Enquiries on the Challenges of the 21st Century
Antonio Valero Capilla & Alicia Valero Delgado
CIRCE – Universidad de Zaragoza (E)
The exponential increase of new technologies based on mobile phones, global computerization, novel energy storage solutions, electric vehicles, advanced renewable technologies and their rapid obsolescence created an extensive demand of very minor metals that support these technologies. Their recycling is extremely low.
Humanity is threatened by a multidimensional risk for shortage of these minor metals and/or by major environmental impacts. This phenomenon sooner or later will affect the access of future generations to the new technologies.
The report to the Club of Rome by Prof. Ugo Bardi, presented in Brussels in June last year, already showed how the quest for minerals is plundering the planet. Besides, forty five years after the warning expressed in ‘Limits to Growth’, humankind did not react accordingly. On the contrary, the problem was denied and intensely increased the demand for metals that in the seventies were only known in the chemical labs.
The progressive degradation of the habitability on Earth could derive in Thanatia, as opposed to Gaia. The authors of “Thanatia” are calling for efficiency in mining and recycling techniques to dramatically decrease their energy, economic and environmental costs, as well as appealing for sufficiency to put limits to the squandered use of these elements. With the support of many concerned scientists, they want to propose to the United Nations a novel thermodynamic way of accounting the rate of loss of mineral capital on Earth.