Renewable resources are products made of plant and animal material.
Renewables are regenerated by the interactive functioning of nature.
Sustainability is a state of human affairs where we don't consume more renewables than nature can regenerate.
Non-renewables are finite resource stocks, such as fossil fuels, uranium, metals and minerals, soil fertility, fossil water, a normal climate, space, natural forests, etc., that are not renewed by nature in a human time scale. Once they are depleted they are gone forever.
No technology or ingenuity or money can recreate lost minerals and biodiversity.
Our human footprint consists of our annual consumption of renewables and non-renewables. |
If our consumption of renewables is higher than their rate of regeneration, we will run out of food and fibre.
If our depletion rate of non-renewables is low in comparison to the available stocks, we can carry on for a relatively long period of time.
Sustainability refers to a level of human resource consumption that can be maintained for a very long time, theoretically forever. If our human footprint is too high it can not be sustained by the Earth for a long time.
It is not sure, however, in which area the depletion will first reach the critical point that may lead to a collapse of the human socio-economic structures. It could be lack of food, clean water, an illness, toxification and pollution, lack of fossil energy or something else.
Taking all environmental developments together - i.e. expansion of economic scale and consumption per capita, as well as population growth and the increasing speeds of resource depleten - we believe it is no longer a matter of the so-called "future generations".
It must be feared that not only our grandchildren or our children but even we ourselves may have to face the dire consequences of "overshoot", being total depletion, resource wars, collapse and die-off.
What is our human time scale?
How sustainable are our socio-economic ways of living? How long can we carry on "business as usual"?