Finite planetary resources – except for humans

Cover Story, Editorial, Features

Vol 25, Issue 9, 18 November 2022

We all know that our planet has finite resources and that we cannot create more materials out of nothing – the planet is a closed system, nothing extra can be found. There is only so much water and minerals that are available, and all we can do is regenerate and recycle what we have. We can of course utilise various materials and turn them into something new, but the resources themselves are non-replenishable – all that is, except for human resources – it seems those we can generate quite readily.

When you run out of wine you simply pick more grapes, and make some more, but to get grapes you need soil, nutrients, water, and so on, all of which get used up and turned into wine – it’s not a miracle.

Recently, the human population of our planet topped 8 billion, which is approximately double what the planet can actually support – according to many experts. When I think about it, in the year I was born, the population was only 3.1 billion – that is an incredibly fast growth in less than 60 years! We are predicted to reach almost 10 billion in the next 30 years. By then we are getting to the absolute tipping point of grossly unsustainable growth, and it is predicted that growth will be stagnant by the year 2100 at just over 10 billion.

When marketers see population figures they also see the potential for possible consumers. Many companies have got this wrong so many times thinking that a region (market) that has a large population, also has that many potential consumers for them – it can only work if you have the products those consumers need, at the quantity and quality expected in the way that they need them, and that you have some kind of competitive advantage. This of course has a knock-on effect for manufacturers when it comes to human resources, the more production has to increase to provide goods and services for a growing population, the more employees will need to be found. The more employees there are, the more money is being made, the more products and services are being sold, the more families grow, and so the cycle perpetuates…

When you need to make a new throne, why not recycle existing materials and make a symbolic statement at the same time, aka. the Iron Throne from the Game of Thrones…

As I wrote last week, more and more companies have to now consider factoring sustainability into their strategic operations. Not only this, but governments and nations have to seriously consider combatting climate change and over-population. The younger generation are becoming more aware and active in their attitudes to what is happening globally and in particular the harm we are doing to our planet. This of course has implications to the regional and national economies around the globe. Manufacturing needs to be cut-down, but the needs of populations are growing, so how will we continue to satisfy the needs of the growing numbers of consumers?

The only way we can achieve this is for manufacturers to practice not only the use of recycled materials for new production, but also to look for ways of repurposing existing materials and products. Countries need to find new ways of sustaining economic growth without the need to encourage consumerism. Lastly, we the general public also need to take a good look at ourselves in relation to our true needs and the effects our consumer spending might have on others, especially our plant. I know that we are all human, and driven mostly by simple selfish desires, so it is time to take a step back and not just look at, but understand the whole picture.

How long before our planet’s coffers are empty?

Maybe it is time we moved away from monetary systems to some kind of new global economy, perhaps a truly non-monetary, worth-based system – or is that too futuristic to comprehend at the current time?