Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is There A Natural Resource Shortage On The Horizon?

Many of you have heard me talk about the fact that the average grocery store in the United States has just 72 hours of inventory, and how in our fast paced urban and suburban lifestyles, we often take our food supply and our way of life for granted, as if they will always be there.  Well according to a renowned Australian research scientist and a group of researchers at MIT, we may need to rethink those assumptions.

I don’t like to sound like an alarmist, and I’m not one who is easily swayed by every researcher or economist that claims that the sky is falling.  But I do believe that there may come a day in America, and perhaps around the developed world, when food and natural resources are no longer in abundant supply.

War and natural disasters aside, as these researchers point out, we simply cannot sustain the projected exponential growth rates in world population, industrialization, pollution, food production and resource depletion. Something’s gotta give!  As the researchers also point out, the potential global collapse could even happen in my lifetime.

Now, I’m not trying to predict the future, and only God really knows what lies in store for our planet.  But practically speaking, the researchers here are using a pretty straight-forward equation. Unless action is taken, the human footprint could grow beyond what is sustainable because of population growth and consumption.  Think about it! Although our natural resources may seem like they are in abundance now, there is in fact a finite supply of fossil fuels, trees, fish, water and other natural resources on our planet.  Sure most people understand this intuitively, but not many consider the possibility that we could actually deplete these resources─at least not in their lifetime.  But as these studies point out, there are many realistic growth scenarios that could lead to just that.

How this plays out, only time will tell. But there are a couple of interesting points that the MIT study articulates…

1) If we believe that outgrowing our resources is a real possibility, it’s important to start making changes early in the process.

I agree wholeheartedly, and our actions can make a difference!

2) When limits in resources start showing, people will spend time discussing it rather than acting.

Could this be happening now?

3) Forward looking political action can prevent humanity from overshooting its resources.

This is where I part ways with their conclusion.  While I believe governments can and should develop policies that encourage responsible use of our natural resources and prohibit certain destructive practices, the government cannot solve this problem alone─especially not in the current political environment, where corporations and special interest groups rule the roost. We need action by wise men and women who take their responsibility as stewards over the earth seriously.

So, I ask, what can you and I do to play our part?