3DN Resources are not Scarce
- The precautionary principle states that we should not do anything that could create unforeseeable consequences in the System - such as continue to increase the concentration of CO2 - or to introduce toxins into the environment. I agree with that. I think we have introduced, however, a false dichotomy between that which we need to do to survive and that which we cannot do without harming nature. And that goes to whether or not we understand resources to be scarce.
- It actually takes very little to maintain a human being. It takes a certain number of calories, vitamins and minerals every day, clean water, the ability to keep one's body temperature within a certain range. After that, what is a life worth living? - health - intellectual stimulation - material comforts - distractions?
- I do not think there is any serious debate that the earth - even with the way we abuse living systems - can supply adequate nutrition for six billion people - and probably the projected peak nine billion. (Hopefully, we will apply the precautionary principle and never test the maximum carrying capacity of humans on earth) More importantly, every living thing has the unlimited capacity to reproduce - life is not scarce.
- There are shortages of clean water in some places - but the planet is two thirds ocean. Water is not scarce.
- There is certainly enough material on earth to produce enough shelter and clothing to keep the body temperatures of six to nine billion people within the required range. Materials are not scarce.
- Now, if everyone has adequate food, clothing and shelter, is there any reason that Our civilization could not provide adequate nutritionists, nurses, vitamin supplements, vaccines, antibiotics, etc. to provide basic preventive medical care to six to nine billion people? How about teachers and access to information? For that matter, is there any physical limitation that would prevent Us from building six billion big screen TVs?
- There are limited quantities of certain things - land - petroleum - but those limits are not what prevents Us from providing a life worth living to all six billion of Us. It is instead the lack of access to those basic necessities. As I intend to discuss further, those things that people need and desire travel through the System across the bridges people maintain for the exchange of value. It is a lack of bridges that is preventing the realization of the human potential of all six billion of Us - and bridge building material is not scarce. And as I expressed in Better Maps I do not think the "market" can take Us all the way there.
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I have been over-throwing deep beliefs for all my life. And I am prepared to do it again.
I basically agree to the fundamental tenets of this article. However, there is something in me which is not fully accepting this idea that resources are not scarce, and I am thinking about this a lot. I don't like my own thinking because it is inherently negative, whereas unlimited resource scenarios are much more positivistic in attitude. Nevertheless...
The current economic model has pushed us into consumerism. Although I converted from a complete pessimist to a prudent optimist, I can't see how even fully switching to green technologies can revert this drive. I still perceive the planet as finite, and all industrial and economic activity to date needs some physical input from the earth. And many of these materials are starting to become scarce and running out. I can't separate unlimited resource thinking from the image of unlimited resource usage and unlimited garbage, even in high recycling scenarios. Unlimited resources sounds also as an invitation to exploit the planet even more, and, depending on the resource, to exacerbate resource conflicts.
What are your comments on this?