Recently I visited a school for a chat with the students and we started talking about how we are using our Earth’s resources quicker than nature can replace them. The thing that we found really challenging is that most people don’t have any idea about this.
So what is happening to our natural resources? There are two types of resources: renewable – those that can be re-grown or replaced when carefully managed, and non-renewable – when they are used up then that’s it, finished, gone never to be seen again.
Some typical renewable resources that we tend to over exploit are: fish, forests, soil and water. We need to rethink how we can best conserve these resources rather than consume them in a hurry. Is short-term self-interest really our resting pulse rate? I believe we can do much better.
Some of the most valuable non-renewable resources that we use are – oil, coal and gas. The burning of oil, gas and coal emit green house gases that hang around in our atmosphere for up to 100 years trapping heat. This trapped heat puts more energy into our weather system and causes changes in our climate – heavier rain, more snow, stronger heatwaves, longer droughts, warmer and more acidic oceans and rising sea levels.
Oil as a fuel is one of the greatest and most powerful sources of energy ever discovered. Its by-products grow, make, create and transport most of our food, clothing and shelter around the world. Oil products are a key ingredient in more than 500,000 things we make. From ping-pong balls to computers, from fertiliser to phones, from cosmetics to tooth brushes.
More than 10% of oil is used in manufacturing. We burn 88 million barrels a day. We are headed to 91 million barrels a day – our current capacity. We need to discover another four Saudi Arabia’s to meet our oil needs for the next 40 years!
How will we do this? We need to find a better way to generate energy. The Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones – we simply found a better way. Like the inhabitants of Easter Island who knowingly chopped down their last tree. Will we really burn our last barrel of oil before we plan for a world without oil?
What will we say to future generations when they ask, ‘What happened to all the oil?’ Response – ‘Err, umm, yeah, no – sorry – we burnt it all!’
Our natural world, our environment is our life support system – it provides everything we need to survive. Without a strong and healthy life support system how can we live healthy lives?
Compare our environment to a bank account. The students decided that they all wanted to make more deposits than withdrawals to keep a healthy balance.
When I asked the students what happens when you only make withdrawals with very few deposits. They told me, ‘you get in the red’, ‘you go broke’, ‘you need another loan’, ‘you are in trouble’ and they are right!
This is known as Ecological Debt and unlike bank debt you cannot negotiate – nature simply acts and applies its rules.
Cool Australia Founder and CEO – Jason Kimberley
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