Resources: digg it or leave it?!

February 10, 2014

In an earlier blog, Real sustainable societies, I described how real sustainable societies would look like. Then the question arises what to do with natural resources. Therefore, here a blog item on resources: digg it or leave it? is the question. I will first explore what falls under non-renewable and renewable resources. Then I delve into the problems related to the exploitation of non-renewable ones. And then off course, as always, I come with a solution.


Natural resources: what are they and what's the problem?

There are non-renewable natural resources and renewable resources. Let us first explore the non-renewable resources, followed by the renewable ones, the problems in relation to each other, and the possible solution.

Non renewable resources 

Non renewable resources are formed either slowly in nature or do not form in a natural way. Minerals are the most common and well-known form. For instance, fossil fuels (oil) are counted as non renewable because its formation rate is slow (potentially millions of years!) or it cannot even be formed anymore. The depletion of them is caused by human extraction. However, some non-renewable resources can also be depleted without human interference, such as radio-active elements of uranium which naturally decay in heavy metals. Some of them, the metallic minerals, can be re-used and recycled. However, coal and oil cannot. It is suggested that the resource extraction industries can add to the economy of a country, however inflation can harm industries (Dutch disease) and the industries can come along with social problems, in mostly developing countries, such as corruption, inequality, high debts, and underdevelopment, also known as the 'resource curse'. Then there is the problem of phosphorous: an important element for agriculture. This is a non-renewable resource which is being depleted at high rates, and it is now threatening the agricultural production because of its depletion. However, recycling/reusing pee is a solution to this problem since pee contains phosphorous as well. 

All in all, there is much money involved with non-renewable resources. Indeed, in 2011 the amount of subsidies for fossil fuels reached € 479,- billion! Is that fair?! Considering the (short and long-term) damage caused by the production and consumption of it? Shouldn't the renewable resources get all these subsidies to start of as a market so we can contribute to a fair, clean and healthy future? Well in what should we than invest?


Renewable resources 

We have the renewable resources which can be replenished naturally. Some of them, like sunlight, air, wind, geothermal, water, nutrient recycling, poo, and the like, are continuously readily available in unlimited amounts. However, certain renewable resources do not have a rapid recovery rate and these are therefore susceptible to depletion of over-use (e.g.: wood/forests). Therefore, renewable resources count as such only if the replenishment or recovery rate exceeds that of the rate of consumption (sustainable forestry).

Although renewable resources are increasing in production and consumption, still the non-renewable ones overrule the renewable ones. In addition, the extraction of these non-renewable resources come along with heavy environmental and natural damage and problems like mountaintop removal (coal), (oil) spills, water and air pollution, climate change, deforestation, decline in agricultural production, and increased natural disasters such as earthquakes, flooding, and landslides. So what to do about this? How to deal with this?

The answer lies in a simple form. Let us stop digging for non-renewables and leave them underground. Off course this is not a simple task because we depend so much on these resources, but it is doable. Moreover, we must! For the sake of our own existence and that of our fellow 'travelers' in this world: animals, fungi, trees, plants, insects, bacteria, and the like. If we do not make this transition on time, we are doomed for a societal and ecological collapse. We may have to live like millions of years ago: back to real basics! So how do we make this transition?

'The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others'.Theodore Roosevelt (Address to the Deep Waterway Convention, Memphis, Tennessee October, 4, 1907).

Even the UN developed the World Charter for Nature (1982) in which it recognizes the need to protect nature from depletion by human activity. The World Ethic Sustainability (ICUN, WWF and UNEP, 1990) set out eight values of sustainability including the need to protect natural resources from depletion (Wikipedia, 2014).

There have since then been taken measures, however not sufficiently. So what is needed for that?

  1. Let us first reduce our general consumption and distribute natural resources equally amongst ourselves to provide for the development of marginalized peoples.

  2. Leave non-renewable resources intact, prioritizing fragile and biodiverse areas. Take the example of Yasuni-ITT of leaving oil underground in Ecuador (see The Yasuní-ITT Initiative: forgone, but not forgotten!).

  3. Invest in the blue economy (see 10-10: a day full of inspiration).

  4. Phase out all subsidies of non-renewable resources.

  5. Use that money coming from the subsidies on non-renewable resources to subsidize green and renewable resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, water, biogas, and biomass. Let the market eventually do the rest. Push possibilities and innovation to the limits.

  6. Use the (w/r)economy as a new form of living together on planet Earth.

  7. And let us start living, sharing and enjoying life on Earth as it is, instead of exploiting nature and other forms of life, including other human beings. 

Let us all combine forces and strive for this new world ahead of us: a new era in which humans live in harmony with nature. Indeed, living and learning with nature, instead of dominating and destroying it in the name of short-term economic gains.


Deforestation in the Amazon: WWF campaign



Source:  Persuasion and Influence Blogspot, 2014




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