For as long as humanity has existed, but until now, the Earth has been for all practical purposes, infinite in terms of its resources. The volume of air in the atmosphere is enormous. The volume of water in the oceans is enormous. The number and varieties of animals and plants in this biosphere, the amount of oil, silver or wood — these quantities are astronomical numbers and these resources have basically seemed infinite to previous generations. That is a primary reason why the United States of America has risen to power in the world so quickly. Vast resources. The Earth is big. But…
These resources aren’t infinite anymore. The number and quality of fish in the world’s oceans is declining. The air has been getting pumped full of so much stuff for the last 100 years that its quality is changing. We will run out of oil someday not so long from now and we will probably run out of other things, too. We have lived in a very nice little world where you could just dig up new resources and those days are coming to an end.
One obvious reason is population growth. There are getting to be quite a lot of people on this planet. The other is that each person, on average, uses more resources now than previous generations. So we have essentially something like exponential growth going on in terms of resource usage.
This can’t go on.
Now let me say on the other hand, there is no shortage of mass or energy in the universe. These quantities are not at all scarce. The sun is pouring an ungodly amount of energy on the Earth every day. There are kinetic energies in the wind and surf. I believe that we will harness new energy sources to the degree that energy will be nearly free. There’s tons of energy out there in a lot of different forms.
I believe that we should be extremely careful with the biosphere. It is super critical that our biosphere be healthy and diverse. It is not worth the risk to be concerned only about short term things like jobs or the economy when it is possible, if not probable, that very habitability of our planet could be at stake.
Conservative love to laugh this off like “Mr. Hippy Trippy gettin’ all ‘we gotta love the earth, man’ on us. ” I am not talking about hippy-trippy I’m talking about science. You can do the math and take the data on these resource issues and we are beginning to have a measurable impact on these previously considered “infinite” resources like the atmosphere and the oceans. We aren’t in Kansas anymore. Regardless of whether you agree it is happening yet or not, it’s happening. Let’s be super smart about how we handle it.
How about not-this:
“President Bush strongly opposes any treaty or policy that would cause the loss of a single American job…,” said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.