destroy their competitors' food to make room for their own. Nothing like this occurs in the natural community. The rule there is: Take what you need, and leave the rest alone." [54.10] Takers deny their competitors access to food. In the wild, the rule is: You may deny your competitors access to what you're eating, but you may not deny them access to food in general. In other words, you can say, `This gazelle is mine,' but you can't say, `All the gazelles are mine.' The lion defends its kill as its own, but it doesn't defend the herd as its own." "Bees will deny you access to what's inside their hive in the apple tree, but they won't deny you access to the apples." [55]

Totalitarian Agriculture Trade-Offs:

[56] World Food and Human Population Growth, describes how food supply drives human population growth, and how human population growth adversely affects our environment and our ability to sustain our culture. This began with the agricultural revolution, a cultural change which advocates continually increasing food production. The consequences of Agricultural expansion are: * decreased carbon sequestration (80%), decreased soil nutrients (20%), decreased base stream flow (30%), and decreased species biodiversity (80%).105


Hopfenberg, Russell (2007): Chapter 32-33: Before â&#x20AC;&#x201C; After Forest Conversion to Cropland

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[57] In Ensuring healthy biodiversity and sustainable productive agriculture can coexist in Europe106, Patrick ten Brinkâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s graph gives a simplified example of the trade-offs involved in a decision to leave land in a natural state, convert it to extensive agriculture or convert it to intensive agriculture (excluding pollution issues). The example shows how intensive totalitarian agriculture was initially believed to increase food production by around 200%; Patrick Ten Brink (11 April 2013): Ensuring healthy biodiversity and sustainable productive agriculture can coexist in Europe; Hungry for Change II Conference and Exhibition, Brussels Biodiversity session â&#x20AC;&#x201C; programme 106

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity however with extended intensive abuse of the land, food production yields were no greater than if the land had been left in its natural state; however, intensive use of the land had reduced soil protection by 80%, freshwater by 80%, energy by 80%, and climate regulation by 80%. As land is degraded and more artificial inputs are made to get the same provisioning service, the share of the ecosystem services drops as soil is degraded. What initially may appear as positive food production gains end up not to be so.

Global Freshwater Use [58] The world‘s water exists naturally in different forms and locations: in the air, on the surface, below the ground, and in the oceans. Freshwater accounts for only 2.5% of the Earth‘s water, and most of it is frozen in glaciers and ice caps. The remaining unfrozen freshwater is mainly found as groundwater, with only a small fraction present above ground or in the air. [59] Precipitation – rain, snow, dew etc. – plays the key role in renewing water resources and in defining local climatic conditions and biodiversity. Depending on SSD3 :: 58

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity the local conditions, precipitation may feed rivers and lakes, replenish groundwater, or return to the air by evaporation. [60] Glaciers store water as snow and ice, releasing varying amounts of water into local streams depending on the season. But many are shrinking as a result of climate change. River basins are a useful ―natural unit‖ for the management of water resources and many of them are shared by more than one country. The largest river basins include the Amazon and Congo Zaire basins. River flows can vary greatly from one season to the next and from one climatic region to another. Because lakes store large amounts of water, they can reduce seasonal differences in how much water flows in rivers and streams. [61] Wetlands – including swamps, bogs, marshes, and lagoons – cover 6% of the worlds land surface and play a key role in local ecosystems and water resources. Many of them have been destroyed, but the remaining wetlands can still play an important role in preventing floods and promoting river flows. [62] Of the freshwater which is not frozen, almost all is found below the surface as groundwater . Generally of high quality, groundwater is being withdrawn mostly to supply drinking water and support farming in dry climates. The resource is considered renewable as long as groundwater is not withdrawn faster than nature can replenish it, but in many dry regions the groundwater does not renew itself or only very slowly. Few countries measure the quality of groundwater or the rate at which it is being exploited. This makes it difficult to manage. [63] The quantity of freshwater that is available to a given country without exceeding the rate at which it is renewed, can be estimated taking into account the amount of precipitation, water flows entering and leaving the country, and water shared with other countries. [64] The average amount available per person varies from less than 50 m3 per year in parts of the Middle East to over 100 000 m3 per year in humid and sparsely populated areas. The United Nations has kept a country by country database of such estimates for several decades. Though the database has become a common reference tool, it has some drawbacks. Figures only indicate the maximum theoretical amount available for a country and may be an overestimation. Moreover, annual and national averages tend to mask local and seasonal differences. [65]

Freshwater Pollution:

[66] The causes of freshwater pollution are varied and include industrial wastes, sewage, runoff from farmland, cities, and factory effluents, and the build-up of sediment.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [67] Emissions from factories and vehicles are released into the air. They can travel long distances before falling to the ground, for instance in the form of acid rain. The emissions create acidic conditions that damage ecosystems, including forests and lakes. The pollution that passes directly into water from factories and cities can be reduced through treatment at source before it is discharged. It is harder to reduce the varied forms of pollution that are carried indirectly, by runoff, from a number of widely spread non-point sources, into freshwater and the sea. [68] Only a small percentage of chemicals are regulated, and concern is growing about contamination by unregulated chemicals. A variety of pharmaceutical products, such as painkillers and antibiotics, are having an impact on water resources above and below ground. Conventional water treatment does not work for many of them. [69] In general, it takes much longer to clean up polluted water bodies than for pollution to occur in the first place, and there is thus a need to focus on protecting water resources. In many cases, clean-up takes more than 10 years. Although underground water is less easily polluted than water above ground, cleaning it once it is polluted takes longer and is more difficult and expensive. Ways are being found to assess where and how underground water is most vulnerable to pollution. The findings are important in cases where aquifers supply drinking water, and where natural ecosystems depend on them. [70] Sewage and runoff from farms, farmlands and gardens can contain nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, that cause excessive aquatic plant growth, and this in turn has a range of damaging ecological effects. [71]


[72] Around the world certain lakes, rivers and inland seas are in the process of drying up because too much water is being drawn from them or from their tributaries. Groundwater, too, is used faster than it is replenished, as is clear from a growing number of reports documenting sharp drops in aquifer levels. In many cases, drought periods have compounded this well-documented trend. [73] The Niger, the Nile, the Ganges, the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Yangtze, the Colorado, and the Rio Grande are just some of the major rivers suffering substantial reductions in flow. Numerous lakes and inlands seas are shrinking dramatically in many geographic regions. The Aral Sea and Lake Chad have decreased dramatically in size over the last few decades. [74] These problems persist though their causes have been evident for quite some time. Foremost are the very inefficient ways in which water is supplied to farms and cities, deforestation, and the failure to properly manage and control the withdrawal of water, and to think of more economic ways to use water.

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[75] Not enough consideration has been given to minimizing use and conserving water resources. Instead the supply has been further strained by the construction of new reservoirs and inappropriate diversions. While some towns and cities are taking action, only broad-based and fundamental change in national and regional practices can reverse the impact. [76] The threat to groundwater is not as obvious as that to lakes and rivers. There is less visual evidence and the effects of withdrawing too much groundwater take longer to recognise. In the last half-century, pumping from aquifers increased

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity globally. But often the benefits—bigger harvests for example—were short-lived, ultimately resulting in lower water tables, drilling of deeper wells, and, sometimes, even the depletion of the groundwater source. [77] Cases from all climatic regions illustrate that excessive use of groundwater is relatively common practice. The consequences can be seen in reduced spring yields, diminished river flow, poorer water quality, damage to natural habitats such as wetlands, and the gradual sinking of land, known as subsidence. [78]

Climate Change:

[79] New research suggests that climate change is increasing existing stress, for example by reducing runoff in areas already suffering from water shortages. Scientists agree that extreme weather events stemming from global warming, such as storms and floods, are likely to be more frequent in the future. However, based on current knowledge, scientists can only make general predictions about the impact of climate change on water resources. [80] One type of water resource that has been clearly affected by climate change is glaciers. Scientists have long observed that land and mountain glaciers are shrinking, and this trend has accelerated considerably in recent years. For example, it has been predicted that most glaciers in Tibet could melt by 2100. And while it was initially thought that the water released could benefit China‘s arid north and west, it now appears that the additional runoff evaporates long before it reaches drought-stricken farmers downstream. [81] For example: In 2004, AFP (L‘Agence France-Presse) cites renewed concerns of disappearing glaciers being broadcast in Asia, notably in China and Nepal. Yao Tangdong, China‘s foremost glaciologist, was quoted in state media as saying, ‗An ecological catastrophe is developing in Tibet because of global warming and that most glaciers in the region could melt away by 2100‘. His conclusion was based on the results of a forty-month study by a group of twenty Sino-American scientists which showed separated ice islands that used to be connected with the glaciers at levels above 7,500 m. While Tibet‘s glaciers have been receding for the past four decades due to global warming, the rate of decline has increased dramatically since the early 1990s. It was initially thought that the water from the melting glaciers could provide additional water for China‘s arid north and west. However, this hope has not been realized as much of the glacier runoff evaporates long before it reaches the country‘s drought-stricken farmers. ‗The human cost could be immense‘ states AFP (2004), as 300 million Chinese live in the country‘s arid west and depend on the water flowing from the glaciers for their livelihoods. [82]


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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [83] Our water resources are under pressure. More reliable information is still needed regarding the quality and quantity of available water, and how this availability varies in time and from place to place. Human activities affect the water cycle in many ways, which needs to be understood and quantified to manage water resources responsibly and sustainably. [84]

It has become evident that: [84.1]

Changes in climate are affecting water availability

[84.2] Pollution, water diversions and uncertainties about the abundance of water are threatening economic growth, environment, and health. [84.3]

Underground water is often being overexploited and polluted.

