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You’ve heard about peak oil?

What about peak phosphorus? According to Patrick Dery, world phosphorus production peaked in 1989, and by his predictions we are overdue for a severe drop off in production. Phosphorus along with oil has underpinned the “green revolution”, and a reduction in phosphorus at the same time as oil could have a dramatic impact on our ability to feed ourselves.

When you add this to other trends such as the increasing replacement of food crops with biofuels (see Poplar Mechanics & Biofuels Demand Grows Across Continents), it seems clear that food prices may be due for a spike in the not too distant future.

One of the thing’s I’m really worried about is a worldwide economic depression. It’s not uncommon to see an article about how household debt levels are at all-time highs, or how people are living well beyond their means in the contemporary credit-card economy. I don’t think it’d take too much price inflation (driven by a rise of oil prices, food prices, etc.) to start impacting on the ability of people to service their debts. We’ve recently had an indicator of what might happen in the (much smaller scale) collapse of the 2nd hand mortgage market in the US.  Some commentators on the more extreme end of the spectrum have been predicting this collapse could cause a recession.  What might happen with a much wider-spread collapse of financial markets?  Scary stuff.

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