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If demand continues to grow, the estimates of remaining reserves of some natural resources—or nonrenewable resources in particular—are grim (click on the image to enlarge and read how long some nonrenewable resources are predicted to last).
The amount of nonrenewable resources is fixed, meaning that replenishment or concentration is extremely slow (i.e., on geologic timescales), so unsustainable human consumption causes these resources to become increasingly unavailable. To put it another way, human consumption disperses or dilutes these nonrenewable resources to the point that it’s not economically feasible to recover them. Consequently, conservation and recycling, in addition to other sustainable policies, should be aggressively implmented, and people should be educated about overconsumption and environmental degradation. Certainly, sustainable policies are prudent policies.
Since consumption directly impacts the availability of natural resources, our economy is directly dependent on natural resources. As a result, all goods and services depend on the availability of natural resources. As a result, environmental degradation is a costly habit—both to the environment and to future generations. In fact, the “world’s leading 3,000 companies cause $2.2 trillion in annual damage to the environment.” More from the Atlantic Online:
The world’s leading 3,000 companies cause $2.2 trillion in annual damage to the environment, according to a UN report that will be released this spring. Based on eight years of studying a group of companies that includes the entire S&P 500, the report tracks corporate supply chains in order to place a monetary figure on greenhouse gas and particulate emissions, local pollution, water use, and various other depletions of environmental resources.
The report, which the UN commissioned in order to educate eco-minded investors, may be the first step in a global push to factor natural resources into business costs. Environmentalists have long argued that since nature provides services — “ecosystem services,” they’re now termed — vital to doing business, placing a monetary value on these services is the best way to ensure that we do not overuse them. In some instances this extra cost would be passed on to consumers, but in others it would be absorbed by businesses.
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Since it never hurts to be prepared, though, utility, mining, forestry, and chemical companies — the biggest offenders, according to the report — would be wise to develop contingency plans for what they would do if forced to pay for the environmentally harmful byproducts of their longstanding business models.