exhaustible resources

Global competition for strategic mineral supplies

Publication date:
First published in:
Resources Policy
W.C.J. van Rensburg

The USA's dependence on imported sources of strategic minerals has grown substantially since the second world war, while its ability to protect the sealanes critical to foreign supplies has deteriorated. Domestic production has been severely hampered by a lack of access to mining on public lands, and by excessive environmental regulations. No major purchases have been made for the strategic stockpile in 20 years. Concern has been growing in Western Europe and in Japan about secure supplies of strategic minerals. Being even more dependent on foreign sources of supply than the USA, some of these countries have recently initiated their own strategic stockpilling programmes. The USSR, long an important exporter of metals, appears to have changed its mineral trade policy, and has sharply reduced exports while entering the market as an importer of a number of key metals. These developments foreshadow growing competition for world supplies of strategic minerals.

Published in: Resources Policy, Volume 7, Issue 1, March 1981, Pages 4-13
Available from: ScienceDirect

Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change

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First published in:
William R. Catton

Excerpt from the book:
The Industrial Revolution made us precariously dependent on nature's dwindling legacy of non-renewable resources, even though we did not at first recognize this fact. Many major events of modern history were unforeseen results of actions taken with inadequate awareness of ecological mechanisms. Peoples and governments never intended some of the outcomes their actions would incur.

To see where we are now headed, when our destiny has departed so radically from our aspirations, we must examine some historic indices that point to the conclusion that even the concept of succession (as explored in previous chapters) understates the ultimate consequences of our own exuberance. We can begin by taking a fresh look at the Great Depression of the 1930s, an episode people saw largely in the shallower terms of economics and politics when they were living through it. [1] From an ecologically informed perspective, what else can we now see in it?

The Great Depression, looked at ecologically, was a preview of the fate toward which mankind has been drawn by the kinds of progress that have depended on consuming exhaustible resources. We need to see why it was not recognized for the preview it was; this will help us to grasp at last the meaning missed earlier.

We did not know we were watching a preview because, when the world economy fell apart in 1929-32, it was not from exhaustion of essential fuels or materials. From the very definition of carrying capacity—the maximum indefinitely supportable ecological load—we can now see that non-renewable resources provide no real carrying capacity; they provide only phantom carrying capacity. If coming to depend on phantom carrying capacity is a Faustian bargain that mortgages the future of Homo colossus as the price of an exuberant present, that mortgage was not yet being foreclosed in the Great Depression. Even so, much of the suffering that befell so much of mankind in the 1930s does need to be seen as the result of a carrying capacity deficit. The fact that the deficit did not stem from resource exhaustion in that instance makes it no less indicative of the kinds of grief entailed by resource depletion. Accordingly, we need to understand what did bring on a carrying capacity deficit in the 1930s.

A interview with the author can be found here: Google Video

Published by: University of Illinois Press, June 1, 1982
Available from: Amazon Online

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