Saving paper.. :)

Material worlds, is by far my favourite module, this semester. Here'a an extract of what I have been studying:

In the 20th century, it has been found that rising resource consumption and increasing rate of consumption has been achieved with lower quality inputs and Price per unit.
Now being the rational individuals that we are, we obviously wonder as to how this is even possible.
Well, it is a paradox, that we have been able to consume resources at such a fast pace, of lower quality without the prices even rising. In fact back in the days Erlich (this guy who believed in Malthusian principles) and Simon(who believed in 'knowledge is power' kind of stuff) had a bet about the rise of prices in metals like copper. Simon won and all, but that is another chapter altogether.

Anyhow, resources are things that are at the wrong place in the wrong state at the wrong time according to Porter and Sheppard- which is why we have to constantly change the way we live and all.

Resource Quality = Concentration
The thing about resources is that their quality varies from place to place-there is high concentration stuff and low concentration stuff, as shown by this graph I would draw if I knew how to here. :P
And the tragic bit is that, the higher the quality of a resource, it is in less concentration and is localised. The poorer qualities however are widespread and in abundance.
Skinner's Mineralogical Barrier diagram begs to differ here-it shows how some minerals cannot be mined after a certain level due to some physical barrier!
That's what the resource pyramid shows, basically. As you climb to the apex of the pyramid, cost of extraction decreases and concentration/quality of the resource increases. So you basically have lots of low quality stuff to be extracted at higher and higher costs and little high quality resources which can be easily extracted cheaply.
For eg: Copper-In 1950, 400,000 tonnes of copper was mined, the concentration of copper for which was more that 2%, whereas in 2000, 1.6 billion tonnes of copper was mined, with less than 0.5% copper content!
Similarly in the case of fish, you know how the World Fisheries figures have been showing us an increase in fish population caught, it's all a lie.. What they have begun to start counting is the free swimming pelagic fish, which we have begun to eat as the bottom dwelling demersal fish have declined considerably. So while we used to eat the yummy tuna before, now we eat what that tuna used to eat- mackeral and all.. We are slowly moving down the trophic levels of the food chain and settling for lower quality stuff.

The EROI (Energy Returns on Investment) is a way of seeing the decline in quality of oil used for production-this EROI has fallen from 100:1 in 1930 to 15:1 now. EROI is the ratio between energy produced and energy input. So what this means is, while previously for every 1 unit of energy produced, 99 used to subsidise other production, now only 14 is actually produced.

Oh yes, all this has been done at a lower price unit!! For example, a pound now buys almost 4 times as much as it used to in 1900s. So how have we been able to do all this?
Well, the simple answer would be-man used his brains.

1. economies of scale- made machines bigger and meaner in order to increase production
2. economies of transport-got big ships and trucks etc so that he could cover up with transport costs by carrying more in each trip,simply put
3. Increasing efficiency-see the cars now and before. Smaller cars, and making them more efficient so that there is a relative decrease in price of raw materials. he did have to watch out for jevons paradox however!
4.the obvious one,using more fossil fuels
5.making use of substitutes (plantations for timber and aquaculture anyone?)
6. expansion of geographical frontier-more knowledge-more reserves found..

So basically we are consuming resources at a faster rate than ever, to the extent that someone called us 'Rogue primate'..tsk tsk with no signs of stopping.. :(


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