It’s a common assumption that the more of us there are on the planet, the more raw materials we extract and consume. In fact, since the year 2000, the opposite has been true in at least one major economy, and it might just save the Earth.
Welcome to the world of dematerialisation. As a species we’re enjoying more material comfort (see http://theconversation.com/land-of-the-fair-go-no-more-wealth-in-australia-is-becoming-more-unequal-63327 for Australian research), more health and lower poverty than ever (http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2013/04/17/remarkable-declines-in-global-poverty-but-major-challenges-remain), and in some countries we’re doing it while consuming less of many of the building blocks of the old economy like iron and phosphate.
The Return of Nature, a research paper from American energy and environment think tank The Breakthrough Institute has this to say; ‘America may also be experiencing peak use of many other resources. Back in the 1970s, it was thought that America’s growing appetite might exhaust Earth’s crust of just about every metal and mineral. But a surprising thing happened: even as our population kept growing, the intensity of use of the resources began to fall.
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