Thursday, 27 November 2014

Wednesday Science Limerick: Resources are running out

Fresh Water’s a vital resource
So you take all you’re needing, of course.
So your neighbour has none
So he takes up his gun
And the shortfall is resolved by force.
An Opinion Article in the New Scientist by Petros Sekeris starts with the paragraph
THERE is a growing feeling that resources vital to sustain human life, such as fresh water, land and fossil fuels, are being used too fast to ensure our long-term presence on the planet. It seems obvious that nations should cooperate on this problem, and yet successful cross-border solutions and agreements are hard to find. Why don't we act for the common good more often?
The  problem of water shortages due to over-exploitation are well known  - just Google "water shortages" to fing examples from all over the world. There are of course other shortages - food is an obvious one which will be exacerbated by climate changes - which could also reduce the effective living space due to sea level rises - or increased temperatures in an around some dessert areas.
Some raw materials have very uneven distribution around the world - with it being high on the list, but some rare materials, essential in some modern electrical devices, are in short supply and only available in a small number of countries.
Petros has been using gaming models to explore what happens when two societies both want a scarce resource, using model which can involve violence. This model suggests that as supplies start to become short the "safe" solution - that both sides work together to optimise the resource - is unlikely to happen. Hoarding what you can grab is a more likely strategy - ending up in violence.

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