Resource supply and sink graphs where the size/distortion is proportional to resource use (Source: © Copyright SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan)


The End of Growth, Paul Gilding’s TED Talk

How Much is Left?Powered by Ergo:Ux

Some Figures of Consumption Patterns

  • It takes about 4 to 5 ha of productive land to provide the lifestyle people in developed countries enjoy. If 11 billion people (the expected population of the world late next century) were to live in that fashion about 50 billion ha of productive land would be needed; but that is 8 times all the productive land on the planet.
  • If all the world’s present number of people each used energy at developed country per capita rate then estimated potentially recoverable resources of coal, oil, gas, shale oil, tar sand oil, and uranium would be exhausted in under 40 years.
  • Climate scientists tell us that if we are to prevent the greenhouse problem from getting any worse we must cut annual fossil fuel use by 60-80% of its present volume.
  • The environment problem is basically due to all the resources our affluent-consumer lifestyles are taking from the environment and then dumping into it as waste.
  • It takes 20 tonnes of new materials to provide for one American every year.
  • One species, humans, is taking 40% of the biological productivity of the planet’s entire land area, mostly to provide well for only 1 billion people.
  • If another 10 billion want to live like those in the developed countries do how much habitat will be left for the other possibly 30 million species?
  • We cannot possibly expect to stop the extinction of species unless we drastically reverse this demand for biological resources and the consequent destruction of habitat. We cannot do that without huge reduction in production and consumption.

Money and Resource Extraction

There is an intimate connection between a Debt-based monetary system on the one hand and the supply chain of:

  • resource extraction,
  • manufacturing and
  • waste accumulation

on the other.

To avoid Peak Resources, it is not only necessary to implement a Cradle-to-Cradle strategy that uses low net renewable energy to reuse all technical ingredients at the End Of Life of a manufactured product, but also to implement fundamental monetary reform to eliminate the current Debt-based monetary system and replace it with a Debtless monetary system. For it is only in that way that the 99.999% are not enslaved and have to work their entire lives to pay off the interest of their loans.

Chris Clugston’s Societal Overextension Analysis

This is quite a mouthful, but simply put, it is an analytic tool developed by Chris Clugston, a contributor at the Post Carbon Institute which attempts to quantify the degree to which a society is living beyond its means ecologically and economically.

In Chris’s words:

“Ecological overextension measures the portion of our current ecological resource utilization behavior that is unsustainable—i.e., the percentage of goods and services produced, provisioned, and utilized domestically through our overexploitation of natural resources and natural habitats.”

Figure 1: USA 2007 Ecological Overextension

Example 1 : 2007 American Production Ecological Overextension

In 2007, the US used approximately 7 billion tons of natural resources[10]—energy resources and non-energy mineral resources—to produce, provision, and utilize $13.84 trillion worth of goods and services[11] in America. Of these resources, approximately 90% were nonrenewable natural resources, the ongoing use of which is unsustainable. Nonsustainable, nonrenewable is the status quo in America and probably applies to almost everyone on the planet:

  • 93% of US primary energy was produced from nonrenewable (unsustainable) natural resources; only 7% was produced by renewable (sustainable) energy sources[12];
  • 90% of US electricity was generated by nonrenewable (unsustainable) natural resources; only 10% was generated by renewable (sustainable) energy sources[13];
  • 87% of the non-energy minerals used as raw material inputs to the domestic US production of goods and services were newly extracted (unsustainable); only 13% were either recycled (8%)[14] or renewable (5%)[15] [sustainable].

Given that approximately 90% of the natural resource inputs to the 2007 US economy were unsustainable, it is estimated that 90%, or $12.46 trillion, of the corresponding output—the US production, provisioning, and utilization of goods and services that occurred during 2007—was unsustainable[16] as well.

Example 2 : 2007 American Consumption Ecological Overextension

Figure 2: USA 2007 Ecological Overextension

Approximately 96.5% of 2007 US total consumption level of $16.82 trillion was unsustainable. That is, $16.23 trillion of US production, provisioning, procurement, and utilization of goods and services in 2007 was enabled by nonrenewable natural resources and/or pseudo purchasing power. Supplies associated with these resources are finite and dwindling; they will peak, decline, and exhaust[24].

Figure 2: Graph of 2007 US Societal Overextension

To check out the references or see more of Chris’s article, go to the Energy Bulletins at the Post Carbon Institute.

In his analysis, Chris has inventoried 89 metals and minerals that are critical to the operation of any industrial economy. He has found that 69 of them are already scarce and are getting scarcer. At most, substitutes will be found for perhaps a dozen of them and any one shortage can bring the industrial edifice down. Industrialism is therefore unsustainable; under capitalism, socialism or any political system in between.

The inescapable conclusion is that the current industrialized way of life is unsustainable—it cannot, therefore, be “fixed”; it must be displaced. Richard Heinberg, author of Peak Everything argues that we must, paradoxically undo and replace a great deal of mechanization that was created in the 20th century with human power. According to Chris Clugston, attempts to perpetuate the existing lifestyle paradigm simply waste remaining, and increasingly scarce, time and resources. The only recourse is to transition voluntarily, beginning immediately, to a sustainable lifestyle paradigm, one in which we live within our means ecologically and economically—forever. Should we fail to do so, quickly, the consequences will be horrific.


How quickly are the world’s mineral and metal supplies running out?

  • antimony, which is used to make flame retardant materials, could run out in 15 years
  • silver could run out in 10 years
  • zinc could be used up by 2037
  • both indium and hafnium – which is increasingly important in computer chips – could be gone by 2017
  • indium price 2003 – $60 USD/ Kg.
  • indium price 2006 – $1,000 USD / Kg.
  • terbium – used to make the green phosphors in fluorescent light bulbs – could run out before 2012
  • Platinum is a vital component not only of catalytic converters but also of fuel cells – and supplies are running out
  • If all the 500 million vehicles in use today were re-equipped with fuel cells, operating losses would mean that all the world’s sources of platinum would be exhausted within 15 years
  • gallium and indium will probably contribute to less than 1 per cent of all future solar cells – a limitation imposed purely by a lack of raw material
  • Years of minerals left if world consumes at 2007 rate – 58 years
  • Years of minerals left if world consumes at half the US rate – 20 years

Figure 3: Predicted Supplies of Minerals and Metal 2007 – courtesy of New Scientist

– David Cohen, Earth’s Natural Wealth: An Audit, New Scientist 2007