[84.4] To augment water supply, traditional techniques – such as rainwater collection – are now being supplemented by newer technologies like desalination and water reuse. [84.5] Political support is needed to improve information collection that can in turn enable better decision making about the management and use of water.

State Shift in Earth’s Biosphere ―You‘re pushing an egg toward the end of the table. At first, not much happens. Then it goes off the edge and it breaks. That egg is now in a fundamentally different state, you can‘t get it back to what it was.‖ Tony Barnosky, professor at the University of California, Berkeley.


Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere107:

[85.1] Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence. The plausibility of a planetary-scale ‗tipping point‘ highlights the need to address root causes of how humans are forcing biological changes.

Barnosky D et al (June 2012): Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere; Nature, Vol 486, pp.52-58 [Anthony D. Barnosky, Elizabeth A. Hadly, Jordi Bascompte, Eric L. Berlow, James H. Brown, Mikael Fortelius, Wayne M. Getz, John Harte, Alan Hastings, Pablo A. Marquet, Neo D. Martinez, Arne Mooers, Peter Roopnarine, Geerat Vermeij, John W. Williams, Rosemary Gillespie, Justin Kitzes, Charles Marshall, Nicholas Matzke, David P. Mindell, Eloy Revilla & Adam B. Smith] 107

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Drivers of a potential planetary-scale critical transition: a, Humans locally transform and fragment landscapes. b, Adjacent areas still harbouring natural landscapes undergo indirect changes.c, Anthropogenic local state shifts accumulate to transform a high percentage of Earth‘s surface drastically; brown colouring indicates the approximately 40% of terrestrial ecosystems that have now been transformed to agricultural landscapes, as explained in ref. 34. d, Global-scale forcings emerge from accumulated local human impacts, for example dead zones in the oceans from run-off of agricultural pollutants.e, Changes in atmospheric and ocean chemistry from the release of greenhouse gases as fossil fuels are burned.f–h, Global-scale forcings emerge to cause ecological changes even in areas that are far from human population concentrations.f, Beetle-killed coniferforests (brown trees) triggered by seasonal changes in temperature observed over the past five decades. g, Reservoirs of biodiversity, such as tropical rainforests, are projected to lose many species as global climate change causes local changes in temperature and precipitation, exacerbating other threats already causing abnormally high extinction rates. In the case of amphibians, this threat is the human-facilitated spread of chytrid fungus. h, Glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro, which remained large throughout the past 11,000 yr, are now melting quickly, a global trend that in many parts of the world threatens the water supplies of major population centres. As increasing human populations directly transform more and more of Earth‘s surface, such changes driven by emergent global-scale forcings increase drastically, in turn causing state shifts in ecosystems that are not directly used by people. Photo credits: E.A.H. and A.D.B. (a–c, e–h); NASA (d).


Present global-scale forcings:

Global-scale forcing mechanisms today are human population growth with attendant resource consumption, habitat transformation and fragmentation3, energy production and consumption, and climate change. All of these far exceed, in both rate and magnitude, the forcings evident at themost recent global-scale state shift, the last glacial–interglacial transition, which is a particularly relevant benchmark for comparison given that the two global-scale forcings at that time—climate change and human population growth— are also primary forcings today.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity During the last glacial–interglacial transition, however, these were probably separate, yet coincidental, forcings. Today conditions are very different because global-scale forcings including (but not limited to) climate change have emerged as a direct result of human activities. Human population growth and per-capita consumption rate underlie all of the other present drivers of global change. The growth in the human population now (~77,000,000 people per year) is three orders of magnitude higher than the average yearly growth from ~10,000–400 yr ago (~67,000 people per year), and the human population has nearly quadrupled just in the past century. The most conservative estimates suggest that the population will grow from its present value, 7,000,000,000, to 9,000,000,000 by 2045 and to 9,500,000,000 by 2050. As a result of human activities, direct local-scale forcings have accumulated to the extent that indirect, global-scale forcings of biological change have now emerged. Direct forcing includes the conversion of ~43% of Earth‘s land to agricultural or urban landscapes, with much of the remaining natural landscapes networked with roads. This exceeds the physical transformation that occurred at the last global-scale critical transition, when ~30% of Earth‘s surface went from being covered by glacial ice to being ice free. The indirect global-scale forcings that have emerged from human activities include drastic modification of how energy flows through the global ecosystem. An inordinate amount of energy now is routed through one species, Homo sapiens. Humans commandeer ~20–40% of global net primary productivity (NPP) and decrease overall NPP through habitat degradation. .. By-products of altering the global energy budget are major modifications to the atmosphere and oceans. Burning fossil fuels has increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations by more than a third (~35%) with respect to pre-industrial levels, with consequent climatic disruptions that include a higher rate of global warming than occurred at the last global-scale state shift. Higher CO2 concentrations have also caused the ocean rapidly to become more acidic, evident as a decrease in pH by ~0.05 in the past two decades. In addition, pollutants from agricultural run-off and urban areas have radically changed how nutrients cycle through large swaths of marine areas. Already observable biotic responses include vast ‗dead zones‘ in the near-shore marine realm, as well as the replacement of .40% of Earth‘s formerly biodiverse land areas with landscapes that contain only a few species of crop plants, domestic animals and humans.

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Guiding the Biotic Future:

Diminishing the range of biological surprises resulting from bottom-up (local-to-global) and top-down (global-to-local) forcings, postponing their effects and, in the optimal case, averting a planetary-scale critical transition demands global cooperation to stem current global-scale anthropogenic forcings. This will require reducing world population growth and per-capita resource use; rapidly increasing the proportion of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s energy budget that is supplied by sources other than fossil fuels while also becoming more efficient in using fossil fuels when they provide the only option; increasing the efficiency of existing means of food production and distribution instead of converting new areas or relying on wild species to feed people; and enhancing efforts to manage as reservoirs of biodiversity and ecosystem services, both in the terrestrial and marine realms, the parts of Earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s surface that are not already dominated by humans.

Peak Non-Renewable Natural Resources (NNR): Scarcity

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [86] Peak Resources: Every Nation and Planet Earths Natural Capital Commons consists of a Finite amount of Non-Renewable Resources and Finite Level of Renewable Resources (Carrying Capacity):


A nations non-renewable and renewable resources are a ‗commons‘ and

increased population and/or consumption of resources can only occur up to the point of ‗carrying capacity‘ tipping points. Once ‗carrying capacity‘ laws of nature tipping points are breached -- Peak of Production, referred to as Peak Oil, or Peak NNR, etc -- resource scarcity occurs which – in the absence of equivalent voluntary population and consumption reduction - triggers resource war violence, which exponentially increases the problems of those tasked with ‗national security‘. [86.2]

There is a fundamental difference between the resource war violence –

deaths (see black upside down bell curve – from temporary resource scarcity that results on the upward side of the Peak Oil/NNR resource curve (services per capita orange bell curve), and the resource war violence on the downslope of the curve. Notice how deaths increase subsequent to the peak of ‗services per capita‘.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [87]

Post Peak-NNR Efforts to Increase GDP aggravates Scarcity-Conflict;

driving Nation / Humanity faster to Scarcity-Conflict collision: [87.1]

Using the analogy of a car collision, as the resource war violence, on the

upward curve, the car is not only travelling uphill, but it also has access to brakes (i.e. the ecosystem can import surplus resources from elsewhere), i.e. the ability to reduce the speed of the car, and hence to reduce, or even totally prevent, the level of violence resulting from the collision. However, on the Post Peak Resources downhill slope, the car is now freewheeling downhill, it has no brakes (the system cannot import resources from elsewhere, because resources are scarce everywhere), which aggravates resource scarcity similar to a foot on the car‘s gaspedal, driving it faster and faster to collision, the crisis of conflict. [88] Scarcity: Humanity’s Last Chapter: A Comprehensive Analysis of Nonrenewable Natural Resource (NNR) Scarcity’s Consequences:


AnthroCorpocentric108 Flat Earth Society109 Jurisprudence views the world

from a firmly entrenched inaccurate Anthropocentric (human-centred) perspective, where there is always a brighter future, because the implicit assumption of our Anthropocentric political, economic and legal worldview is that there will always be ―enough‖ Non Renewable Natural Resources (NNR‗s) to enable a brighter future, and all politics and economics needs to concern itself with, is how to use these NNR‗s to provide ever improving material living standards for our ever-expanding global population110. From a broader Ecocentric111 Finite Resource Scarcity perspective, beyond Peak NNR112, there is no hope for a brighter future, the future is one of depletion, austerity, resource wars & socio-economic and political

