resource use and economic activity

Many of the issues that humanity faces exist because they involve our use of the resources that the Earth and its environments provide to us.

 

Our use of those resources is mostly a result of our economic activity, because our economic activity is the process of taking those resources and converting them into the products of our economy.  Our economy unavoidably uses these resources because all economic activity directly or indirectly uses resources to create its products.

 

While the amount of resources used to produce each particular product varies greatly, over the vast range of products that an economy produces and the vast size of the economy this variability evens out. This means that the amount of resources used by an economy overall is predictably proportional to its size: the larger an economy is, the more resources it unavoidably uses.

 

There is a limit to how much resource the Earth and its environments can provide for us to use in our economic activities and still be sustained. If we exceed that limit then the environment, our societies, and ourselves will not be sustained.  This means that, because the larger an economy becomes the more resources it uses, there is a limit to how big an economy can grow.

 

It may seem that we are managing with the amount of resources that we use now, and that there are still plenty of resources to keep our economies going for the foreseeable future; however, there are two reasons why this is not so. One reason is that we are already using resources at an unsustainable rate, so we won't be able to continue to use then at this rate forever. The other reason is that our economies have to grow; the need to grow is a fundamental, structural part of the way modern economies work. As our economies grow, the rate at which we use resources must grow with them.

 

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