Resource Management


In reading Kate’s book she quite clearly notes the issues with resources depletion especially energy.

Yet, the media keeps sensationalizes resource exploitation using production numbers and ignoring proven reserves.

For example USA Today Money ran a blurb regarding US oil production saying that it’s about to move past Russia and Saudi Arabia. The inference is that the US economy currently based on 80%+ nonrenewable fossil fuels can keep charging along without any context that the US only has about 3% of the global proven reserves of oil yet uses about 20% of daily global consumption. And I ever heard on a excellent talk show that addresses real life issues where the host and guest were suggesting ‘American Independence’ of energy even though we still import about 50% of the oil used here.

Along the lines of management thinking where ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’, I’m looking for a strategy we can use to inform folks about resources depletion and the more commonly used term ‘overshoot’ in sustainability discussions.

I try to include whatever resource graphics I can get off of Google Images but I see that many organizations and understandably so, want to charge for the knowledge.

The Worldwatch Institute ( ) offers some information but I’m looking for sources that folks here use and can be leveraged in contacts with media including using social media to temper the production numbers with accurate and informative resource information.

In order to adequately rebuff claims about limitless growth we need to get resource information into the political and economic discourse.

Any suggestions or thoughts are welcomed.


One of the problems with resource exploitation is that reserves are unknown (certainly at a global level, and the market is global). This makes prospecting essentially ‘hunting and gathering’ - or treasure hunting. In this mindset tall tales are common and exaggeration is normal. My point is that it’s very difficult or even impossible to measure global reserves, so everybody can just make up whatever bullshit they like, and it’s hard to counter it.

So maybe your focus should be not on the resource reserves themselves, but on the definitions of what is and is not a ‘reserve’? For example, helium has some very important uses, they’re not making any more of it, and as soon as it can it disappears off into space. So how much helium is left? Who decides? What helium is accessible and what isn’t. And who decides that? Is it academia? Think tanks? Some department of something? Or just one big mishmash of a conversation where anything goes?

In climate change we have the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to make most-informed, best-practice, institutionally-accepted guesses at the state of carbon and climatic affairs. Maybe we need something similar for all key resources?

As you say, ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’. Maybe the problem is that too many people are measuring, each with their own assumptions, methods and agendas. And as far as being useful goes, too many is as bad as too little.

There are many elements, chemicals, and living creatures that are absolutely vital to our modern, high-tech, highly complex, just-in-time economy and lifestyle. Some of these resources are all that humanity will ever have, and that are deeply and importantly precious.

Maybe we need an official body to standardise the effort of defining, specifying and quantifying what’s left, and how fast we are using it up??


Is this something that should be on the Talanoa Dialogue agenda? I’m out of my depth here. Ooh ooh hurty brain.


Surely it should be on a lot of agendas. However the Talanoa Dialogue is just about responding to climate change.


I suggest this read by Chris Martenson:

Chapter 19 - Minerals . . . has a great review of the extent of mapping resources.

He has an excellent discussion as well addressing the energy issue to extract same . . . a topic Kate discusses in her book.

As a good example of the accuracy of addressing proven reserves is the technology in oil discovery and production. This has increased dramatically ever since the Shell oil engineer Hubbard predicted ‘peak’ crude oil production in the late 50s to be around 1970 using oil production logs translated to calculus that allows excellent estimates of remaining oil in existing fields.

Likewise, with the advent of advanced geology including 3D seismic modeling, most of the world’s oil is mapped accurately.

And while new technologies like fracking (shooting high pressure liquids into shale rock to essentially ‘wash’ the oil out of them), there’s been no significant additional to US oil reserves.

So why I respect your skepticism regarding ‘assumptions, methods and agendas’ . . . we also have to understand the reproducible strategies that do predict resource reserves.

Thus the call to point to them to add context to production numbers that are often skewed using new technology and increasing amounts of energy to extract resources not addressing long term sustainability prosperity in light of short run gains presented by the media without context.


Here are some excellent reads on resource depletion:

Thom Hartmann does an great job in discussing the linkage between sunlight and ‘stored’ energy in fossil fuels.

Ugo Bardi’s book has a great discussion of how resources even renewables can be over exploited.

Both discuss the issue of how we go after the ‘easiest’ sources of minerals then spend more and more energy going after the less dense / harder to extract materials.


Hi, I just want to suggest that sometimes in looking at problems we accept the dominant assumptions that got us into those problems. I see people using phrases like “how much is left” and “when will we run out” which are focused on the mining and extraction side of the equation. Here are some questions we could ask ourselves to reframe the discussion:
– What do we think we “need” these resources for? Exotic metals for making more and more cell phones? Is there equity in the number of people who “need” a new cell phone when we put them alongside the people receiving the impacts of the extraction?
– Is there another way to meet our needs that does not require that extraction? I’d say the structure of our manufacturing industries distorts the value of “new” products and disincentivizes the repair, reuse, refurbishing of materials and products in our economy.
– How do materials cycle in nature? We can learn so much from the natural world which has created abundance through biodiversity. We don’t “run out” of clean water because our soils and forests have always cycled the global water supply with amazing efficiency. We hear worries about agricultural crises like “peak phosphorus” because we’re so conditioned to mining phosphorus for NPK fertilizer, but smart regenerative farmers know that the mineral needs of their crops can be met in the native soil and subsoil if they break the chemical addiction. Meanwhile excess water-soluble nutrients washing into rivers is a major ecosystem threat. See a pattern here?
– Can we do more with less? I’d say yes absolutely, and an economy that doesn’t reward excess consumption would be a boost in that direction.