Clugston (2012) (p.127): ―The AnthroCorpocentric perspective considers the philosophy, processes, and activities by which natural resource inputs to a society‗s economy are converted into goods and services outputs (wealth creation). It also considers the philosophy, processes, and activities by which goods and services (wealth) are allocated among a society‗s population. The fundamental assumption underlying the prevailing AnthroCorpocentric perspective is that notwithstanding periodic temporary shortfalls, natural resource inputs and natural habitat waste absorption capacities will remain sufficient to perpetuate global industrialism indefinitely.‗ – Scarcity, Clugston Chris (pg. 127) 109 Bartlett (1993) (1996/09) (1999/01) (2002); Hardin (1999); 110 Hardin (1985); Bartlett (2006/09); Guillebaud (2007); Leahy (2003) 111 ―The ecological perspective considers natural resource inputs and natural habitat waste absorption capacities as the ultimate limiting factors governing a society‗s economic/political processes and activities, its attainable economic output (GDP) level, and its attainable level of societal wellbeing—i.e., the material living standards enjoyed by the society‗s population.‖ – Scarcity, Clugston C (127) 112 Bartlett (2006/09); Clugston (2012): Peak NNR: ―NNRs are finite; and as their name implies, NNR reserves are not replenished on a time scale that is relevant to humans. More unfortunately, economically viable supplies associated with the vast majority of NNRs that enable our industrialized way of life are becoming increasingly scarce, both domestically (US) and globally. While there will always be ―plenty of NNR‘s in the ground, there will not always be ―plenty of economically viable NNR‘s in the ground. In fact, there are ―no longer enough economically viable NNR‘s in the ground to enable continuous improvement in human societal wellbeing at historical rates.‖ –Clugston, C: Scarcity 108

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity collapse;113 because the fundamental assumption of ever-increasing NNR‗s, underlying







inaccurate.114 [90]

Peak Oil is the end of cheap oil, it is the point where every barrel of oil is

harder to find, more expensive to extract, and more valuable to whoever owns or controls it. As early as 2000, geological experts warned Peak Oil would occur sometime between 2000 and 2007115. Cheap oil is the oxygen of the ―economic growth‖116 global economic system and industrial food production117. Scarcity: Overview:



Mr. Chris Clugston‘s118 Domestic (US) & Global NNR Scarcity Analysis is

based upon his analysis of the criticality and scarcity associated with each of the 89 analyzed NNRs, using data from USGS, EIA, BEA, BLS, Fed, CBO, FBI, IEA, UN, World Bank, etc; and concludes in general that ―absent some combination of immediate and drastic reductions in our global NNR utilization levels, ... we will experience escalating international and intranational conflicts during the coming decades over increasingly scarce NNR‗s, which will devolve into global societal collapse, almost certainly by the year 2050.‖119 [91.2]

Scarcity‘s Global NNR Scarcity Analysis (pg.51-59) (pg 41-49120)

summarizes global criticality and scarcity associated with each of the 89 analyzed NNR‘s: (a) An overwhelming majority, 63 of the 89 analyzed NNRs, were considered ―scarce‖ globally in 2008, immediately prior to the Great Recession; (b) A significant number, 28 of the 89 analyzed NNRs have peaked: are ―almost certain‖ to remain scarce permanently going forward; and a sizeable number, 16 of the 89 analyzed NNRs, will ―likely‖ remain scarce permanently; and (c) Global extraction/production levels associated with 39 of the 89 analyzed NNRs, are considered ―at risk‖. Scarcity (p.4) Clugston Chris: Scarcity: Humanity‗s Final Chapter: The realities, choices and likely outcomes associated with ever-increasing non-renewable natural resource scarcity, page 4 115 On February 11, 2006 Deffeyes claimed world oil production peaked on December 16, 2005 116 Deffeyes (2006): "The economists all think that if you show up at the cashier's cage with enough currency, God will put more oil in ground." 117 Ruppert (2004): p.24: ―We eat oil. It is a little known fact that for every 1 calorie of food energy produced, 10 calories of hydrocarbons are consumed.‗ 118 Clugston, Chris: Scarcity: Humanity‗s Final Chapter: The realities, choices and likely outcomes associated with ever-increasing non-renewable natural resource scarcity ( Inc 2012). Scarcity is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment of the realities, choices, and likely outcomes associated with everincreasing non-renewable natural resource (NNR) scarcity. NNRs are the fossil fuels, metals, and non-metallic minerals that enable our industrialized existence. 119 Clugston, C: Scarcity: Preface, pg. ix 120 113 114

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [91.3]

NNR‘s at risk – i.e. years to global exhaustion of reserves – are: (a)

Antimony: 8 yrs (used for starter lights ignition batteries in cars and trucks; (b) Bauxite: 40 years (only economically viable feedstock for aluminium); (c) Bismuth: 17 years (non-toxic substitute for lead in solder and plumbing fixtures); (d) Cadmium: 25 years; (e) Chromium: 26 years (stainless steel, jet engines and gas turbines); (f) Coal: 40 years (electricity generation); (g) Cobalt: 26 years (gas turbine blades, jet aircraft engines, batteries); (h) Copper: 27 years; (i) Fluorspar: 23 years (feedstock for fluorine bearing chemicals, aluminium and uranium processing); (j) Graphite (Natural): 23 years; (k) Iron Ore: 15 years (only feedstock for iron and steel); (l) Lead: 17 years; (m) Lithium: 8 years (aircraft parts, mobile phones, batteries for electrical vehicles); (n) Manganese: 17 years (stainless steel, gasoline additive, dry cell batteries); (o) Molybdenum: 20 years (aircraft parts, electrical contacts, industrial motors, tool steels); (p) Natural Gas: 34 years; (q) Nickel: 30 years; (r) Niobium: 15 years (jet and rocket engines, turbines, superconducting magnets); (s) Oil: 39 years; (t) Rhenium: 22 years (petroleum refining, jet engines, gas turbine blades); (u) Silver: 11 years; (v) Thalium: 38 years; (w) Tin: 18 years; (x) Tungsten: 32 years; (y) Uranium: 34 years (primary energy source, weapons); (z) Zinc: 13 years; (aa) Zirconium: 19 years (nuclear power plants, jet engines, gas turbine blades).










AnthroCorpocentric worldview does not recognize that ―from a broader ecological perspective, all human economics and politics are irrelevant,‖ to ―paraphrase Thoreau, we are ‗thrashing at the economic and political branches of our predicament, rather than hacking at the ecological root.‘‖121 [91.5]

―Because the underlying cause associated with our transition from

prosperity to austerity is ecological (geological), not economic or political, our incessant










inconsequential. Our national economies are not ―broken‖; they are ―dying of slow starvation‖ for lack of sufficient economically viable NNR inputs. [91.6]

―Our industrial lifestyle paradigm, which is enabled by enormous










unsustainable, i.e. physically impossible – going forward.122 [91.7]

―Global humanity‗s steadily deteriorating condition will culminate in self-

inflicted global societal collapse, almost certainly by the year 2050. We will not accept gracefully our new normal of ever-increasing, geologically-imposed austerity; 121 122

Clugston, C: Scarcity: Preface, pg. 103-104 Clugston, C: Scarcity: Preface, pg. 103-104

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity nor will we suffer voluntarily the horrifically painful population level reductions and material living standard degradation associated with our inevitable transition to a sustainable, pre-industrial lifestyle paradigm. [91.8]

―All industrialized and industrializing nations, irrespective of their

economic and political orientations, are unsustainable and will collapse in the nottoo-distant future as a consequence of their dependence upon increasingly scarce NNRs. [91.9]

We can voluntarily reduce population and consumption, or NNR scarcity

depletion will force it upon us, in our inevitable transition to a sustainable, preindustrial lifestyle paradigm. [92]

Natural Resources and Human Evolution: [92.1]

During the past 2+ million years, humanity—Homo sapiens and our

hominid predecessors—evolved through three major lifestyle paradigms: huntergatherer, agrarian, and industrial. [92.2]

Each of the three paradigms is readily distinguishable from the other two

in terms of its worldview, natural resource utilization behavior, and resulting level of societal wellbeing—i.e., attainable population levels and material living standards. [93]

The Hunter-Gatherer Lifestyle Paradigm: [93.1]

The hunter-gatherer (HG) lifestyle paradigm spanned over 2 million

years, from the time that our hominid ancestors first stood erect on the continent of Africa to approximately 8,000 BC. HG societies consisted of small nomadic clans, typically numbering between 50 and 100 individuals, who subsisted primarily on naturally occurring vegetation and wildlife. [93.2]

The HG lifestyle can best be described as subsistence living for a

relatively constant population that probably never exceeded 5 million globally. Hunter-gatherers produced few manmade goods beyond the necessities required for their immediate survival, and they generated no appreciable wealth surplus. [93.3]

The HG worldview revered Nature as the provider of life and subsistence,

a perspective that fostered a passive lifestyle orientation through which huntergatherers







environmental context defined by Nature. The HG resource mix consisted almost SSD3 :: 71

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity entirely of renewable natural resources such as water and naturally occurring edible plant life and wildlife.


