Saturday, October 4, 2014

Vital Limit: Carrying Capacity

In 1980, William Catton, Jr. (b. 1926), published his insightful book Overshoot. His basic idea: we humans have overshot all vital limits.

William points out that all species, humans included, face ecological limits. The ecological context in which we live can sustain the population of any species only to a certain point. We may refer to that point as the carrying capacity of our ecological context.

We may trespass the vital limit of our ecological context’s carrying capacity. When we do, however, we overshoot it. When a population overshoots the capacity of its context to carry it, it takes more vitality from that context, and puts more waste into it, than that context can sustain.

We may overshoot our context’s carrying capacity for a time but not indefinitely. Overshoot degrades one’s context. Eventually, overpopulation of a species and the degradation of its context lead to die-off: the death of large numbers of individual creatures of that species.

As a species, we humans have overshot the carrying capacity of God’s good creation in two ways. One, there are too many of us. A population of over 7 billion humans far exceeds the carrying capacity of God’s good creation for us as a species.

Two, the artifacts--the material means--of the Global Technological System (GTS) also far exceed the carrying capacity of God’s good creation. In truth the artifacts of the GTS exceed the carrying capacity of God’s good creation far more severely than our population.

In Genesis 1 we learn that God created other creatures, a perfect combination of countless plant and animal species, to serve as the perfect context for our relationship of freedom and love with him, one another, and them.

In other words, to live as the creatures of freedom and love which God created us to be, we need to respect the vital limit which the existence of God's other creatures means for us.

A vital limit is a limit which nurtures and protects life. Trespassing such a limit brings debilitation and death.

To respect the vital limit which their existence has for ours, our existence as a species should not threaten, endanger, or destroy their existence. Instead, our ways of living, as Christian witnesses organized in Christian congregations, should promote the vitality other species and their habitats.

In truth, respecting this limit—rather than trespassing it—means living within the carrying capacity of God’s good creation.

There are two ways this may happen: intentionally and unintentionally. We may intentionally live within the carrying capacity of our context by meaningfully reducing our population as a species. Primarily we may do it by freeing ourselves of the GTS.

If we intentionally pursue living within the carrying capacity of our ecological context, we will witness meaningfully to Jesus. If we don’t, our cities will become deserted artifacts and our population as a species will crash as overshoot takes its unintentional yet unavoidable toll on both.

Copyright © 2014 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.