Thursday, 17 July 2014

Peak oil, peak soil, peak water... peak everything

Where do we get all our stuff from?
Futures Forum: The Story of Stuff: "You cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely"

The problem is that many of the resources which make up our stuff are declining...
... whether oil:
Put 53 Years on the Clock: The End of Easy Oil Is Within Sight
Futures Forum: Peak Oil... and EROEI... or Energy Return on Energy Investment
... and its by-products:
One peak we should bring on faster: Peak plastics | Eco Connect
Futures Forum: The plastics industry is "incredibly supportive of recycling legislation over a more long-term… reduction of disposable culture."
... or soil:
Buying farmland abroad: Outsourcing's third wave | The Economist
'Peak soil' threatens future global food security | Reuters
Futures Forum: Norman Borlaug and the “Green Revolution”: a centenary
... or fish:
Peak Fish and the biodiversity crisis
Futures Forum: The fishing industry is gradually “fishing down the food chain”


A book came out some ago addressing these multiple issues:

Richard Heinberg | Peak Everything

And a lecture on the subject from 2012 is still attracting comments:

Peak Oil & Peak Everything Lecture at Cornell - YouTube

The commentaries keep coming:

Peak Everything

Oil, Food, Water: Is Everything Past its Peak?

By 2030, the global middle class is expected to grow by two-thirds. That’s 3 billion more shoppers. They'll all want access to goods, including water, wheat, coffee and oil. Is there enough for everybody? Can business satisfy demand and avoid hitting "peak everything?"
Peak Everything News - Bloomberg

Forget Peak Oil, We're At Peak Everything

The idea that we’re running out of oil may have faded slightly from the list of concerns, but that’s just one of any number of precious natural resources we’re using up far too quickly.
Peak oil is the concept that new discoveries of commercially exploitable oil resources do not keep pace with growing demand. By extrapolating the data, you can estimate when we will run out of it for all practical purposes. There are a lot of disagreements about whether we have reached peak oil or when the downhill slope will hit a point that brings a significant percentage of our vehicles to a grinding halt, but the concept has made scientists and policy makers ask the question: What other critical resources may be peaking?
Asia Pulp & Paper Company, one of the world’s largest, announced last month that it will no longer use wood from natural forests for any of its $4 billion per year worth of products. Why? Because APP’s customers realized we are running out of natural forests from which to harvest lumber and have demanded suppliers to develop sustainable sources. The Walt Disney Company, Mattel, and Harper Collins are among many corporations setting sustainability standards for things like paper and packaging.

Water is another resource that may not be as mobile as wood or oil, but which has certainly reached its peak in many places. Last year, a report from the U.S. Office of National Intelligence predicted increasing global conflicts by 2030 as demand for water surpasses sustainable supplies by 40%. Nearly a billion people lack safe, sustainable water supplies already and, according to the UN and the OECD, almost half of the world’s population will live in areas of serious “water stress” by 2030.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed these findings on “peak water” saying, "These threats are real and they do raise serious national security concerns." And just where might peak water create such threats first? A 2011 report from the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations may have an answer in its title: “Avoiding Water Wars: Water Scarcity and Central Asia’s Growing Importance for Stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Considering the price in human lives and taxpayer dollars for “peace” in that region already, we might want to help Afghans make water more plentiful even as our military tries to make things like guns and ammunition more scarce.
Another essential commodity that may soon hit its peak is food. Last year, more than half of the world’s seafood was farmed instead of wild caught, because we have long passed “peak fish” in the ocean. This was the last global food product where humans were mostly hunter-gatherers and we have now industrialized its production, however our fish farming methods are crude compared to the ways we grow row crops, grains, and other forms of protein, meaning that shortages and higher prices for many seafood items are already resulting from certain species peaking. In another example, the conversion of corn to ethanol has been well documented for several years as a contributor to shortages and price spikes for that staple in many parts of the globe.
These peak trends have motivated retailers like Walmart, Tesco, and Target to set standards for suppliers around sustainable sourcing, because executives I have spoken with are concerned their shelves will one day be empty or prices will exceed their customers’ budgets, which in turn impacts corporate bottom lines. Make no mistake, peak anything is a warning signal that smart consumers will increasingly use to make more sustainable choices and to plan for a resource-constrained future. And that should peak the interest of any business person or politician.

