Waste not, want more

No variations on a theme.

Just Overshoot Me

What follows includes an offensive amount of cheese and brackets. Today, I will not apologize. Check back tomorrow.


I am a hesitant reader of non-fiction. Like opera, I can appreciate its value but reap little enjoyment. Despite my desire to be truly post-modern, I really enjoy a “clear” but fictionalized narrative. I want a story, with a beginning, end and a bunch of intriguing thoughts sprinkled throughout like candy at a parade. I don’t mind intriguing thoughts being thrown at my head. Such books feel like pure Creation with a capital rainbow. (I am currently resisting the urge to link to Kermit the Frog singing the Rainbow Connection. Thank me later).

Despite this fiction obsession, I was telling some aged environmental gentlefolk of my interest in hearing from or reading something of a different sort. I had spent months reading environmental and political news without seeing anybody discussing the fact that there is a finite amount of everything on this earth (except maybe love and road rage) and that we are quickly working ourselves into some potentially dreadful results (this is me avoiding terms like “mass hysteria” and “earth-sized mound of chicken poo”). These two dudes recognized my ignorance and my failure to be around in the 70s and took the opportunity to recommend a couple of books for me to read: Limits to Growth and Our Ecological Footprint. And oh, did I read.

Our Ecological Footprint introduced the mainstream to the idea that everything we do leaves a crap-patch on the earth the size of which is within our control, to put it in articulate terms. Despite all the cartoons and “let me break it down for you” moments, I found it difficult to read. For me, reading about science is like sewing about sex. I do not compute. That said, I did get through it in a few weeks with some new tools and language to use when discussing that thing I’ve never been able to describe beyond saying, “stuff can’t just keep growing.”

Limits to Growth was a more formidable challenge – I want to say 3 or so months – that included a lot of swearing while holding the book. And that’s a book I wanted to read. Just imagine what I was like when my boss handed me The Tipping Point, a book that still sends my pulse soaring, probably mainly because of Malcolm Gladwell’s slam on Sesame Street (or maybe for other less personal reasons). I got a lot of really good sleep during the Limits to Growth period, though that eventually ended when I finished the book. That said, certain ideas really clicked for me. I earned the language to further discuss my irritation with the meta-b.s. (google it) of never-ending progress that normally gets me incoherently, um, RAGE-rific. There were a couple of pieces that really stuck with me. In one particular spot I found the explanation of “overshoot,” a fundamental concept when talking about the world eventually wretching all over me (as I picture it), particularly useful. Maybe I liked the not-quite-irony of it too. I have sat on this quote long enough that it has lost some of its lustre. Though the a-ha moment has dimmed, I still find it really comforting, but not.

“The final contributor to overshoot is the pursuit of growth. If you were driving a car with fogged windows or faulty brakes, the first thing you would do to avoid overshoot would be to slow down. You would certainly not insist on accelerating. Delay in feedback can be handled as long as the system is not moving too fast to receive signals and respond before it hits the limit. Constant acceleration will take any system, no matter how clever and farsighted and well-designed, to the point where it can’t react in time. Even a car and driver functioning perfectly are unsafe at high speeds. The faster the speed, the higher the overshoot, and the farther the fall.”
 

Limits to Growth the 30 Year Update, p. 175

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November 6, 2010 - Posted by | Books, Brackets, Childhood Complaints, Consumption, Doing it the hard way, Irritated, Uncategorized, Waste | , ,

5 Comments »

  1. I agree with almost everything here except about sewing sex. Evidence: http://www.theanticraft.com/archive/imbolc07/snatchel.htm

    Comment by CheyenneVyvyan | November 6, 2010 | Reply

    • I stand corrected.

      Comment by Rose | November 7, 2010 | Reply

  2. I am careful about the non-fiction books I read, too, but my desire to seem important and intelligent occasionally leads me into the non-fiction section at the library. FYI: Large and heavy non-fiction books work best as props if you are trying to impress people with your staggering amount of knowledge. You just have to be seen with them in tote (i.e. not actually reading them or quoting from them) in order for it to work. Neat!

    This whole post, with its above-average science content, made my brain hurt. Just so you know! 🙂

    Comment by Dana | November 7, 2010 | Reply

  3. Geesh I miss you! Second: How the hell do you find time to read with a million other things on your list.. boy oh boy Rosey.

    To you: An assortment of cheeses, not the reg stuff either, the goods.

    So munch on that.

    Comment by Katie Chipman | November 7, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] Vindication for Foot Sufferers Everywhere may prove helpful to those with evil, evil feet and Just Overshoot Me, which tries to explore and explain the issue of ecological overshoot, may provide solace to those […]

    Pingback by 7 Ways to Leave Your Lover Wondering What You’ve Been Doing with Your Time « Waste not, want more | January 5, 2012 | Reply


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