Catton, who died in January 2015, coined the crucial term ‘overshoot’ over 30 years ago to mean that the sustainable carrying capacity of Spaceship Earth has been exceeded.
The core message in Overshoot is that, “… our lifestyles, mores, institutions, patterns of interaction, values, and expectations are shaped by a cultural heritage that was formed in a time when carrying capacity exceeded the human load. A cultural heritage can outlast the conditions that produced it. That carrying capacity surplus is gone now, eroded both by population increase and immense technological enlargement of per capita resource appetites and environmental impacts. Human life is now being lived in an era of deepening carrying capacity deficit. All of the familiar aspects of human societal life are under compelling pressure to change in this new era when the load increasingly exceeds the carrying capacities of many local regions—and of a finite planet. Social disorganization, friction, demoralization, and conflict will escalate.” Catton also coined the term Cosmeticism for “faith that relatively superficial adjustments in our activities will keep the New World new and will perpetuate the Age of Exuberance.”