• Heather Paterson

Last Chance: Supplies Running Out

Updated: Mar 25, 2019

That's right it's the planets sale of the century, everything must go. Act now because we're running out of oil, water, food . . .

If you have opened up a paper or switched on the news in the past year, the world looks like a pretty bleak place. The message, we're fucked.

Now we have had similar messages and campaigns for years, some of you will be old enough to remember the environmental campaigns and protests in the 60's which took place before I was even born. We've heard about the hole in the ozone layer, the greenhouse effect, global warming, and climate change over the decades. So what has changed ?

In the 60's environmental campaigners were acting to preserve the planet for future generations with the knowledge that their generation had little to worry about for themselves, and thus they were for the most part ignored. Now things are different. I am 26 years old and potentially have another 60+ years of life on this earth. In that time we do have do worry. If we continue to consume at our current rate, the world is going to be a very different place (and not for the better) in 20 years let alone 60.

On Wednesday of this week oil hit the record $100 a barrel for the first time. Admittedly this was done by one individual who immediately sold the consignment for $99.40, clearly doing this as a publicity stunt paying $600 for the right to say he was the first person to buy $100+ oil. However, a new record was then set in New York on Thursday at $100.09 a barrel with warning of prices rising as high as $110.

These stories have brought the issue of peak oil back into the headlines. The basic issue is that we are currently highly dependent on fossil fuels which are a finite resource. There are various reports and projections of when we will hit a peak with oil reserves. Personally however I see this as an almost irrelevant point. We can spend our time arguing about when it is going to happen but the fact is that if we are relying mainly on a finite resource, whether demand is going to exceed supply in 5 years or 50 years, at some point it IS going to run out (get a dictionary and look up the word FINITE) and we obviously have a major issue to address. With the expected worlds population in 2030 to be double that of 1980, we are rapidly approaching crisis point by the day.

So what do we do ? We need to find alternatives. One currently popular alternative is bio-fuel. On face value this seems to be a great alternative. Bio-fuel is a clean renewable energy which is relatively cheap and easy to produce. It doesn't require any major new technology and can be produced quickly. However millions of acres of land are now being used to produce biodiesel and ethanol. Governments are encouraging these crops in an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and increase energy supplies, however in doing so they are reducing food supplies.

So from Peak Oil, we also have to deal with Peak Food. Most foods are derived directly from grain or animals that eat grain, and shockingly, the worlds grain reserves will all but have disappeared by this years harvest. These grain reserves are intended to protect us from a poor harvest and it was normally considered safe if these reserves amounted to 120 days supply. Over the last few years reserves have been slowly used up as each harvest did not quite meet demand until by harvest 2007 they only amounted to a dangerous 47 days supply. By 2008 harvest we will really be scraping the bottom of the barrel and need a big harvest to get us out of trouble. If it's a bad world harvest, there simply will not be enough food to go around, and with almost no reserves to help out, panic buying, speculation and hoarding will prevail, making a bad situation much worse, emptying the supermarket shelves.

So biodiesel may help the peak oil problem, but in turn it fuels the peak food issues. There is a compromise. We use a massive amount of potential bio-fuel already. If we had an organised method of collection we could reuse cooking oil for fuel supplies. Starting with the largest food production factories, to chip shops, restaurants, to having a domestic collection of waste oil, similar to our current general waste and glass / paper / can recycling schemes we could collect and reuse a massive amount of bio-fuel without the need for massive additional crops.

However, used chip fat alone will not save the planet, if only it was that easy.

While we're talking about chips, our diet is another way we can help out. I am vegan, but if vegetarianism was more common. agriculture would be automatically sustainable. Vegetables and grains need much less land and water than animals, so it wouldn't be necessary to destroy rain forests or irrigate arid land, or create deserts with over pasturing. Perhaps just enough animals could be raised to satisfy the ovo-lacto vegetarians, and those few people who haven't quite made the vegetarian transition, but even they would consume far less meat, for the sake of their health. The extra land that was freed up through the reduction in cattle rearing would then be able to be used for growing grain and/or bio-fuels.

There are a range of other renewable resources that we need to be taking advantage of including wind and wave power. One major resource that we are massively under-using is solar power. If each new building automatically had solar panels on the roof and we gradually installed solar panels on all existing buildings we could be nearly self sufficient in power supply. No land would be needed to grow solar panels and it is a technology we have already developed. The cost of this would be relatively minor in the overall cost of construction and would be cancelled out by the reduction in fuel bills.

This is such a simple solution that is raises the question why we are not already doing this. Why are "eco developments" so rare ? The answer is that if we moved towards being self sufficient British Gas, Powergen, NPower and all of the other power supply companies would be out of business, and in a capitalist society we value money more than anything else.

So I leave you with the following thought:

"Only when the last tree has died and The last river has been poisoned and The last fish has been caught, Will we realise that We cannot eat money"

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