Skip to main content

For those not frequent readers of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, not every item that appears there is actually fiction -- though sometimes we may wish it were. This month's column by Robert Silverberg focuses on the depletion of resources that don't get as much press as oil.

The element gallium is in very short supply and the world may well run out of it in just a few years. Indium is threatened too, says Armin Reller, a materials chemist at Germany’s University of Augsburg. He estimates that our planet’s stock of indium will last no more than another decade. All the hafnium will be gone by 2017 also, and another twenty years will see the extinction of zinc.

If some of these elements seem rather exotic, odds are you're looking at them right this moment. Both gallium and indium are used in the making of flat-screen displays (along with other electronics). If there's one name on that list that should stand out, it's zinc.  Zinc is not particularly rare, but we're consuming it at a rate that's far faster than we're finding new sources. That's also true of our old friend copper, which is why construction sites the world over are often plagued with thieves who ransack locations for copper plumbing and wiring.  

But the sobering truth is that we still have millions of years to go before our own extinction date, or so we hope, and at our present rate of consumption we are likely to deplete most of the natural resources this planet has handed us. We have set up breeding and conservation programs to guard the few remaining whooping cranes, Indian rhinoceroses, and Siberian tigers. But we can’t exactly set up a reservation somewhere where the supply of gallium and hafnium can quietly replenish itself. And once the scientists have started talking about our chances of running out of copper, we know that the future is rapidly moving in on us and big changes lie ahead.

Of course, we're not really consuming these metals, not in the way we do oil or coal.  They're not actually gone, merely spread out in forms that are extremely difficult to recover. Even with our best efforts at recycling electronics, it's likely that we're years, not decades, away from making do without some of these rare earth elements. In the last twenty years alone, we've consumed about one third of available resources.  Want to make a guess as to how long this can continue?

A 2007 study published in the journal New Scientist, looked at of the elements used in producing electronics and came to the same conclusion. Indium is gone within a decade. Zinc and tantalum in about twice that. The increasing scarcity of some metals is reflected in their prices.

He estimates that we have, at best, 10 years before we run out of indium. Its impending scarcity could already be reflected in its price: in January 2003 the metal sold for around $60 per kilogram; by August 2006 the price had shot up to over $1000 per kilogram.

This report also highlights a similarity between oil and rare earth elements used in electronics -- the vast majority are imported, often from politically unstable countries.  

In fact, these elements can contribute directly to that instability.  For some of the elements, like gallium, there's simply no good source of high quality ore.  Oddly enough, that's one aspect of this story that might be a good thing.  Those elements that are both extremely rare and isolated to a few high quality sources are a spark for corruption, murder, and environmental destruction. We may be currently engaged in a war for oil, but corporate proxies are also taking brutal actions in a war for tantalum, better known these days by the name of it's principle ore, coltan.  

There are steps we can take, including rethinking ordnances that require copper pipes and making it easier to recycle electronics (which is similar to broadband in that it's simple in many municipalities, while rural areas often lack access).  Those are good steps, and the sooner we act, the easier it will be to avoid fighting wars over copper, zinc, and their rarer cousins.

There are also those who suggest mining of landfills, and undoubtedly this is going to be tempting in the next few decades.  After all, rare elements may be found at a higher concentration in some landfills than can be located in any source of ore.  They're also a domestic source.  However, metals trapped in consumer goods are often soundly locked in stable, complex compounds.  Mining them, and freeing these elements for reuse could mean all the same disruptions to the water table, toxic chemicals used in extraction, and smelting familiar in traditional metals mining.  Anyone cheering for broad application of landfill mining as a solution to our shortage of rare metals needs first to look at the pits remaining from copper mines in the west -- then think about how many of these you want next to your home town.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:00 PM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Clarification request (7+ / 0-)


    There are steps we can take, including rethinking ordnances that require copper pipes

    Is it possible you meant "ordinances"?

  •  There has been (11+ / 0-)

    A ridiculous number of metal thefts recently in OR.  My favorite is the idiots who stole the wire from one of the highway reader boards, while it was on.  Glad they managed to not get electrocuted but frankly they probably deserved to.

    "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

    by skywaker9 on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:04:54 PM PDT

    •  Some Folks in WA DID get Zapped (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      playtonjr, trivium, pixxer

      going after wire on the power lines!  Guess WA gets the Darwin awards on this one eh?

      •  we had a fool stealing metal off of a roof above (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        a marine repair shop that did electroplating. his dumbass fell head first into a 1,000 gallon vat of acid. i think the justice in his case was served in the fact he actually lived. now he gets a reminder of his ignorance every time he looks in the mirror while doing his stint in prison. poor guy...

        impeachment-it does the body good impeachment-it isn't just for blow jobs anymore impeachment-i can say no more i expect no less

        by playtonjr on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 06:16:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  good (nt) (0+ / 0-)

        "They're telling us something we don't understand"
        General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

        by subtropolis on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 09:06:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  copper theft is rampant in this area too but one (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elfling, subtropolis, zelbinion, lemming22

      most folks aren't aware of is the theft of catalytic coverters from cars and trucks. a converter contains platinum, making it a hot commodity at recyling businesses. some cars have four of them, no car has less than two nowadays. they are super expensive to replace and when rudely cut from your exhaust system usually requires that most, if not all, of it be replaced as well.
       my neighbor was a victim of catalytic converter theft last month while parked in a busy area of cocoa beach in daylight hours. these punks doing it are using battery powered sawzalls which are pretty quiet. and even if you saw someone up under a car, would you really think they were stealing something? probably not, i'd just assume someone was checking out a problem of some sort.
       copper theft is nuts around here. i know someone personally that was two days away from closing on a custom 1.3 million dollar home on the outskirts of orlando who got a call from the builder informing him that it'd be 6-8 weeks to repair the damages done. the house had been broken into, all of the appliances stolen, the refridge and icemaker were cut out without turning the water off, which flooded the place, ruining all carpet, wood flooring and cabinets. the wiring was ripped out ny busting through the drywall to access it. they even busted out all of the insulated windows just to get the decorative aluminum mullions from between the panes of glass.
        i bought 4 rolls of wire yesterday, $107 a roll. i looked through last years reciepts to see what i payed for the same material last year-i found one dated back to Feb., $55. the $428 i spent would net a copper thief about $100 as scrap. the problem is most don't steal rolls of wire. they rip it from operating systems. i talked to an a/c repair man last week who told me that the week prior he had a service call to replace three feet of copper stolen fronm a businesses a/c lineset. only three feet but they had snatched it off past flush to the concrete exterior of the building and kinked the line inside the concrete, complicating the job of repairing it dramatically. that three feet of soft copper probably netted the thief less than a dollar- to repair the damage they did getting it? $1,100.

      impeachment-it does the body good impeachment-it isn't just for blow jobs anymore impeachment-i can say no more i expect no less

      by playtonjr on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 06:11:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Won for the wrong reasons. (6+ / 0-)

      "Last time you said I should call the doctor, I ended up getting better anyway. This irrefutably proves that I am immortal."

      •  He would have won at almost any point in history. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        People have been making "peak X" claims for literally millenia.  Read the above link.

        •  And I've gotten better every single time (5+ / 0-)

          again, proving my immortality.

          •  Wanna bet? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I'm serious.

            (Note: the "gonna run out completely" is pretty implausible, but the "peak" is just a fact of nature. Every resource will have its peak production at some point in human history, and some of those peaks will come before there is a superior replacement. Pointless to deny that fact. So all we're arguing about is when.)

            •  You are arguing with a true believer (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              G2geek, Cassiodorus, Akonitum

              who is ignoring the obvious.

              "It's the planet, stupid."

              by FishOutofWater on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:42:27 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  what's also scary is that true believers (5+ / 0-)

                in limitless growth can be found here on this site.   This is supposed to be the reality-based world.  The ideology of limitless growth can be reduced logically to the proposition that a part can be larger than the whole, or that an infinity can be a subset of an integer.  The true believers may as well be arguing that the earth is flat or that the sun orbits the earth.  

                This is worse than creationism: at least creationism, in and of itself, isn't killing us.  

                •  Might I recommend Robert Heinlein's... (4+ / 0-)

                  Revolt in 2100, which predicted an American Theocracy, something that the "religious right" has been doing its damndest to realize.  Published in 1953, he even managed to capture the corrupt nature of the leaders of such a movement.  Spot on and damned scary.

                  "Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." James Madison, Federalist No. 10.

                  by Mike McL on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 11:27:59 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Well argued. It's hard to keep up with science (0+ / 0-)

                  and the growth of technology. Even the growth of ideas, which are a nearly infinite intangible resource becomes hard to manage. We become more and more specialized with the growth of knowledge.

                  Infinite growth in things involving material substance violates the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of mass/energy.

                  "It's the planet, stupid."

                  by FishOutofWater on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 06:17:17 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  they must be listening to that idiot george noory (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  and his nutcase oil corporation callers. they claim that oil is renewable, that we'll never run out because it is constantly replenishing itself. yadayadayadayada........ how fucking brainless does one have to be? i have had two idiots in the laast few months tell me that there's no such thing as peak oil because they heard it on coast-to-coast. okay... an cartman has an 80' satellite dish that came out of his ass too, i have proof...


                  impeachment-it does the body good impeachment-it isn't just for blow jobs anymore impeachment-i can say no more i expect no less

                  by playtonjr on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 06:26:50 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

              •  No, it's someone who looks at what has happened (0+ / 0-)

                hunderds of times over the centuries, with always the same outcome. As opposed to you, who believes that something is going to happen in the future.

                Vote for McCain to continue the fight against al-Qaeda, vote for Obama to finish it. </war&gt

                by Calouste on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:47:07 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Sorry - (3+ / 0-)

              substitutability isn't infinite.

              "Ohhh. Great warrior? Wars not make one great." -- Yoda

              by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 09:24:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  If you don't care about statistics, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Then that's your problem.  The rest of us will live in the real world where statistics is the way you approach problems.  And again, please read the link, and the two linked pages (peak lithium and peak oil), so that I don't have to repeat all of my arguments from there over here.  

            •  In the real world (0+ / 0-)

              statistics are the way you approach problems in which overall change can be abstracted away in some manner. And for the other problems, the most common approach is surprise. Followed by denial, followed by premature anticipation, followed by correct anticipation.

              If you really can't think of any examples where statistics just didn't / wouldn't have worked, I'm really sorry for you.

              •  And you apparently think that ancedotes (0+ / 0-)

                Are equivalent to statistics.  Thanks for reinforcing my point.

                •  Oh, come on. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  For any given number of sigma, there is some dataset which is later broken by an n-sigma event. Make n high enough, and there are not enough seconds in the history of humanity to produce such an anecdote.

                  For instance: you are now sitting however many miles away, responding to my messages within seconds. Before the telegraph, measure the bandwidth for communication at this speed. Measure once every day for 10 years, from 1509 to 1519, you get a data series that looks like this: 0 bits/day, 1 bit/day (luck), 0 bits/day, 0 bits/day..... standard deviation: 1 or two bits. Now this message is so many sigma off, it is more than anecdotally different.

                  Sure, that's a stupid example, because we all know what changed. And that's my simple point. Things sometimes change. The future is sometimes different from the past. To say that statistics prove otherwise is stupid.

                  •  Yes, sometimes things do change (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    But the greater the number of datapoints, the lower the odds of it changing are.  And we have a truly massive number of datapoints here.

                    The impressive thing is how much this mirrors pretty much all of the doomsayers of the past.  Noticed how pretty much everything under the sun is supposed to magically run out in 10-30 years?  That's exactly what the past doomsayers were saying -- repeatedly, over and over, throughout history, documented back as far as Roman times (which lead to the advance of ruina montium mining, their equivalent of mountaintop removal).  And nothing under the sun ran out.  Not one or two things, but nothing.  Prices fluctuate, sometimes dramatically, but overall, as it has always been, the long term trend of prices on resources is downward.  Betting against that is betting against a huge dataset that says just the opposite.

                    And there's a reason for this, too.  The game of "technology versus ease of access" is way biased in favor of technology, because just a tiny bit of technology improvement equals a lot more reserves at a given price point.  Likewise, just a slight increase in price point also equals a lot more reserves.  The natural distribution of resources is such that the best deposits are extremely rare, the next best are far more common, the next best still are far more common still, and so forth.  This leads to exponential scaling of reserves.

                    •  Do you know what an index fossil is? (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Cassiodorus, C Barr

                      And can you explain why there are index fossils?

                      That website is utterly moronic bullshit that ignores human and geologic history. Many human civilizations have hit natural limits and crashed.

                      The geologic record is littered with species that hit natural limits.

                      Your use of the pejorative "doomsayers" shows your ignorance.

                      "It's the planet, stupid."

                      by FishOutofWater on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:14:16 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  What do index fossils have to do with anything? (0+ / 0-)

                        You think pterosaurs died out because they couldn't find a good source to mine baryte?

                        Will you actually address my arguments about technology versus reserves scaling factors?

                        I tell you, there is no glory in being a doomslayer.  I'm not doing this for my health, that's for sure.

                        •  Species are dying at mass extinction rates (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          C Barr

                          We are mining more than metals.

                          Your economic arguments are utter idiocy. The earth's resources are finite. Just because substitution works for most products doesn't mean it works for everything.

                          I know geologic history. I know a little human history. You don't seem to.

                          I have a diary in the works that will show what I'm talking about. Your "doomslayer" shit is moronic. The earth is littered with the fossils of species that grew explosively then went rapidly extinct.

                          "It's the planet, stupid."

                          by FishOutofWater on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 09:23:27 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  "The Earth's Resources are Finite" (0+ / 0-)

                            You're right.  There's only 3.3 to 11.6 quintillion kilograms of lithium in the Earth's crust, for example.  We're going to mine through that all, right?

                            No, of course not.  So, unless that's your argument, that we're going to use up quintillions of kilograms of resource, what you actually mean to be arguing about is that it's going to get too hard to extract.  But then that just goes back to the technology versus ease of extraction race, which technology always wins due to scaling factors.

                            The earth is littered with the fossils of species that grew explosively then went rapidly extinct.

                            "Rapidly" as in "millions of years".  And this has absolutely nothing to do with resource extraction; it has to do with shifting niches.

                            The current extinction waves, mind you, are far faster, and are almost entirely our fault.  Ever since humans have evolved, we've been a disaster for planetary biodiversity.

                          •  Extinction relates to sustainability (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            C Barr

                            Technology isn't magic. It requires energy and other resources. Exponential growth is not sustainable.

                            Index fossils went extinct in less that millions of years. They disappear suddenly. Shifting niches don't explain global extinction of widespread species.

                            As far as resources go, water has been the most critical to humans, not lithium or coltan.

                            The Anasazi disappeared, probably because of droughts. This story happened over and over in human history.

                            As for your ridiculous arguments about dispersed elements, there are millions of tons of platinum and iridium in the earth's core. Sure, I pulled that number out of thin air, but it makes no difference. That platinum isn't accessible.