Forget Peak Oil, We're At Peak Everything | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

Peak minerals - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Where do the bits in your mobile or laptop come from?

Conflict Minerals 101 - YouTube

Is your mobile phone helping fund war in Congo?

The mobile phone in your pocket might be helping to fund armed militia groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that use rape and murder as weapons of war, campaigners have warned.

Women in the Congo live under the threat of rape by armed gangs who take over mines and sell precious metals to electronics firms Photo: Caroline Irby
Insurgents in the central African state are earning up to £118 million every year by selling four so-called “blood minerals” that are vital in making electronic goods.
Warlords take over the mineral mines by systematically raping women and murdering men, and now a pressure group is asking British consumers to sign a petition demanding a ban on the use of metals sourced from Congo.
A graphic five-minute film, aptly titled Unwatchable, is released on the internet today to highlight the campaign by Save the Congo.
Filmed by Michael Bonvillian, a Hollywood cinematographer whose work includes Cloverfield and Lost, it tells the story of a Congolese woman, Masika, who was gang-raped together with her daughters before her husband was murdered and mutilated by an armed militia.
Others in the film industry who gave their time for free include David Arnold, who wrote the score, and who has also worked on Independence Day and Casino Royale, and Mark Wolf, the second unit director, whose credits include Iron Man.
To drive home the link between rape and murder in the Congo and British consumer goods, Masika’s story is switched to an English village where a British family are attacked by soldiers who land on their lawn.
The worldwide demand for gold, tantalum, tungsten and tin for use in mobiles, laptops, MP3 players and games consoles is driving up the price for the metals and making them a highly-prized commodity for rebels in mineral-rich Congo.
Rape is used by the rebels to drive out mine owners because, in the words of Amnesty International, "rape is cheaper than bullets".
Almost 5.5 million people are estimated to have been killed since the beginning of the conflict in 1998.
Congolese “blood minerals” are used in many electronics goods sold in the UK, despite the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development producing a due diligence guide for its members to choke off the trade.
Vava Tampa, director of Save the Congo, said: “Companies will only take action if they think their customers care. We hope everyone will get angry, demand that mobile phone manufacturers clean up their supply chains and urge the EU to introduce legislation compelling them to do so.”
Marc Hawker, who directed the film, said: "With everything else that's going on in the world, it's too easy to dismiss what is going on in the Congo. This is a hard film to watch, but it is nothing compared to what is going on in the Congo on a daily basis.
"Our aim was to shatter the noise of everyday life and spearhead the campaign with a film that can't be ignored because the issue is so monstrous and unacceptable."
To sign the petition go to www.unwatchable.cc

Is your mobile phone helping fund war in Congo? - Telegraph
Congo: Blood, gold and mobile phones - video | World news | theguardian.com
Children of the Congo who risk their lives to supply our mobile phones | Guardian Sustainable Business | Guardian Professional
Coltan - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Don't Be a Victim of Planned Obsolescence | Modern Species

The Story of E-Waste: What Happens to Tech Once It's Trash | Maximum PC

The Americans have a large number of military bases in Africa:
The Startling Size of US Military Operations in Africa | Mother Jones
The US Military Has Been ‘At War’ in Africa on the Sly For Years | The Nation

The Chinese and Indians are very interested in Africa's resources:
The BRICS scramble for Africa – resources plunder or economic blessing? - Mining Technology
Africa and the BRICS: a Win-Win Partnership? - African Development Bank

Peak water - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Capitalism’s Running Out Of Water — And Everything Else
California is in its third year of a severe drought. Some scientists believe this will be the driest year in the last five hundred. Among other measures for dealing with the water shortage, the state has announced it will not provide subsidized irrigation water from dams this year.

The large-scale capitalist agriculture model touted by Norman Borlaug devotees (like Reason magazine’s Ron Bailey) is based on so-called “Green Revolution” seeds. These selectively bred seeds — “high yield varieties” — produce considerably higher output than traditional varieties, but also require much higher inputs of irrigation water and chemical fertilizer to produce those outputs. For this reason, corporate agribusiness critic Frances Moore Lappe prefers to call them “high response varieties.” They are far less hardy than traditional varieties — particularly those developed over the centuries by native populations to suit local conditions in the Third World — in the face of drought and other marginal environmental conditions.

