A National Project to Get the U.S. Out of Ecological Overshoot

On day one, I’ll declare a national emergency and launch a national project to end overshoot:

We must shrink our economy and our population.

When the U.S. entered World War II, we were facing a national and global emergency. That warranted an effort of massive scale. We made a national project out of it. Everyone in the U.S. put their personal interests aside. We voluntarily rationed gasoline, rubber, butter, sugar and more; we repurposed our factories; we contributed scrap materials needed to manufacture airplanes and other equipment; we bought war bonds; we gave of ourselves in every way possible.

Today, we’re faced with a global emergency that dwarfs those WWII threats. Our overshoot crisis is already destabilizing our climate, extinguishing species at record rates, toxifying our air, land and water, depleting vital resources, damaging life-supporting ecosystems and threatening to starve our children. We are setting our children up to live a “Mad Max” future. If Mars looks like a good place to relocate to, then Earth is becoming very bleak.

Yet so far, our response has been a real yawn. It is time for citizens around the world to mobilize in an effort to get our civilization out of overshoot. We don’t have time to wait. We don’t have time to negotiate compromises and inch slowly. We need leadership that tells us the honest truth about our situation. We need leadership that charts the dramatic course correction we need. And we need all hands on deck.

Therefore, the cornerstone of my candidacy for U.S. President is that I’ll immediately declare a national emergency and launch a national project to get us out of ecological overshoot. The top-level response is to immediately begin shrinking our footprint. That means shrinking the scale of our economy, and contracting the scale of our population. We will mobilize on a massive scale, communicating goals and progress with the public on a daily basis. Getting out of overshoot will be as widely known as “Only you can prevent forest fires,” “Just say no to drugs,” “buckle up for safety,” “keep America beautiful,” and “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

  • From the start, our nation will go on an energy diet
    • We will report weekly on our level of energy consumption 
    • We’ll implement programs to incentivize and encourage energy conservation
    • We’ll tax fossil fuels extensively, and other forms of energy will also be taxed, though more modestly
    • These tax revenues will subsidize active transportation and manual labor
       
  • We will discourage wasteful and frivolous consumption 
    • We’ll extoll the virtues and joy of simplicity
    • We’ll penalize production and purchase of cheap, disposable goods
    • We’ll incentivize production, purchase and sharing of quality, durable goods
       
  • Instead of mindlessly pursuing GDP growth, we’ll measure success by how fast we shrink GDP
     
  • We’ll promote full employment through job sharing, encouraging everyone to work less and spend less
     
  • We’ll end pursuit of population growth to drive economic growth. Our goal will be to contract our population as quickly as possible – ethically and voluntarily
    • We’ll promote and celebrate small-family choices
    • We’ll end financial incentives that reward or encourage larger families
    • We’ll report weekly or monthly on our progress reducing the birth rate – voluntarily, through informed decisions, thoughtful incentives and free contraception

LEARN MORE:

Short Reads:

My Obsession with Overshoot - by Mathis Wackernagel, Founder and President, Global Footprint Network

Polycrisis, Unraveling, Simplification, or Collapse: Coming Soon to a Planet Near You?

Earth Overshoot Day: The Bitter Truth of Overconsumption in the Global North - by Cody Peluso of Population Media Center

Want Not, Waste Not – interview with scientist and policy analyst Vaclav Smil
To save the biosphere, curb upstream consumption — not just downstream emissions.


Longer Reads:

Overshoot - by William R. Catton

Our Renewable Future: Laying the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy - by Richard Heinberg and David Fridley

Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival - by Richard Heinberg