The Agrarian Lifestyle Paradigm: [94.1]

The agrarian lifestyle paradigm commenced in approximately 8,000 BC

and lasted until approximately 1700 AD, when England initiated what was to become the industrial revolution. [94.2]

Agrarian societies existed primarily by raising cultivated crops and

domesticated livestock. [94.3]

The agrarian worldview perceived Nature as something to be augmented

through human effort, by domesticating naturally occurring plant and animal species. The agrarian lifestyle orientation was proactive in the sense that it sought to improve upon what Nature provided. [94.4]

While modest wealth surpluses were sometimes generated by agrarian

populations, agrarian existence typically offered little more in the way of material living standards for the vast majority of agrarian populations than did the HG lifestyleâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;although the global agrarian population did increase significantly, reaching nearly 800 million by 1750 AD.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [94.5]

The agrarian resource mix consisted primarily of RNRs, which were







populations. As agrarian cultivation and grazing practices became increasingly intensive, renewable natural resource reserves were increasingly depleted and natural habitats were increasingly degraded as well. [95]

The Industrial Lifestyle Paradigm: [95.1]

The inception of the industrial lifestyle paradigm occurred with England‘s

industrial revolution in the early 18th century, less than 300 years ago. [95.2]

Today, over 1.5 billion people—approximately 22% of the world‘s 6.9

billion total population—is considered ―industrialized‖; and nearly three times that many people actively aspire to an industrialized way of life. [95.3]

Our industrialized world is characterized by an incomprehensibly

complex mosaic of interdependent yet independently operating human and nonhuman entities and infrastructure. [95.4]

These entities must function continuously, efficiently, and collectively at

the local, regional, national, and global levels in order to convert natural resource inputs into the myriad goods and services that enable our modern industrial way of life. [95.5]

[Note that failures within the industrial mosaic can disrupt, temporarily

or permanently, the flow of societal essentials—water, food, energy, shelter, and clothing—to broad segments of our global population.] [95.6]

Tremendous wealth surpluses are typically generated by industrialized

societies; such wealth surpluses are actually required to enable the historically unprecedented material living standards enjoyed by increasingly large segments of ever-expanding industrialized populations. [95.7]

The industrialized worldview perceives Nature as something to be

harnessed through industrial processes and infrastructure, in order to enhance the human condition. It is an exploitive worldview that seeks to use natural resources and habitats as the means to continuously improve human societal wellbeing—that is, to provide continuously improving material living standards for ever-increasing numbers of ever-expanding human populations. [95.8]

The resource mix associated with today‘s industrialized societies is

heavily skewed toward nonrenewable natural resources, which, in addition to renewable natural resources and natural habitats, have been increasingly overexploited since the dawn of the industrial revolution. SSD3 :: 73

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [95.9]

It is precisely this persistent overexploitation of natural resources and

natural habitats—especially NNRs—that has enabled the ―success‖ associated with the industrial lifestyle paradigm—success being defined here as continuous increases in both human population levels and human material living standards. [96]

Nonrenewable Natural Resources—the Enablers of Industrialization: [96.1]

Our industrial lifestyle paradigm is enabled by nonrenewable natural

resources (NNRs)—energy resources, metals, and minerals. Both the support infrastructure within industrialized nations and the raw material inputs into industrialized economies consist almost entirely of NNRs; NNRs are the primary sources of the tremendous wealth surpluses required to perpetuate industrialized societies. [96.2]

As a case in point, the percentage of NNR inputs into the US economy

increased from less than 10% in the year 1800, which corresponds roughly with the inception of the American industrial revolution, to approximately 95% today. Between 1800 and today, America‘s total annual NNR utilization level increased from approximately 4 million tons to nearly 7 billion tons—an increase of over 1700 times! [96.3]

In the absence of enormous and ever-increasing NNR supplies, the 1.2

billion people who currently enjoy an industrialized way of life will cease to do so; and the billions of people aspiring to an industrialized way of life will fail to realize their goal. [97]

NNR Scarcity: [97.1]

As their name implies, NNRs are finite—they are not replenished by

Nature; and they are scarce—economically viable NNR deposits are rare. Persistent extraction (production) will therefore deplete recoverable NNR reserves to exhaustion. [Note: the terms NNR ―production‖ and NNR ―extraction‖ are used interchangeably throughout the paper. Although ―extraction‖ is the proper term— humans do not produce NNRs—the term ―production‖ has gained wide acceptance within the NNR extraction industries.] [97.2]

The typical NNR depletion cycle is characterized by: a period of

―continuously more and more‖, as the easily accessible, high quality, low cost resources are extracted; followed by a ―supply peak‖,8 or maximum attainable extraction level; followed by a period of ―continuously less and less‖, as the less accessible, lower quality, higher cost resources are extracted.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [97.3]

Since the inception of our industrial revolution, humanity has been the

beneficiary of ―continuously more and more‖ with respect to available NNR supplies. [97.4]

Unfortunately, in the process of reaping the benefits associated with

―continuously more and more‖, we have been eliminating—persistently and systematically—the very natural resources upon which our industrialized way of life depends. [97.5]

Increasingly, global NNR supplies are transitioning from ―continuously

more and more‖ to ―continuously less and less‖, as they peak and go into terminal decline. As a result, NNRs are becoming increasingly scarce—ever-tightening global NNR supplies are struggling to keep pace with ever-increasing global demand.


The Analysis: [98.1]








Assessment quantifies the magnitude associated with increasing global NNR SSD3 :: 75

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity scarcity and the probabilities associated with imminent and permanent global NNR supply shortfalls. The assessment consists of two analyses, both of which are based on US Geological Survey (USGS) and US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. [98.2]

The Global NNR Scarcity Analysis assesses the incidence of global

scarcity associated with each of 57 NNRs during the period of global economic growth (2000-2008) prior to the Great Recession. [98.3]

The Global NNR Supply Shortfall Analysis assesses the probability of a

permanent global supply shortfall associated with each of 26 NNRs between now and the year 2030. [99]

Global NNR Supply Shortfall Analysis Findings: [99.1]

Fifty (50) of the 57 NNRs (88%) analyzed in the Global NNR Scarcity

Analysis experienced global scarcity—and therefore experienced temporary (at least) global supply shortfalls—during the 2000-2008 period. Twenty three (23) of the 26 NNRs (88%) analyzed in the Global NNR Supply Shortfall Analysis are likely to experience permanent global supply shortfalls by the year 2030. Each permanent NNR supply shortfall represents another crack in the foundation of our globalizing industrial lifestyle paradigm; at issue is which crack or combination of cracks will cause the structure to collapse? [99.2]

Permanent global supply shortfalls associated with a single critical NNR

or with a very few secondary NNRs can be sufficient to cause significant lifestyle disruptions—population







degradation. [99.3]

A permanent shortfall in the global supply of oil, for example, would be

sufficient to cause significant local, national, and/or global lifestyle disruptions, or outright global societal collapse; as would permanent global supply shortfalls associated with 2-3 critical NNRs such as potassium, phosphate rock, and (fixed) nitrogen; as would concurrent permanent global supply shortfalls associated with 4-5 secondary NNRs such as the alloys, catalysts, and reagents that enable the effective use of critical NNRs. [99.4]

Given our vulnerability to an ever-increasing number of imminent and

permanent global NNR supply shortfalls, the likelihood that the mix and volume of shortfalls will reach their ―critical mass‖ is a question of ―when‖, not ―if‖. [100]

Implications of Increasing Global NNR Scarcity:


Increasing NNR Scarcity: SSD3 :: 76

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [101.1]

Available supplies associated with an overwhelming majority of NNRs—

including bauxite, copper, iron ore, magnesium, manganese, nickel, phosphate rock, potash, rare earth metals, tin, and zinc—have reached their domestic US peak extraction levels, and are in terminal decline.16 Based on the evidence presented above, available supplies associated with a vast majority of NNRs are becoming increasingly scarce globally as well. [101.2]

Because global NNR supplies are transitioning from ―continuously more

and more‖ to ―continuously less and less‖, our global societal wellbeing levels— our economic activity levels, population levels, and material living standards—are transitioning from ―continuously more and more‖ to ―continuously less and less‖ as well. [102]

Sustainability is Inevitable:


―Business as usual‖ (industrialism), ―stasis‖ (no growth), ―downscaling‖

(reducing NNR utilization), and ―moving toward sustainability‖ (feel good initiatives) are not options; we will be sustainable…


Unintended Consequences:


It is difficult to argue that our incessant quest for global industrialization

and the natural resource utilization behavior that enables our quest are inherently evil. We have simply applied our everexpanding knowledge and technology over the SSD3 :: 77

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity past several centuries toward dramatically improving our level of societal wellbeing, through our ever-increasing utilization of NNRs. [103.2]

However, despite our possibly justifiable naïveté during our meteoric rise

to ―exceptionalism‖, and despite the fact that our predicament was undoubtedly an unintended consequence of our efforts to continuously improve the material living standards enjoyed by our ever-expanding global population; globally available, economically viable supplies associated with the NNRs required to perpetuate our industrial lifestyle paradigm will not be sufficient going forward. [104]

