Monday, September 24, 2007

Natural Cost

Throughout history humans have “consumed” energy and mass in their environment, transforming some of it into people, some of it into enduring forms not found in Nature, and much of it into waste. Before we began creating new chemical compounds, the rest of life (comprising the other members of Earth’s biosphere) was able to recycle almost all of what we produced and wasted; and yes, even us.

As our technology has matured, an exponentially increasing amount of mass and energy has been consumed, so much that the biosphere can’t keep up; and much of what we’ve produced and wasted is unavailable for reuse, now or in the future. This is effectively destroying the biosphere because we’ve reduced the amount of resources available for other life; this is evidenced by an increase in the rate of species extinctions that may soon rival the result of a major asteroid impact.

The cost of what we produce includes these effects. We are not only depleting the supply of fuel whose energy drives our activities, we are depleting the supply of life that processes our waste, stabilizes the weather, provides food, and performs innumerable other services that enable and enrich our lives. In an ideal world, we would account for this cost in the prices we pay.

No comments: