Friday, August 30, 2019

Redefining Waste

Further testing of my Timelines model has revealed that what I've been calling "waste" should be redefined. Instead of representing resources that are unusable, it represents resources we are using that should not be used. Specifically: whatever we consume that is more than half the world's total resources is waste, which I project is currently 20% of all that we consume and 12% of all resources. As a consequence, "wants" are that we consume that is more than our needs and does not include waste.

By this definition, waste first appeared in 2004 and is projected be greater than what we consume for needs in 2027, four years after global population reaches its maximum and begins declining. Since it is equivalent to other resources (instead of being un-consumable as with the previous definition), it is treated likewise by the world's population in every respect. The only un-consumable resources are those removed from the total by "self-sustained impacts" that are projected to have begun by 2015.

ABOVE: Projected fractions world ecological resources in the "Green" simulation using the new definition of waste.

Difficulty reproducing global wealth statistics was the initial clue that "uninhabited regions" (data points with no people or other species) were problematic. The estimate of relevant resources couldn't be justified with the more refined approach that now includes a better estimate of the numbers of people who have common characteristics related to other global variables with many more data points. 

Experimenting with different ways of allocating consumed resources over the world population including that "waste" resulted in two fundamental observations about both economics and consumption when the statistics were reproduced which are obvious in retrospect. First, the exchange of resources and money (that represents both resources and the value of exchange) predominantly flows from people who consume less to people who consume more. Second, the resources consumed for more than needs are distributed in proportion to the ratio of available resources to resources consumed for needs – the reciprocal of the people-to-nature ratio that I discovered is a basic driver of many of the variables I've been tracking.

Although the new definition of waste and allocation of consumption significantly change the projections of related global variables within the population, they have no effect on projections of the entire population over time and support general behaviors found with the earlier version. For example, consuming wants in addition to needs is still associated with a switch from an egalitarian to unequal distribution of wealth, but the details of that switch are different; and the upcoming changes more resemble a cascading failure than a "switch" to a new regime, driven as they are by the crashing of the world's population due to overconsumption (an aspect of which being increased waste).

ABOVE: Distributions of global variables associated with major changes in per-capita wealth projected by the "Green" simulation for dates shown below the Phase axis. Displayed are Phase = lifecycle phase, L = life expectancy, h = happiness, Fert = fertility, Cum P = cumulative population, R = total consumption, Cap = capacity, and C = per-capita consumption. The years projected for when part of the population begins to enter a new phase are shown as Epochs.

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