                            "It's the planet, stupid."

                            by FishOutofWater on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:01:01 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  "Less than a million years" (0+ / 0-)

                            Homo sapiens has existed for a mere 250,000 years, and human civilization about 10,000.  The timeperiods are nothing comparable.  And unless those index fossil species were participating in resource extraction, you're talking in non-sequiteurs.

                            As for your ridiculous arguments about dispersed elements, there are millions of tons of platinum and iridium in the earth's core. Sure, I pulled that number out of thin air, but it makes no difference. That platinum isn't accessible.

                            I specifically mentioned the crust, which is only 1% of the Earth, and only extends 20-30 miles down -- i.e., within the distant reach of continually advancing technology.  Cut it down to the top 2-3 miles, similar depths to what we currently do for oil extraction (say, in-situ solvent mining), roughly a tenth the volume, and you've "only" got a couple hundred quadrillion kilograms.  I could cover just the oceans, if you'd like; if I recall correctly, that's "only" tens of quadrillions of kilograms  (I can dig up the exact numbers if you need them).  And we can extract lithium from seawater, current, minimally-developed tech, for only about 6 times the price we extract it from brine pools presently.  With current, minimally-developed tech.

                          •  No one but you brought up lithium (0+ / 0-)

                            It's the concept of limitless growth and unlimited resources that I'm arguing against, not someone's false claims about lithium.

                            I am far more interested in environmental limits, especially food, water, and biodiversity, on the sustainability of civilization than running out of metals.  However, geologic processes concentrate metals by huge factors in many cases to form ore bodies. The amount of energy required to extract metals from poorer and poorer ores will become a physical limit.

                            If energy itself isn't the limit, the pollution from the energy production - global warming - becomes the limit.

                            Your argument is physically and mathematically ridiculous. The planet's resources are finite and they're interconnected.

                            "It's the planet, stupid."

                            by FishOutofWater on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 06:30:58 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Before rejecting Re's ideas (0+ / 0-)

                            Before rejecting Re's ideas out of hand, I suggest you read his piece on the nanowire battery. I think he is the only one on this site who has written about the work of Dr. Yu Chi at Stanford. Altho Chi faces a media blackout, the Saudis are well aware of what his battery design could do to replace oil, as Re describes in his piece.


                            While limiting growth is an ideal goal, in the meantime the entire world is rushing to follow America's example. And if China and all the rest build their consumer societies on petroleum, we're all finished. And China, for one, is certainly not going to stop expanding of its own volition. The only way out is to find an alternative to oil - and that is available through wind, solar, geothermal, but only Yu Chi's work cited above by Re offers a possibility of powering cars and trucks with electricity over substantial distances

                          •  Re, I was just reading your March 15 diary (0+ / 0-)

                            I'm not really responding to your comment here, but I do want to tell you that I was just reading your March diary "The Kingdom and the Ion" and this issue deserves far wider coverage, at least here on Kos.

                            As far I can tell, you are the only one on this site who has written about Yu Chi's work on the nanowire battery. This is so important that I'd like to see it get much more attention.

                            And I'd like to see Obama take some very specific positions on the road forward toward 100% renewable energy. At the very least promising federal support for Yu Chi so that the future of this technology does not fall entirely into the hands of the Saudis, whose motives are, at the very least, not identical with those of the US and the rest of the oil-consuming world.

                            Perhaps we could work with some of the other Kossacks who are aware of the crucial importance of this technology to build some interest? But how?

                          •  Lithium is your best example. (0+ / 0-)

                            And was NOT mentioned in the diary.

                            I know, if you go for the heavier stuff, it is still hundreds of trillions of kilos, or hundreds of millions of tons. Still, let's be fair.

                      •  But we haven't reach our natural limits (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        we've only reach the limits imposed on us by remaining a single planet species.

                        •  Fat chance fixing up Mars (0+ / 0-)

                          Your local fixer upper planet.

                          But, in theory, you're correct.

                          "It's the planet, stupid."

                          by FishOutofWater on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 09:25:03 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  We don't need to go to mars (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            1.  The biggest problem is, ultimately, about energy - Space Based Solar Power, which can provide substantial energy, to clean up the planet, and enable massive recycling, can be obtained by orbital platforms.
                            1.  Mineral resources of particularly rare metals, like platinum, have a high likelyhood of being found on the moon, and are definitely found on asteroids, and there are multiple NEOs that potentially could be tapped, as are other rare metals, like Iridium.  

                            We can fix up this planet, while developing space, and then work on mars.

                    •  Really, do you wanna bet? (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      lemming22, FishOutofWater

                      The costs of moving to the next-rarer deposit, in a world where population density (and thus pollution costs) is increasing (also exponentially) is not always incremental. For instance, oil-from-coal might have been great for Hitler, but  I would bet anything that such production will never equal current oil production, because the CO2 consequences would be intolerable. I will make a simple bet: name your period N, I will choose a time between N and 2N, and at that time daily oil production will be lower (in absolute terms) than it is today. If you're willing to go to per-capita terms, I am willing to throw in biofuels and all equivalent liquid energy.

                      •  Ah, that's the rub, you see (0+ / 0-)

                        The fact that we're able to get something cheaper doesn't necessarily mean that we will, because we can always make choices that will make it harder.  And CO2 is a great example of that.  We can ignore global warming.  We can say, "screw the arctic", and let that be that.  Heck, we'd ultimately profit more from all that melt.  Economic prosperity doesn't equate to environmental prosperity.  

                        We could make all our oil from coal.  And coal liquefaction is a heck of a lot cheaper now than it was during WWII; Germany only relied on it because they had no other choice.  But we'd also be condemning the arctic in the process.  Rather, I support peak oil, but in the form of a demand peak.  I want to see us move to electrified transportation as soon as possible for the health of the planet.

                        •  Cheaper? (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          FishOutofWater, Akonitum

                          Ah, I see. You mean, "cheaper, as long as you are able to successfully externalize most costs."

                          Well, yes, I guess we actually do agree then. But I still prefer my definition of "cheaper".

                        •  We'd profit from the melt? (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          Except of course the tens of millions (minimum) who died.

                          It looks as if you really are not buying the infinite-growth anti-environmental bullshit, as if you really are a reasonable person. Please consider, then, that your "doomslaying" stance is a very useful figleaf for the true bullshitters. "Metals will always be cheaper" is one thing, and may be true, but "we can profit from arctic meltdown" is dangerous talk (unless you clearly state that you mean in a million years or so, when biodiversity recovers).

                          Being righter than the doomsayers is not the only goal. The other goal is helping humanity act morally. Being a useful know-it-all for the Republicans is just as bad as being a useful fool.

              •  I really have gotten sick (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                over 50 times, and every single time I've gotten better. Immortal city, baby.

                •  Statistically, (0+ / 0-)

                  Everyone gets sick many dozens of times in their life, then dies.

                  Wake me up when you're actually a statistical outlier, having gotten sick and recovered about ten thousand times or so.

                  Just because you don't know how to use statistics doesn't make them inaccurate.

                  •  And statistically (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    every planet which attains civilization predicts a significant, permanent, relative shortage of resource X many times, then attains it.

                    You cannot tell me that you actually have an SPSS database which includes viking bog iron, ancient japanese potassium prices, and modern oil prices, and can tell me the standard deviation on how long price increases versus price decreases last. Your "statistics" is just hand-waving.

                    I just today got the grades back for my statistics class, and I was the highest grade in the class - OK, that is a stupid anecdote, because it was a basic statistics course that I was just taking as a requirement for my masters (easier than getting equivalencies from out-of-country), while I have had 2 different jobs where statistics was my main job responsibility. But you really do need a better argument than just "statistics prove!!!". The web page you point out is very right about lithium, so what. About oil, it makes a good argument that peak != exhaustion, which I already said is true. But peaks are real.

                    If you do want to use a "Math proves!" argument, then the best guess is that, for any given resource which has not yet peaked, we are somewhere between 2.5% and 97.5% of the way to the peak. This is true for about 95% of the resources and false for the other ~5%.

                    •  So Hubbert's Peak may be hyperbolic (3+ / 0-)

                      not a bell shaped curve. So what. Oil production peaks either way.

                      This argument is idiotic because the earth's resources are finite and elements cannot be fabricated. There is no substitute for a number of elements and compounds.

                      "It's the planet, stupid."

                      by FishOutofWater on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:18:16 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Oil production will only peak from demand (0+ / 0-)

                        Unless you believe in peak energy.  And if that's the case, boy, where do we start!

                        Oil can be outright made.  It doesn't have to be an energy source.  In fact, as far as energy sources go, it's really, really expensive, many times more expensive per joule than other competing energy sources.  Turning it into a sink wouldn't be that big of a difference.  Heck, you can even make "green gasoline" if you make your syngas from partial oxidation of biomass.  Or carbon neutral if your CO2 source for Sabatier is from sequestration.

                        As for total quantities of elements, I suggest you look up their ppm or ppb quantities on the planet and compare that to the mass of just the outer couple miles of the Earth's crust.

                      •  But why limit ourselves to terrestrial resources? (0+ / 0-)

                        no text

                      •  Fallacy... (0+ / 0-)

                        There is no substitute for a number of elements and compounds.

                        If the price gets high enough, there will be a substitute. Humans are a creative and inventive species.

                        Vote for McCain to continue the fight against al-Qaeda, vote for Obama to finish it. </war&gt

                        by Calouste on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:37:51 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                      •  "elements cannot be fabricated."? (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        Atomic fusion passed you by?

                        Vote for McCain to continue the fight against al-Qaeda, vote for Obama to finish it. </war&gt

                        by Calouste on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:44:12 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                    •  every planet which attains civilization predicts (0+ / 0-)

                      Wow.  I've seen a lot of people around here go from a sample size of one, but you're now making predictions from a sample size of zero.  That's a new low.

                      You cannot tell me that you actually have an SPSS database which includes viking bog iron, ancient japanese potassium prices, and modern oil prices

                      Actually, we can look at what it took to extract resources in ancient societies.  The yields per hour of labor with most primitive mining techniques were abyssmal.  The techniques were generally quite inefficient, too.  Not rare were the societies that devoted considerable effort to deforesting their landscape for wood to fuel a horribly inefficient process of lime production.  Stuff that we now annually produce over a hundred million tons of with hardly a blip on our economic radar.

                      ?we are somewhere between 2.5% and 97.5% of the way to the peak. This is true for about 95% of the resources and false for the other ~5%

                      The earth's crust, for a given element, generally contains many cubic miles of the stuff.  The total resource base of virtually any mineral is virtually inexhaustible, so the only argument you can make is ease of extraction.  And that comes down to the battle between technology and ease of extraction, which, as discussed, is way biased in favor of technology.  I love how you just made up numbers on the spot, though -- that's cute.

                      •  No, those numbers are not made up (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        they are a priori.

                        (the part about civilizations was facetious. I was trying to make you see that YOUR sample size of futures-from-present-conditions is actually zero, not actually claiming I had any samples).

                        I am saying that peaks exist, a priori. Some peaks will correspond with finding a better replacement; some peaks will correspond with the overall human population peak (which, for earthbound population - that is, essentially all population for the foreseeable future - will almost certainly occur within the next 150 years); and some peaks will be extraction-bound (or pollution-bound, which in my mind is equivalent, because I am an optimist about our ability to eventually price in externalities). We are only arguing about the relative proportions. You are making a (very non-statistical, but still valid) argument that no peaks will be extraction-bound; I am saying that your a priori arguments are not as universal as you claim, due both to increasing human population (cannot be abstracted to a relative increase and thus compared to past - absolute numbers are key here) and possibly to idiosyncratic issues with particular resources.

                        We really have passed peak whale oil. And there was a real price increase in lighting technology that lasted for a non-negligible time. This is in spite of the fact that there are many other biological and nonbiological sources for lighting oil. Yes, those sources did mean that prices did not (and will not) rise infinitely. But neither did they come back down for a significant time. "Overall trend is down" may be true, but if the trend for my baby daughter's lifetime is up, I do not care.

                        •  But it's not zero (0+ / 0-)

                          We have countless examples of how ancients extracted resources.  And they all were way, way lower production rates than what we have nowadays.  

                          We really have passed peak whale oil.

                          Life is not mineral.  It behaves by completely different rules.  There are not quintillions of kilograms of whales buried throughout the Earth's crust that can be mined up, with varying degrees of difficulty.  There is no Moby-Dick Process for turning CO2 and H2 into whales.  It's an entirely different situation.

                          •  there are billions (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            of kilograms of biological oils throughout the biosphere, which can (could have) be harvested, and in fact were harvested. Lighting costs still went up.

                            Zero datapoints from now going forward. Statistical generalization from the past is not necessarily valid.

                            Personally, I consider myself unique, and I am able to reconstruct a large dataset of my heartbeat delays. This unbiased data set says that the sigma is significantly less than 1 second. The chances of my ever going over 20 seconds without a heartbeat are negligibly low, I calculate it will be at least the age of the universe before this happens. I am immortal! (Yes, you can easily demolish that argument, because your data set of mortal humans is greater than zero. Your data set of planetary civilization outcomes, mortal or immortal, is zero however, so statistics does not help us in this argument. Your reducing resources are my repeating heartbeats - yet when I die, it will not be just a one-in-a-billion-heartbeats perturbation, it will be an infinite sigma variation - statistically speaking, totally impossible.)

                          •  Statistics, oils (0+ / 0-)

                            of kilograms of biological oils throughout the biosphere

                            Well, if you're talking about switching sources, why yes, that does indeed happen!  That's a demand-based peak, not a supply-based peak.  But if you want to specifically focus on whales, well, that's not even remotely close to an analogue to mineral extraction.

                            Lighting costs still went up.

                            And your reference for that is...?  The link you linked to does not say that.  Now, here's my reference, a peer-reviewed study on lighting costs in UK for the past seven centuries, that shows that in inflation-adjusted dollars, they've not only gone down, but significantly.  And that even whale oil lighting costs went down (figure 4).  

                            Statistical generalization from the past is not necessarily valid.

                            Statistical generalizations from the past is the only kind of statistics there is.

                            Your reducing resources are my repeating heartbeats

                            No, they're not.  There are billions of ready counterexamples to your immortality claims.  In fact, we have an incredibly statistically significant population that says that you're not immortal.   Even on the subject of heartbeat rates, there's already plenty of study voiding your immortality claims. Now, what do you have for the long-term downward resource price trend in terms of a statistically significant number of counterexamples?

                          •  OK (0+ / 0-)

                            your reference beats mine on the whale oil; although I am puzzled by the apparent inconsistency (might mine be so silly as not to account for inflation?) yours is clearly more general and shows the negligible place whale oil occupied.

