Chapter 3. Converging Crises — Resources
We are running out of natural resources. Limited resources for more people means trouble. What are we running out of exactly, how do these relate and what does it mean?
Zizek, with Ed Ayres, sees four spikes of environmental threat: population growth, consumption of resources, carbon gas emissions, mass extinction of species.
Bloomberg recently turned things around; it’s not that humanity is threatening the earth, but the earth treats humanity. That is, they distinguished nine boundaries that will threat human living conditions. From their perspective (see image), it’s first and foremost declining biodiversity that will render the planet uninhabitable.
Main conclusion is that systems that support human life are being depleted now rapidly, with unpredictable effects but with food being the ultimate resource. Some of these we are experiencing already quite forcefully; high oil prices, rising food prices, atmospheric instability.
The most important dimensions of resource depletion will be described in this part.
-  Zizek 2011: 327, quoting Ed Ayres (2001), quoted in Rolston, “Four Spikes, Last Chance”, Conservation Biology 14:2, pp. 584-5. ↩
For the first time in human history we are altering the climate of the planet in a way that is threatening our own subsistence. Global warming can make the Earth uninhabitable – at least for the nine billion people that could be alive halfway the current century, and certainly for the poorest part.
The climate crisis is interlinked with other crises. Biodiversity is threatened by global warming because forests can’t cope and die, taking the animals for which they are the habitats with them. Floods, droughts, hurricanes, rising seawater levels and disappearing glaciers affect the poor in developing countries the most, so social inequality is increased as well.
-  Rifkin 2011: 25 ↩
Chris Martenson argues that cheap energy and other natural resources are depleting, which means they cost increasingly more energy to subtract. The financial system, whose collapse is so visible in the media, mainly reacts by showing higher prices and unsustainable debt.
This short video – although grossly simplified – shows the lines of the argument quite well.
Food. The ultimate crucial resource. It’s production is highly dependent on the availability of ecosystems services like water, clean air, biodiversity and a suitable climate. Food scarcity means hunger, too much hunger means people die.
Lester Brown compellingly makes this point, by showing that civilizations have a tendency to collapse when running low on food, and food production is dependent on the natural ecosystems we live in. The following (Matt Damon narrated) documentary sums up his position.
Jared Diamond in his 2005 book Collapse also analyses how population growth and their impact on the environment is worsening ten fundamental and interrelated areas of resource depletion:
-  Diamond 2005: 486-500 ↩