Our Transition to Sustainability:


Humanity‘s transition to a sustainable lifestyle paradigm, within which a

drastically reduced human population will rely exclusively on renewable natural resources (RNRs)—water, soil (farmland), forests, and other naturally occurring biota—is therefore inevitable. Our choice is not whether we ―wish to be sustainable‖; our choice involves the process by which we ―will become sustainable‖. [104.2]

We can choose to alter fundamentally our existing unsustainable natural

resource utilization behavior and transition voluntarily to a sustainable lifestyle paradigm over the next several decades. In the process, we would cooperate globally in utilizing remaining accessible NNRs to orchestrate a relatively gradual—but horrifically painful nonetheless—transition, thereby optimizing our population level and material living standards both during our transition and at sustainability. Or, we can refrain from taking preemptive action and allow Nature to orchestrate our transition to sustainability through societal collapse, thereby experiencing catastrophic reductions in our population level and material living standards. [105]

The Squeeze is On:


It would be convenient if our unraveling were to occur in 1,000 years, or

500 years, or even 50 years. We could then dismiss it as a concern for future generations and go busily about improving our national and global societal wellbeing levels in the meantime. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The Great Recession was a tangible manifestation of our predicament—NNR scarcity was epidemic in 2008, both domestically (US) and globally. Our unraveling is in process. At present, however, only an extremely small minority of the global populace understands that NNR scarcity is the fundamental cause underlying our predicament and its derivative economic and political problems. When the general public becomes aware of this fact and of the fact that NNR scarcity is a permanent, ever-increasing, and unsolvable phenomenon, collapse will ensue in short order. SSD3 :: 78

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity

Socialized Corporate Externality Costs: Trillion Dollar Thefts from Global Natural Capital Commons ―El Paso - 200 children - $5 to $10,000 per kid.‖ -- Handwritten notes of Gulf Resources vice president Frank Woodruff, calculating Gulf's liability for poisoning 500 children with lead from its Bunker Hill smelter in Kellogg, Idaho; Gulf concluded it was cheaper to poison the children than to replace pollution control equipment.123


Measuring the Corporate Externality Costs Trillion Dollar Thefts from

our Global Natural Capital Commons: [107]

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)124 puts a value on the

ecological services provided to humanity. They have found that 3,000 listed companies around the world were responsible for over $2 trillion in environmental ―externalities‖ (i.e. costs that have to be borne by society from ignored factors, or ―social costs‖). This is equivalent to 7% of their combined revenues and up to a third of their combined profits. [108]

In Put a Value on Nature!125 and What’s the World Worth?126 Pavan

Sukhdev talks about how $2.25 Trillion of Corporate Costs are externalized by Corporations and paid by Society. They do it because the system allows them to do it. To stop this we need to recognize natural capital, build it into our systems. When we measure GDP, as a measure of our economic performance at the national level, we should include our biggest asset at the country level, our natural capital and the state of its improved biodiversity health, or destruction. When we measure corporate performances we don't include our impacts on nature and water and biodiversity and what the business costs society. In a Study in China, TEEB measured the Externality costs of Timber extraction. They found that the extraction costs were almost twice the prevailing Market Cost of Timber. If the Externality costs had been included in the Market Price, the Market Cost would have been three times what it was, which would have accurately reflected the true ecological and social cost of the timber extraction.

Draffan, George (2000) 125 126 123 124

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity


The benefits of these silent parts of our economy is also summarized in these

videos by TEEBâ&#x20AC;&#x2DC;s Pavan Sukhdev: (a) The Invisible Economy127: The hidden environmental and social costs from corporations:, TEEB, January 12, 2011; (b) What is the world worth?128: What the global economy would look like with nature on the balance sheet, TEEB, November 15, 2010. [110]

Andrew Simms (18 Feb 2010): The Price for Environmental Destruction?

There is None129; The Guardian The economy is no stranger to creating its own fantasy world with little or no relation to the real one. We witnessed the damage that can cause when the banks thought they had stumbled on financial alchemy and could transform bad debt into good â&#x20AC;&#x201C; economic base metal into gold. Now it's possible that a much bigger error is coming to light. The rise and rise of global corporations lifted on a wave of apparent productivity gains may have been little more than a mask for the reckless liquidation of natural capital. It's as if we've been so distracted by our impressive speed of economic travel that we forgot to look at the fuel gauge or the cloud of smog left in our wake. A new UN report estimates that accounting for the environmental damage of the world's 3,000 biggest companies would wipe out onethird of their profits. Any precise figure, however, is a matter of how risk is quantified and of where you draw the line. In 2006, for example, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), of which I 129 127 128

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity am the policy director, looked at the oil companies BP and Shell, who together had recently reported profits of ÂŁ25bn. By applying the Treasury's own estimates of the social and environmental cost of carbon emissions, we calculated that the total bill for those costs would reach ÂŁ46.5bn, massively outweighing profits and plunging the companies into the red. [..] The concept of a balanced budget, so loved by conservatives in relation to finance and spending, seems to be an alien concept when the consumption of natural resources and the production of waste is concerned. Yet it is far more important to achieve a balanced environmental budget than an economic one. You can always print more money, but you can't print more planet.

[111] TruCost (05 October 2010): Universal Ownership: Why Environmental Externalities matter to Institutional Investors130; UN Principles for Responsible Investment:

TruCost (05 October 2010): Universal Ownership: Why Environmental Externalities matter to Institutional Investors; UN Principles for Responsible Investment 130

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity US$ 6.6 trillion: The estimated annual environmental costs from global human activity equating to 11% of global GDP in 2008. US$ 2.15 trillion: The cost of environmental damage caused by the world's 3,000 largest publicly-listed companies in 2008.


Jowit Juliette (18 Feb 2010): World's top firms cause $2.2tn of

environmental damage, report estimates131; The Guardian The cost of pollution and other damage to the natural environment caused by the world‘s biggest companies would wipe out more than one-third of their profits if they were held financially accountable, a major unpublished study for the United Nations has found. The report comes amid growing concern that no one is made to pay for most of the use, loss and damage of the environment, which is reaching crisis proportions in the form of pollution and the rapid loss of freshwater, fisheries and fertile soils. The UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment initiative and the United Nations Environment Programme jointly ordered a report into the activities of the 3,000 biggest public companies in the world, which includes household names from the UK‘s FTSE 100 and other major stockmarkets. The study, conducted by London-based consultancy Trucost and due to be published this summer, found the estimated combined damage was worth US$2.2 trillion (£1.4tn) in 2008 – a figure bigger than the national economies of all but seven countries in the world that year. The figure equates to 6-7% of the companies‘ combined turnover, or an average of one-third of their profits, though some businesses would be much harder hit than others. ―What we‘re talking about is a completely new paradigm,‖ said Richard Mattison, Trucost‘s chief operating officer and leader of the report team. ―Externalities of this scale and nature pose a major risk to the global economy and markets are not fully aware of these risks, nor do they know how to deal with them.‖ The true figure is likely to be even higher because the $2.2tn does not include damage caused by household and government consumption of goods and services, such as energy used to power appliances or waste; the ―social impacts‖ such as the migration of people driven out of affected areas, or the long-term effects of any damage other than that from climate change. The final report will also include a higher total estimate which includes those long-term effects of problems such as toxic waste. Sukhdev said the heads of the major companies at this year‘s annual economic summit in Davos, Switzerland, were increasingly

Jowit Juliette (18 Febr 2010): World's top firms cause $2.2tn of environmental damage, report estimates ; The Guardian 131

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity concerned about the impact on their business if they were stopped or forced to pay for the damage. ―It can make the difference between profit and loss,‖ Sukhdev told the annual Earthwatch Oxford lecture last week. ―That sense of foreboding is there with many, many [chief executives], and that potential is a good thing because it leads to solutions.‖


TEEB (2011): The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in National

and International Policy Making132: Ecosystems and their biodiversity underpin the global economy and human well-being and need to be valued and protected. The world‘s ‗natural capital‘ is not a luxury for the rich but a necessity for all. The figures speak for themselves: over a billion people in developing countries rely on fish as a major source of food and over half of all commercial medicines derive from natural substances, mostly sourced in rainforests. Damage to global ecosystem services and biodiversity is acute and accelerating. In the last century we have lost 35% of mangroves, 40% of forests and 50% of wetlands. 60% of ecosystem services have been degraded in fifty years. species loss is 100 to 1,000 times than in geological times and will get worse with climate change. 80% of the world‘s fisheries are fully- or overexploited. Critical thresholds are being passed: for example, coral reefs risk collapse if co2 emissions are not urgently reduced. Ecosystem damage carries costs for business and society: the number of sectors benefiting from natural capital represents a far larger share of the economy than many policy-makers appreciate. Failure to halt biodiversity loss on land may cost $500 billion by 2010 (estimated value of ecosystem services that would have been provided if biodiversity had been maintained at 2000 levels). At sea, unsustainable fishing reduces potential fisheries output by an estimated $50 billion/year. Growing demand from an expanding wealthier population is a key cause of biodiversity loss. At a deeper level, economic signals from policy and market prices fail to reflect the true value of biodiversity. Incentives are not in place to encourage sustainable practices or to distribute costs and benefits efficiently and fairly. The imbalance between private gain and public loss runs through most of today‘s policy failures.


