New Scientist provides us with this handy graph to show how long the materials we need for our transition to a low-carbon economy will last. I promise it will erase every fleeting thought you ever had about the pointlessness of conservation efforts.
At first glance, the graph seems apocalyptic. Only 20 years left of antimony (a material commonly used in medicine)? No more silver in 10 years? We might as well call it quits, right? Not so fast. There are plenty of things we can do–if we get started now. For example, Geologist Hazel Pritchard is hunting for platinum–a major component of fuel cells and catalytic converters–in road-sweeping machines’ waste containers. Most city streets are laced with platinum from the exhaust of cars, trucks, and buses. It’s just a matter of collecting the stuff for re-use.
Other materials can be collected from seawater, tailings from emptied mines, and tossed electronics.
Until we find synthetic alternatives for materials like platinum and indium (used in solar cell semiconductors), we have to get creative with our conservation efforts. It’s not only possible–it’s also necessary.