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In: The global possible: resources, development, and the new century, edited by Robert Repetto. New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Press, 1985. 457-73. (World Resources Institute Book)If certain institutional conditions are upheld, markets can provide supplies and allocate use so that minerals and materials will satisfy our needs for a very long time, likely forever. These conditions include internalization of environmental damages, worldwide trade access to raw materials, access to the earth's crust for exploration, and prevention of market control by either sellers or buyers. Contrary to popular belief, primary mineral supplies are indeed infinite since they flow to the world economy at a cost that will support their demand as influenced by supplies from scrap. Rarely do interruptions in supply justify government interference in mineral markets. Technology tends to provide new supplies or changes material demands. For example, in the mid 1970s in Zaire, the military prevented cobalt supplies from reaching the markets. Manufacturers of jet engine turbines and high temperature magnets asked the US government to open up strategic cobalt stockpiles to meet their needs. The government did not do so since no state of emergency existed. Cobalt prices increased. This predicament forced research and/or development of new technologies: Cobalt-free magnets and use of other materials such as ceramics for turbine blades. Many people do not consider the large mineral deposits in the seabed because of the tremendous costs to extract them. Technological development is need to identify means to explore and extract them. Mineral and material demand are not always in those countries where the deposits exist so international trade is very important. Thus policies permit efficient trade, production, and use should be promoted. The market works.
In: Preserving the global environment: the challenge of shared leadership, edited by Jessica T. Mathews. New York, New York/London, England, W. W. Norton, 1991. 39-77.The thesis that human population growth will eventually destroy the equilibrium of the world ecosystem, because environmental strain is a nonlinear effect of the linear growth, is embellished with discussions of technology and resulting pollution, population dynamics, birth and death rates, effects of expanded education, causes of urbanization, time constraints and destabilizing effects of partial development and the debt crisis. It is suggested that the terms renewable and nonrenewable resources are paradoxical, since the nonrenewable resoureces such as minerals will always exist, while renewable ecosystems and species are limited. The competitive economy actually accelerates destruction of biological resoureces because it overvalues rare species when they have crossed the equilibrium threshold and are in decline. Technological outputs are proportional to population numbers: therefore adverse effects of population should be considered in billions, not percent increase even though it is declining. Even the United Nations does not have predictions of the effects of added billions, taking into account improved survival and decreased infant mortality. Rapid urbanization of developing countries and their debt crisis have resulted from political necessity from the point of view of governments in power, rather than mere demographics. Recommendations are suggested for U.S. policy based on these points such as enlightened political leadership, foreign aid, and scientific investment with the health of the world ecosystem in mind rather than spectacle and local political ideology.