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07/13/2011

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Dave Cohen

I wrote about phosphorus in

Phosphorus In The Age Of Scarcity

http://www.declineoftheempire.com/2010/09/phosphorus-in-the-age-of-scarcity.html

Bill Hicks

Great article. How many more of these kinds of stories can we stand? It's become pretty clear that most of the world's vital resources will be depleted or near-depleted by 2050, and yet population growth continues unabated at about 80 million per year. We are collectively speeding into a brick wall at 200 MPH.

Tony Weddle

I wish this sort of debate was as prevalent as the energy debate is now. We're getting all sorts of wishful thinking on energy but even if (for the sake of argument; in reality, it can't happen) we could find substitutes for all uses of fossil fuels at meaningful scales and affordability, we'd still hit the wall because of other resource limits, never mind environmental limits.

Ear Relevant

If Julian Simon were alive, we could all shout "Nana Nana BooBoo, told you so!" to his face. In the "Simon–Ehrlich wager, a bet he made with ecologist Paul R. Ehrlich. Ehrlich bet that the prices for five metals would increase over a decade, while Simon took the opposite stance. Simon won the bet, as the prices for the metals sharply declined during that decade."

Simon was lucky in the time period chosen, of course, though if he were alive, he'd probably still take the bet and insist that technology and human innovation will deliver all the items we need for perpetual growth.

Speaking of which, nobody knows what exactly what item(s) will be the first to cause limits to growth.

We are already there, really, but what are the immediate limiting factors for more growth? Income inequality resulting in not enough money for the masses to purchase what machines produce is certainly one. It is ironic that at the moment when hard physical limits are setting in, there is still excess capacity in many industries!

Justus von Liebig, well over a century ago popularized the Law of the Minimum, a principle developed in agricultural science by Carl Sprengel (1828). It states that "growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available, but by the scarcest resource (limiting factor)."

(NOTE: I quoted Wikipedia articles about Julian Simon and Justus von Liebig.)

John Theodorou

Speaking of which, nobody knows what exactly what item(s) will be the first to cause limits to growth.

I think it's safe to say that this "item" would be oil. If it weren't then why would everyone, on both sides of the argument, be so intently focussed on the oil peak? It's because with peak oil comes the end of growth. For a species in overshoot it behooves us as individuals to understand its consequences and prepare for this eventuality.

Nik

Liebig's law, anyone?

JC

Liebig's law? This is interesting. My big question regards what piece of information will wake up the world? As a DOTE reader the answer is "nothing". But, can we look further in our group? If I was to bring peak Tin to my friends, they would laugh and say "Oh yes another doom and gloom problem!"

Is there a way to tie together everything we are witnessing? That is, can we tie together (1) increasingly frequent financial crises, (2) increasingly convincing environmental events consistent with climate change, (3) increasingly hard to find "easy" energy, (3) increasing political corruption, (4) increasing income inequality, (5) increasing civilian deaths due to war and increasing major conflict, (6) etc.?

We can I think add to this list, peak oil, peak phosphorous, peak tin, etc.? Why is it that all of these experiences are occurring all at once is my question. Explaining why may be more convincing to our happy go lucky friends.

My typical experience of the world is for instance peak US oil in the 1970s in isolation, or an isolated financial crisis here and there. I have never heard of so many immediate challenges occurring at once. It occurs to me that this is a "natural phenomenon" and something beyond us. We can blame our politicians/economists but they have always been a fools wise man.

Can anyone bring together all these phenomenon to make it intelligible? Probably not, but the concept of ENTROPY seems to work the best. Anyone who yells about conspiracy, fault, etc. does not I think understand our fate, that is a period of tremendous organization and performance followed by entropy as the energy dissipates. The concern I have is with peak resources, are we at the end of human existence? Is there a scientific rationale for why resources are diminishing all at once in a period of a decade? Pretty amazing I think and not intuitive to those of us who have not studied resource limits.

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