#125 | Marching Toward Collapse: Biophysical Limits & Our Cognitive Blindspots w/ William Rees

In this episode, I speak with William Rees, human ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning in Vancouver, Canada. Dr. Rees is the originator and co-developer of the “ecological footprint analysis,” and the co-author (with Mathis Wackernagel) of 'Our Ecological Footprint,' an exploration of this concept. The Ecological Footprint concept has become the world’s best-known metaphor for the human ‘load’ (the resources required of ecosystems to maintain our current mode of living) on the planet.*

In this interview, we discuss Dr. Rees’ lifetime of research into the ecological footprint of human societies on this planet, as well as the global biophysical limits we are coming up against due to our current mode of living (particularly in the "developed" world). We then discuss Dr. Rees’ work regarding the “neuro-biological, cognitive and cultural barriers to sustainability, including human’s well-developed capacity for self-delusion.”** In the face of abrupt climate change, catastrophic loss of biodiversity around the globe, and rapid species decline across the board in recent decades, why are we, as a species, unable to clearly perceive the very perilous situation we find ourselves in? What is it about creating very large-scale, complex systems (technologies, cultures, societies), that makes us unable to perceive how our way of living detrimentally impacts planetary life-systems, which we rely on for our own survival and well-being? In the face of the physical reality we are forging for ourselves and all other life on this planet, what can we expect to happen in the face of these profound changes currently underway? We discuss these subjects, and more, in this episode.

Dr. Rees has authored (or co-authored) more than 150 peer reviewed papers and book chapters, and numerous popular articles on humanity’s (un)sustainability conundrum. Active across disciplines, Dr Rees is a long-term member of the Global Ecological Integrity Group, a Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute, a founding member and past President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics and founding Director of the OneEarth Initiative.**

*Source: https://bit.ly/2sSbPwT
**Source: https://bit.ly/2LrZpn3

Episode Notes:

- Keep up to date with Dr. Rees’ recent writings at The Tyee: https://thetyee.ca/

- Find out more about Dr. Rees and his work at his website: http://williamrees.org

- Purchase Dr. Rees’ book 'Our Ecological Footprint' here: https://amzn.to/2sAMRCO

- Here are links to the resources/papers Dr. Rees mentioned at the end of the episode:

“Avoiding Collapse: An agenda for sustainable degrowth and relocalizing the economy” (https://bit.ly/1qHAq1G)

“What’s blocking sustainability? Human nature, cognition, and denial” (https://bit.ly/2Jmw5NX)

The Global Footprint Network website: https://www.footprintnetwork.org

- The song featured in this episode is “Kelau” by Flako from the album Mini Tollbooth