How much is left?

This is pretty cool. Scientific American has created an interactive web page that provides a visual accounting of the earth’s remaining resources. You can click on different years and icons to discover all sorts of fascinating and sobering information about the current state of global commodities, biodiversity, water supplies, as well as projections for the future.

They have also embedded videos in which experts from various fields talk about the stark resource limitations that confront humanity as the global population continues its ascendancy towards an estimated 9 billion by mid-century. As they say in the introduction,

The constraints on our resources and environment – compounded by the rise in the middle class in India and China – will shape the rest of this century and beyond.

We hear a lot about economic growth and the dazzling rise of emerging economic superpowers in Asia, but economists are much less inclined to discuss the resource limits that are coming increasingly into plain view as population and consumption levels rise. How are we to equitably provide sufficient resources for all 9 billion of us a mere 40 years from now?

Here are just a few tidbits of info from the site that I found quite shocking:

  • Hammerhead sharks have declined by 89 percent since 1986. They are hunted for their fins, which are a delicacy in soups (for some).
  • We are living in the midst of one of the greatest extinction periods of all time. Due to habitat loss, hunting, environmental pollutants and climate change, 18% of all mammals are considered endangered. 30% of amphibians are endangered.
  • 90% of all the planet’s oil reserves are projected to be exhausted by 2050.
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