                            Let me be clear about the cheaper resources and the heartbeats, though. I of course acknowledge that I'm not really immortal, it's a reductio ad absurdem of your claims. I am saying that, if I were a human raised by robots (or anything else without a heart) in ignorance of humanity, I would, by your logic, be justified in concluding my own immortality, and ignoring all non-statistical arguments that I might be mortal. I would have a bulletproof set of statistics - millions of heartbeats, with a relatively low variability in their interval. Clearly, no matter how bulletproof my statistics, I would be wrong. The same statistical fallacy is possible with your ever-cheaper resources.

                            So we are reduced to non-statistical argumentation, like your exponential distribution argument (which I accept, in its weakest form: for a large majority of resources, there are acceptable substitute sources that are several or many times more common but only a relatively small increment or factor harder to get), and my increasing-costs-of-pollution-due-to-population-density argument.

                            One thing is beyond argument: if human history is finite, every given resource must have peak production at some specific time in that history. I believe that this will be because economic models which assume permanent growth will someday break in some fundamental way. I further believe that this breakage will not be monolithic and cataclysmic, but will be observable in an accumulation of various small symptoms over at least a few decades, and that some of these symptoms will be "peak"-type processes with a set of resources, of which oil is clearly the most important.

                            There are valid ways of arguing about this possibility, some of which you have engaged in; historical statistics are simply not one of them. Let's not try to settle the deeper questions; but I would like to agree on at least that one point.

    •  Defactor Peak vs Literal Peak (0+ / 0-)

      As is the case with Atlantic and Pacific OffShore(Not counting GOM) it is simply not worth it.

      Saying the Iraq "Surge" worked is like saying Thelma & Louise had a flying car.

      by JML9999 on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:17:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Huh. Rei, I see you wrote those Wiki pieces. nt (5+ / 0-)

      "The most significant difference between now and a decade ago is the ... rapid erosion of spare capacities at critical segments of energy chains." Cheney, 2001

      by Akonitum on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:39:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Heh <> (0+ / 0-)

        "He not busy being born is busy dying." R. Zimmerman

        by RUKind on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:52:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  How observant of you (0+ / 0-)

        To notice that I wrote my own website.

        •  "'Nuff said," Rei said, linking to his own site. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Evidently not.

          Oil can be outright made.  It doesn't have to be an energy source.  In fact, as far as energy sources go, it's really, really expensive, many times more expensive per joule than other competing energy sources.  Turning it into a sink wouldn't be that big of a difference. -- Rei

          "Turning it into a sink wouldn't be that big of a difference." What a statement, Rei. That's beauty. And "really, really expensive, many more times expensive per joule than other competing resources?" Ah-huh.

          At any rate, a few people may enjoy reading Herman Daly's response to Julian Simon.

          Techno-cornucopians like Simon played an important role -- along with industry -- in squelching Carter's alternative energy initiatives, because, after all, just as people were beginning to realize there could be "Limits to Growth," techno-cornucopians -- with industry help -- stepped in with zeal and the appearance of expertise to say, "no problem." Simon still gets prominent billing at the Cato Institute.

          "The most significant difference between now and a decade ago is the ... rapid erosion of spare capacities at critical segments of energy chains." Cheney, 2001

          by Akonitum on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:53:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  That's a very silly example (6+ / 0-)

      There are real limits in the world, ones that can't be cracked by the application of desire, false assertions of statistical proof, or blind faith that the market offers perpetual salvation.

      If Simon and Ehrlich had simply made their wager a few years later, the results would have been quite different.

      Ten years ago, copper was less than $1 a pound, now it's approaching $4.

      Gold was at $294.  Now it's at $933.

      Platinum was at $377.  Now it's $2,030.40

      If Simon and Ehrlich had made their bet in 1998, would you be shouting about how it proved that Ehrlich was right?

      •  Let's look at that. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        long-term copper prices, inflation-adjusted

        Platinum prices, not, inflation adjusted (the "low" value in the 1968 starting point is over $1000 in modern dollars, well above the current "high") (I was only able to find back to 1968... if you can find earlier, let's look at that, too)

        Gold prices, not, inflation adjusted (The low value in 1968 is just over $200 in modern dollars -- below the current prices, but not that much so.  However, prices back then were low because of the convertability between dollars and gold, which was suspended in 1971.  The link between currency and gold continued to be weakened -- the two-tier gold price was terminated in '72, US citizens were allowed to hold gold bullion in '74, the treasury started selling gold stocks in '75, and so on)

        In short, you easily lose in two of your examples, and the only one you won in, you didn't win by that much, and this only because you happened to pick what the currency used to be keyed to, but no longer is. Care to prove any more of my points for me?

        •  However, the bet you pointed to... (0+ / 0-)

          was over a 10 year term.  You indicated it as if it had significance.

          And now you're talking like the folks who want to privatize Social Security "yes, but if you extend the period to forty years"... You're purposely going back to a point where you can cherry pick your results.

          There's no doubt that people bemoan the impending shortage of materials far ahead of their real limits.  However, pretending that there are no limits, that some new source will always be discovered, is far more unrealistic.

    •  Thank you. <> (0+ / 0-)

      "He not busy being born is busy dying." R. Zimmerman

      by RUKind on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:50:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Economics is the new God of the Gaps. (0+ / 0-)
      The significant line is this:

      They also tend to either vastly underestimate human capacity to extract resources and the small percentage of the world's economy that goes into extracting any one resource (even oil)

      When the nearest well is so far away that you have to drink more water on the trip than you can carry back from it, Economics won't save you.

      This is not a hypothetical situation for a significant part of humanity.

      Disagree? Please select your reason: [ ] retard, [ ] Freeper troll, [ ] witch

      by DemCurious on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 04:51:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  true story.... (7+ / 0-)

    out driving the backroads of WV and saw a small trailer picked clean of aluminum down to the wood slats.  Not sure why they kept that part, but pretty sure I know where the alumninum went.

    Plus, billboards warning that copper wire removed from houses can electrocute you.

    Also, my next door neighbor had to run out the house one morning and pull her copper gutters off a pickup truck speeding away.  They recycled them and replaced with aluminum as less tempting.

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:05:42 PM PDT

  •  Interesting Article (7+ / 0-)

    Thanks. It goes to show that we need intelligent planning for the future, not just more stay-the-course middle-of-the-road bipartisanship that McCain, Obama, and most everyone else in power seems hell bent on pursuing.

    •  I'll bet Bu$hco has got a "faith-based" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mdgarcia, cactusflinthead

      initiative to fix this thing.  Can't trust those eliist scientists, need to start praying or maybe outsource the whole project to Halliburton.

      What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is. ~ Dan Quayle

      by CParis on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:45:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Entropy will get you in the end (6+ / 0-)

    Take metals tightly bound up into seams and disperse the contents of those seams all over the world in various devices and materials.

    Now try to recover those devices and materials into new tightly bound forms for use in further devices and materials.

    You have to borrow negentropy by converting power sources to do it, thus adding to the heat balance of the world (usually via carbon-releasing mechanisms).

    A difficult problem indeed.

    You can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into. - Jonathan Swift

    by A Mad Mad World on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:07:46 PM PDT

  •  I wonder mining sea water (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skywaker9, PBnJ, blueyedace2, ER Doc

    Actually this idea comes from a sci-fi novel long ago, but there is a lot of stuff dissolved in the ocean, gold and silver, to name a couple.  If something became expensive enough, clever scientists might figure out a way to purify metals from the residue of desalinized sea water, and we could get fresh water in the bargain.

    In the long run, there really is no other source, is there?

    The sleep of reason brings forth monsters. --Goya

    by MadScientist on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:08:11 PM PDT

    •  Stranger things have happened (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueyedace2, ER Doc

      There was a history channel show last year on how much technology was inspired by the Star Wars films.  So you never know?

      "Polls are like crack, political activists know they're bad for them but they read them anyways."-Unknown

      by skywaker9 on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:13:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Danger, Luke Skywalker 9 (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zzyzx, FishOutofWater, BrandonM

        The dark side of the force is tempting but deadly.

        So tempting to think we can keep innovating our way past the limits to growth.  Just like the people sellling the fraudulent black boxes that claim to run automobiles on water.  

        For every addict there comes a time when they stop.  Or they die.  For humanity, which shall it be?  Live within nature's limits, or keep jonesing for growth until it kills us?  

        We are going to find out within the lifetimes of most of the people on this board.  

    •  Not much silver and gold... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      skywaker9, mftalbot, ER Doc, MadScientist

      But plenty of other stuff.  You can get lithium carbonate for ~$30 a kilogram, for example, from seawater.  That's quite a bit more expensive than the current ~$5/kg, but still a tiny fraction the cost of the lithium-ion batteries you could make from it.

      You can get an idea of abundances here.

      •  Take out the hydrogen and oxygen by distillation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc

        and suddenly those parts per million get a lot higher.  Thanks for the info.

        The sleep of reason brings forth monsters. --Goya

        by MadScientist on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:28:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, lots of approaches (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rawr, Calouste

          A really interesting one is materials that do "selective absorption", allowing, say, only heavy metals, or whatnot, into their structure.  You submerge them in optimal oceanic currents.  It's actually been tested to work, and works quite well.

          People who bet against technology's advance are virtually guaranteed to lose.  You can't say any particular tech will ever pay off, but predicting that no technology would pay off, which is what these doomers are doing, is always a very bad bet.

          •  Affinity Chromatography (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Lots of resins and proteins can pull metal ions out of solution quite well. Your thyroid for instance can absorb iodine pretty handily. This is also done routinely on an industrial scale. And there are a variety of electrochemical techniques that would work well in sea water.

          •  the issue right now seems to be (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cassiodorus, C Barr

            more "will we find the needed technology before the squeeze causes major disruptions?" rather than "is there a technological solution?"

            The US consumption per dollar GDP and per capita have both declined since 1970, in the case of the GDP it's halved.  What has happened to the adjusted price of oil in that time? (ignoring the recent run-up, if you wish)

            We've a still growing global population, with the population consuming increasing amounts per capita.  This is stressing a large number of systems at the same time, restricting choices.  We're running low on easy-to-extract sources of X, so we can expend larger amounts of energy to extract X from lower grade sources, or substitute Y.  But energy is costing more, and Y has other applications that are putting pressure on the supply of it.

            In past cases of resource squeezes a switch could be made to a previously unused substitute, or find new supplies elsewhere - colonies in regions of lower tech that weren't using the resource or were not too difficult to overwhelm, or fight neighbors for access to resources, or have our civilization come unglued.  

            Civilizations did collapse, Easter Island may be a good example of resource exhaustion that did not have a technological solution within the constraints  of the society.  Germany and Japan both went for resources in WW-II. Coal was a replacement for charcoal, then N American timber and naval stores, when the European forests were overstressed.

            But there doesn't seem to be any certain cheap new source of energy, previously unused and not needing any materials not in high demand.  No regions of the world that are backwards enough to have untapped resources and unable to fight back. Civilization is a bit more brittle now, a much higher percentage of people live in urban areas rather in rural, and much fewer people farm but rather are dependent on the complex systems to produce and transport food to them.

            There were food shortages in England before the plagues reduced the population, a couple of centuries later there was technology to some the food problems that were reappearing as the population recovered.  The 'solution' to the problem had been malnutrition, then a massive die-off, and a rather unpleasant period of time, and finally the better methods.  For those at the front end of that, there was no solution from their viewpoint, they couldn't care what happened after they were dead as it failed to help them.

      •  25 Billion ounces of gold (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but it's too dilute to be of economic value although the total value is many trillions of dollars.

        "It's the planet, stupid."

        by FishOutofWater on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:41:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Haven't the Isrealis and Saudis relied on (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      desalinization for years? On the negative side, on the Mexican border they used brackish water to irrigate and managed to salt the land so now it is barren.

      •  Desalination required oil until recently. (5+ / 0-)

        Australia now has a desalination plant running on wind energy, but it is the first of its kind.

        The others all require combustion of fossil fuels.

        There are rules, laws, and the rule of law. George W. Bush has disregarded all three.

        by geodemographics on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:16:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The require energy (0+ / 0-)

          thats not the same thing as saying they require oil, and there is plenty of energy, if we consider off planet resources.

          •  Off planet resources (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            FerrisValyn, spencerh

            Lunar Solar Power

            Solar power bases will be built on the Moon that collect a small fraction of the Moon's dependable solar power and convert it into power beams that will dependably deliver lunar solar power to receivers on Earth. On Earth each power beam will be transformed into electricity and distributed, on-demand, through local electric power grids. Each terrestrial receiver can accept power directly from the Moon or indirectly, via relay satellites, when the receiver cannot view the Moon. The intensity of each power beam is restricted to 20%, or less, of the intensity of noontime sunlight. Each power beam can be safely received, for example, in an industrially zoned area.

            Finding your own Voice -- The personal is political!

            by In her own Voice on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 09:14:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What about the birds that will fly (0+ / 0-)

              ....through that beam?

              you were sick, but now you're well again and there's work to do- vonnegut

              by zzyzx on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 10:14:46 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  what about people? (0+ / 0-)

                That is not a question I can answer.  I am only searching for solutions to a massive die-off of the human population if we cannot make a transition from fossil based fuels to renewable energy before a collapse.

                Birds have been here longer than us and will probably be here when we are gone. Sorry if you don't like my priorities.

                Finding your own Voice -- The personal is political!

                by In her own Voice on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 11:26:40 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Well, you know that the Colorado river used to (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zzyzx, FishOutofWater

        reach the Sea of Cortez and it didn't use to be brackish.  The Rio Grande didn't used to be a disgusting smelly creek before it reached Las Cruces.  There was some American involvement in the Mexican border problems.

        The sleep of reason brings forth monsters. --Goya

        by MadScientist on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 09:54:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  A troubling question (0+ / 0-)

      Zinc and copper are essential for plant and animal life (includes us).  They are important for the functions of proteins, enzymes. See effects of copper and zinc deficiency at the links.

      So once we have extracted all the mineable zinc and copper and start depleting the eco-system of these elements - how is it going to affect our food sources for these elements?  We can live without a flat screen TV, we can find a substitute for copper wires. But we cannot replace our molecular biology.

    •  not really and here's why (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zzyzx, spencerh, RJP9999

      Mining seawater requires energy inputs.  At some point the demand for raw materials reaches a level where there is not enough energy to support that in addition to the other processes needed to keep that population fed and watered and etc.  

      Bottom line is we have already reached the limits to growth.  Rather than trying to figure out ways to eke out one more "fix" to keep the habit going, it's time to reduce population and reduce consumption levels.  

      The Journal of Interesting Times

      •  In fairness... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...while I agree with your larger point, it is worth noting that most metal/mineral recovery from saltwater relies on the Sun to evaporate water, thus making the remaining volume more concentrated. This is already being done extensively at Salt Lake in Utah.

        you were sick, but now you're well again and there's work to do- vonnegut

        by zzyzx on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 10:19:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  that helps somewhat.... (0+ / 0-)

          Solar evaporation certainly helps quite a bit, and could possibly even be used for limited desalination; however, exponential growth is still the deal-killer in the end.  

          At this point we need to regard all of our tech fixes as similar to being on life support in the hospital.   They may give us enough time to cure the underlying disease of growth-ism.  Or not, if the "fever" gets out of control.  

    •  Well, Tom Swift did it (0+ / 0-)

      a long time ago.

      I read about it in a book that I don't have any more . . . but it must be in a library soewhere . . . they cannot have found and destroyed all the copies . . . maybe hidden in a basement at the Vatican ? ? ?

  •  With Peak Metals... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PBnJ, blueyedace2, CParis, RJP9999

    in fifty years if we don't have new resources or sophiticated reclamation of metals, would it even be possible to have a society above the level of technology we saw in the post-apocolyptic film Mad Max?

    "Ich bin schwul, und das ist auch gut so." ("I am gay, and that is a good thing") - Klaus Wowereit, Mayor of Berlin

    by desertguy on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:08:30 PM PDT

    •  society collapses in some areas (5+ / 0-)

      resulting in reduced demand, and possibly provided new supplies from their debris. Other regions are thus able to pull through. Kinda rough if you happen to live in an area that comes apart early on.

      •  exactly. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zzyzx, wondering if

        Those of us who are aware of these issues need to get to places where knowledge will be preserved.

        Typical case: a small town with a small university, surrounded by agriculturally viable areas that are underpopulated relative to their carrying capacity.  And this needs to be in an area that will survive the climate crisis.  

        The Journal of Interesting Times

        •  And with... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ...a defendable perimeter.

          you were sick, but now you're well again and there's work to do- vonnegut

          by zzyzx on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 10:21:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  d'oh! how did I forget that?! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Yes, absolutely, a defensible perimeter.  Community defense in-depth (CDID) is a topic I've written quite a bit about, and will probably publish some of that on my site.  Key points: Support the existing system of law and justice, it's your best line of defense against hostiles.  Strengthen regional economic trade relations to keep the peace.  Diplomacy and intelligence are critical to preventing unknowns turning into threats.  

            Also, important to avoid places where local cultural conditions are inherently hostile.  For example you don't want to end up nestled in the midst of an area where the local culture is bigoted against your (or anyone in your group's) particular minorities.  

            As for the risk of local criminal elements (e.g. meth labs in rural areas), that's where "proactive defense" comes in.  Starting with being willing to assist local law enforcement where & as needed.  

            •  Looking forward (0+ / 0-)

     reading your thoughts on this topic- this is something I have been trying to get myself into a position to move forward with for a few years now. Money is, as always, a huge issue.

              Intentional communities will almost certainly have the best odds of survival once 'it' hits the fan in a big way.

              you were sick, but now you're well again and there's work to do- vonnegut

              by zzyzx on Mon Jul 07, 2008 at 06:18:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Know how much energy the internet consumes? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueyedace2, geodemographics

    How much was required to build it?


    There's something attractive about invincible ignorance... for the first 5 seconds.

    by MNPundit on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:09:28 PM PDT

    •  Do you know how much it saves? (8+ / 0-)

      In terms of eliminating paper waste, the technology the internet has driven has saved huge amounts of money on paper. My company no longer sends out paper invoices, unless the customer specifically asks for them. That's over a quarter of a million sheets of paper [and toner] a year, right there. Other operations within the company that used huge paper reports that had to be mailed back and forth years ago are now transmitted electronically.

      Some [should be more] people telecommute, eliminating the need to physically travel to work. And yet many more order stuff on line, rather than get in their vehicles to go shopping.

      So yes .. it's staggering.

      Just make sure you include both sides of the balance sheet.

      "You know what the real fight is? The real fight is the definition of what is reality." Bernie Sanders

      by shpilk on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:55:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I haven't seen any studies (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'd guess there's a fair savings of paper. My guess is based on the fact that there's been a near-3000-year human love affair with paper and that addiction is hard to break. I still see people print out emails that they never use for anything.

        Add to that, the fact that the carbon footprint of an avatar in Second Life is equivalent to that of a typical Brazilian (averaged across all classes).

        So technology saves and technology takes away.

        Chaos. It's not just a theory.

        by PBnJ on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:27:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  How much? You going to stop using it now? (0+ / 0-)


      Dana Curtis Kincaid Ad Astra per Aspera! The enemy is not man, the enemy is stupidity.

      by angrytoyrobot on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:23:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Finally (9+ / 0-)

    the golden age of asteroid mining is about to dawn. Forget video wristwatch phones, this is the REAL future.

    (all snark aside, are any of these elements in higher concentrations in asteroids? I think that the denser something is, in its most common compounds, the more likely it is to be easier to find on asteroids, because here on earth it sinks to the core. But there is no easy relation between atomic number and density of common compounds.)

    •  There may be an answer (7+ / 0-)

      Asteroid mining is not the only thing waiting in the wings for a real space industrial revolution; solar power satellites could do a lot for the energy crunch. As for how many asteroids we'd need, chances are not that many - if we find the right ones.  

      The timing is interesting, because we might be within reach of the technology that could give us the solar system. PDF file here. Yup, Polywell fusion power.

      I see someone has suggested extracting needed minerals from the oceans. The problem is  the volumes of seawater to be processed. While I don't have a table of relative abundances in front of me, I'm fairly sure it'd not be too difficult to calculate how much per cubic centimeter per desired element. Again, fusion power might make that possible.

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:30:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Electric Solar Wind Sail (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        xaxnar, angrytoyrobot, dotcommodity

        Another technology that might "give" us the solar system:

        Electric Solar Wind Sail  

        Finding your own Voice -- The personal is political!

        by In her own Voice on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:09:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I want to buy a Polywell right now, how much? (0+ / 0-)

        Don't have one?  How about guaranteed specifications and delivery schedules, and I'll put money down up front.

        In the mean time, I'll sell you a herd of unicorns to provide power for you initiatives.

        I've never seen a full analysis for powersat power that gives a positive energy return in many decades, nor that treats the environmental impact of all the launches needed.

        Solutions that haven't proven themselves to work, a sustained over unity fusion reaction for example, really shouldn't be considered solutions any more than Keely's devices.  Proposed solutions with reasonable theoretical support should not be ignored, and even supported, but until they demonstrate they can deliver they are not solutions any more than the herd of unicorns.

        •  Let me make you a proposition (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Would you like to spend $200 million building a full scale Polywell prototype to prove the concept - or would you rather spend a trillion and counting to grab Iraq's oil for however long it lasts? We know its there after all, so I guess that puts it in the category of proven answers.

          All I promised you was that there might be an answer; but everything so far looks like it is worth following up. As of right now, the movie Wall E has racked up at the box office nearly half the amount of money that's needed (PDF File) according to one estimate to build such a machine. It's not like what's left of the American economy couldn't fund such work and never miss it. Hell - it'd cost the American people less than John McCain's battery prize.

          Considering the potential pay off - and just how grim things are starting to look - do we really want to wait to find out if this will work or not? All I seem to see in your argument is stasis and delay. How exactly do you propose to prove what will work and what won't if you don't wish to make the effort in the first place to find out?

          We no longer have the luxury of time, because as this diary by Devil's Tower points out, we are rapidly approaching the limits of multiple critical resources. IF we can get working fusion power on line, it may not solve those shortages, but it will make it a lot easier to deal with them.

          One more point. IF Bussard's hopes for the Polywell reactor as a fusion powered drive for space craft work out, all your analyses about the cost, etc. of building the needed space infrastructure for solar power satellites and such become so much scrap paper.

          "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

          by xaxnar on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:24:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  False choice (0+ / 0-)
            How about neither?  There are things (like wind power) that actually exist and have actual real factories that produce things.  And if you build enough of them now you may actually be able to afford space travel and fusion reactors when they're available.
            •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              It's not an either/or choice. BUT - they're not going to be available if we don't make the investments needed now to make them real while we still can. And we're not making those investments. Hell - we can't even get funding to support wind power or solar; the president would rather give tax credits to the oil industry.

              It's a vision/attitude thing. You can't just look at what we have now and say 'good enough' because you also have to look at what we're going to need AND start figuring out how to get there. Again, your attitude seems to be curiously passive.

              Wind and other technologies might be enough to meet our immediate needs - if we start building like crazy  - but fusion power is a resource potentially orders of magnitude greater. It will remain potential so long as no one can be bothered to do the work or fund it. And that's the real problem.

              Go take a look at this piece by Jerome a Paris and try to remain complacent.

              "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

              by xaxnar on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 07:29:24 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  "when they're available"?? (0+ / 0-)

              What sort of Peter Pan world do you live in? They'll be available—wait for it—when we build them. They aren't going to drop out of the sky. We won't accidentally discover fusion reactors under a rock somewhere.

              Wind power is suitable for some things but cannot approach coping with our energy demands. I'm talking about industrial needs here, not running your household lights and tv set.

              "They're telling us something we don't understand"
              General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

              by subtropolis on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 09:16:17 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm an engineer (0+ / 0-)
                "When available" means there are vendors.  You don't even have a prototype fusion reactor operating, let alone a viable power reactor.  So call me when you have something to build, or cheap space lifting capability, or whatever.  

                My own opinion, FWIW, is the true "Peter Pan" types are those who think that any fusion development or space exploration is going to get done if energy shortages develop.  Blue sky stuff like that is going to be the first thing shitcanned when the energy wars start.  But keep hoping for the magic.

          •  Proven answers (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Well, it's proven we've already spent a good chunk of a trillion in invading and occupying Iraq, while we haven't spent 0.2 billion to prove or disprove the Polywell concept.  Too bad Bush&Co didn't listen to me back then, nor a lot of Democrats in Congress.

            But let us say that Iran gives us the 200 million to do the project. Five years later (number from Bussard's 2006 IAC paper) over unity in D-D has been achieved, but not for commercially usable situations nor for p-12B reactions; this is what several knowledgeable supporters think is likely.  Five years after that the p-12B reaction reaches over unity for extended periods, and the first practical D-D reactor is running; another $200 million total spent for both, which is still not a large amount of money for this sort of research.

            Those time periods are not unreasonable, assuming that indeed the Polywell can function as its developers believe it can. The times come from development of fission reactors, fusion testbeds, UHV projects, and various processes in the chemical industry.  Getting from test bed to functioning commercial plant generally takes time, especially for new technologies.

            So we've sat on our collective asses for a decade, waiting for the Polywell, because all other solutions were not cool enough silly less than optimal.  No? We continued to also develop more conventional solutions in that time frame?  Exactly what I've been saying.

            If we continue with the more conventional methods, ignoring the Polywell work until it reaches a practical stage, then we've got those alternative supplies in place, still functional, just as we have both hydroelectric dams and fission reactors.  And if Polywell doesn't pan out, we've got those supplies in place, which would be a good thing to have done rather than banking on an unproven technology.

            And what if over unity is reached for D-D but not for p-B?  Now we have fusion, but with a fair amount of radiological waste from induced radiation to deal with.  Expect similar opposition as to fission reactors, slowing commercial development.

            Now, if the p-B Polywell does work, 10 to 15 years later we could have fusion powered craft to orbit, although again public opposition could be a problem.  So 15 to 25 years from now we rush off to build SPSs, which we need because we don't have any practical power sources on the ground like, say, fusion reactors...

            A functional fusion process rather cuts the legs out under the need for power satellites, because of the lower construction costs and difficulties, not to mention political squabbling with other countries.

            While you did put out several possible solutions, possible because the base technology is not proven, those were offered elsewhere and at other times as if they were existing solutions, "don't bother with that other stuff".  If you'd put 'possible' in big bold blinking caps I'd done a supportive comment, because of the potential. But big exciting solutions have a real tendency to drive out everything else while they dance with the fairies, unless a huge ugly "this could f***ing fall on its face" is included in the plan; at which point most people will ignore it.  Don't believe me?  Consider ethanol fuel and "the hydrogen economy" as examples, got everyone excited for a few years until rather recently.  Big shiny solutions, distracted a lot of people from really examining the issues.

            So let's go ahead, spend some money on Polywell research. Budget it for 500 million, to give it a cushion and a bit extra to let some side development work for commercialization go on if D-D is reached while p-B research continues. If even D-D pans out, there'll be work going on while further funding is thrashed out, instead of the stall that has happened.

    •  Prezdint Chimpy declares war on Mars! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I'll bet them Martians got some metals and shit we want.  Probably a terrist hidey hole, anyway.

      What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is. ~ Dan Quayle

      by CParis on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:47:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Space development could help us (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      buddabelly, In her own Voice

      its time to acknowledge that we need a larger house, and expand our resource base, beyond the surface of the earth

    •  doesn't work. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      In her own Voice

      The Limits to Growth (1970) explored this issue and found that even if we assume unlimited space mining, we still hit other limits and crash even harder.  

      The value of space exploration, aside from gaining scientific knowledge as such, is to find other planets on which human habitation can begin.  Not so that we can keep multiplying and consuming, but as backups to Earth in the event of an Earth-destroying event such as an asteroid hit or, eventually, the sun going going red giant and taking out the inner planets.  

      The Journal of Interesting Times

      •  Club of Rome predictions (0+ / 0-)

        Limits to Growth also pretty much predicted the collapse of civilization due to resource shortages before the year 2000.  They thought we'd have run out of all sorts of fuels and metals 10 or 20 years ago.  

        Absolutely the space advocates ignore all sorts of 2nd order costs and externalities.  But I don't think I'd take anyone's 40 year old study as proof that space-based resources aren't an option, and especially not Club of Rome.

        (one of the major figures in the LTG study was a prof of mine in grad school.  Didn't help it's credibility with me very much.  THis person's major activity nowadays is to fly all over the world to conferences on global warming, in order to give talks on how the key to solving global warming is to have lots more conferences for global warming scholars to get together and talk).

        •  oh you're so funny... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          zzyzx, C Barr

          Sniping at, presumably, Al Gore or one of his peers because they fly on airplanes.  Do you commute to work by car?

          When I read LTG in highschool, at about age 17, I did some extrapolating of my own.  What I found was:

          The shit hits the fan around 2020.  Gets much worse by about 2040.  

          Seems to me we're right on track for that.  Actually we're a bit ahead of the forecast.  At this point I'm thinking 2010 - 2015.  

          And if we're off by a decade or two, would you care to calculate the percentage of time that a decade represents compared to the entire written history of humankind?  Or to make it easier, compared to the history of humankind since the beginning of the industrial era (first use of steam power)?  

          Let's take 1705 as a starting point: the Newcomen engine.  303 years to the present.  One decade is 3.3% of 303 years.  

    •  It's complicated (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It's not quite as simple as density, as some dense elements have affinities for relatively light minerals.  If I recall, the Earth's crust is much richer in uranium than it would be based on density sorting alone.

      In most cases, you wouldn't expect to find concentrations in an asteriod that are as enriched as ore bodies on Earth, which have been hyperconcentrated through hydrothermal action (much less approach the concentration of placer deposits -- gold nuggets piled up in stream beds).  

