How fast are we depleting the earth's minerals?

Click on the image for the full resolution picture

This week, loads of activities popped up around Earth Day, a global event reminding us of the fragility of our planet, and the responsibilities each of us have. Of course we can't miss out on this, here on The Road.

Back in 2007, the New Scientist published an interesting article predicting how long the earth's minerals will last if we continue to consume them at the current level, or if we start to consume them at HALF the level the US currently does.

A pity I only discover the article now, but reading through it, I don't hesitate referring to it. A heads-up to all of us, care-takers of this planet, home for our children and the children of our children.

Without better recycling policies and techniques, it looks like we will run out of silver in 29 years (or 9 years if we start consuming at half the rate of the US). Tin has 40 years left (or 17 at the US' rate). Zinc, 46 years (34 at US rates)... Click on the image above to see the full overview. Each of the bars shows the current rate of consumption in a light colour, and the "US rate" in a darker colour.

Apart from the fact that the earth reserves will run out within a foreseeable time, I see the stimulus for recycling material more in the fact that we have to stop eating, breathing and drinking poison. If we see how little we recycle in the world, and how much of those products get dumped or burned, I can not but think how much of that is dispersed in the air, slips into our drinking water, or gets into the soil used to grow our food.

When I arrived here in the Dominican, one of the first things I wanted to do in the office, is set up recycling bins for plastics, glass and paper. Guess what. In the whole country, apparently there are no facilities where consumers can deposit their recycled material. Beh... And we don't have to look that far. I wrote before about the lack of recycling in Italy while I lived there. And that is Europe, for God's sake.

Even at home in Belgium: when we moved into our house on the countryside, we found that for years, the previous owner had dumped waste - including a huge pile of expired medicines - in the garden. I dug out two containers of waste from that garden, which also has the well: A pipe, going 5 meters into the ground, pumping drinking water for the house. And then we are surprised people get cancer. Beh.

Think people: one way or the other, you are eating, drinking and breathing your waste! So recycle. Refuse that plastic bag at the supermarket. Look for products with a recyclable packaging.

OK, I am getting off my soapbox now!

New Scientist article discovered via The Density of Unresolved Ideas.
Illustration courtesy New Scientist.


Anonymous,  20 May, 2010 10:43  

May I remind you to better check yr. resources about Italy and not to limit yr pearls of wisdom only to the little village where you lived or Rome ... By the way in a very large part of Belgium, the situation it's much the same if not worst. A curiosity: how much recycling do you do at WFP? Manifacturers printing all those unsold gadgets of yours, what kind of colors do they use? and how many times do you ask for recycling packages? and how many packets of cigarettes you contribute with in increasing the useless waste? Often you end up to be one of those people preaching the "do what I say, don't do what I do". Very easy

Peter 20 May, 2010 13:02  

Toes the size of a football field ;-)

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