Our Plundered Planet and a Future of Less

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Walter Younquist is a veteran observer and commentator on world and U.S. resource and population trends, and the precarious balance between them. A frequent contributor to NPG publications, Youngquist draws on lengthy professional experience as a petroleum geologist which has taken him to over 70 countries.

His title here, A Future of Less, is characteristically counter-culture – rejecting the prevailing faith that perpetual economic growth and ever-rising prosperity are permanent entitlements of Americans. He does not try to bring his readers – or their children – cheer or reassurance about their future affluence.

The author bases this piece on his vast personal experience and his deep familiarity with the works of such experts as: Chris Clugston on rising scarcity of non-renewable resources (NNRs); Lester Brown on world food production that now lags population growth; and NPG author and advocate Lindsey Grant on the now-peaking production of fossil fuels (Grant, 2005: The Collapsing Bubble: Growth and Fossil Energy, CA: Seven Locks Press).

Youngquist’s conclusion: “We are headed toward a future of less for every single non-renewable resource that we have known in history.” His analysis goes beyond just minerals and fuels, including resources that are non-renewable in the lifetime of humans – like top soil (lost to erosion and acidification from overuse of nitrogen fertilizers) and fresh water (through depletion of snowmelt and squandering of massive ancient aquifers).

Seconding NPG, Youngquist urges prompt reduction of population to an ecologically-sustainable size and a transition to a no-growth, steady-state economy. He finds that if present trends in consumption persist, reduction of human population may come about by nature’s harsher method of pruning: starvation and disease amid social turmoil.

Significantly, Youngquist’s essay was completed in May 2014, as the U.N. Environmental Program (UNEP) was releasing its own analysis on resource depletion: Humanity Can and Must do More with Less: UNEP Report. That report mirrors and expands on many of the grim trends in world NNR consumption cited by Youngquist and by Clugston. […]

Walter Youngquist

Dr. Walter Youngquist, Ph.D., has worked both as a petroleum geologist and a minerals geologist in the United States and abroad.He has visited more than 70 countries, observing the ongoing problem of continued population growth and declining supporting Earth resources.A Fellow of the Geological Society of America and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he is the author of GeoDestinies and several NPG Forum papers.

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