I learned today of the passing on January 5 of William Catton, author of Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change (1980), and Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse (2009). (For a biography of Catton, see Wikipedia). I didn’t read Overshoot until around 1999; when I did, it made an enormous impression. My book The Party’s Over owed a great deal to it: I summarize Catton’s arguments in Chapter 1 which, in retrospect, is the core of the book. It was an honor to have an opportunity to introduce roughly 50,000 readers to his ideas; I only hope that a significant number of those readers took the trouble to seek out Catton’s book for themselves.
John Michael Greer, in his latest blog, has already said of Catton much of what I would say. I met Bill at two or three conferences; he was soft-spoken and friendly—hardly a fire-breathing rebel—though his book calls into question the very foundations of industrial civilization in a more radical fashion than Das Kapital.
An entire cohort of ecological authors and activists who were active in the 1970s and ’80s is now retiring or passing away. A couple of weeks ago I heard that Lester Brown is reducing his workload substantially. Catton and Brown, along with others of their generation including Paul Ehrlich, Walter Youngquist, Jerry Mander, Herman Daly, and Wendell Berry deserve acknowledgement for their extraordinarily important contributions. More names spill from memory: Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrère, James Hanson, E. O. Wilson, Sylvia Earle, James Lovelock (not all of these folks see eye to eye on every issue). Perhaps you would like to add to the list in the comments section that follows. It’s especially important that these folks hear that appreciation while they’re still with us.