Is mankind in danger of backsliding into pre-industrial times?

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

spoon_carving_Russia-cottage_industryThe Club of Rome says yes and according to some predictions due to the rise in the world's pollution and the ever decreasing non-renewable resources humanity is threatened to relapse into pre-industrial times.

Modern civilization is dependent on oil (and to some extent still on coal) and (natural) gas, rare earth and phosphate – but soon it won't be able to afford those raw materials. Those are the conclusions the Club of Rome, an association of researchers and scientists, arrived at in the report “The Plundered Planet”, which also includes a detailed inventory and appraisal of the raw materials of the Planet.

The researchers warn in their report of a scarcity of raw materials and the collapse of the ecosystems. Long before the world is going to be running out of raw materials it will no longer be able to continue with the exploitation of them, the Italian author and chemist Udo Bardi said.

Soon it will be necessary to invest more energy for the extraction of oil and gas than they will bring in return and already new the mining industry is using up ten percent of all in the world produced Diesel fuel. Investment in the extraction of energy will soon no longer be profitable. It is obvious that no one will be extraction oil at the cost of one to one or even two to one, that is to say when input and output is equal or when two units of energy are required to extract one then no one is going to do it.

Most raw materials are only to be found, nowadays, in small concentrations for which one has to drill deeper and deeper or, as in the case of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, expensive – and dangerous – technologies have to be used.

The Earth will drastically change

At this moment there are around seven billion people on this Planet. The number is estimated to rise within the next four decades to 9.3 billion. Whether this number is sustainable is, obviously, a question but the greatest problem is the destruction of the ecosystems caused by man's exploitation of the Earth and this will change the Planet, more than likely, in an extreme way.

We are making ourselves to the inhabitants of a new Planet – almost. A Planet with totally different climatic conditions and far fewer resources and raw materials, as far as non-renewable raw materials are concerned.

Should people fail to respond to this new situation in a positive way mankind is in danger, so the report also, to be backsliding and relapsing into pre-industrial times.

If it would be possible to create all our electrical energy from renewables such as solar, wind, etc., the new system would have to forgo motorways and aviation but not the Internet, robots, communication over long distances, and food security.

The energy transition and the exit from nuclear and fossil-fuel energy, as both is equally necessary though, alas, not understood by the powers-that-be, especially not in the UK and the USA, is and can only be the preliminary stage of a change of resources use. Already now are so many raw materials are used that a zero growth cannot even guarantee sustainable development.

This means that our entire system has to be changed where we get away from non-renewable resources and raw materials and based our economy and whatever else on renewable resources and on reclaiming more and more of the non-renewable ones in the form of so-called secondary raw materials. Mining our landfills may not just be an option but, I believe, may actually become a necessity. While iron and steel, in many cases, may by now have rotted away in such facilities, other metals, such as aluminium, copper, gold, and silver will still be recoverable.

The authors of the report stated that mankind is in danger of backsliding into pre-industrial times and while for many, if not indeed all of us, alive today it would mean some serious changes in our attitude and serious adjustments as to how we live and where we live and the work that we do, and so on, the question is to whether this is all such a bad idea. Maybe it is not even so much a backsliding into a pre-industrial era but an advancing into a post-industrial one.

We cannot, however, really backslide into pre-industrial era with the knowledge that we have today and some of the things but rather move forward to a post-industrial time. Though that new era will very much be like the old era though with knowledge, etc., that was not available then. Mankind will, especially in the currently highly industrialized nations, also have to relearn a lot of skills and technologies that were used then.

© 2017