Globalisation, Economic Transition and the Environment

Globalisation, Economic Transition and the Environment

Forging a Path to Sustainable Development

Edited by Philip Lawn

This book focuses on three critical issues pertaining to the broader goal of sustainable development – namely, the degenerative forces of globalisation, ecological sustainability requirements, and how best to negotiate the economic transition process.

Chapter 3: Carrying capacity, globalisation, and the unsustainable entanglement of nations

William Rees

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, environment, ecological economics


Homo sapiens is the dominant species on Earth and the major geological force changing the face of the planet. The basic science of human-induced global change is undeniable – climate change, ocean acidification, fisheries collapses, land/soil degradation, desertification, tropical deforestation, and biodiversity loss are just a few symptoms of widespread ecosystems degradation resulting from human activities. The starting point for this chapter is that all such macro-ecological trends, whether characteristic of truly global systems (e.g., climate change, ocean acidification) or merely occurring simultaneously in ecosystems on several continents (e.g., desertification, biodiversity loss) are indicators that humans and their economies have exceeded the long-term carrying capacity of Earth. The human enterprise is in a state of ‘overshoot’. This is not just another routine milestone along the road in the extended human journey.

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