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Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by chrmjenkins, Apr 20, 2009.
It might be time to invest in some resource satellites.
Is this going to be something we laugh at in 10 years, or is it serious?
Apparently, we're going to run out of Indium for LCDs in 8 months.
The worst case estimate is 5-10 years. Since the picture lists no sources, we can't verify its data. I though it was interesting, nonetheless.
I just saw this earlier today. Its definitely sobering if accurate.
The graph is a little misleading in most cases. Elements are generally subject to recovery. Uranium is the exception, since it is the only one whose major consumption results in less uranium and more things that are not uranium.
For the rest of the elements, the chart actually depicts how long current resources will last at current prices, using current extraction methods. Beyond that, the question becomes how far we are willing to go for recovery, how much it costs and how much we're willing to pay.
Nobody is currently buying back outdated cell phones to recover the Tantalum. Nobody is mining landfills because it's still cheaper and safer to mine the Earth directly. Nobody is coming up with alternatives for materials that are still cheaper than the alternative would be.
It is certainly a matter of some concern that some elements will be in such short supply that they will become too expensive to be practical for their intended purpose, or that eventually consumption of some elements will continue to increase until all plausibly recoverable samples are in use at any given time, but those dates would be much farther out than what is listed on that chart.
Don't construe any of this to imply I think proactive conservation is a bad idea. On the contrary, I think it's a very good idea to foresee and attempt to cushion what would otherwise be the surprisingly sudden impact of what seem very modest year-on-year increases in consumption. "Letting the market handle it" is a little like driving to work with your eyes closed and "letting physics handle it." It just isn't the absolute doomsday scenario a graph like that one might suggest.
You point (ALL your points, in fact) well taken, but aren't the Chinese actually in effect mining landfills by importing mountains of trashed electronics and recovering some of the recyclables (at great cost to the health of the workers BTW)?
Good point. You can go a long way if you stop worrying about the "safer" part.
We require more vespine gas!
We require more (insert resource here)!
Nah, this graph is critically inaccurate. Scientists would be panicking to hell if this was real. Obviously it was just made as a joke or something.
What if they are panicking, but the media just doesn't show it?
Yup, that Malthus was spot on, wasn't he?
During the cold-war in the '60's the accepted wisdom was that if there was a "limited" nuclear exchange - one that disrupted the infrastructure of a modern society - then the remaining society would forever be stuck at the "iron age", though perhaps advancing as far as the start of the industrial age.
Leaving aside the whole question of whether a "limited nuclear war" was even possible, the thinking was that all the easily accessible resources have already been used up. That it takes a very advanced technology to even get at the remaining resources. A global society that was technologically knocked backwards by a few hundred years would never be able to get the resources to make getting at other resources even possible. Can you imagine the technology of the late 1800's getting at oil that is 5 to 10 kms below the surface? So, it would be back to steam and water power.
As we go along, the technology needed to get at our resources must keep pace, or global society is headed back to the iron age.
Perhaps what we need is a graph to show us what part of the scientific community is panicking, and which aren't.
Graph is very Bucky Fuller -- the problem with Spaceship earth is that it didn't come with an instruction manual...
Running out of resources has been talked about for decades, what really happens is we become more efficient at using resources as they become expensive.
When copper or aluminum goes up to a certain point you will recycle more often and companies will figure out ways to use less and charge you more, same works for everything else.