Scarcity and consumption/population growth all make this inevitable. But there are other crises that will enhance all this, namely the financial crises, which most people believe, erroneously, to be separate from the energy, resources and population crises; climate change, which will impose huge economic costs and spark widespead social and environmental chaos; and perhaps the gravest one of all, the loss of biodiversity, which means not only loss of individual species but of habitats, ecosystems and ecosystem services on which humanity depends. When you put these all together with the depletion of nonrenewable resources, you have The Perfect Storm. Undoubtedly many scientists have known this for a long time but want to avoid alarming people. This is a bad decision because it reinforces the deniers and doubters, and because it prevents corrective measures, even small ones, from being even considered, not to mention implemented. Meanwhile those who could actually do something are dithering. The scrawny compromised “leadership” of people like Bill McKibben does nothing more than sound the alarm but has nothing to propose in the way of action, policy or legislation. Our environmental groups have deserted the battlefield, possibly because they know the game is over. And the good liberals continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that a change in the White House will make a difference. We need an effort and constituency like the one that made the Susan Komen Foundation reverse its cut-off to Planned Parenthood. If every one of us were to rise up against Obama and the Democrats, we might get the ball rolling. So instead of a pledge a la Komen, how about Take the Pledge to Kick Out the Democrats?Do Yourself A Favour And Actually READ Clugston’s Book I have tried and tried to spread Clugston’s message for 3 years without much success. Perhaps if Bill Ryerson keeps posting it, the implications of his analysis will sink in. As Thomas Kuhn might put it, we cling to our old paradigms like shipwrecked swimmers cling to their Mae-Wests. Brand loyality to EFA and an intrinsic need for “hope” has been a major impediment to accepting Clugston’s stuff. Since Chris refuses to compromise by attaching a happy ‘Hollywood’ ending to his conclusions, publishers and book agents run away from his manuscript. If you want to write about the end of growth and see it published, you have to play the game, and I think that is what Richard Heinberg et al have done. And I don’t necessarily blame them. Chris has been saying something that folks cannot or will not understand. We won’t be experiencing a “Long” Emergency but a PERMANENT one. It will not be like ‘roughing it’ on a camping trip and then returning home for a hot shower and roast turkey. The shrinking of our industrial economy will be relentless, or as he describes it, a regime of CL&L (continually less and less). One wonders how many failed attempts to stimulate the economy it will take before the masses understand that. It will be hard to occupy Wall Street or any other street to demand that Mother Nature give up her “high-hanging” fruit without negative net energy expenditure. She has been known to be indifferent to our political demands. What we need, in Chris’ estimation, is not another book about “The End of Growth”, but a sequel about “the limits of our understanding of the implications of limits to growth”. In my estimation, I think that the SSE crowd understand that since their message is wildly heretical to mainstream thinking, they think that they can make it more palatable to the general public (and themselves) by believing that there is, in fact, a level of comfortable living that can be attained by ‘keeping it here’. “Here” has meant any number of historical periods which they retroactively annoint as “the good old days”—- 1950, then 1930, and John Michael Greer’s America of 1800. Fundamentally they do not understand the difference between “renewable” and “non-renewable” resources, and our overwhelming dependence on the latter. There can be no “steady” state if that steady state draws down non-renewable resources to maintain its equilibrium. And it is not, repeat NOT, just about fossil fuels. There are 69 other NNRs (metals and minerals) that can bring us down. You can’t make oil rigs and drills and pipelines and factories out of mud and straw. Make that point once, and it goes over their heads, make it twice, and they duck. Make it three times and you’ll be talking in an empty room because they have left the conversation. And you certainly will not get a publisher, particularly a ‘progressive’ one like New Society Publishers who blatantly state that their mission is to ‘motivate’ people to action by making them believe that “we can do it”, or in Aussie vernacular perhaps, “wecandobetter”. Yes, we must believe that we can make a ‘difference’. Otherwise, why get out of bed, right? Maybe but….. There is one tangible difference that you can make though. You can be among the very few who actually bother to READ Chris’s work, “Scarcity”. I did that, and the impact was devastating. How devastating is it? Imagine this. When I handed it to the local secretary of the local Sierra Club—my political enemy—- she read it, and she was so impressed that she introduced it to the Sierra Club executive. (They must be in grief counselling right now). Chris’ book contains table after table of meticulously researched data. His argument does NOT consist of speculation or metaphysical BS, but MATH and LOGIC. That is not something that a lot of people want to deal with. But we will ignore it at our peril. As Madeline Weld likes to say, “You can run away from numbers, but you can’t run away from the consequences of numbers.” Tim “Not optimism or pessimism, but realism is the surest foundation for effective action.” (OK those are my words but sometimes ordinary people can say wise things). On 06/02/2012 12:47 PM, Jenny Goldie wrote:
This is sobering stuff. Chris Clugston was a speaker at one of Bill Ryerson’s meetings in Washington (2009) and this is an update on what he said then. He also spoke at the ASPO confernece in Denver as I remember.Jenny—– Original Message —–From: PMC Daily EmailSent: Tuesday, February 07, 2012 1:02 AMSubject: Ever-increasing Nonrenewable Natural Resource (NNR) Scarcity
Thanks to Chris Clugston for this recent analysis of nonrenewable natural resource scarcity. You can review more of Chris’s work here: http://www.wakeupamerika.com/index.html
Ever-increasing Nonrenewable Natural Resource (NNR) Scarcity
There will always be plenty of NNRs in the ground.
