Will Modern Civilization be the Death of Us? Does our modern techno-industrial society destroy the biophysical basis of our existence?

William Rees is a population ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. His research focuses on the biophysical requirements for sustainability and on the implications of global ecological trends for global civilization. In this context, he has special interests in cities as particularly vulnerable components of the human ecosystem and in both psycho-cognitive and cultural barriers to rational ‘environmental’ behavior and associated public policy. Prof Rees is perhaps best known as the originator and co-developer (with his graduate students) of ‘ecological footprint analysis’ (EFA), a quantitative tool that shows the extent to which humanity is in ‘ecological overshoot’. Overshoot poses a serious challenge to policies promoting the continued growth of the human enterprise—we would need almost five Earth-like planets to support just the present world population sustainably.