Earth's resources consumed in ever greater destructive volumes
The arm-waving generalizations below are another iteration of a very old chant. The scare even predates global warming. And it still is as asinine as ever. The basic flaw in the scare is philosophical. They fail to consider what a resource is. Because of that simple-mindedness, they overlook a basic truth. Resources are CREATED. A thing is not a resource until somebody finds a use for it.
For instance: There are some parts of the world where there are acres of pesky red pebbles lying around upon the ground: Bauxite. Weipa in Northern Australia is one such place. And those pebbles were useless to man and beast until Hall & Heroult found that they contained aluminium oxide and devised a way to get the aluminium out of them.
Aluminium was once as rare as gold. It is now so common that most households regularly throw it out -- used aluminium foil from food wrapping. Those red pebbles suddenly became a huge resource. And since aluminium is the most plentiful metal in the earth's crust we are NOT going to run out of that very useful metal. And if we include its alloys, it can do just about anything that any metal can do.
And the process of resource creation continues. Plastics are another example. Black sticky stuff -- crude oil -- is the source of an innumerable array of things made out of plastic. And with the advent of fracking, talk of "peak oil" has strangely faded away. And it's only in the 1940s that we found a use for uranium. It can now supply all our electrical power from now to kingdom come if the Green/Left will let it. Curiously, in the early days of nuclear power, the Left welcomed it. It is still the safest form of power generation.
What about food? Ever since Hitler, Greens have been worried about food running out. Hitler launched his war because he thought he needed Russian farmland to feed his Reich.
An excellent answer to that scare is China. Under Mao Tse Tung, China imported lots of wheat from Australia to feed their people. Food certainly does run short under Communism. Soviet Russia also had 70 "bad seasons" in a row. But look at China now. Under Chinese-style capitalism China has become a major food exporter. Have a look at the labels on all those cans of "Own brand" food in your local supermarket. Half of them will be from China.
Those clever little Chinese farmers can grown anything anywhere, more or less. Only their Politburo could not. They can feed a population of over a billion in good style and still have lots left over. They now supply most of the world's garlic and even most of the world's truffles! Is anything sacred? And remember, while feeding us, China also supplies most of our electrical goods!
So where are our food shortages going to come from? Most governments in the Western world are driven frantic trying to find markets for their surplus food. They do all sorts of strange things to deal with those surpluses. America pays its farmers not to farm part of their land. The characteristic state of food supply markets is glut.
OK. One more thing: What about water? There are droughts a-plenty and a lot of competition for the available water in some parts of the world. Are we doomed to drying out? An instructive example is the Middle East. It has had a lot of drought in recent years. But there is one country in the ME that has plenty of water: Israel. Why? Is it a plot by the learned elders of Zion? No. They don't exist, despite the fact that all Arabs (just about) believe in them. No. Israelis have developed very efficient desalination technology -- so they suck all the water they want out of the sea. They have made seawater a resource. What they do, others can do.
Oh! And what about the pre-Warmism scare that we are running out of phosphates? We were getting most of our phosphates from bird poop and the birds weren't pooping fast enough. We need phosphorous for our bones so that could be bad. Shortly after the scare had got legs, however, a vast new deposist of mineral phosphates was discovered in North Africa. That scare quickly evaporated.
In conclusion, there is just one basic resource: Human brainpower
Humanity is devouring our planet’s resources in increasingly destructive volumes, according to a new study that reveals we have consumed a year’s worth of carbon, food, water, fibre, land and timber in a record 212 days.
As a result, the Earth Overshoot Day – which marks the point at which consumption exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate – has moved forward two days to 1 August, the earliest date ever recorded.
To maintain our current appetite for resources, we would need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organisation that makes an annual assessment of how far humankind is falling into ecological debt.
The overshoot began in the 1970s, when rising populations and increasing average demands pushed consumption beyond a sustainable level. Since then, the day at which humanity has busted its annual planetary budget has moved forward.
Thirty years ago, the overshoot was on 15 October. Twenty years ago, 30 September. Ten years ago, 15 August. There was a brief slowdown, but the pace has picked back up in the past two years. On current trends, next year could mark the first time, the planet’s budget is busted in July.
While ever greater food production, mineral extraction, forest clearance and fossil-fuel burning bring short-term (and unequally distributed) lifestyle gains, the long-term consequences are increasingly apparent in terms of soil erosion, water shortages and climate disruption.
The day of reckoning is moving nearer, according to Mathis Wackernagel, chief executive and co-founder of Global Footprint Network.
“Our current economies are running a Ponzi scheme with our planet,” he said. “We are borrowing the Earth’s future resources to operate our economies in the present. Like any Ponzi scheme, this works for some time. But as nations, companies, or households dig themselves deeper and deeper into debt, they eventually fall apart.”
The situation is reversible. Research by the group indicates political action is far more effective than individual choices. It notes, for example, that replacing 50% of meat consumption with a vegetarian diet would push back the overshoot date by five days. Efficiency improvements in building and industry could make a difference of three weeks, and a 50% reduction of the carbon component of the footprint would give an extra three months of breathing space.
In the past, economic slowdowns – which tend to reduce energy consumption – have also shifted the ecological budget in a positive direction. The 2007-08 financial crisis saw the date push back by five days. Recessions in the 90s and 80s also lifted some of the pressure, as did the oil shock of the mid 1970s.
But the overall trend is of costs increasingly being paid by planetary support systems.
Separate scientific studies over the past year has revealed a third of land is now acutely degraded, while tropical forests have become a source rather than a sink of carbon. Scientists have also raised the alarm about increasingly erratic weather, particularly in the Arctic, and worrying declines in populations of bees and other insect pollinators, which are essential for crops.