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Waves of the Future - The Magian Age

Climate Change, Non-Renewable Resources, Energy, Contaminants, Carbon Pricing...

Degrowth (De-growth), Mineral Reserve Depletion, Population Growth, and Economic Crises/Recessions

Can economic expansion continue indefinitely?


How much of the world's non-renewable mineral resources is really left? How do population and exponential growth affect the mineral supply equation? Are we heading for an economic crisis or collapse?


See also Book I of the Waves of the Future Series

Degrowth (De-growth), Natural Resources, Population Growth, and Economic Collapse


We have seen how oil shortages can wreak havoc on the global economy and result in dramatic shifts in the global balance of power.

Many people are now starting to realize that the dream of unlimited growth and economic expansion is coming to an end. The Depletion Wall argues that the age of consumerism will come to an abrupt stop. The reserves of many of the base metals on which society depends are shockingly low. The supply of economically exploitable reserves of many minerals ranges from only a few to several decades' worth.

The question is, is degrowth the answer to the problem of highly limited natural resources? Or, is it sustainable development?


Degrowth advocates argue that voluntary simplicity, reduced consumption, and decreased production and economic activity are the answer. They oppose sustainable development on the basis that it implies continued economic growth. Opponents of the degrowth option argue that decreasing consumption would increase unemployment and is unrealistic giving the level of poverty in many countries today.

The Depletion Wall argues that you can both maintain standards of living (or even increase them) while decreasing total economic production. 100$ (total production) divided by 10 people equals $10 each. But, so does $50 divided by 5 people. In this example, the total economic production decreases by 50%, but the per capita income remains $10/person! If the world's population decreases at the same time as economic production does, degrowth can occur without individual incomes decreasing. A faster depopulation rate would result in lower unemployment.

As The Depletion Wall demonstrates, a combination of population decrease and Green Economic Environment (Depopulation-GEE) could deliver degrowth and dramatically lower the world's environmental footprint, all of this while individual incomes remain the same or even increase. A Depopulation-GEE strategy would further result in lower unemployment.

A Depopulation-GEE strategy could keep individual incomes the same or growing while reducing the world's environmental and resource footprint as well as the total world production if desired.

The GEE is based on a greening of the economy, which comes as result of green growth in environmental sectors and degrowth for unenvironmental products and practices. This two-stream approach doubles the impact on a country's environmental footprint.


Mineral Reserve Statistics
Green Growth
Green Economy

Non-Renewable Resources:
Mineral Supplies & Reserve Statistics

Resource Depletion Model Simulations:
Mineral Shortages & Prospect of Economic Crisis

Economics of Poverty
The Aging Baby Boomer Generation Problem

More information: USGS Conservation International Sierra Club UN Population Division