Monday, November 26, 2007

Economic Alternatives

From a purely economic perspective, we must either replace the natural capital we are depleting, reduce our rate of depletion, or some combination of the two. Replacement may be done by repairing the damage we have done and enabling natural systems to recuperate, while providing more resources (such as land and water) for other species; or it may involve the creation of artificial alternatives. As I’ve already discussed, simply reducing the rate of depletion locks us into eventually reaching the final limit, and disaster (though we might give natural systems enough “breathing space” to partially recover and buy us more time).

Currently there are no artificial replacements for most natural products and services. The areas of technology most devoted to creating such alternatives, biotechnology and nanotechnology, are still years away from making a dent in the problem; and, it may be argued, they could make things much worse in the interim. Biotechnology in particular has already created a number of altered species of plants, which have the potential of invading and increasing the rate of destruction of natural ecosystems.

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