What Are the Finite World Issues?
1. Declining world oil production, sometimes referred to as peak oil
Oil production in the United States grew until 1970, and has been declining since then, in spite of technological improvements and a strong desire to increase production.
- natural gas
- fresh water
Similarly, production from the North Sea (the primary European source of oil) increased for several years, then began to decline. The decline occurred in spite of technological improvements, and in spite of a desire to maintain the previous high production.
Now, there is serious concern that world oil supply may begin to decline. Oil production is currently declining in six of the largest eight oil producing nations, and many experts believe that a worldwide decline may begin within a few years. Read more about this in Oil Quiz - Test Your Knowledge
2. Declining North American natural gas production
Natural gas production in the United States reached a peak in 1973. Since then, new "unconventional" sources have been found, which have partially offset the shortfall. In addition, the US increased imports of natural gas from Canada.
Now even these measures are starting to fail. Canadian exports are declining. US natural gas demand is increasing as new power plants are built and new ethanol production plants are added. The combination of rising demand and declining supply is likely to result in shortages in the next few years.
3. Shortages of fresh water
A number of factors are working together to produce fresh water shortages in areas such as the US Southwest. These include:
- Aquifer depletion because of overuse
- Reduced water melt from glaciers, because of global warming
- Reduced river flow, because of global warming and irrigation
4. Soil degradation
There are a number of issues affecting soil including:
- Reduced amount of top soil, because of erosion
- Inadequate organic material
- Pollution caused by pesticides and herbicides
- Compactification caused by heavy machinery
- Inadequate nutrients in the soil
The increased production of biofuels, such as corn ethanol, can easily make these problems worse, since growing more acres of crops puts more stress on the available land.
5. Indirect impacts
As more and more fossil fuels are used, there is more pollution of air and water. Also, man's activity tends to contribute to global warming.
Additional discussion of finite world issues and their expect impact can be found in Our World Is Finite: Is This a Problem?.