      On the other hand, many asteroids are much richer in some dense elements than as the Earth's crust as a whole (e.g., irridium).  

      Two exceptions are iron and nickel, where iron-nickel asteroids can basically be giant hunks of steel alloy in space, much more concentrated than iron ore on Earth.  But we're not going to run out of iron anytime soon.

  •  And on the horizon (8+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zzyzx, TJ, Rawr, G2geek, blueyedace2, CParis, ER Doc, spencerh

    We may have a bigger problem than that.

    Helium cannot be replaced, and there is no reasonable substitute on the horizon, if it is even possible to replace it at all. And helium is one of our most useful elements in dozens of applications.

    Do Pavlov's dogs chase Schroedinger's cat?

    by corwin on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:09:50 PM PDT

    •  2 birds, one stone: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      just build a working fusion plant, and we're in business. Not gonna run out of hydrogen any time soon. (OK, deuterium, but still.)

      •  One fusion plant (0+ / 0-)

        and you'd be out of tritium.

        •  Actually no (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The ITER reactor design being built in Europe is intended to produce its own tritium from neutron bombardment of a blanket of molten lithium around the fusion chamber. Of course, the odds are pretty good that the tokamak design they're using will discover entirely new classes of problems that mean it will ALMOST work.

          I'd rather bet on the Polywell design - and scale it up to run on proton-boron fuel.

          "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

          by xaxnar on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:35:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  MITs Magnetic Dipole Fusion Reactor (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Burns deuteriumm and we have an ocean of that stuff

            •  But first.... (0+ / 0-)

              We must drill for oil off every shore, open ANWAR, then go big into oil shale and coal based syn-fuel. Along with huge tax breaks and other subsidies.

              Then maybe we can start thinking about giving some real funding to fusion research. But not before any of the above!

              "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

              by xaxnar on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:18:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  even better (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        homunq, G2geek, wondering if

        build a working warp drive, and the vulcans will come and save us

      •  don't count on miracles. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        corwin, spencerh

        OK, let's all go out and have lots and lots of unsafe sex with random strangers.  After all, some day there'll be a cure for HIV.  

        See where that thinking gets us?

        The way to do this is to take responsibility for the conditions that exist right now, using technologies that are available right now.  That means reduce population and consumption levels to within sustainable limits, starting immediately.  

        And then if/when fusion becomes viable, use it to make life better for a smaller population with simpler needs and fewer wants.  Rather than using it to make a miserable existence possible for the teeming billions on an overpopulated planet.  

        Or if you don't think so, invite a couple hundred homeless people to live in your house, and count on getting a big inheritance when your rich uncle dies so you can keep all of them fed.  

        Sorry to be harsh about it, but all of this "and then we pull a rabbbit out of our hats to save the day!" stuff is nothing more or less than magical thinking.  

    •  see my comment below (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      if you like welding, MRI machines, and physics research, you need to be worried about the Helium being used up.

      It turns out that Bush IS a uniter... he united the good half of the country virulently against him.

      by fizziks on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:38:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  As long as helium is cheap enough to be used (0+ / 0-)

      in parade balloons, there's no shortage that will have a technological impact.

      Vote for McCain to continue the fight against al-Qaeda, vote for Obama to finish it. </war&gt

      by Calouste on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 11:23:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  E-waste recycling is a nasty business. (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    zzyzx, Rawr, G2geek, CParis, ER Doc, dotcommodity

    The recycling of metal components in electronic devices comes with huge environmental costs.

    I wrote about this a few months ago in A primer on e-waste in China.

    There are rules, laws, and the rule of law. George W. Bush has disregarded all three.

    by geodemographics on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:12:55 PM PDT

    •  And yet (7+ / 0-)

      e-waste is a major, major environmental problem--but one that few online want to talk about, because it calls into question the products they are more likely to buy and depend on--laptops, and the many portable devices, especially cell phones.  

      "The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

      by Captain Future on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:16:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bingo. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zzyzx, G2geek, ER Doc, wondering if, MD

        Ironically, if manufacturers were forced to factor in the full environmental costs of these products' life cycles into their selling prices, many consumers wouldn't be able to afford them.

        There are rules, laws, and the rule of law. George W. Bush has disregarded all three.

        by geodemographics on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:26:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Without electricity, who cares? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          There hasn't been a major power plant built in the Northeastern U.S. for 35 years - because "we" don't want government regulations, we can't build a clean coal plant or a safe nuke (like them quiche-eating French...) So, we just don't build anything at all. Maybe John Wayne will think of something....

          "The main enemy of the open society in no longer the communist but the capitalist threat."- George Soros

          by David Mason on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:35:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  interestingly, this was done for nearly (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          zzyzx, elfling, C Barr, geodemographics

          a century, by the Bell Telephone system here in the USA.

          100% recycling of all materials in the system.  100% of all equipment and physical plant designed for recycling.

          When Bell owned all the telephones and you paid a monthly fee for each one, those telephones were built to be repaired and reconditioned and kept in service for typically 40 years.  As were the switching systems behind them, and the cable under the streets, and all the rest of it.  

          If you took your Bell Telephone apart (Western Electric type 500 rotary or 2500 touchtone), you would typically find components from three decades (the date codes stamped on each part are MM-YY).

          Yes, this meant you only had one basic model (actually six, for residential service, and not many more for busines service).  But it worked.  And that's what counts.

          That could have been a model for our entire industrial system.  But no.  Instead we got hooked on "shiny and new" like any other chimps in the forest, and that, plus our tendency to multiply like mice, will prove our undoing.

          The Journal of Interesting Times

    •  Heck, more REUSE (0+ / 0-)

      It's absurd that you need a new cell phone when you change carriers. Even for the people who need a new computer every year, the old ones work just fine for someone else. Our area has a computer recycling center that takes in computers, refurbs, and resells them. Everyone should have the same.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 01:32:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Obviously the answer (9+ / 0-)

    is to just do more mining.  What's under ANWR?  How about off the coast of Florida?  I hear China's already mining unobtainium off the Cuban coast.

    WE are the insurgents in occupied America.

    by jazzmaniac on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:14:15 PM PDT

  •  problem of recycling.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, CParis, SnowCountry

    is that it is cheaper to throw stuff away and go to Walmart and buy more.  But higher energy costs alter that equation, since sending our waste steel and e-waste to China isn't as cost effective any more.  Big problem when we went to plastics for water and not using tap water and aluminum cans.

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:15:57 PM PDT

  •  Zinc will be gone in a decade? (8+ / 0-)

    Oh no . . .

    Jimmy: Hey, what gives?

    Jimmy's Dad: You said you wanted to live in a world without zinc Jimmy. Well now your car has no battery.

    Jimmy: But I promised Betty I'd pick her up by 6:00. I better give her a call.

    Jimmy's Dad: Sorry Jimmy. Without zinc for the rotary mechanism, there are no telephones.

    Jimmy: Dear God! What have I done?
    (Jimmy pulls out a gun and points it to his head and fires)

    Jimmy's Dad: Think again Jimmy. You see the firing pin in your gun was made out of...yep...zinc.

    Jimmy: Come back zinc, Come Back!!


    •  dude, we SO won't be out of zinc in 10 years (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Roadbed Guy, ChemBob

      trust me. I work in the business.

      "When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the flag and carrying the cross."- Sinclair Lewis

      by IamtheReason on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:50:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  what are 10 year out futures like? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I bought a few kg of indium and gallium a decade ago, stockpiling for some research I wanted to do.  Value has gone up a tad, sold a kg to pay last month's mortgage.

        There are unused sources of zinc, but some may not be viable when the full impact and cost of extraction and refining is taken into consideration.

        Note that 'run out' really means 'prices will rise considerably'.  I'm still kicking myself for not buying rhodium back early in `97.

      •  Tell me about it (0+ / 0-)

        Now, don't get this wrong, people, but some of these comments are comedy gold that I'll be repeating among industry people for laughs.

        •  Educate us... (0+ / 0-)

          Then why don't you educate us with your superior knowledge rather than mock us with your condescension?

          Finding your own Voice -- The personal is political!

          by In her own Voice on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 11:46:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Okay, how's this? (0+ / 0-)

            Looking at the article from New Scientist that was mentioned, the analysis is very simplistic.  To use the example of indium, yes, demand has driven up price considerably but that's almost purely driven by LCD displays: until they started becoming popular, the market for indium was limited so there was limited reason to explore and exploit all available sources of it.  Their "only 10-13 years of it left!" is based on taking annual demand and dividing that into the current estimates of commercial reserves.

            However, what their "analysis" (with emphasis on the "anal", since they seem to have pulled it out of their asses) missed is that indium is more abundant in the crust than silver, and no one is forecasting a silver shortage even though it's being pulled out of the ground at a rate 40 times that of indium.  Indium has been a byproduct of other metal mining, by and large, because the market for it was never big enough to justify mining it on its own.  And given the length of time it takes to determine an economic reserve (usually more than a decade), there's a long lead time between a sudden increase in demand and the subsequent rise in reserves due to exploration.

            The higher demand for indium has caused companies to start looking ta pulling it out of other base metal mines where, until now, it has been discarded as not economic to extract.  For instance, I know of several tin mines that are considering adding indium circuits to their mills in order to extract a metal that used to go out as a minor contaminant of their main product or else as waste.

            If more base metal mines start doing that, all of a sudden the economic reserves for indium explode.  Buh-bye shortage.

            In the case of indium, a second case of blindness is technology.  As mentioned, LCDs are the single biggest driver of indium demand (they represent 50% of the market).  If a new technology came along, like, oh, grapheme, for use in semiconductors, than the bottom drops out of the market as demand falls through the floor.

            I suppose at that point someone will be bemoaning the impending fate of running out of carbon.

  •  Well (5+ / 0-)

    At least we seemed to have arranged things so that we run out of everything all at once.  Welcome to the Age of Ceramics (we still have mud).

    •  little do you know it... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...or maybe you do know it... but that may be where we're heading.

      Keyword search "Anthropik Network" and get on their site and read (get a prescription for antidepressants first).  Jason Godesky is a smart guy and a highly capable writer, who advocates for the view that the final sustainable state for humanity will be in the form of a return to hunter-gatherer technology.  

      Under those conditions, Earth could support ...far fewer humans... for example, in Northern California, the population density of the Native American Indians before European contact, was about 3 humans per square mile.  Extrapolate, factor in the climate crisis, and start taking your antidepressants.  

      •  Shit, you mean we suddenly lose all the knowledge (0+ / 0-)

        we accumulated over a few millenia? Like even the most primitive forms of agriculture and animal husbandry?

        Vote for McCain to continue the fight against al-Qaeda, vote for Obama to finish it. </war&gt

        by Calouste on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 11:28:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  that's what we're trying to prevent, isn't it? (0+ / 0-)

          BTW, hunter-gatherers had a surprisingly well developed set of technologies for subtly shaping the local flora and fauna to their purposes.  

          One of the themes I keep pounding around here and will be writing a lengthy series on my own site about, has to do with the necessity for the preservation of knowledge.  

          But only fools take that for granted.  Knowledge is highly syntropic (negentropic), as are the means of preserving it.  When things start to break, they can go surprisingly far, surprisingly fast, with surprisingly large consequences.  

          Consider the Bush Regime's disdain for science, and the impacts that has had over the past seven years, and the ongoing impacts it will have all the way through the Obama administration.  Consider the effect of diminished science curricula on a generation of school kids, and what will happen as they grow up.  

          Even small decrements in our distributed knowledge systems today have large consequences.  Creationism goes hand-in-gland with other forms of flat-earthism including the infinite-growthism that is presently killing the planet.  

          •  Luckily for the rest of the world (0+ / 0-)

            Millions of scientists graduate anually in India and China. So the U.S. might become an ignorant cesspool of creationism, but the rest of the world will surpass them and laugh at them in the rearview mirror before they disappear out of sight.

            Vote for McCain to continue the fight against al-Qaeda, vote for Obama to finish it. </war&gt

            by Calouste on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 11:51:56 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  if India adopts a one-child per family policy (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              zzyzx, C Barr

              I might have reason to be optimistic about all those engineers.  And while we're at it, China needs to ban sex selection of children, and both countries need to achieve full cultural as well as legal equality of women.

              Otherwise, they too are circling the drain.  

              The only way out of this is to cut population and consumption.  We are not going to be rescued by flying saucers or by the rapture.  

              And lest anyone think I'm an anti-technology type myself, I also happen to support building nuclear fission plants as quickly as we can pour the concrete.  The cost of Iraq would have paid for 600 reactors in the USA so far, or you can distribute big chunks of that to wind, solar, geothermal, a national rail system, local rail systems, and so on, and end up in pretty much the same place in terms of reduced climate impacts.  

              It's like this:

              We're in a lifeboat that has sprung a leak a few miles from shore. If we do nothing, the boat will sink before it reaches the shore.   However, if we keep bailing and keep paddling, we'll get as close to shore as possible before the boat sinks.  If we're particularly lucky, we'll get close enough that we're effectively on the beach and can walk through water that's no more than chest deep.  What's more  likely is that we'll get to within a half mile or so before the boat sinks, and most of us will be able to swim the distance to get to the beach.  But if we just give up and stop bailing and stop paddling, or if we let some nutcase on the boat start jumping up and down, we're through.  

          •  Btw, I agree wth you that Bush has depleted (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            (or started on depleting) the human IQ in the States, which is a lot worse than depleting natural resources. If natural resources are depleted, smart and inventive humans will come up with solutions. If you don't have smart and inventive humans, because you sold your education system for profit and political influence to coorporations and narrow minded religious fanatics, you're in really deep.

            Vote for McCain to continue the fight against al-Qaeda, vote for Obama to finish it. </war&gt

            by Calouste on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 11:56:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  yep, though not IQ in the sense of capacity, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              but rather, the system of learning and transmission of knowledge that enables people to apply their intelligence in a manner that will have constructive effect.  

              We haven't gotten more-stupid, only more lazy and more ignorant.  The latter two points can be overcome with effort.  

              •  Although.... (0+ / 0-)

       has been shown that exposure to pollution and other toxics has a negative impact on IQ.

                Think Lead, Bis-A, Dioxin, etc.

                you were sick, but now you're well again and there's work to do- vonnegut

                by zzyzx on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 12:41:33 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  one more thing. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I happen to disagree with Godesky; however I also respect him as a capable thinker and writer, as well as for his willingness to offer unorthodox solutions that run counter to the prevailing "wisdom."

          One of these days I'm going to get in touch with him and see about doing some kind of open debate in a public forum.  If he's the kind of person who can operate on the basis of mutual respect despite disagreement, it could be a useful and enlightening exercise all'round.

          Franky I should adopt that paradigm with respect to my writing here on this site.  All too often I can get quite sarcastic and dismissive when dealing with unlimited growth advocates, much as people get when dealing with young-earth creationists who attempt to get their own doctrines into school curricula.  Doing this takes not only discipline but a consistency of discipline that is sometimes easy to forget in a casual context.  

