I came back to my computer to find that many of my fellow Sciblings have recently taken up issues of resource depletion from various interesting perspectives – doing my work for me, I guess ;-). It isn’t exactly news to most of us that we’ve been using just about every resource on the planet far too casually, but it is interesting to see them tied together.
At Starts With a Bang, Ethan Siegel takes up issues raised by Helium’s scarcity and the fact that our use of it to make children’s toys may seriously imperil future research capacities.
At Dr. Isis’s blog, she builds on this by exploring the present impact of shortages of 99m-TC, which is currently available only as a by-produce of weapons grade uranium production. She very clearly lays out the implications of this for health care imaging, and makes a case that we need a new source – and that one might be achievable by legislation.
At Green Gabbro, Maria Brumm helpfully rants about the annoyingness of the term “Peak” when applied to things that can’t actually be measured by Hubbert linearization – which I completely agree with. She argues that the term “Peak Water” is a mis-statement, that we can have a water crisis without it actually being described with the popular term “peak” (one of the reasons I use “depletion” more often.) That said, however, I do think that Peak is the buzzword o’the day, and we’re probably stuck with it.
If we wanted to talk about other resources that are “peaking” in the popular parlance (ie, we’re facing supply constraints and price increases that may or may not have anything to do with an actual peak) we could discuss the fact that China is reducing exports of Rare Earth Minerals and slowing production, and that 91% of those resources, including Tungsten, Disprosium and Antimony used worldwide come from China. Congress recently held hearings about the possible security implications of shortages. As a Wired blogger put it “Congress Holds Hearings on Unobtanium.”
Or we could talk about world Phosphorus supplies which a recent study concluded is a potential but not immediate shortage, which means we can basically give the issue minimal attention (because that’s worked so well for us in regards to oil).
We could talk topsoil, or fish stocks, but we won’t. And we won’t even mention oil. After all, according to a Reuters story, we’re now anticipating a miracle that dwarfs any of the ones to be celebrated in the coming weeks by various faiths, the miracle of “oil-less economic growth.” Next to this, the mere parting of the Sea of Reeds or the Resurrection of Christ is a pretty faint thing – despite the fact that all previous economic growth has depended on the magic of oil, this time it won’t. I do, however, agree with the articles claim that, “it does mean global oil use will eventually peak and start declining.” – I’m just not at all convinced this will be followed by growth.
What’s interesting about all of this to me is not the old news that we’re facing popular parlance “peaks” in a whole lot of things – for most people, even if we don’t know this, we KNOW it. It is that so many people have so many different and interesting pieces of a larger puzzle – the most important one of our times – that is, what does our future look like, and how can we best manage our coming reality.