Natural resources are finite: Have we forgotten?

Barbara Unmüßig writes an enlightening article on the industrialized world’s growing dependency on communication technologies that require raw materials that will we will eventually run out of. Environmental and development challenges tied to the extraction of these materials is not as important a concern for governments seeking to secure the supply of these raw materials. Unmüßig argues that “resource efficiency, recycling and substitution” must become top priorities:

The rising resource demand from the industrialised countries and emerging economies is intensifying the competition over fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal and key traditional resources such as timber, gold, copper, iron ore and bauxite. No wonder, then, that resource governance is no longer a peripheral issue and is moving to the top of the international policy agenda. For a long time, attention was focused solely on the availability of energy resources, but today, these new strategic resources are in the spotlight as well. Securing the supply of raw materials is the top priority in government policy discourse – in Europe, Germany and China alike. Environmental and development challenges, on the other hand, are treated as secondary concerns.

[…]

Material and resource efficiency is a very important goal, but it is not enough. New trade and investment rules and eco-social standards are also required. Banning or foregoing the extraction of resources, for example in the Arctic or the tropical forests, are other important options – but these options will no longer be available once the world’s finite resources have been consumed.

Resource governance requires a “joined-up” approach that links economic and foreign policy, ecological concerns, and democratic and development policy, which are crying out for a coherent strategy. Here, environment and development, democracy and human rights must be regarded as equally important goals and should not be subordinated to the industrial and emerging countries’ economic interests.

[…]

Natural resources are finite. Consumers should be clear about that when they upgrade their mobile phones, on average, every 18 months.

Read full article here.

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