We are pretty resourceful and innovative, which is why we have managed to “geoengineer” our planet to produce ever more food, to double human life expectancy in much of the world, and control freshwater sources and most other species. However, we are now faced with some planetary limitations that threaten our survival. If we are going to accommodate 9 billion humans in the next 35 years, and if those people are going to live in comfort, with enough food, water, energy and other important trappings of a liveable existence, then we are going to have to recognise these limitations and come up with innovative ways to overcome them.
In most cases, whether it is about 'peak soil', peak timber', 'peak silver', 'peak fish', 'peak oil' or 'peak freshwater', the problem is that we are using the resource faster than it can be replenished through natural processes – sometimes by a factor of thousands. The solution may be to assist the replenishment or to use less of the resource. Either way, the solution calls for a combination of clever engineering, technology and social tools.
I have spent the past few years visiting the places, wildlife and people that are experiencing the impacts of many of our planetary changes, and I have seen some incredible examples of how we humans can use our ingenuity to overcome almost any challenge.
In this column, I am going to identify the planetary limitations currently threatening us, and find out what we are doing to solve the crisis. Welcome to the frontline of the Anthropocene.