Oil, Food, Water: Is Everything Past its Peak?
By 2030, the global middle class is expected to grow by two-thirds. That’s 3 billion more shoppers. They'll all want access to goods, including water, wheat, coffee and oil. Is there enough for everybody? Can business satisfy demand and avoid hitting "peak everything?"
The iconic Peak Oil hypothesis--that world oil production will plateau and decline-- has inspired parlor-game questions about other resources. Some materials, like coal, are finite; others, like water, are renewable but have limits to how quickly reserves can be replenished. Can Earth keep up with our demand? Call it Peak Everything.
Thomas Malthus, history’s celebrated pessimist, wrote in 1798 that, should war and disease fail to claim humanity, “gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.”
The U.S. is the closest it has been in almost 20 years to achieving energy self-sufficiency, a goal the nation has been pursuing since the 1973 Arab oil embargo triggered a recession and led to lines at gasoline stations.
Jonas Kron is worried about water. The investment adviser at Trillium Asset Management, a $900 million fund manager that focuses on environmentally sustainable investment, fears the world’s dwindling supply of fresh water is hurting the companies he has invested in.
Every year, Suzanne Fallender’s corporate responsibility office at Intel receives dozens of requests from sustainability analysts and nonprofits looking to rate the company on its water usage, carbon emissions, workforce diversity, and scores of other factors.
The Earth has entered a new epoch of its physical history: the Anthropocene, or age of man. An interdisciplinary team of scientists has begun to describe and debate "planetary boundaries" -- limits beyond which we 7 billion people risk catastrophic disruptions.
Bloomberg Sustainability News
Nations and companies face rising competition for strategic resources — energy, food, water, materials — and the technologies that make best use of them.The changes ahead are long-term and global, but readers can't be everywhere at once. Bloomberg News already is. Visit www.bloomberg.com/sustainability.