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Right now, it appears that many materials are mined
faster than they are being laid down. At a rough guess,
these would include calcium sulphate, calcium carbonate,
coal, crude oil, natural gas and various non-sedimentary
products such as granite and pumice. Although this
situation is not
sustainable, it probably isn't that simple
either because as a species we must have an influence on
the geological processes of the planet which might
encourage the production of some minerals through the
likes of changing the pH of the oceans or increasing soil
erosion, so it's not simply a question of exploiting the
mineral resources of the planet. Also, almost none of the
subtances we use permanently leave the planet, and there
is a net increase in mass due to meteorites.
It ought to be possible to audit geological activity to
determine how much of various materials are deposited
per unit of time. Some of this production will be our
"fault". For instance, presumably there is now a lot more
sulphuric acid than there used to be in the form of
precipitation, and I would imagine also more shale, and to
a lesser extent slate.
We could therefore set international, or maybe individual
or national, quotas to determine how much of each
substance the human race, smaller populations or each of
us use of these materials, calculated by dividing some kind
of minimum total production over a lifetime or less, in
order to provide a conceptual quota similar to a carbon
footprint. Also, our activities which do things like
encourage sulphuric acid production, thereby, I imagine,
reducing limestone production, could be similarly
calculated so that we could each use more of the other
substances. In this example, you would think about using
less concrete or cement but you would then be allowed to
use more sulphuric acid.
There could also be projects which would encourage the
production of materials via planetary engineering, so for
example we could make more concrete or cement, having
taken account of the by-products of their production, in
order to compensate the loss of the resources in our
industrial and domestic activities. To a limited extent,
this already happens in the use of biomass to produce
hydrocarbons, but maybe we could also do things like build
massive underwater calcium carbonate structures to
replace the coral reefs and so on.
Eventually, and this is a very extreme use of that word, the
entire surface of the planet would be completely
artificially manufactured, but it would still have the same
composition as it has today.
Recycle anything. As mentioned in an annotation. [Vernon, Mar 16 2016]
||There's a problem with this. 500 years ago we
didn't use oil, and in another 200 years we might
not use it much, again. Likewise, most minerals
pass in and out of use.
||If we use up 90% of the neodymium ores for
magnets, and then discover a new and better
alternative in five years, what's the problem?
||Your proposal only makes sense if demand stays
constant over geological timescales.
||What about recycling? For various reasons besides food
supplies, global population should eventually stabilize.
That means constant demand for various things, and
constant waste production. With appropriate processing,
much of the wastes could be recycled to supply the
demand. I'll add a link....
||We are consuming resources at the same rate as thy
were laid down. We're just making up for many
million of years of under-consumption.
||[MB], it would be possible to change what we replace as
technology changes. Also, I wasn't thinking in terms of all
possible resources because some of them are presumably
not regularly formed or cast up to the crust, and the likes
of rare earths and various others are, I suspect, not
amenable to that kind of replacement.
||//only makes sense if demand stays constant over
||One of the more comforting features of Rentishams is that
it's supply remains stable over geological timescales.