Unfortunately, there are not enough economically viable NNRs in the ground
to perpetuate our industrialized lifestyle paradigm going forward.
I have argued elsewhere that nonrenewable natural resource (NNR) scarcity is becoming increasingly prevalent globally. That is, globally available, economically viable supplies associated with an ever-increasing number of the fossil fuels, metals, and nonmetallic minerals that enable our industrial lifestyle paradigm:
My previous NNR scarcity analyses were based primarily on US Geological Survey (USGS) and US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. The following NNR scarcity analysis is based on World Bank (WB) NNR pricing data-specifically, pricing data obtained from the WB Energy (fossil fuel) Price Index and the Metals and Minerals Price Index.
In summary, my findings from the following analysis derived from WB data confirm the findings from my previous analyses derived from USGS and EIA data-global NNR scarcity is becoming increasingly prevalent, and debilitating.
- Mid/late 20th century energy prices increased at a 4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between the years 1960 and 1999, driven primarily by OPEC’s continuously increasing influence on global oil supplies and price levels since the 1970s, and by incipient global oil scarcity during the later years of the 20th century.
- Pre Great Recession energy prices increased at an extraordinary 13.5% CAGR between the years 2000 and 2008; driven by the historically unprecedented global fossil fuel requirements engendered by our newly emerging quest for global industrialism, which necessitated the exploitation of increasingly expensive, lower quality fossil fuel deposits. (Note: “lower quality” is defined as fewer, smaller, and/or less accessible fossil fuel deposits, typically of declining grade and/or purity.)
- Post Great Recession energy prices increased at a phenomenal 18.9% CAGR between the years 2009 and 2011, driven by unsuccessful worldwide attempts to reestablish pre-recession global economic growth trajectories.
- Early 21st century energy price levels and growth trajectories have been historically unprecedented, when compared to 20th century price levels and growth trajectories-as evidenced by significantly “higher highs” in 2008 and 2011, and a significantly “higher low” in 2009-and clearly indicate increasing global fossil fuel scarcity.
- Mid/late 20th century metals and minerals prices declined at a (negative) -1.5% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between the years 1960 and 1999, a time period during which globally available, economically viable metals and minerals supplies were generally sufficient or more than sufficient to completely address global requirements.
- Pre Great Recession metals and minerals prices increased at an extraordinary 14.3% CAGR between the years 2000 and 2008; driven by the historically unprecedented global metals and minerals requirements engendered by our newly emerging quest for global industrialism, which necessitated the exploitation of increasingly expensive, lower quality metals and minerals deposits. (Note: “lower quality” is defined as fewer, smaller, and/or less accessible metals/minerals deposits, typically of declining grade and/or purity.)
- Post Great Recession metals and minerals prices increased at a phenomenal 20.1% CAGR between the years 2009 and 2011, driven by unsuccessful worldwide attempts to reestablish pre-recession global economic growth trajectories.
- Early 21st century metals/minerals price levels and growth trajectories have been historically unprecedented when compared to 20th century price levels and growth trajectories-as evidenced by significantly “higher highs” in 2007 and 2011, and a significantly “higher low” in 2009-and clearly indicate increasing global metals and minerals scarcity.
