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      World scientists’ warning: The behavioural crisis driving ecological overshoot


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          Previously, anthropogenic ecological overshoot has been identified as a fundamental cause of the myriad symptoms we see around the globe today from biodiversity loss and ocean acidification to the disturbing rise in novel entities and climate change. In the present paper, we have examined this more deeply, and explore the behavioural drivers of overshoot, providing evidence that overshoot is itself a symptom of a deeper, more subversive modern crisis of human behaviour. We work to name and frame this crisis as ‘the Human Behavioural Crisis’ and propose the crisis be recognised globally as a critical intervention point for tackling ecological overshoot. We demonstrate how current interventions are largely physical, resource intensive, slow-moving and focused on addressing the symptoms of ecological overshoot (such as climate change) rather than the distal cause (maladaptive behaviours). We argue that even in the best-case scenarios, symptom-level interventions are unlikely to avoid catastrophe or achieve more than ephemeral progress. We explore three drivers of the behavioural crisis in depth: economic growth; marketing; and pronatalism. These three drivers directly impact the three ‘levers’ of overshoot: consumption, waste and population. We demonstrate how the maladaptive behaviours of overshoot stemming from these three drivers have been catalysed and perpetuated by the intentional exploitation of previously adaptive human impulses. In the final sections of this paper, we propose an interdisciplinary emergency response to the behavioural crisis by, amongst other things, the shifting of social norms relating to reproduction, consumption and waste. We seek to highlight a critical disconnect that is an ongoing societal gulf in communication between those that know such as scientists working within limits to growth, and those members of the citizenry, largely influenced by social scientists and industry, that must act.

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          Most cited references74

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                Author and article information

                Sci Prog
                Sci Prog
                Science Progress
                SAGE Publications (Sage UK: London, England )
                20 September 2023
                Jul-Sep 2023
                : 106
                : 3
                : 00368504231201372
                [1 ]Merz Institute, Whitianga, New Zealand
                [2 ]Stable Planet Alliance, Calabasas, USA
                [3 ]Ringgold 7284, universityUniversity of Washington; , Seattle, WA, USA
                [4 ]African Climate and Development Initiative and Ringgold 72050, universityFitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town; , Rondebosch, South Africa
                [5 ]Ringgold 8166, universityUniversity of British Columbia; , Vancouver, Canada
                [6 ]Ogilvy, London, UK
                [7 ]Fresh-lands Environmental Actions, Reading, UK
                [8 ]Foundation for Climate Restoration, Los Altos, CA, USA
                [9 ]Ringgold 38671, universityAntioch University; , Yellow Springs, OH, USA
                [10 ]Population Balance, Saint Paul, MN, USA
                [11 ]Ringgold 8491, universityVictoria University, Wellington; , New Zealand
                [12 ]Sustainability Assessment Program, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ringgold 7800, universityUNSW; Sydney, Sydney, Australia
                Author notes
                [*]Joseph Merz, Merz Institute, Whitianga, 3510, New Zealand. Email: joseph@ 123456merzinstitute.org
                Author information
                © The Author(s) 2023

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page ( https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

                Ecology & Environmental Sciences
                Custom metadata
                July-September 2023

                behaviour,ecological overshoot,scientists warning,pronatalism,marketing,psychology,ecology,economics,population,consumption


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