The myth of finite resources

The world’s resources. We’re using them up at a selfish, unsustainable rate and we’re all DOOMED! Or are we?

What if resources are not something that we mindlessly consume? What if resources are something that we create?

A long time ago there were no resources. Then some genius, unrecorded by history, worked out a way of fashioning stone into hand axes. That was such a cool idea that early humans spent the next couple of million years making axes to exactly the same design. Then suddenly they stopped. Was it because they’d used up all the stone? No, it was because some other genius had worked out a way of turning metal into tools and weapons. Hooray! Now bronze was a resource too!

At the dawn of time there were a lot of trees around. Nobody imagined cutting them down. Like, what for, man? Crazy idea! Then someone realized that if you cut a tree down you could make fire. You could feed and warm a family or a tribe. Hey – another resource!

For a long time, trees were cut down. Then someone discovered that burning coal was more efficient. If only we could dig the stuff out of the ground effectively, coal could become a resource too. Enter James Watt and the dawn of the coal age.

These days we don’t use stone or bronze for tools and we don’t burn trees for fuel. That’s why the forested area in Europe and North America is increasing year by year. We’re starting to phase out coal too, as it’s expensive, polluting and inefficient compared with oil and gas.

We have lots of other resources now that we didn’t have a century or so ago. Electricity, solar power, computing power, the internet, telecommunications, transport, medicine, etc. There are so many resources. And guess what? We created them all.

And crucially, the most important resource of all is more abundant now than ever before. Do you know what it is? It’s human creativity.

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3 responses to “The myth of finite resources

  1. yes I get tired of this we are on a finite planet, well duh it is not like we can grow the planet bigger einstein, I can never understand the mentality of some enviromentalists who think all humans (outside of themsleves) are just so greedy and selfish and do not care about the planet as if they have a monopoly on integrity or something.I care about it and so do millions who do not call for reduction in standards of living or increased in taxation or some other nonsense, and many who create the goods and services we actually want (outside those imposed by force of government) many of these people care too, how many of these people are hikers, campers,hunters, and bird watchers and who own vast areas they maintain as wildlife areas? so many seem to think we can either have a nice enviorment or wealth but never both, which I don’t understand why not? I have yet to read a logical answer to this, of course they point out oil spills for example, but that is a personal responsiblity to clean it up and prevent future accidents problem of the oil companies and such not a having a oil for human use problem.

    • Hey robert, thanks for your comments. You are right that nobody has a monopoly on integrity. And we should strive for a nice environment and a growing economy at the same time – you are right that we can have both!

  2. Pingback: Will technological unemployment impoverish us?

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