  •  titanium , It was almost unseen 20 years ago , (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    murrayewv, CParis, JML9999

    all I ever heard of it bing used in was military aircraft , spacecraft , and Naval craft. Today you can get pure idiotic crap items made from titanium , or decorated with coverings of the not very pretty metal. WTF? There are even fishing lures available with the wire frames made of titanium , instead of steel , for twice the price.
    Soviet Union and South Africa source of most ?
    Still massive selloff of everything grabbable in both countries?

    •  Legend has it-In some Defense Contactor (0+ / 0-)

      someone made a Titanium Drafting Table out of "Scrap" Titanium. Which I gather is much like left over Lobster.

      Saying the Iraq "Surge" worked is like saying Thelma & Louise had a flying car.

      by JML9999 on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:20:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  USSR flooding (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rawr, wondering if

      The USSR had heavily subsidized their titanium industry, and as a consequence benefitted from a lot of experience with it.  They also had quite the strategic stockpile.  When the government fell, a lot of people wanted to sell off the stock on the open market.  For strategic reasons, they didn't want this to happen, so they imposed regulations such as only finished products, not raw titanium itself, could be exported.  To work around this, a number of companies crudely cast it into things you'd never make out of titanium, such as full-sized titanium shovels, which would then be melted down.  You can still find some every now and then.  The influx of Soviet titanium sent the price way down.

    •  Titanium Jewlery is very lovely (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      When I was in college (ahem a tad more than 20 years ago, geez, I'm older than dirt ;-) I took the jewelry design sequence and that included a section in anodizing Titanium and incorporating it into jewelry.  Very lovely though Niobium is prettier but more expensive...

      Here's some examples:

    •  nano crystals of titanium can spilt water, and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      while it used to be a lab curiosity, recent changes in the way the crystals can be made promise to greatly increase yields. Right on the edge.

      The breakthrough predicted 4 years ago

      has happened.

      "You know what the real fight is? The real fight is the definition of what is reality." Bernie Sanders

      by shpilk on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:05:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In addition to being very strong for its weight (0+ / 0-)

      Titanium is very difficult to machine, and even harder to machine super accurately.

      Soviet Union selloff is part of it, but it's also true that CAD-CAM systems and other manufacturing technology make it much more practical to work with.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 01:36:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Arrakis (7+ / 0-)

    had it's spice Melange.

    Our civilization needs Al Gore and Duke Leto Atreides, and instead we have the evil Harkonnen/Bush empire.

    November 2006 changed nothing.  I'm praying that November 2008 will be the new beginning this planet Earth so desparately needs.

    •  The 495 shield needs to go (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      zzyzx, G2geek, mdgarcia

      Raven Rock, 7.8 miles east of Waynesboro, PA is Cheney's Harkonnen lair. Doubt me? Google it. GoogleEarth it. It's the communication backbone of the the planet that he sits on.

      Tin foil will not save you. ;-) Neither will this election. ;-(


      "He not busy being born is busy dying." R. Zimmerman

      by RUKind on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:58:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Peak everything... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CParis, mdgarcia

    In the near future we'll all be living like modern day Quackers.

    The lesson of that history is that you must not despair, that if you are right, and you persist, things will change. -Howard Zinn

    by blueyedace2 on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:21:29 PM PDT

  •  Excellent Topic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mdgarcia, RUKind, RJP9999


  •  I always knew it would come to mining landfills (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, C Barr, RUKind

    someday, (and cemetaries after that). Not as bad as a strip mine, the pit was there at one time in the past, and could be re-used again.

    The signers of the Constitution created a Liberal Democratic Republic. Or else.

    by Karl Rover on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:23:09 PM PDT

  •  Nanotech (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shpilk, rcbowman, RUKind

    devices rooting through landfill and garbage and separating it into different piles.

    Also, probably, recycling plastic.

  •  Molybdenum, too (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, RUKind

    I believe that you can't make stainless steel without it. I remember reading that it went from $7 a lb. straight up to $28 in a year or so, when that peak passed - in 1999, or 2000? Wait till the water and food run out, you want to see some fur fly....

    "The main enemy of the open society in no longer the communist but the capitalist threat."- George Soros

    by David Mason on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:28:16 PM PDT

  •  Pennies (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Geenius at Wrok, rcbowman, ER Doc, RUKind

    That is why you should be keeping those shiny, new Lincon cent coins. They have been almost all zinc for quite some time...with a thin layer of copper.  Sometimes it costs more to make them than they are worth.

    I am all for freedom of makes it easier to identify the idiots.

    by Mote Dai on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:31:46 PM PDT

  •  I've been concerned about the cosnumption (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, RUKind

    of these metals for quite some time.

    ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

    by ArthurPoet on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:31:52 PM PDT

    •  and let's not forget phosphorus (4+ / 0-)

      ...a vital ingredient in fertilizers.  

      From what I've been told, that appears to be at risk as well.  

      Bottom line is  that human population has exceeded Earth's carrying capacity.  As of the last WWF report, 2007, we were at ecological footprint 1.2 which means we're using up the resource output equivalent to 1.2 Earths, a form of "deficit spending" that cannot continue for much longer.  And payback is a bitch.

      In order to prevent a train wreck, global population needs to come down by about 60%, and consumption levels in the wealthy nations need to come down by about 60% as well.  If we don't do it by voluntary means, nature is going to do it for us in the form of a multi-gigadeath dieoff spread over the course of a century or at most two.  That means an average yearly death rate worse than the worst years of either of the world wars of the 20th century, but that average will be "front-loaded" to the beginning of the crash curve.

      Hospice Earth

      •  All of this weighs upon me. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        zzyzx, G2geek, In her own Voice

        There must be a profound shift.

        ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

        by ArthurPoet on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:26:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  oh there will be... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          zzyzx, RJP9999, pixxer

          It's called collapse and dieoff, and a couple of centuries of dark ages.

          In the midst of that, there will still be numerous small bright points of light, as with the monasteries that kept knowledge alive during the Middle Ages in Europe.  Those areas are the ones that will be able to contribute to the rebuilding after population and consumption levels have crashed far enough to make it possible.  

          For example, consider a small university with decent science lab facilities, located in the midst of a region that will be agriculturally viable during the climate crisis.  That would be a prototypical case of an area that could keep knowledge alive and contribute to the rebuilding.  

          For example, small towns with decent local economies including things that depend on the skilled trades.  Those places will remain viable in some way.

          For example, sustainable communities with a decent number of people who are skilled in science and technology fields, and have the ability to adapt their existing knowledge to changing conditions.  

          For example, agricultural areas that will remain viable during the climate crisis, using wholly local resources to produce essential crops for local self-sufficiency.  

          Some of the above will make it, others won't, and your best bet is to find a place that's like one of the above and move there ASAP so you're well-integrated with the local community before the shit hits the fan.  Me & mine are going the sustainable community route, in an area we expect will remain viable in terms of food production and climate issues.  

          The Journal of Interesting Times

          •  local community economies connected bioregionally (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            zzyzx, G2geek, pixxer

            Wish I had one to go to with a group of skillful and cooperative people.  Don't know any like that, though--especially not any in my area who even recognize the necessity.

            Just to add a piece to what you are saying--some believe it would be advantageous to have those local communities connected bio-regionally so that skills, supplies, and foods would be a little more diverse.  Whatever technology available at the time would be used to connect the areas.  ::sigh::, I don't like to think of having to go back to the hardships of the pioneer days.  I have no romantic illusions about that.  

            I truly hope we can make the transition from oil to renewables while there is still fuel available for energizing it.  

            Finding your own Voice -- The personal is political!

            by In her own Voice on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:52:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  then you need to get to a place, ASAP, (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              In her own Voice, RJP9999, pixxer

              that you can expect will be viable.

              If Northern CA interests you as a destination, get in touch (link below).  Otherwise, start doing the research on areas nearer to wherever-you-are that may remain viable.  

              You have to start moving on this immediately before events (notably economic) get ahead of you.  You don't want to be "pipped" (Pinned In Place, as our group calls it) due to lack of the money to get to a safe & sustainable destination.  For most individuals in the US, money or lack thereof will be the factor that determines whether they make it or not.  

              As for connecting communities, I'm a telephone systems engineer and I think about that constantly.  I know we'll be able to maintain local connectivity within viable towns and their immediate outlying areas.  Long distance connectivity of any kind will probably become less reliable and more expensive, and the only things we can count on in that department are various forms of radio-frequency communication and something akin to the telegraph.  

              Things look quite a bit more scary from the perspective of being professionally involved with technology.  Anyone in any technical field who is aware of these issues will end up with similar conclusions in their own field.  

              It is hardly possible to overstate exactly how bad it's going to get.  You really need to be making plans now, and doing so with as much objectivity as you can muster, and then acting on those plans ASAP.  

              The Journal of Interesting Times

              •  I know, Geek-I'm already on your mailing list (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek, C Barr, pixxer

                But I have no resources for making a move--I am one of the ones who will be stuck--or "pipped" as you say.  I am a 62 year old single female with low income, no savings, in business for myself operating out of my home.  My skills as a psychotherapist will not fit into a bare bones survival community...unless people would choose to feed me as an "elder" or "medicine woman"  :-).

                Finding your own Voice -- The personal is political!

                by In her own Voice on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 09:23:37 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  ohboy, that is a difficult situation.. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  In her own Voice

                  OK, first question to consider is where you are geographically and what the local hazards are.  

                  Second question is, what about friends and family, and in particular what about those who are younger than you?   Siblings with kids, for example.

                  You don't have to post the answers to those questions; just consider them in your planning.  

                  Now to be terribly crass about this, if you expect to live to about 75 (approximate national average) you only have to plan for 13 more years on this Earth.  If you expect to live to 85, you only have to plan for 23 more years on this Earth.  That fact in and of itself leads to a better personal prognosis than for a lot of people in their 30s, much less in their 20s.   Think of economically poor 20-somethings in cities that are going to be flattened by the climate crisis, or by localized natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods at a time when there will be no government money for rebuilding.

                  The key in your case is to be in a geographically safe place, connected with people locally who will take care of each other.   Also develop other skills that relate to core basics such as food, clothing, and shelter.  If you can provide any element of any of those, even something so simple as being able to cook desirable meals from basic ingredients, you'll be making yourself more and more crash-proof as time goes along.  The more skills, the better, and that applies to everyone, all the time.  

                  •  Facing mortality and building resilience (0+ / 0-)

                    Geek, believe me, I have thought through these things and followed through on them.   It's taken me some time to work through the circumstances of my life situation and come to grips with it.  We all face our own mortality at some point in life (or maybe in different ways at different times of life).  

                    I write of my personal situation in these comments, not because I am asking for help or sympathy.  I write so that others will think!  Think and  consider the wide range of circumstances people of different ages and socio-economic conditions will face in the times unfolding.

                    You might want to check out some of my diaries written from a mental health perspective.  My last one was about developing personal psychological resilience as we face stress and disaster type situations.  I included links in it to Richard Heinberg's articles on building community resilience.  

                    I believe this is what I have to contribute to a community.  But until people realize the need, I just have to keep posting...  :-)

                    I am on the north edge of Houston, TX--just to answer your question about my locale.  Not many here believe our circumstances are about to change radically. My professional groups look with suspicion upon doomer thinking. My family, both sibs, daughters, nephews just think I'm the odd one with the weird ideas.  It is my online community with whom I can interact about these issues.

                    I have come to believe/hope that people and answers will unfold for me as I continue to reach out.  I will be at the Netroots convention in Austin.  Any of you planning to be there?

                    Finding your own Voice -- The personal is political!

                    by In her own Voice on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 07:04:31 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  If you lived near me, I'd be glad to trade (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  In her own Voice

                  zuchinni for some needed counseling.

                  moderation in everything ... including moderation

                  by C Barr on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 05:46:50 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Hmmm, dooms day, eh? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            There is always the danger of that, always the fear of that. One wonders if that is to be the way of things. I do not believe that the collapse of civilization, as we know it, is inevitable. But, since you seem to be such an oracle of prescient ill foretelling, I must ask, is there no hope for humanity's innovation and ingenuity, to solve and address these problems? Hmmm, I wonder.

            ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

            by ArthurPoet on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:42:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  not inevitable, but... (0+ / 0-)

              ...darn close.  

              ("Oracle of prescient ill foretelling?"  Good snark there, or something:-)

              Here's how the future goes:  The present overshoot leads to global collapse.  Places with high birth rates end up going first.  Places that are in areas impacted by the climate crisis go next.  Along the way, the international economic system and most national economies break.  These factors plus various resource shortages end up bringing on a generalized dark age while nature presses the reboot button.  Think Europe in the Middle Ages with plagues.   (Europe in the Dark Age, with Dieoffs: would make a good satire on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, eh?)

              The important thing to remember about dark ages is that they are speckled with numerous small points of light: places that keep knowledge alive toward the day when rebuilding can begin.  In the European Middle Ages, these were the monasteries.  In the future we're facing, they will probably be small towns that have decent small colleges/universities, and have nearby agricultural areas that will remain viable as the climate crisis winds out.  Small sustainable communities in similar areas will also work.  Small towns with viable local skill-sets, with viable agricultural areas, will also work.  

              The key is to get to one of those places, ASAP, while you still can.  Don't wait and end up getting pinned by a lack of money or options for places to go.  Start doing your research now, and saving money now, and planning to make the move as soon as you have enough saved up to do it.  

              And once there, you will need to develop as many skill-sets as you can reasonably learn, that are concerned with providing the essentials of life: water, food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, communication, transportation, etc.   The more skills the better.   Interestingly, your local community college's vocational &  technical ed programs may be a good place to start for picking up useful skills.  If not, then start by searching the internet for resources and places to learn.  The sooner the better.  

              The goal here, aside from keeping your own soft squishy body alive and well, is to do what you can to contribute to the preservation of knowledge over time.  This will contribute to the ability of future generations a couple of centuries from now, to rebuild with whatever resources they have.  Preserving knowledge is the key.  And supporting those who are doing so is every bit as essential.  

              That's what we can do to make a difference:  preserve and expand knowledge for those who will be able to use it in the future.  If each of us does our own little unglamorous piece, together they add up to the whole, and the potential for humanity to have a worthy future.  

              The Journal of Interesting Times

              •  Yes, well, as a life long practitioner of (0+ / 0-)

                Martial Disciplines, the precepts of survival have always been paramount to my way of life, as well as, a deep passion for the preserving of ancient lore, and the preserving of all lore, is core to my path. And, it has been the martial lineages, more than any others, that have preserved true lore through the dark ages.

                But, you are a pessimist, and predict the worst, and I am an optimist, and predict the best. I was not being snarky, I was being honest and candid, and simply stating what is evident.

                ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

                by ArthurPoet on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 02:46:06 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Your ideas are interesting (0+ / 0-)

                I wonder though how much role the skills of academics will play in a subsistance economy.  Seems that implementing their ideas requires a functioning infrastructure and some surpluses.  I agree that this whole economic system is much more fragile than most believe.

                moderation in everything ... including moderation

                by C Barr on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 05:55:19 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  I highly recommend (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            "A Canticle for Liebowitz" by Walter Miller, on the subject of the remains of humanity and how they cope. Different crisis, great book. GREAT book.

            And remember... if you don't like the news, go out and make some own.
            - Scoop Nisker

            by pixxer on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:55:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Ultimately (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RUKind, pixxer

    With these very useful but not endemic resources recycling promotion is all the government can really do.  Outside of that its a market/industry driven process.  

  •  Everyone here is missing the point (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CParis, rcbowman, RUKind, pixxer

    This is the excuse the right wing will use for endless war. Just like oil.

    "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

    by Ivan on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:34:00 PM PDT

  •  I thought those metals were familiar. Cheap Solar (7+ / 0-)

    I thought those metals were familiar. "Cheap" Solar is dependent upon them.

    From the NanoSolar folks:

    At Nanosolar, we have taken the highest-performance and most durable photovoltaic thin-film semiconductor, called CIGS (for "Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide"), and innovated on all seven critical areas necessary to reach a breakthrough cost reduction in solar cells, panels, and systems.

    •  Actually, titanium may eclipse PV based solar (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dlcox1958, G2geek, RUKind, pixxer

      in less than a decade. Might be a moot point.

      "You know what the real fight is? The real fight is the definition of what is reality." Bernie Sanders

      by shpilk on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:50:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  titanium oxide is important (0+ / 0-)

        but the solar cells based on this (especially Gratzel cells) have been rather stuck for ~10 years with no big gains on efficiency.  There is more promise in other directions.

        ``...Stand still. The forest knows
        Where you are. You must let it find you.''
        from `Lost' by David Wagoner

        by dlcox1958 on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 11:42:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  CIGS speculation is part of the reason prices (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wondering if, In her own Voice

      in those metals are increasing.  But there are numerous other things going on in solar - cadmium telluride, CIS (CIGS without the gallium), trough solar thermal, tower solar thermal, dish solar thermal, micro-concentrator array, etc. etc.  

      Freedom is in the fight.

      by Troubadour on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:52:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  CIS still uses indium (0+ / 0-)

        and indium is big demand for flat screen displays.

        Cadmium and tellurium are not real common, and cadmium compound are carcinogenic - no rooftop solar using them.

        •  There are two possibilities (0+ / 0-)

          when a commodity is in greater demand than another.  The commodity in greater demand may stay higher in price, or it may become even lower in price over time than the low-demand commodity.  AFAIK, indium didn't have many high-volume applications until recently, so its mining and processing infrastructure is virtually nonexistent relative to what it will eventually be.

          Freedom is in the fight.

          by Troubadour on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:00:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Peak Air (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rcbowman, MD, RUKind

    We're running out of air, people. We'll all be gasping our last breath before we know it. It's time to stop breathing before it's all gone. Please do your part to help save this precious resource, one among many that (I hope, since I've acquired a hefty share of air futures) is being depleted from our planet, never to return.

    McCain's speaking style: Like a bad Andy Rooney impersonator, except not that good.

    by edg on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:37:28 PM PDT

  •  Theory of Stuff and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ", syrup ,..., shit ,..., hotcakes." Meteor Blades
    John McCain

    by JugOPunch on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:38:51 PM PDT

  •  So what happens when (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, darthstar

    we run out of these metals?

  •  Tailings Ponds.. (5+ / 0-)

    In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Vale Inco company wants to use a prime destination for fishermen known as Sandy Pond to hold tailings from a nickel processing plant.

    In northern B.C., Imperial Metals plans to enclose a remote watershed valley to hold tailings from a gold and copper mine. The valley lies in what the native Tahltan people call the "Sacred Headwaters" of three major salmon rivers. It also serves as spawning grounds for the rainbow trout of Kluela Lake, which is downstream from the dump site.  See and weep.

    Schedule Two is a loophole in Canada's mining regulations being suitably exploited by international mining interests.

    Absoultely great Diary..

    Think Tank. "A place where people are paid to think by the makers of tanks" Naomi Klein.

    by ohcanada on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:44:27 PM PDT

  •  Bottom line: Humans exploit. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    azindy, RUKind, pixxer

    We exploit every resource we discover.  Oil, timber, hell, even water.  We exploit every resource we find until it becomes a rare commodity.  If there was a way to corner the market on air or sunshine, we'd do that too.

    Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

    by darthstar on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:45:35 PM PDT

  •  the answer ? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rcbowman, Troubadour, RUKind, pixxer

    "Mars, bitches!"
    [someone needs to warn them]

    "You know what the real fight is? The real fight is the definition of what is reality." Bernie Sanders

    by shpilk on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:46:52 PM PDT

  •  What do you recommend? n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ["Classic. Innovative. Yeah much better."]

    by azindy on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:48:17 PM PDT

  •  NOW can we eliminate the penny? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rcbowman, fizziks, RUKind, pixxer

    Millions of tons of copper and zinc tied up in a form that nearly everyone agrees is mostly useless.

    But noooooo, we keep the goddamn things in circulation because just enough stupid fuckers think they'll be cheated out of their hard-earned nonentities if prices are rounded to the nearest nickel.

    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

    by Geenius at Wrok on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:48:45 PM PDT

    •  Like Benjamin sez... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      a penny saved is a penny earned.

      What goes around comes around.


      "He not busy being born is busy dying." R. Zimmerman

      by RUKind on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:15:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  the problem is that we need... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wondering if, pixxer

      ...a standardized rounding algorithm in ALL of our bookkeeping and accounting systems, otherwise we end up with the financial equivalent of attempting to plug together a bunch of mismatched electrical components whose values vary almost at random.

      That's the real issue keeping pennies alive.  

      And realistically the way to do this is to get rid of nickels also, and round to the nearest 10-cents since that works better in a decimal-based currency system.  

      The Journal of Interesting Times

      •  It won't cause the problems you think (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Other countries that have got rid of their low denomination coins round the total at the point of sale. Electronic transactions and financial record keeping still take place to two decimals.

        In countries where the lowest circulating coin is 0.05 (Australia and some of the eurozone countries like Finland and the Netherlands), totals ending in 1, 2, 6 and 7 are rounded down, 3, 4, 8 and 9 are rounded up.

        Where the lowest coin is 0.10 (New Zealand), totals ending in 1-5 are rounded down, 6-9 are rounded up.

        I do agree with you that here in the US, we should just get rid of the penny and nickel. However, it would necessitate getting rid of the quarter as well and replacing it with a 20 cent coin.

        •  OK, so how do you update the... (0+ / 0-)

          ...accounting & bookkeeping software used by every small business?

          In California here, the sales tax forms issued by the state are designed to let you round to the nearest dollar.  But your bookkeeping software e.g. Quickbooks Pro, doesn't do it that way, so you have to use the actual totals in dollars and cents or you end up with a net positive or negative balance on sales tax due, that becomes a nagging pain in the butt because it creates an increasing level of error from one month to the next.  

          See, all of these "rounding" things are algorithms, and those algorithms need to be embodied in the software.  And to do that we need a standard, which has to be uniformly adopted on a national scale.

          Good point about changing out the "quarter" for a "fifth."  Presumably the 20-cent coin could be of a size between that of a dime and a nickel.  Though it might be preferable to bring out a 40-cent coin instead, since that would interact best with the 10-cent coin for various levels of change on a dollar (and is better than a 50-cent coin for the same reason).

    •  Just continue this process (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      round everything up to the nearest $100. Save money printing all those denominations, not to mention making checkout lines go more quickly.

  •  Anyone have a direct link to Reller's comments? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RUKind, pixxer

    Silverberg keeps on referring to Armin Reller, at U. of Augsberg. Googling gets you three or four basic articles, in a thousand variants, about Reller's comments, with some direct quotes, but I have yet to find a link to a place Reller actually wrote this stuff. Anyone got a link?


    Given that I make my living with brass, Silverberg's parenthetical comment

    (How does a novel called The Death of Brass grab you?)

    was a bit chilling...

    Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end. - Alan Paton

    by rcbowman on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 07:58:46 PM PDT

  •  75,000,000+ Net Additional Humans a YEAR! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, rcbowman, RUKind, RJP9999, pixxer

    75 million folks. A year! Try feeding them a Hot Dog once!

    And we are on our way from 6 to 9 Billion on the planet by 2042.

    The defeat of the Progressives in the 70's and 80's and all the their(our) issues that they(we) were fighting for:

    Population Control
    Communal Living

    by the Conservative movement of the last 40 years has created the "REAL" end times. Not religion and JC.

    It's over folks - start preparing mentally for a world-wide "New Reality". For once Hollywood will have gotten it right. A horror story like no other

    It surprises me little that the " use'R " up Super Size Me mentality brought to us by our own countrymen - The American Corporate Culture that most of our natural resources would already be near or at "Peak".

    Not at all.

    I try everyday to cut down - consume less - and know that we are past the point of solving the collapse of the world society. Quite an eye opener. This collapse to come is not the first that's happened.

    Read > Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared M. Diamond

    ObamaNation 2009!..... Rebecca > (4 coveted City-At-Large Council Seat)..... Gavin Newsom Governor California 2010......

    by AustinSF on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:00:04 PM PDT

    •  The monkeys are in the air ducts (0+ / 0-)

      with advanced weaponry.

      Some of them are going to have to die.

      Dana Curtis Kincaid Ad Astra per Aspera! The enemy is not man, the enemy is stupidity.

      by angrytoyrobot on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:19:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What I speak is TREASON in Indy! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        As the biggest no-where place in the country - Indianapolis (the 11-12-13th biggest Metro Area no-one knows anything about - an anyone else is shocked to know it is that large) - the land of strip mall after strip mall and new strip mall. Corn field and pristine woods becoming flattened > "Maple Glens" yes this giant ring of suburbia of destruction that finally has escaped 465. - I am worthy of treason mind you. One Hoosier that escaped the madness. You can only fight it 38 years and then ya give up and get out of dodge (country). I know Indiana like the back of my hand. I helped create that mess that is Indy - built a cornfield house in Westfield.

        God there is one Progressive left there - kewl. Alive! Wow! and perhaps has survived BushCo there.
        Sorry for the rant. Got issues.  

        You and I are kindred spirits.

        ObamaNation 2009!..... Rebecca > (4 coveted City-At-Large Council Seat)..... Gavin Newsom Governor California 2010......

        by AustinSF on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:31:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  we're not going to make 9 billion. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Probably the serious dieoff will begin somewhere between 7 and 8 billion, and take us down to about 4 - 5 billion, which is borderline sustainable depending on the distribution of levels of resource consumption.  

      If you're in the SF Bay Area (as your userID suggests) and you want to get involved with a sustainable community planning group that's going to be transplanting north of here, follow the link below, send email to the contact address, and I'll put you in touch with the group that's doing this.  

      The Journal of Interesting Times

    •  You make it sound like those 3 billion (0+ / 0-)

      are all going to live in the States and are the cause of the conservative movement there.

      Note: those 3 billion are going to live somewhere where most people don't know or give a f#$% about the conservative movement in the U.S., or maybe even the U.S. in general.

      Vote for McCain to continue the fight against al-Qaeda, vote for Obama to finish it. </war&gt

      by Calouste on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 11:37:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I told you!!! I told you this!!! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    missLotus, G2geek, RUKind, pixxer

    And no one would listen!!!  Hrmph!!!  I even got the date right!!!  And the world laughed at me!!!

    Well, who's laughing now?


    Thomas Malthus

    P.S. John Locke, I won the bet!  You owe me $50!

    The United States of America--the only country in the world where being educated and cultured actually *lowers* your social and political standing.

    by LordMike on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:01:17 PM PDT

    •  Malthus is controversial... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LordMike, pixxer

      ....on the left side of the dial because it is often believed that he was writing to justify the social order and powers-that-be of his own time.  

      Realistically, he was writing to convince them of the necessity for change, and having to "run to the center" as with presidential candidates in the general election.  

      In any case he was right then, and he's still right today.  Cheap energy in the form of petroleum is what made it appear that the clever monkeys had beaten nature at her game, but in the end nature wins.  Science is not subordinate to ideology, Bushies to the contrary notwithstanding.

      The Journal of Interesting Times

  •  Upon reading the title of this entry (0+ / 0-)

    I thought it was about \m/ metal \m/. And for some reason, it compelled me go downstairs and flip through the ol' CD collection.

    You know, I've gotta say: normally I'm not that into metal, but 'Powerslave' by Maiden sure is a kickass album.

  •  I want to start a pool going with this issue (0+ / 0-)

    to see how long it is until James Kunstler predicts we're all going to descend into tribal warfare because of it.

  •  I've never been so afraid for civilization (0+ / 0-)

    I understand peak oil is bad, I understand global warming is bad.  Both of those problems have some clear substitution and/or reduction opportunities.

    I don't know how to reduce 'planned obsolescence'.

    •  about civilization... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      In her own Voice

      The core defning characteristics of civilization are:

      a) Decrease of internal violence over time, and

      b)  Increase in accumulated knowledge over time.

      From those two points, the rest of any definition of civilization follows.

      I'll be publishing a series of essays on this topic, under the header Civiliization and Syntropy, at The Journal of Interesting Times

      Main point for now is, civilization itself, as per the definition above, can be preserved through the dark ages ahead.  This will take much effort, and there are no guarantees.  

  •  There are a lot of things made out of metal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    that don't need to be.

    The simplest solution to any resource problem is to use less of it. Find things that are made out of metal but can also be made out of an older, simpler material, preferably a renewable one, and start making them out of that material instead. Wood comes to mind: for many things from silverware to buildings.

    Electronics (high tech or otherwise) may no longer be competitive in noncritical niches. One could argue to what extent exploiting them in that capacity was a worthwhile endeavor - like all the rest of the conspicuous consumption of this century and last - but it's entirely possible that electronics will play a smaller role in our lives from now on.

    After all, metal is a nonrenewable resource too. You need a supernova to make it.

  •  Space. The rest of the solar system. (3+ / 0-)

    Only place you are going to be able to get this stuff short of coring the Earth like an apple.

    Dana Curtis Kincaid Ad Astra per Aspera! The enemy is not man, the enemy is stupidity.

    by angrytoyrobot on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:18:08 PM PDT

  •  Learn to garden (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, angrytoyrobot, RJP9999

    Learn how to save seed from one year to the next. Learn how to capture water and solar heat. Learn better ways to compost and recycle. Evolve or die.

    Play time is almost over folks. I'm gone in a decade or so. My kids get my ashes. Should be useful for something. ;-)

    Old yankee saying:

    Use it up,
    Wear it out.
    Make it do
    Or do without.


    "He not busy being born is busy dying." R. Zimmerman

    by RUKind on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:24:29 PM PDT

  •  All peaks are local. (4+ / 0-)

    Universal recycling is just a matter of energy, so metal won't be a problem once our economy transitions to infinitely scalable energy sources (i.e., solar).  The biggest concern is the gap during that transition - if we slam headlong into resource exhaustion before renewables have scaled sufficiently, there will be a significant degree of suffering in the interim.  

