Reality Blind - Vol. 1

Energy and Stuff!

Summary : Of course, we mostly don’t use energy directly - we use it to convert other minerals and materials into products we then move around and use. Between 1970 and 2010, total global extraction of natural resources from our planet (fuels, ores, salts, biomass, etc) is estimated to have grown 3.2-fold from 22 to 70 billion tons. During the same period, the size of the world economy, adjusted for inflation, grew 3.4-fold from $18.9 to $65.6 trillion. For one additional unit of Gross World Product (GWP), we needed close to one additional unit of natural resources. The global economy is now as material-intensive as ever – as of 2019 we used over 100 billion tons of natural resources. Today the average human on the planet uses 13 tons of materials per year – a rate that has doubled since 2013. 128 Half of the materials used each year are clay, gravel, sand, and other materials used for buildings and construction. Plants and trees used for food and fuel comprise 25% of the annual materials consumption. Metals account for 10% and the remainder are the fossil energy sources coal, oil, and gas. There is much talk about the trend towards a circular economy, where we reuse and recycle our waste streams (which requires energy). So far, we are not doing that – the 2019 economy only recycled 8.6% - and this is less than the preceding year. 129


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