TruCost (Apr 2013): Natural Capital: The Top 100 Externalities133:

TEEB (2011), The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in National and International Policy Making. Edited by Patrick ten Brink. Earthscan, London and Washington. 133 TruCost (Apr 2013): Natural Capital: The Top 100 Externalities; TEEB 132

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity This report offers a high level perspective on the world‘s biggest natural capital risks for business, investors and governments. To provide a business perspective, it presents natural capital risk in financial terms. In doing so, it finds that the world‘s 100 biggest risks are costing the economy around $4.7 trillion per year in terms of the environmental and social costs of lost ecosystem services and pollution. Findings of this report build on TEEB‘s The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Business and Enterprise and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development‘s Guide to Corporate Ecosystem Valuation by estimating in monetary terms the financial risk from unpriced natural capital inputs to production, across business sectors at a regional level. By using an environmentally extended input-output model (EEIO) (see Appendix 2), it also estimates, at a high level, how these may flow through global supply chains to producers of consumer goods. It demonstrates that some business activities do not generate sufficient profit to cover their natural resource use and pollution costs. Trucost‘s analysis has estimated the unpriced natural capital costs at US$7.3 trillion relating to land use, water consumption, GHG emissions, air pollution, land and water pollution, and waste for over 1,000 global primary production and primary processing region-sectors under standard operating practices, excluding unpredictable catastrophic events. This equates to 13% of global economic output in 2009. Risk to business overall would be higher if all upstream sector impacts were included. All impacts are in 2009 prices and reflect 2009 product quantities, the latest year for which comprehensive data were available.


TEEB also found, for example, implementing REDD (Reducing Emissions from

Deforestation and Forest Degradation) could help (a) Halve deforestation by 2030, and (b) Cut emissions by 1.5 Gt of CO2 per year. From a cost perspective, it is estimated that (i) It would cost from US$ 17.2 – 33 billion per year; (ii) The estimated benefit in reduced climate change is US$ 3.2 trillion.

ECOLOGICAL OVERSHOOT: CARRYING CAPACITY ―If ecologists were ever asked to write a new Decalogue, their First Commandment would be: Thou shalt not transgress the carrying capacity .. Translated into human terms, the ecological

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity first commandment becomes: Thou shalt not transgress the cultural capacity.‖. – Garrett Hardin, Cultural Carrying Capacity134

Carrying Capacity: What Is It? How Have We Misunderstood It? And Why Is It Important?: [116]

The majority of the following arguments are excerpts from the papers

submitted to the Conference: From Overshoot to Sustainability, at the University of Vermont's Davis Center; specifically: (i) William Catton: What is Carrying Capacity135; (ii) Paul Chefurka: Thermodynamic Footprint136 and Estimates of Sustainable Population137. [117]

The carrying capacity concept has become essential for understanding what is

now happening to human societies, and consequences to follow later. To begin with, here is a preliminary definition that would be familiar to livestock owners or range managers: ―An environment‘s carrying capacity is the number of organisms of a given species it can support indefinitely.‖ [118]

The final word, indefinitely, is often neglected -- and even sometimes omitted

in textbook definitions. Its neglect or omission lets the fact that an overload can be supported (but only temporarily) seem to show the carrying capacity concept is either vague or arbitrary. Duration matters. In time an overload damages an environment, thereby reducing its carrying capacity. Definitions of carrying capacity that neglect the time element are misleading. They distort the concept and obscure its relevance to biological reality. [119]

The phrase ―of a given species‖ recognizes the fact that a sheep or a cow eats

more than a rabbit, so an environment of a given size could presumably support a greater number of rabbits and a smaller number of sheep or cattle, before the lifesupporting characteristics began to diminish from overuse. [120]

In short, any living thing requires an environment from which to obtain

sustenance materials, including energy, in which to exist and do whatever it does, and into which to discard stuff. A novel but useful way to express this is to note that organisms inevitably use their surroundings in three kinds of ways: All living beings do some ―from-whiching,‖ some ―in-whiching,‖ and some ―into-whiching.‖

Hardin Garrett (10 August 1986): Cultural Carrying Capacity; 1986; Acceptance Speech for 1986 AIBS Distinguished Service Award 135 Carrying Capacity: What Is It? How Have We Misunderstood It? And Why Is It Important?, by William R. Catton, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Washington State University's%20session.pdf 136 137 134

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [121]

How and why we cause change in carrying capacity:


So, by living, organisms necessarily produce environmental change. As time

passes, cumulative from-whiching and into-whiching tend to diminish the abundance of some environmental characteristics and raise some others. If not offset in some way, this environmental change can reduce the suitability of a given environment for supporting a given species of user. [123]

How long can given rates of from-whiching and into-whiching by humans

continue without loss of environmental habitability? Natural replacement rates of significant resources, together with rates by which effluents can be neutralized or recycled by nature must be invoked to reckon an answer. [124]

The term carrying capacity simply means, therefore, the maximum amount or

intensity of a given kind of use, or the maximum use-load, an environment can endure while retaining its future suitability for that use. Clearly, different categories of users of an environment impose different per capita loads. Traditionally, the carrying capacity of an environment for a particular category of users has been expressed (by ranchers or range-managers) as a maximum sustainable species population of, say, cattle or sheep, caribou or bison, cougars or deer. Not â&#x20AC;&#x2022;how many members of species X can be supportedâ&#x20AC;&#x2013; (with no consideration of duration) but â&#x20AC;&#x2022;how many . . . can be supported indefinitely? How many cattle continually grazing on a given tract of pastureland could it support without damage from overuse (both as sustenance source and as disposal site)? [125]

But such a head-count measure very poorly expresses load magnitude for

human uses of an environment, since humans vary culturally quite enormously in their from-whiching, and their into-whiching. All Homo sapiens are one species biologically, but cultural differences make us different quasi-species. [126]

Cultural Carrying Capacity138:


When dealing with human problems, I

propose that we abandon the term carrying capacity in favor of cultural carrying capacity or, more briefly cultural capacity. As defined, the cultural capacity of a territory will always be less than its carrying capacity (in the simple animal sense). Cultural capacity is inversely related to the






Hardin Garrett (10 August 1986): Cultural Carrying Capacity; 1986; Acceptance Speech for 1986 AIBS Distinguished Service Award 138

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity Arguments about the proper cultural capacity revolve around our expectations for a particular quality of life. Given fixed resources and well-defined values, cultural capacity, like its parent carrying capacity, is a conservative concept. [128]

Once cultural carrying capacity is seriously transgressed -- then living

conditions spiral downward as the good life degenerates into mere existence or survival. Translated into human terms, the ecological first commandment becomes: Thou shalt not transgress the cultural capacity. [129]

Ecological Overshoot139:




surpasses capacity

its it

population carrying enters






Because the

carrying capacity is defined as



maximum that


environment can maintain indefinitely, overshoot must by definition be temporary. Populations always decline to (or below) the carrying capacity. How long they stay in overshoot depends on how many stored resources there are to support their inflated numbers. Resources may be food, but they may also be any resource that helps maintain their numbers. For humans one of the primary resources is energy, whether it is tapped as flows (sunlight, wind, biomass) or stocks (coal, oil, gas, uranium etc.). A species usually enters overshoot when it taps a particularly rich but exhaustible stock of a resource. Like fossil fuels, for instance... [131]

Population growth in the animal kingdom tends to follow a logistic curve.

This is an S-shaped curve that starts off low when the species is first introduced to an ecosystem, at some later point rises very fast as the population becomes established, and then finally levels off as the population saturates its niche. [132]

Humans have been pushing the envelope of our logistic curve for much of our

history. Our population rose very slowly over the last couple of hundred thousand years, as we gradually developed the skills we needed in order to deal with our varied and changeable environment, particularly language, writing and arithmetic.


Paul Chefurka: Estimates of Sustainable Population

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity As we developed and disseminated those skills our ability to modify our environment grew, and so did our growth rate. [133]

If we had not discovered the stored energy resource of fossil fuels, our logistic

growth curve would probably have flattened out some time ago, and we would be well on our way to achieving a balance with the energy flows in the world around us, much like all other species do.

Our numbers would have settled down to

oscillate around a much lower level than today, similar to what they probably did with hunter-gatherer populations tens of thousands of years ago. [134]

Unfortunately, our discovery of the energy potential of coal created what

mathematicians and systems theorists call a ―bifurcation point‖ or what is better known in some cases as a tipping point. This is a point at which a system diverges from one path onto another because of some influence on events. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that bifurcation points are generally irreversible. Once past such a point, the system can‘t go back to a point before it. [135]

Given the impact that fossil fuels had on the development of world civilization,

their discovery was clearly such a fork in the road. Rather than flattening out politely as other species' growth curves tend to do, ours kept on rising. And rising, and rising. [136]

What is a sustainable population level?:


Now we come to the heart of the matter. Okay, we all accept that the human

race is in overshoot. But how deep into overshoot are we? What is the carrying capacity of our planet?