As such, they are suitable primarily for large-scale, export-oriented cash crop operations — the sort which are carried on mainly on land stolen from former peasant cultivators and enclosed into giant plantations by local landed oligarchies in collusion with transnational agribusiness corporations. They require large-scale inputs of subsidized water — the kind which tends to be directed disproportionately to large agribusiness operations on such land.

Meanwhile, state-subsidized and -protected fracking operations require billions of gallons of water, depleting aquifers in some of the most drought-stricken areas like California and Texas. And to top everything off, government subsidies to fossil fuel production and long-distance transportation (like the cross-country shipping of subsidized agribusiness produce from California) encourage the generation of the greenhouse gases that contribute to the drought.

Corporate capitalism is built on subsidized inputs, and profitable in large part because of them. It achieved growth in the 20th century through the extensive addition of subsidized inputs, like subsidized fossil fuels and large tracts of cheap land previously preempted (stolen) by the state, rather than the intensive approach of using existing inputs more efficiently.

A basic law of economics is that when you subsidize an input, people tend to use more of it. And businesses will tend to substitute that artificially cheap input for other inputs. The distorted price system gives an artificial advantage to firms most heavily dependent on that input. For example, subsidies to long-distance shipping infrastructure tend to benefit the firms with the largest market areas and the largest-scale production facilities shipping their output the furthest distance. It makes them artificially competitive against smaller, more localized — and more efficient — forms of production. It creates artificial economies of scale at levels where they would otherwise have leveled off, leading to an economy of artificially large firms serving centralized markets.

At the same time, such responses to the availability of inputs at less than the cost of providing them means demand for them outstrips the government’s ability to provide them. The state exhausts its fiscal resources trying to keep up with demand, and when it reaches fiscal exhaustion, businesses most heavily reliant on the subsidized inputs hit the wall of resource depletion and spiking input prices.

So we see subsidies to superhighways and airports generating further demand for them, and the building of new local freeway systems to “relieve congestion” generating even more congestion, leading to a situation where the state is fiscally exhausted, demand outstrips supply, and the need for maintenance of existing highways and bridges is four times the revenue appropriated to fix them. And we see giant, inefficient agribusiness operations that are heavily dependent on water, using up the water till there’s no more.

The end result is that this model of state-subsidized capitalism has built-in crisis tendencies which will destroy it. That means a radical relocalization of manufacturing and agriculture, and a radical shortening of supply and distribution chains, and small producers that make efficient use of resources. The current model of corporate capitalism, allied with the state, far from being a natural or inevitable state of affairs, is a historical epoch with a beginning and an end. It’s digging its own grave.

Center for a Stateless Society » Capitalism’s Running Out Of Water — And Everything Else

