Children, Street Children, Child Labor, Slavery
elp from Audubon Society.
Growth will stop being exponential and later turn negative. Rising prices will make thin seams of coal profitable to mine and to convert to gas and liquid. Supply and demand will always remain in balance; the total system will probably always show a high degree of stability, though inequities in distribution will always be with us.
Exponential growth of energy consumption will be relegated to the history books where it will join countless other phenomena that have defined the course of human history, and that have shown exponential growth in their early stages. New processes such as information generation and flow will have their turn at exponential growth before they plateau and seek a steady state.
There is one exception to the picture outlined above--soil-based systems.
If one examines the global data on various soil related issues (croplands, forest lands, grazing lands, irrigated lands, fisheries) one is struck by the huge number of positive feedback phenomena (instabilities) that have historically never allowed a steady state to be reached, but instead have produced an endless series of collapses of soil-based systems. A few examples:
When irrigation production falls short of desire, people attempt to get along with less water per unit of output. The result is salination and less--not more--crop production. When timber production falls short of desire, people harvest trees at younger ages. The result is less productivity--not more. When livestock production falls short of desire, more grazing animals are put on the same pasture. The result is overgrazing, soil erosion, less grass and less--not more--cattle. When cropland production falls below demand, fallow periods are decreased, the result is massive wind erosion, chemical degradation of the soil, and less--not more--crop production. All of this idiocy has always been defended by the economists of the day using a process called discount economics.
Take the extra profits from not conserving soil and soil quality and put these profits in a bank. Then, by the time the earth is converted to a barren wasteland, you simply live off the interest-income from your bank account. Is this imbecilic? Before you decide, ask any forester whether he uses present-net-value analyses, and ask any agricultural expert whether soil-conservation makes economic sense.
Soil-based systems are clearly not stable, equilibrium-seeking systems. They have always been subject to massive positive-feedback processes.
The worse things get, the faster they get worse. This is why all those ancient civilizations (all agriculture-based) have collapsed rather than seeking a more soil-conservative mode of operation. I have seen nothing that would make me believe that discount economics will ever fall out of favor. Take a look at all the economic analyses of soil conservation that have appeared in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation over the past few decades. Virtually every such analysis will assure us that soil conservation is simply not worth the effort, and anyone expressing doubts about the discount economics involved is seen as a dunce, or worse.