Assertions and Projections
- The episodes of global NNR scarcity experienced during the 20th century “commodity boom/bust cycles” were temporary-i.e., additional economically viable NNR supplies were readily available to be brought online to completely address global requirements, thereby resolving temporary NNR supply shortfalls and enabling the restoration of “boom period” economic growth trajectories.
- The episodes of 21st century global NNR scarcity century are permanent in an increasing number of cases-with permanent scarcity, globally available, economically viable supplies of an NNR will never again be sufficient to completely address global requirements.
- Global economic growth was throttled in mid 2008 and again in early 2011, as unacceptably high NNR price levels curtailed both global NNR demand/utilization and global economic output (GDP). The underlying cause associated with both the Great Recession and the aborted post-recession economic recovery was ever-increasing NNR scarcity.
- Global NNR scarcity will intensify going forward, thereby precluding a permanent recovery from the Great Recession. Each attempt to reestablish pre-recession economic growth trajectories will increase NNR demand; which will force NNR suppliers to exploit increasingly expensive, lower quality NNR deposits; which will cause NNR prices to increase; which will curtail NNR demand and utilization; which will curtail economic output (GDP); which will abort the attempted economic recovery.
This Time Really IS Different
With the seemingly continuous emergence of newly industrializing nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, global requirements for the earth’s finite and non-replenishing NNRs have increased meteorically since the beginning of the 21st century. Whereas approximately 1.5 billion people occupied industrialized and industrializing nations in the late 20th century, that number currently exceeds 5 billion, most of whom have yet to even remotely approach their full NNR utilization potential.
Moreover, our ever-increasing global NNR requirements are manifesting themselves within the context of increasingly-constrained-i.e., increasingly expensive, lower quality-NNR supplies. The unfortunate consequence of this “demand/supply mismatch” is that the earth cannot physically support humanity’s current – much less continuously increasing – NNR requirements.
Global NNR scarcity was inevitable; the persistent utilization of finite and non-replenishing NNRs, especially at levels required to perpetuate our industrial lifestyle paradigm, is unsustainable by definition. Our quest for global industrialism during the past several decades merely expedited the onset of epidemic global NNR scarcity.
As global NNR scarcity becomes increasingly prevalent going forward, the economic output (GDP) levels associated with an increasing number of industrialized and industrializing nations will peak permanently and enter terminal decline, as will the societal wellbeing levels-the population levels and material living standards-associated with these nations.
Diminishing NNR Input = Diminishing Economic Output (GDP) =
Diminishing Societal Wellbeing (Population and Material Living Standards)
This scenario is currently unfolding in most industrialized Western nations, including the United States, and will soon occur in the newly industrializing nations as well.
Our historical reality of “continuously more and more”-which we in the industrialized West have experienced since the inception of our industrial revolution and have come to take for granted-is giving way to our new reality of “continuously less and less”. And judging by the ever-increasing incidence of global economic turmoil, political instability, and social unrest; we will not accept our new reality gracefully.
Metaphorically, ever-increasing NNR scarcity is exerting a relentless, remorseless squeeze, like a vise tightening around the collective skulls of humanity. And while the vise handle turns almost imperceptibly at only 1/1000 of a revolution per day, the handle will make 3 complete revolutions within the next 10 years, 6 complete revolutions within the next 20 years, 9 complete revolutions within the next 30 years…
In the absence of an intelligent response to our “predicament”-which I have yet to encounter-humanity will crack somewhere along the way.
NNR scarcity is the most daunting challenge ever to confront humanity.
If we Homo sapiens are truly an exceptional species, now is the time to prove it.
(Note: The key assumption underlying the preceding analysis is that increasing NNR prices-especially dramatically and persistently increasing NNR prices-result from NNR scarcity. If this assumption is invalid, please offer a plausible alternative explanation for the historically unprecedented NNR price increases experienced during the early years of the 21st century.)
Chris Clugston Bio
Since 2006, I have conducted extensive independent research into the area of “sustainability”, with a focus on nonrenewable natural resource (NNR) scarcity. I have sought to quantify from a combined ecological and economic perspective the extent to which America and humanity are living unsustainably beyond our means, and to articulate the causes, magnitude, implications, and consequences associated with our “predicament”.
My previous work experience includes thirty years in the high technology electronics industry, primarily with information technology sector companies. I held management level positions in marketing, sales, finance, and M&A, prior to becoming a corporate chief executive and later a management consultant.
I received an AB/Political Science, Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Penn State University, and an MBA/Finance with High Distinction from Temple University.
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