“Human Beings Have No Right to Water” and other Words of Wisdom from Your Friendly Neighborhood Global Oligarch
By: Andrew Gavin Marshall
In the 2005 documentary, We Feed the World, then-CEO of Nestlé, the world’s largest foodstuff corporation, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, shared some of his own views and ‘wisdom’ about the world and humanity. Brabeck believes that nature is not “good,” that there is nothing to worry about with GMO foods, that profits matter above all else, that people should work more, and that human beings do not have a right to water.  We Feed the World is a 2005 documentary in which Austrian filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer traces the origins of the food we eat and views modern industrial production of food and factory farming in a critical light.  We Feed The World | Watch Free Documentary OnlineWE FEED THE WORLD - a film by Erwin WagenhoferWe Feed the World - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Today, he explained, “people believe that everything that comes from Nature is good,” marking a large change in perception, as previously, “we always learnt that Nature could be pitiless.” Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck speaking about the company, genetically modified food and the politically "extreme" idea of free drinking water. Again reality unfortunately triumphs over fiction. From the documentary "We feed the world" by Erwin Wagenhofer. Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck - YouTube Uploaded on 24 Mar 2008; Nestlé's Peter Brabeck on the Water Challenge - YouTube 
The biggest social responsibility of any CEO, Brabeck explained: is to maintain and ensure the successful and profitable future of his enterprise. For only if we can ensure our continued, long term existence will we be in the position to actively participate in the solution of the problems that exist in the world. We’re in the position of being able to create jobs… If you want to create work, you have to work yourself, not as it was in the past where existing work was distributed. If you remember the main argument for the 35-hour week was that there was a certain amount of work and it would be better if we worked less and distributed the work amongst more people. That has proved quite clearly to be wrong. If you want to create more work you have to work more yourself.
While watching a promotional video of a Nestlé factory in Japan, Brabeck commented, “You can see how modern these factories are; highly robotized, almost no people.” And of course, for someone claiming to be interested in creating jobs, there appears to be no glaring hypocrisy in praising factories with “almost no people.”
Brabeck became the CEO of Nestlé in 1997, a position he served until 2008, at which time he resigned as CEO but remained as chairman of the board of directors of Nestlé. Apart from Nestlé, Brabeck serves as vice chairman of the board of directors of L’Oréal, the world’s largest cosmetics and ‘beauty’ company; vice chairman of the board of Credit Suisse Group, one of the world’s largest banks; and is a member of the board of directors of Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest oil and energy conglomerates.
He was also a former board member of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical conglomerates, Roche. Brabeck also serves as a member of the Foundation Board for the World Economic Forum (WEF), “the guardian of [the WEF’s] mission, values and brand… responsible for inspiring business and public confidence through an exemplary standard of governance.” Brabeck is also a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), a group of European corporate CEOs which directly advise and help steer policy for the European Union and its member countries. He has also attended meetings of the Bilderberg group, an annual forum of 130 corporate, banking, media, political and military elites from Western Europe and North America.
In a 2009 article for Foreign Policy magazine, Brabeck declared: “Water is the new goldand a few savvy countries and companies are already banking on it.” In a 2010 article for the Guardian, Brabeck wrote that, “[w]hile our collective attention has been focused on depleting supplies of fossil fuels, we have been largely ignoring the simple fact that, unless radical changes are made, we will run out of water first, and soon.” Brabeck suggested that the world could “feed nine billion people,” providing them with water and fuel, but only on the condition that “we let the market do its thing.”  Brabeck co-authored a 2011 article for the Wall Street Journal in which he stated that in order to provide “universal access to clean water, there is simply no other choice but to price water at a reasonable rate,” Pay the true price of water | Peter Brabeck-Letmathe | Comment is free | The GuardianThe Weekend Interview with Peter Brabeck-Letmathe: Can the World Still Feed Itself? - WSJ.com; Brabeck-Letmathe, Biswas and Lee: Putting a Price on Clean Water - WSJ.com 
In a 2010 interview for BigThink After analyzing the most important factors for the sustainability of Nestle, water became a priority for the company. Brabeck noted: “If Nestlé and myself have become very vocal in the area of water, it was not because of any philanthropic idea, it was very simple: by analyzing… what is the single most important factor for the sustainability of Nestlé, water came as [the] number one subject.” This is what led Brabeck and Nestlé into the issue of water “sustainability,” he explained. “I think this is part of a company’s responsibility,” and added: “Now, if I was in a different industry, I would have a different subject, certainly, that I would be focusing on.” Why Peter Brabeck Cares About Water - YouTube Uploaded on 15 Apr 2010; 2030 Water Resources Group, chaired by Peter Brabeck www.2030wrg.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/2030-WRG-Annual-Report1.pdf
Brabeck suggested that the 2030 Water Resources Group represents a “global public-private initiative” which could help in “providing tools and information on best practice” as well as “guidance and new policy ideas on water resource scarcity.” 
Andrew Gavin Marshall | “Human Beings Have No Right to Water” and other Words of Wisdom from Your Friendly Neighborhood Global Oligarch

The leading event for sustainability in business - Mar 27 2014 09:00 AM - Faversham House Group - Pollution Solutions Online
The energy sector is lagging behind on water challenges | Guardian Sustainable Business | Guardian Professional 
Fuel Fix » Guest commentary: World Water Day puts focus on new sustainability challenge
Defying History, Water May Limit the Future of Human Race | Gustavo A. B. da Fonseca
Nestlé Waters sustainability advocate, former CEO Kim Jeffery to speak at Smeal | Penn State University 

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