The answers to these questions, after all, define a

sustainable population. [138]

Not surprisingly, the answers are quite hard to tease out. Various numbers

have been put forward, each with its set of stated and unstated assumptions –not the least of which is the assumed standard of living (or consumption profile) of the average person. For those familiar with Ehrlich and Holdren‘s I=PAT equation, if ―I‖ represents the environmental impact of a sustainable population, then for any population value ―P‖ there is a corresponding value for ―AT‖, the level of Activity and Technology that can be sustained for that population level. In other words, the higher our standard of living climbs, the lower our population level must fall in order to be sustainable. This is discussed further in an earlier article on Thermodynamic Footprints140.


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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [139]

To get some feel for the enormous range of uncertainty in sustainability

estimates we‘ll look at six assessments, each of which leads to a very different outcome. We‘ll start with the most optimistic one, and work our way down the scale.

The Ecological Footprint Assessment: 70% into Overshoot: [140]

The concept of the Ecological Footprint was developed in 1992 by William Rees

and Mathis Wackernagel at the University of British Columbia in Canada. [141]

The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's

ecosystems. It is a standardized measure of demand for natural capital that may be contrasted with the planet's ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes, and to assimilate associated waste. As it is usually published, the value is an estimate of how many planet Earths it would take to support humanity with everyone following their current lifestyle. [142]

It has a number of fairly glaring flaws that cause it to be hyper-optimistic. The

"ecological footprint" is basically for renewable resources only. It includes a theoretical but underestimated factor for non-renewable resources. It does not take into account the unfolding effects of climate change, ocean acidification or biodiversity loss (i.e. species extinctions). It is intuitively clear that no number of ―extra planets‖ would compensate for such degradation. Additionally it does not quantify an individuals procreation factor, which finds that every child increases a parents ecological footprint demand for future resources, by a factor of 20. [143]

Still, the estimate as of the end of 2012 is that our overall ecological footprint

is about ―1.7 planets‖. In other words, there is at least 1.7 times too much human activity for the long-term health of this single, lonely planet. To put it yet another way, we are 70% into overshoot. [144]

It would probably be fair to say that by this accounting method the sustainable

population would be (7 / 1.7) or about four billion people at our current average level of affluence. As you will see, other assessments make this estimate seem like a happy fantasy.

Thermodynamic Footprint/Human Equivalent: 140% into overshoot:

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [145]

The main accelerant of

human activity over the last 150 to 200 years has been fossil fuel. Before 1800 there was very little fossil fuel in general




energy being derived from wood, wind, water, animal and




following graph demonstrates the precipitous rise in fossil fuel

use since



especially since 1950. [146]

This information was the basis for my Thermodynamic Footprint141 analysis.

That article investigated the influence of technological energy (87% of which comes from fossil fuels) on human planetary impact, in terms of how much it multiplies the effect of each ―naked ape‖. The following graph illustrates the multiplier at different points in history: [147]

Fossil fuels have powered the increase in all aspects of civilization, including

population growth. The ―Green Revolution‖ in agriculture that was kicked off by Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug in the late 1940s was largely a fossil fuel phenomenon, relying on mechanization, powered irrigation and synthetic fertilizers derived from fossil fuels. This enormous increase in food production supported a swift rise in population numbers, in a classic ecological feedback loop: more food (supply) = > more people (demand) = > more food = > more people etc… [148]

Over the core decades of the Green Revolution from 1950 to 1980 the world

population almost doubled, from fewer than 2.5 billion to over 4.5 billion. The average population growth over those three decades was 2% per year. Compare that to 0.5% from 1800 to 1900; 1.00% from 1900 to 1950; and 1.5% from 1980 until now: [149]

This analysis makes it tempting to conclude that a sustainable population

might look similar to the situation in 1800, before the Green Revolution, and before the global adoption of fossil fuels: about 1 billion people living on about 5% of today‘s global average energy consumption.


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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [150]

It‘s tempting (largely because it seems vaguely achievable), but unfortunately

that number may still be too high. Even in 1800 the signs of human overshoot were clear, if not well recognized: there was already widespread deforestation through Europe and the Middle East; and desertification had set into the previously lush agricultural zones of North Africa and the Middle East. [151]

Not to mention that if we did start over with ―just‖ one billion people, an

annual growth rate of a mere 0.5% would put the population back over seven billion in just 400 years. Unless the growth rate can be kept down very close to zero, such a situation is decidedly unsustainable. [152]

Calculating the Thermodynamic Footprint:





begins with the amount of technological person




a is












electricity (watt-hours) or oil equivalents



"tonnes of oil equivalent" or TOE).

Although thermal

and electrical energy are not completely comparable, data sources such as the BP Statistical Review of World Energy provide standard factors that allow us to convert them all to a common basis. This number is then converted into the number of watts of power a person uses, which becomes the numerator of the TF. [154]

The denominator of the TF ratio is the amount of power a person gets from the

food they eat. In order to make the calculations a little simpler, a standard value of 125 watts is used. This value is also added to the numerator, so that if a person used no additional primary energy, their TF would be exactly 1. [154.1]

If a person used no primary energy at all (like an ancient hunter-

gatherer) their TF would be calculated as (0+125) / 125 = 1 HE [154.2]

If a person's share of primary energy is 1250 watts their TF would be

calculated as (1250+125) / 125 = 11 HE

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [154.3]

In 1800 the average individual TF was just over 1 HE, since not much

fossil fuel or electricity was in use yet. [154.4]

By 1900 the average TF was about 4 HE, meaning that each person had

the same impact as four "unassisted" people. [154.5]

By 2010 the TF of an "average" world citizen was almost 20 HE.


Each person alive today puts the same load on the planet as 20 people did

200 years or more ago. [154.7]

The average TF of an American is about 79 HE. An average European has

a TF of about 36 HE, and an average Indian is just under 6 HE. China has an average TF about equal to the world average today, at about 20 HE. [155]

The Human Equivalent:


The unit of the Human Equivalent or HE is similar to the concept of the

"energy slave". Each of us represents the operation of some quantity of primary energy within our environment.

That energy (plus the food an individual

consumes) represents the work of a number of "human equivalents", a number that is given by our Thermodynamic Footprint. [157]

World Thermodynamic Footprint Since 1800:


The next graph may be the most interesting.

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [159]

By multiplying the average global TF figure by the actual world population, we

can find the "Human Equivalent" population of the world over time. This value reflects both our increasing energy consumption and our growing world population. It is a measure of the increasing planetary impact of the combined growth in our technology, activity and numbers. [160]

In 1800 the actual world population was just under 1 billion, while the

"Human Equivalent" population was just over a billion. [161]

By 2010, the world's numeric population was 6.85 billion, while the "Human

Equivalent" population had ballooned to the staggering level of over 135 billion people. This means that the planetary systems are now experiencing an impact equivalent to 135 billion hunter-foragers living and working with muscle, wood and animal power alone. [162]

I = PAT (Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology):


The famous equation "I = PAT" was introduced by Paul Ehrlich and John

Holdren in the 1970s to express human environmental impact. In it, the impact (I) is calculated as our population (P) times our individual level of activity (A) times a technological multiplier (T).

While we can measure P directly, finding good

representatives for A or T (or for the combination of A x T) is quite difficult. [164]

As Jack Vallentyne noticed over 35 years ago, the Thermodynamic Footprint is

a very good proxy for that elusive "AT" term.

By using it this way we can

determine that humanity today is having 135 times the impact on the planet that we had just 200 years ago. [165]



The Thermodynamic Footprint, expressed in Human Equivalents, quantifies in

general terms the amount of damage that our technological activity is causing to the planet's life-support systems. This activity, driven by the energy we use in our daily lives, causes as much damage to the planetary systems we depend on as 135 billion people would if they were living in their raw human state, as huntergatherers. [167]

It is estimated that there were about 5 million people living on the planet just

before the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Modern human civilization today has about 27,000 times the impact on the planet as did our ancestors of that time.

The Population Density Assessment: 400,000 % into overshoot:

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [168]

There is another way to approach the question. If we assume that the human

species was sustainable at some point in the past, what point might we choose and what conditions contributed to our apparent sustainability at that time? [169]

I use a very strict definition of sustainability. It reads something like this:

"Sustainability is the ability of a species to survive in perpetuity without damaging the planetary ecosystem in the process." This principle applies only to a species' own actions, rather than uncontrollable external forces like Milankovitch cycles, asteroid impacts, plate tectonics, etc. [170]

In order to find a population that I was fairly confident met my definition of

sustainability, I had to look well back in history - in fact back into Paleolithic times. The sustainability conditions I chose were: a very low population density and very low energy use, with both maintained over multiple thousands of years. I also assumed the populace would each use about as much energy as a typical huntergatherer: about twice the daily amount of energy a person obtains from the food they eat. [171]

There are about 150 million square kilometers, or 60 million square miles of

land on Planet Earth.

