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Chapter 4: The Coming Age of Abundance

Issue Analysis


Chapter 4: The Coming Age of Abundance

The objective, scientific evidence available today shows that the prophets of doom were wrong in virtually every prediction they made in the 1960s and 1970s when they forecast increasing natural resource scarcity and rising commodity prices.

Every measurable trend of the past century suggests that humanity will soon be entering an age of increasing and unprecedented natural resources abundance.

Technological improvements and advances in productivity have continually outpaced our consumption of natural resources and have led to the net creation of more resources available to future generations.

Today, natural resources are about half as expensive relative to wages as they were in 1980, about three times less expensive than they were fifty years ago, and roughly eight times less costly than they were in 1900.

In spite of Paul and Anne EhrlichÂ’s projection that mineral supplies would be largely depleted by 1985, proven reserves of virtually all important minerals have skyrocketed since 1950.

The continuing discovery of new mines, technological innovations in mining techniques, and introductions of less expensive or superior substitutes for the use of some minerals have caused most minerals to become less scarce rather than more scarce over the past 100 years.

Although Paul Ehrlich refers to the 1980s as a catastrophic decade in terms of consumption, the period witnessed tremendous increases in the supply of almost all raw materials.

A well-publicized book, The Energy Crisis, projected in 1972 that the earth held thirty years left of gas reserves and twenty years left of oil reserves. Since 1950, however, proven reserves for oil and gas have climbed by over 700 percent.

The very concept of finite natural resources embraced by geologists is a flawed way of thinking about the earth and nature. Natural resources have value only when humanity invents a use for them.