A world without resources is high on a long list of doomsday scenarios offered by folks out to scare the rest of us to death.

The day approaches, they warn us, when our raw materials will be exhausted, our mines stripped, our forests destroyed, our farmland depleted, our petroleum used up and our atmosphere poisoned. All we shall have left are mountains of garbage and starving populations.

The handwringing has begun, for the needed remedies, they tell us, call for draconian measures beyond our present will to impose on the world: drastic population reduction, global political control and massive monetary transfers from wealthy nations to underprivileged countries. It seems that eventually even the end of the human world comes down to politics and money.

Most of us private sector folks are willing to do our remedial bit. The last time I flew to Europe I was billed for my “carbon footprint.” I think it’s somebody’s idea of secular penance for our collective sins against the air. I doubt the air benefitted, but the airline did. Anyway, fear is spreading that time is quickly running out. The doomsayers tell us these tentative efforts may be too little too late.

So much for the gloomier prospects. What about the brighter side? Or is there a brighter side? The answer is yes, provided we think creatively about this and other problems. For creative thinking is what sets humans apart from their fellow Earth creatures. And it points to this fact: Resources don’t make mankind; mankind makes its resources.

Prehistoric peoples trudged across vast deposits of petroleum but, ignorant of its potential, they didn’t see it as a resource. Large animals grazed the grasslands, but for ages it didn’t occur to mankind to domesticate and harness them for riding and hauling. Some early people knew about the wheel, but it was a child’s toy until an unremembered genius visualized axles and couplings and another came up with the idea of substituting animal power for paltry human strength.

The point is this: Our greatest resource isn’t elements of earth, air or sea but the ingenuity of the human mind that turns them into resources. Anthropologists classify mankind as Homo sapiens, wise or knowing man, but a better description might be Homo Technicus, technical man, man the crafter, the inventor of resources.

This is why we honor most of those who treat the world with a creative spirit. If one resource fails, they find another and usually something better. It’s the human way, and I find no proof that it has changed in our time.

The doomsayers have always been with us and probably ever shall be. But we do ourselves a disservice if we surrender to their dreads. Surely this era will end, yet not in the panic and doom they predict but so transition to a better age can begin. In this sense, Shelley’s verse becomes prophecy: “The world’s great age begins anew; the Golden Years return.”

Harold Raley lives in Friendswood.


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(2) comments

Bailey Jones

I suppose - if your only concern is how to raise more cattle and light more light bulbs. But that's not our only concern - not if we want to survive as a species. Humanity needs to move away from this antiquated idea that the earth is our "resource". It's not. It never has been. It's our "environment".

We are currently in the middle of the Anthropocene (or Holocene), extinction. This is an mass extinction event every bit as calamitous as the five previous (Ordovician–Silurian, Late Devonian, Permian–Triassic, Triassic–Jurassic, and the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction). Mass extinction events are usually denoted by two names, as in "Triassic–Jurassic" to denote the the type of life that existed before the event, and the type of life that evolved after. Mass extinctions are characterized by the loss of at least 75% of species within a geologically short period of time.

Unlike previous extinctions, such as the extinction of the dinosaurs 65,000,000 years ago, the current extinction event is not due to natural events, but human activity. The current rate of extinction of species is estimated to be between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate, and 10 to 100 times faster than in any of the previous mass extinctions in the history of Earth. This is caused by the destruction and pollution of habitats, the consumption of animals as resources, and the elimination of species that humans view as threats or competitors.

The survival of humanity is inexorably tied to the survival of every other creature on earth. I agree with you that we absolutely do need creative thinking - to save our age and our species from the extinction that we ourselves have begun.

Carlos Ponce

Tulsa, Oklahoma (UPI) September 28, 1975 by Jerry R. Wilson

"The United States may be totally independent of Arab oil by the year 2015

Unfortunately, so will everyone else because statistically that will be the year the last barrel of oil is pumped from the last well on earth.

Of course, there will be no “last barrel” as such in 2015 because the world’s oil fields cannot continue to produce at current levels much longer.

The 1975 International Petroleum Encyclopedia, updated and published annually by the Petroleum Publishing Co., sets proven world reserves — the oil known for a fact to be present and recoverable by current technology — at about 103 billion metric tons. The current world annual consumption rate is approximately 2.8 billion."

Soooo, we ran out of oil 5 years ago? Someone forgot to tell the petrochemical industry.

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