However, two thirds of that area is covered by snow,

mountains or deserts, or has little or no topsoil.

This leaves about 50 million

square kilometers (20 million square miles) that is habitable by humans without high levels of technology. [172]

A typical population density for a non-energy-assisted society of hunter-

forager-gardeners is between 1 person per square mile and 1 person per square kilometer. Because humans living this way had settled the entire planet by the time agriculture was invented 10,000 years ago, this number pegs a reasonable upper boundary for a sustainable world population in the range of 20 to 50 million people. [173]

I settled on the average of these two numbers, 35 million people. That was

because it matches known hunter-forager population densities, and because those densities were maintained with virtually zero population growth (less than 0.01% per year)during the 67,000 years from the time of the Toba super-volcano eruption in 75,000 BC until 8,000 BC (Agriculture Day on Planet Earth). [174]

If we were to spread our current population of 7 billion evenly over 50 million

square kilometers, we would have an average density of 150 per square kilometer. Based just on that number, and without even considering our modern energydriven activities, our current population is at least 250 times too big to be

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity sustainable. To put it another way, we are now 25,000%into overshoot based on our raw population numbers alone. [175]

As I said above, we also need to take the population‘s standard of living into

account. Our use of technological energy gives each of us the average planetary impact of about 20 hunter-foragers. What would the sustainable population be if each person kept their current lifestyle, which is given as an average current Thermodynamic Footprint (TF) of 20? [176]

We can find the sustainable world population number for any level of human

activity by using the I = PAT equation mentioned above. [177]

We decided above that the maximum hunter-forager population we could

accept as sustainable would be 35 million people, each with a Thermodynamic Footprint of 1. [178]

First, we set I (the allowable total impact for our sustainable population) to 35,

representing those 35 million hunter-foragers. [179]

Next, we set AT to be the TF representing the desired average lifestyle for our

population. In this case that number is 20. [180]

We can now solve the equation for P. Using simple algebra, we know that I = P

x AT is equivalent to P = I / AT. Using that form of the equation we substitute in our values, and we find that P = 35 / 20. In this case P = 1.75. [181]

This number tells us that if we want to keep the average level of per-capita

consumption we enjoy in today‘s world, we would enter an overshoot situation above a global population of about 1.75 million people. By this measure our current population of 7 billion is about 4,000 times too big and active for long-term sustainability. In other words, by this measure we are we are now 400,000% into overshoot. [182]

Using the same technique we can calculate that achieving a sustainable

population with an American lifestyle (TF = 78) would permit a world population of only 650,000 people – clearly not enough to sustain a modern global civilization. [183]

For the sake of comparison, it is estimated that the historical world population

just after the dawn of agriculture in 8,000 BC was about five million, and in Year 1 was about 200 million. We crossed the upper threshold of planetary sustainability in about 2000 BC, and have been in deepening overshoot for the last 4,000 years.

The Ecological Assessments:

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [184]

As a species, human beings share much in common with other large mammals.

We breathe, eat, move around to find food and mates, socialize, reproduce and die like all other mammalian species. Our intellect and culture, those qualities that make us uniquely human, are recent additions to our essential primate nature, at least in evolutionary terms. [185]

Consequently it makes sense to compare our species‘ performance to that of

other, similar species – species that we know for sure are sustainable.

I was

fortunate to find the work of American marine biologist Dr. Charles W. Fowler, who has a deep interest in sustainability and the ecological conundrum posed by human beings. The following three assessments are drawn from Dr. Fowler‘s work. [186]

First assessment: Sustainable Pop of 35 Million:


In 2003, Dr. Fowler and Larry Hobbs co-wrote a paper titled, ―Is humanity

sustainable?‖142 that was published by the Royal Society. In it, they compared a variety of ecological measures across 31 species including humans. The measures included biomass consumption, energy consumption, CO2 production, geographical range size, and population size. [188]

It should come as no great surprise that in most of the comparisons humans

had far greater impact than other species, even to a 99% confidence level. When it came to population size, Fowler and Hobbs found that there are over two orders of magnitude more humans than one would expect based on a comparison to other species – 190 times more, in fact.

Similarly, our CO2 emissions outdid other

species by a factor of 215. [189]

Based on this research, Dr. Fowler concluded that there are about 200 times

too many humans on the planet. This brings up an estimate for a sustainable population of 35 million people. [190]

This is the same as the upper bound established above by examining hunter-

gatherer population densities. The similarity of the results is not too surprising, since the hunter-gatherers of 50,000 years ago were about as close to ―naked apes‖ as humans have been in recent history. [191]

Second assessment: Sustainable Population of 10 Million:

Folwer CW, Hobbs L (22 Dec 2003): Is Humanity Sustainable; Proceedings of the Royal Society, vol 270, no 1533 2579-2583 142

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [192]

In 2008, five years after the publication cited above, Dr. Fowler wrote another

paper entitled ―Maximizing biodiversity, information and sustainability."143 In this paper he examined the sustainability question from the point of view of maximizing biodiversity. In other words, what is the largest human population that would not reduce planetary biodiversity? [193]

This is, of course, a very stringent test, and one that we probably failed early in

our history by extirpating mega-fauna in the wake of our migrations across a number of continents. [194]

In this paper, Dr. Fowler compared 96 different species, and again analyzed

them in terms of population, CO2 emissions and consumption patterns. [195]

This time, when the strict test of biodiversity retention was applied, the results

were truly shocking, even to me.

According to this measure, humans have

overpopulated the Earth by almost 700 times.

In order to preserve maximum

biodiversity on Earth, the human population may be no more than 10 million people – each with the consumption of a Paleolithic hunter-forager. [196]

Third assessment: Sustainable Population: 7 million:


In Dr. Fowler‘s 2009 book, "Systemic Management: Sustainable Human

Interactions with Ecosystems and the Biosphere"144, published by Oxford University Press. In it he describes yet one more technique for comparing humans with other mammalian species, this time in terms of observed population densities, total population sizes and ranges. [198]

After carefully comparing us to various species of both herbivores and

carnivores of similar body size, he draws this devastating conclusion: the human population is about 1000 times larger than expected. This is in line with the second assessment above, though about 50% more pessimistic.

It puts a sustainable

human population at about 7 million. [199]



The estimates for a sustainable human population vary widely – by a factor of

500 from the highest to the lowest. [201]

The Ecological Footprint doesn't really seem intended as a measure of

sustainability. Its main value is to give people with no exposure to ecology some Fowler CW (April 2008): Maximizing biodiversity, information and sustainability; Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 841-855 144 Fowler Charles (2010): Systemic Management: Sustainable Human Interactions with Ecosystems and the Biosphere, Oxford University Press 143

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SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity sense that we are indeed over-exploiting our planet. (It also has the psychological advantage of feeling achievable with just a little work.)

As a measure of

sustainability, it is not helpful.


The Thermodynamic Footprint or Fossil Fuel analysis isn't very helpful either

â&#x20AC;&#x201C; even a population of one billion people without fossil fuels had already gone into overshoot. [203]

That leaves us with four estimates: two at 35 million, one of 10 million, and

one of 7 million. [204]

The central number of 35 million people is confirmed by two analyses using

different data and assumptions.

My conclusion is that this is probably the

absolutely largest human population that could be considered sustainable. The realistic but similarly unachievable number is probably more in line with the bottom two estimates, somewhere below 10 million. SSD3 :: 98

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity [205]

I think the lowest two estimates (Fowler 2008, and Fowler 2009) are as

unrealistically high as all the others in this case, primarily because human intelligence and problem-solving ability makes our destructive impact on biodiversity a foregone conclusion. After all, we drove other species to extinction 40,000 years ago, when our total population was estimated to be under 1 million.


A world population decline will be triggered and fed by our civilization's

encounter with limits. These limits may show up in any area: accelerating climate change, weather extremes, shrinking food supplies, fresh water depletion, shrinking energy supplies, pandemic diseases, breakdowns in the social fabric due to excessive complexity, supply chain breakdowns, electrical grid failures, a breakdown of the international financial system, international hostilities - the list of candidates is endless, and their interactions are far too complex to predict. [207]

It's also important to remember that the decline will probably not happen

anything like this, either. With climate change getting ready to push humanity down the stairs, and the strong possibility that the overall global temperature will rise by 5 or 6 degrees Celsius even before the end of that first decline cycle, our prospects do not look even this "good" from where I stand. [208]

We can attempt to voluntarily mitigate our path to sustainability, by

implementing Deindustrialization, Population and Consumption Reduction policies, or we can simply do nothing and wait for the collapse of our natural capital and our collision with impending Ecological Apocalypse. If and when it happens, it will

SSD3 :: 99

SS DEFCON 3: Ecological Overshoot - Scarcity follow its own dynamic, and the force of events could easily make the Japanese and Andaman tsunamis seem like pleasant days at the beach.

SSD3 :: 100

MILINT Ecology of Peace: SS Defcon 3 Overshoot  

MILINT Ecology of Peace: SS Defcon 3 Overshoot