    Should that occur, it is of vital importance that political stability is maintained to protect the ongoing infrastructure development that eventually overcomes the problem.  This is the difference between a gap measured in decades (Great Depression II) and one measured in centuries (a Dark Age).

    However, there is no certainty that there will be a gap.  Original peak oil predictions were 30 years premature, so it may very well be that we are not actually approaching peak metal - just a temporary (several years) upsurge in metals futures based on the speculative energy cost of their extraction.  The likelihood that it will rapidly give out is much smaller - industries are not responding with desperation, and are not pouring money into recycling tech at more than a leisurely pace despite enormously higher prices.

    Furthermore, it needs to be stated that demand has likely increased by a significant degree, and supply may not have had time to catch up by bringing new capacity into the market.  We recently saw this principle demonstrated when silicon skyrocketed until new supply was introduced.  Try to understand, rare earth metals are not (for the most part) a mature industry - the vast majority of them are niche commodities that have only recently come to be used in any significant quantities anywhere.  We're basically witnessing the creation of a mature industry for some of these commodities, not a decline.

    Freedom is in the fight.

    by Troubadour on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:29:37 PM PDT

  •  the nations that build permanent energy first (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    (permanent = no raw materials needed to keep fueling energy production once built)  like wind turbines, solar farms, geothermal pumps will be the ones to have the best shot at surviving peak metals.

    So far that's not us that will survive. But some will.

    •  no such thing as permanent energy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dotcommodity, In her own Voice

      all those have maintenance needs and limited lifetimes. Geothermal plants are typically given a 50 year lifespan before they need replacement, maybe stretchable to 70 in some cases; all assuming the fields are well managed so as to to extract heat too quickly.

      Wind damage, hail storms, lightning strikes, and so on, all mean that while the "fuel" may be free, operating the production is not.  Reduced resources demands, perhaps greatly reduced, so they do reduce the impact of Peak X Y Z, but still not permanent.

  •  Great diary. Thanks. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Reality bites. Deal with it. The Sun will come up tomorrow, the Sun will set. The Moon will go through its cycle. The Seasons will change. Birds will fly. Fish will swim. The Wind will blow.

    Some molecules will leave the solar sphere. Some may enter. No big deal. We live, we die. God created us to be free on this planet. No man should take that away from another man.


    "He not busy being born is busy dying." R. Zimmerman

    by RUKind on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:31:43 PM PDT

  •  Just when they were about to start using copper (0+ / 0-)
  •  But, but if we slow down or change (0+ / 0-)

    our consumption of limited resources just because we'll run out. That'd mean we'd have to curb or self indulgent lifestyle and that's just down right un-American. What are ya a buch of commies. How dare you look objectively at the fact that we don't have an unlimited supply of resources to our rabid consumerism and sense of entitlement. <snark>

    "Fools rush where angels fear to tread. Oddly enough, fools have accomplished a great deal more than angels." -- Newtkeeper?

    by Wes Opinion on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:37:16 PM PDT

  •  This is why Silicon-Based Solar Energy is King. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dlcox1958, rcbowman, C Barr, RJP9999

    Silicon is the Second most Common element in the Earth's Crust, yet Investors in the US Scoff at the value in Silicon-based Solar (mostly right now because it's the Chinese COmpanies that are getting very serious abou tit).  They are imagining that it will be replaced by "super cheap" American thin films made out of Cadmium Telluride and CIGS Deposits (Copper, Indium, Galium, Selenide).

  •  With new technology, this could be a GOOD thing (0+ / 0-)

    We are drowning in our own waste already.

    Wouldn't it be nice to be able to recycle it and reduce it - even if it means landfill mining?

    We're already seeing the scouring of iron and copper from landfills.

    Necessity is the mother of invention after all.

    " ... or a baby's arm holding an apple!"

    by Lavocat on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 08:50:50 PM PDT

  •  Asteroids and Space development (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    subtropolis, In her own Voice

    I know I probably sound like a broken record here, and I know it was mentioned further up, but we only face these problems if we limit our resource base to the earth - we need to be looking beyond the earth

  •  We are running out of raw materials (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    C Barr, In her own Voice, RJP9999

    because manufacturers sell us junk. I just trashed a washing machine that is just over two years old. Its "transmission" crapped out, and the repair costs match or exceed purchase of a new one. And what about all of the damned personal electronics or computers...all seemingly obsolete within six months of their initial issue.

    I am sick of this shit. There must be a better way.


  •  I also want to add that recycling schemes (0+ / 0-)

    are noble but they also require massive amounts of energy to be effective.

    •  All the more reason we should be considering (0+ / 0-)

      off planet resources - Space Based Solar Power can provide plenty of energy, for years to come.

      •  masasive resources to build those (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        unless done indirectly - colonize the Moon, use it to supply resources and a cheaper place to get to near Earth orbit from.

        •  Long term, you're right (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wondering if

          but in the short term, the primary problem is energy - and already there are resources in earth orbit, which we can use to deal with the short term energy problem.

          But long term, expect the moon to become a major port of entry for resources to earth.

          BTW, wondering if, its good to see you around here.

          •  "resources in earth orbit"? (0+ / 0-)

            "we can use to deal with the short term energy problem"

            Um, I know of such resources. Last time I looked there wasn't 70 kilotonnes of construction material in orbit., not even what's needed for a hypothetical ultralight weight version.

            At the pricing used in the most recent powersat studies I've read, wind power clocks in at $1/W.  Use standard derating, plus a fudge factor and energy storage, and it's still under $5/W. Using that number four GW of wind would cost $20 billion, SPS studies using values "down the learning curve" by several satellites have that figure as a low end launch cost - if those ultra light weight designs work out.  I just don't see powerstats being lower cost than ground based systems for some time.

            And that's not to mention the political problems. If people mount years long battles against solar and wind installations for no better reason than "visual pollution", imagine what will happen for a plan that "will beam radiation down on us!".  For geosync orbit, other countries along the longitude used will make a fuss over being squeezed out of that resource. Lower orbits have reduced revenue because of the unpopulated regions they pass over, plus likely more political noisemaking, and even military concerns.

            •  The amount of junk that has been discarded (0+ / 0-)

              in orbit that could be used for SBSP is quite large.  Will it be enough, probably not, and I will admit that.  

              As for being lower cost - I actually think your right, but to borrow from the rocket industry - this is a case of thrust vs ISP :D - Ground based systems can provide the total level of power needed to maintain current lifestyle, and that means if we just maintain current energy usage, when the likelyhood is that energy usage will continue to go up.

              As for political problems - I am working on that.  

              •  Quark - United Galaxies Sanitation Patrol (0+ / 0-)

                while there is a lot of trash up there, how useful is it? Photovoltaics are likely to be degraded, I can't see re-fabbing them in orbit taking any less mass from the ground than hauling up fresh ones.

                Structural materials? Likely a better opportunity, but still needs the manufacturing support in orbit.

                Looks like 4 million pounds of objects larger than 1 centimeter, less than 2 kilotons.

                Vanguard I is still up there, bringing it back to sell on eBay might be more profitable than simple recycling.


  •  Awesome article! (4+ / 0-)

    -- thanks for the suggestion --

    "Ohhh. Great warrior? Wars not make one great." -- Yoda

    by Cassiodorus on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 09:22:09 PM PDT

  •  wait a minute (0+ / 0-)

    on the one hand, the second link you cited says that it is difficult to estimate not only yearly consumption but how much of any metal is actually left.

    So how reliable is a we will run out in x number of years estimate.

    It's an awfully big planet, and I gotta admit, I have a hard time believing we know every inch of it.

    •  this sort of reasoning (0+ / 0-)

      is why we have gotten this fucked already.

      "we don't know so therefor FUCK IT"

      my company is run by guys who despite being literal geniuses , emotionally cant be bothered to consider changing their own lifestyles.

      •  I didnt say (0+ / 0-)

        we dont know so "fuck it"

        But please forgive me for suggestingthat we should base policy decisions on actual information.

        What if it turns out we have 100 years of copper left instead of 10?

        Or 200 years?

        Might we have different policy approaches depending on those two alternatives? Yeah I just think we might.

        This is not a "lifestyle" question. It is not as if only we conserved metals we'd be fine. I am not buying copper water bottles to drink out of.

        some of these metals are used for basic things that sooner or later everyone needs or will need as society advances.

        So knowing the truth is rather important in how we approach this and when the people who ring the alarm bells admit that we really dont know how much is used or how much is left, it makes it much more difficult to say we should take the drastic measures that would seem to be required by a we've got ten years left and that's it view.

        But by all means, go for the sarcastic zinger.

  •  Thanks for front paging this issue! (0+ / 0-)

    Great diary--great discussion!

    Finding your own Voice -- The personal is political!

    by In her own Voice on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 09:43:42 PM PDT

  •  What about PEAK FOOD? n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  I'm also worried about Peak Helium (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    corwin, dlcox1958, RJP9999

    All very low temperature applications (MRI machines, and much basic and applied research in physics) need Helium.  Not to mention many forms of welding.  It is a very limited resource only available (on Earth) from radioactive decay and you only get one chance to catch it before it floats off to space.  

    And yet we keep filling party balloons...

    It turns out that Bush IS a uniter... he united the good half of the country virulently against him.

    by fizziks on Sat Jul 05, 2008 at 10:35:20 PM PDT

  •  Howling nonsense? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A quick skim of the comments on the New Scientist article, finds at least one commenter writing "Howling nonsense". I find the article's disclaimer a bit more on point.

    "It's all a matter of energy cost," he says. "You could go to the moon to mine precious materials. The question is: could you afford it?"

    Half of humanity is in an industrial revolution, and another billion already live in energy-intense developed economies. While metal shortages (and thus high prices) lie ahead, energy costs will reshape the industry on three fronts.

    New ore exploration techniques: (e.g. The gold deposits that are  the basis for Europe's largest gold mine (Suurikuusikko), were only identified in the 1980s with the development of new geophysical survey methods. The Russians have a sort of ultrasound technique that makes it possible to look dozens of kilometers into the earth's crust.

    New mining techniques: Mining has traditionally been an environmental basket case. In situ bio-mining, for example, circulates thousands of lines of nutrient solution through the rock to encourage bacteria to leach metals. The only part of the operation above ground is for concentrating the metals out of solution.

    Fighting corruption: In the old days, the mining execs flew in to discuss with a single government minister to negotiate mining deals. The people, of course, never saw a penny from such arrangements and a lot of money ended up in Swiss bank accounts. The Chinese presently use a variation on this theme, bribery of officials + an infrastructure package for the country (e.g. Zambia, Angola). The answer, thougn, may be to bolster state institutions to allow for open-bidding for mining concessions and putting revenues in say, soveriegn wealth funds. Get ther personalities out of the process like in Canada or Australia (and even Botswana).    


  •  Unsightliness? Toxicity? These are not problems (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm sure we can find plenty of poor people to sort through these landfills for pennies a pound. Better yet, we can ship our landfills to foreign countries and have their poor people do it for pennies a kilo. That's a slam-dunk right there: cheap labor, no domestic danger, and all the already unsightly and problematic landfills go away.

    I dunno why we don't already just barge our trash to Cambodia or Senegal or somewhere. You'd think some rich bastard would have thought of that by now.

    Terrorists can attack freedom, but only Congress can destroy it.

    by romulusnr on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 12:50:24 AM PDT

    •  Yup, it's a frigging disaster already. (0+ / 0-)

      The amount of toxic crap that is further spread around in getting at certain of the valuable elements in electronic trash is truly frightful. And it's all completely unregulated and has already been going on for decades. Entire villages are basically toxic dumps. One such pitiful village, in China, is featured briefly in the excellent documentary Manufacturing Landscapes.

      "They're telling us something we don't understand"
      General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

      by subtropolis on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 09:00:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Basic economics says this is flawed (0+ / 0-)

    Goes back to supply and demand. Have you seen your local ads for flat screen TV's? You can find them pretty darn cheap. For a material that's so in demand, don't you think that would affect the costs of these products. Looks like the prices are actually coming down, not up. Granted, I was disappointed to hear that Shea Stadium would be dismantled at the tend of the year for recovering it's steel (who doesn't like seeing stadiums go BOOM?) with increases in steel prices. But gallium and zinc seem to be in safe supply. In fact, I think I'll buy a bottle at the health food store just to be annoying.

    "I can't believe it, but people are strange. Our President's crazy. Did you hear what he said?" - David Byrne

    by Rob Dapore on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 04:01:05 AM PDT

  •  Sidebar: (0+ / 0-)


    Dick Cheney, who spearheaded the new space plan in the White House. In an April 2000 article in Oil & Gas Journal--the in-flight magazine of Air Force One--Cheney's old Halliburton colleague Steve Streich crisply explained the logic.

    "NASA's Mars exploration program...warrants the support of both government and industry leaders," Streich wrote. "One area of great importance is finding out of what the inside of Mars consists. That's where the petroleum industry comes in."

    Streich goes on to discuss the "great potential for a happy synergy between space researchers [and] the oil and gas industry." (Happy emphasis added.) According to Streich, "the oil industry is in need of a revolutionary drilling technique that allows quicker and more economical access to reserves...[A Mars mission] presents an unprecedented opportunity [to] improv[e] our abilities to support oil and gas demands on Earth." Less unprecedented are the U.S. tax dollars that will socialize the research.

    Toward this end, Halliburton in 2000 joined a consortium of industry and academia to lobby for the Mars project. Success came quick. A February 2001 report in Petroleum News discusses the ways in which Halliburton, along with Shell and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, had already begun working with NASA "to identify drilling technologies that might work on Mars." Future spin-offs from this publicly funded research may include new tools for "high-technical geothermal drilling...[and] a melting sterilize the hole on the way down, which would help with the problem of contamination issues."

    I have been in Washington DC long enough to know that that game needs to change. - Sen. Barack Obama

    by pollwatch on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 04:15:30 AM PDT

  •  Other sources (0+ / 0-)

    Indium is gone within a decade.

    Hmmmm. The asteroid Apophis has a high concentration of indium. And it will be approaching Earth closely several times within the next few decades. A few million kg of indium at $1000+ a kilogram....sounds tempting.

    •  1 in 45,000 chance of hitting us in 2036 (0+ / 0-)

      If we can hold out until then the price should plummet after that.

      (1 in 45,000 is not especially insignificant in this case)

      "They're telling us something we don't understand"
      General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

      by subtropolis on Sun Jul 06, 2008 at 09:03:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  byproduct metals (0+ / 0-)

    Indium and gallium and scandium and cobalt are byproducts of mines that produce other metals. You don't have a cobalt mine, you have a nickel or copper mine that produces cobalt.
    We aren't going to stop producing nickel or copper, so we aren't going to stop producing cobalt.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site