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date: 02 October 2023

p. 272. Looming Tragedy: Limits, Boundaries, Survivallocked

p. 272. Looming Tragedy: Limits, Boundaries, Survivallocked

  • John S. DryzekJohn S. DryzekProfessor of Political Science and Australian Research Council Federation Fellow, Australian National University


This chapter focuses on the environmental discourse of limits and survival and how it set the apocalyptic horizon of environmentalism. Population biologists and ecologists use the concept of ‘carrying capacity’ — the maximum population of a species that an ecosystem can support in perpetuity. When the population of a species grows to the point where carrying capacity is exceeded, the ecosystem is degraded and the population crashes, recovering only if and when natural processes restore the ecosystem to its previous capacity. One complicating factor when it comes to applying population biology to human societies is the possibility of economic growth. The chapter first considers the origins of survivalism before discussing the political philosophy of survival, discourse analysis of limits and survival, and limits and survival in practice. It also examines the challenges confronting the limits discourse, including the lack of international action on climate change.

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