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Dystopia at the Doorstep

Dystopia at the Doorstep

(p.167) Seven Dystopia at the Doorstep
Abundant Earth
Eileen Crist
University of Chicago Press

“Dystopia at the Doorstep” describes the direction humanity is heading, should trends of growing human numbers, spreading consumerism, intensifying food production, and expanding global trade continue. Two perspectives on these trends are presented: first, that continued growth risks breaching biophysical limits and causing collapse; and second, that with technological and managerial transitions the coming billions of people can enjoy a good standard of living. Instead of taking sides in this classic debate, the chapter argues that staying with the growth trends does not turn out well: the dystopia at the doorstep is a humanized planet, of threadbare biodiversity, dominated by domestic animals, crops, and a global cadre of generalist species. A detailed examination of industrial agriculture and its massive impact on the natural world is then pursued. The chapter contends that humanity has a different choice than continuing to extend its carrying capacity by augmenting food production. We can humanely curtail our numbers, along with de-industrializing food production and allowing global trade to take second place to local ways of organizing economies. This path can be grounded in the desire to inhabit life’s plenitude, rather than plunging toward a colonized planet repurposed and managed as a human plantation.

Keywords:   dystopia, growth, industrial agriculture, human exemptionalism, carrying capacity

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