The sh*t has hit the fan. I don't know if you're ready/want to hear this but the signs are everywhere. From the news of climate change where certainly we have hit the peak of sustainable living on our planet and are now looking to a future of unknown climate catastrophes and degradation and depletion of resources to the recognition that we can no longer rely on the convenience or take for granted that we will have an abundant and safe food and water supply. Or the feeling of entitlement we have of our ease of transportation mobility. The areas we thought were nonnegotiable are no longer secure.
Of course, bad politics and policies has been an issue. For the past forty years we have been governed with focus on the immediate rather than any vision or planning for a future with climate change and the necessity of having strong governmental bodies in place for a future which will require global decisions. But politics is not the entire problem. We have been living without regard for the consequences of our vast consumption
Surely with oil we have been talking about a peak for a long time. Well the peak for easy oil passed and we are now in the high cost, high risk extraction phase of oil production.
There is now developing in consciousness the realization that although water is a renewable resource our extreme use does not give nature sufficient time to replenish naturally. There is the news that in China excessive use of ground water has caused land to sink in at least 96 cities. And in Saudi Arabia NASA has aerial photos of the Saudi's careless use of water to irrigate the desert without regard to future needs.
Here is Peter Gleick, the iminent global water expert, of The Pacific Institute talking about Peak Water:
Another area being managed with total idiocy is our food supply. Was there ever such a prime example of what happens when you let the unregulated market do its thing? We now have a health killing, Earth killing (pdf) food production sector which is run without any thought to planning for a sustainable future and is one of the leading causes of climate change. When we are looking at peak oil, peak water, peak land etc. we have a food production system that is the model for inefficiency due to it's extreme use of resources. From Francis Moore Lappe's iconic book "Diet For A Small Planet":
We feed almost half the world's grain to livestock, returning only a fraction in meat...while millions starve
It takes 16 pounds of grain and soybeans to produce just 1 pound of beef in the US
producing one pound of steak uses 2,500 gallons of water! Livestock production, including water fed to US crops fed to livestock aboard , account for about half of all water consumed in the US.
We can not mitigate climate change without reforming our food policies (pdp).
As we approach "Peak Everything" there are global implications to be considered.
“Nations need increasing amounts of energy and raw materials to produce economic growth, but the costs of supplying new increments of energy and materials are burgeoning. In many cases, lower-quality resources with high extraction costs are all that remain. Securing access to these resources often requires military expenditures as well. Meanwhile the struggle for the control of resources is re-aligning political power balances throughout the world.
This game of resource “musical chairs” could well bring about conflict and privation on a scale never seen before in world history. Only a decisive policy shift toward resource conservation, climate change mitigation, and economic cooperation seems likely to produce a different outcome.”
As we approach Earth Day 2012 on Sunday we need to recognize the greatest resource scarcity we now face
and that is the scarcity of time
. We are running out of time to make the changes necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. We see wonderful plans of green transport, and beautiful futuristic green cities but if we can not reduce greenhouse gases sufficiently in the next few years we will not mitigate the worst effects of climate change we may not be able to prevent tipping points which can take us to runaway and uncontrollable weather extremes.
"With our human population expanding and resource consumption growing even faster, we are close to hitting the wall in a number of arenas—fresh water, oil reserves, minerals like phosphorous for fertilizer, oceanic fisheries, and nature’s ability to absorb climate-altering carbon dioxide, among others. But the scarcest resource of all is time.
We do not know exactly how much time we have before the problems created by our excesses are too big or too far along for us to handle, but we do know that time is running out.
As the scarcity of time becomes more apparent the solutions we have been working on become more necessary. The good news is that we still can make a difference with our actions. But, that window is closing rapidly.