Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Resource Scarcity

When resources such as food and water become scarce, animals are forced to go where the remaining resources are, and therefore must interact more frequently. Other animals interfering with eating, sleeping, and other basic functions increases stress, leading to a fight or flight response known as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). If neither fight nor flight is a viable option (what I have called “confrontation” and “escape”), an animal will learn to live with the stress (“accommodation”). Eventually the animal dies because the stress has disabled its ability to fight disease.

There are several ways that a resource can become scarce. The first is overfeeding: the resource is consumed at a faster rate than new supplies can either be generated or found. The amount of available resources can also be reduced by inadvertent destruction (such as pollution poisoning food or water). If the population’s ability to access the resource becomes impaired (such as a natural disaster disabling transportation, production, or extraction infrastructure), the available amount is also reduced.

All of the mechanisms of resource scarcity are being vigorously applied by humans today on a global scale. Highly efficient extraction technologies and growing populations are depleting our energy and water supplies at exponential rates. We are generating huge amounts of waste that are overcoming natural systems that provide many resources we need, as well as poisoning ourselves. Our activities are radically altering the climate, increasing the chances and severity of natural disasters such as drought, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and disease outbreaks. We are effectively committing suicide, and taking many other species down with us.

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