Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences.
~ Robert Louis Stevenson
"Growth is the problem; not the solution" says Ugo Bardi, Professor of Physical Chemistry at Italy's University of Florence and author of the recent book Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet.
In this week's podcast, Professor Bardi and Chris discuss resource depletion and its growing impact on geopolitical events and the world economy. In many ways, the future is becoming increasingly predictable due to the obvious math of resource extraction. Many of these predictions, by the way, are not new; but an accelerating preponderance of evidence now indicates we are quickly moving into the era where future forecasts are now becoming present reality.
From Bardi's perspective, human society has been running at an unsustainably high rate of consumption given the resources it depends on. At some point, the limits of scarcity will force a contraction of the status quo. Bardi concludes that time is now:
People ask me: Are we running out of rare earths? Are we running out of oil? Are we running out of natural gas? And it is very difficult to give a simple answer to a question which is not the right one. Because if I say No, we are not going to run out of anything, then people just switch off their attention. They say Okay, if we are not going to run out of anything, thank you very much, bye-bye Professor.
But really the question is not when we run out of something, but When are we able to afford a certain mineral commodity? Because it is a very well-known story, and it goes back to 19th Century, to the work of William Stanley Jevons, that the cost of extraction increases over time. Simply because you pick the low hanging fruit, so to say, in this case you pick a fruit, which is below ground and not from a branch. But it is the same concept, you have to go deeper and deeper to get the more difficult minerals, if you run out of the easy, the least expensive mineral that you can effect.
So this is the problem, and at some point, you do not run out of anything, you run out of your financial capability of buying, of paying for this task of extraction. So I try to refrain from these questions. It is not a question of running out, it is a question of diminishing economic returns. A concept that also goes to Jevons, back in mid-19th Century. It is a very simple concept, diminishing economic returns. So you make less and less money, and in order to keep your profit, the company, which it reflects, has to raise prices, and at some point customer will say, well we cannot afford that anymore. At that point, it is like it is stuff running out, in the sense that you cannot have it anymore. It is still there, the mineral is still underground, but you cannot afford to extract it, and that is the problem.
All commodities: mineral commodities, fossil fuels, whatever you have — it is the same problem everywhere, because we have been mining for tens of thousands of years. But in the past one or two centuries, we stepped it up, the speed of extraction. Right now we have extracted the easy resources. Now we will start having troubles because we have to access the difficult resources. These resources are expensive. And if it is expensive then it means that you have to allocate resources to pay for these results. So that is having bad effects on the economy.
My impression, and not just mine, is that many of the problems which we see today in the world, economic problems, political problems, strategic problems, geo-political problems, are due to the fact that resources everywhere are becoming scarce in the sense that they are becoming expensive. And at this point, you have to fight for what is left.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Ugo Bardi (40m:26s):
Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity Podcast, I am your host, Chris Martenson. We are hitting limits to growth. And that is a fact that is becoming ever less disputable with every passing day. And of course recognition of this is being fought tooth and nail by those who wish to preserve the status quo, or at the very least, their belief in it.
One often overlooked area concerns mining and the physical resources that we demand from the natural world. Here to talk with us about this today is Professor Ugo-Bardi who teaches Physical Chemistry at the University of Florence in Italy, and he is interested in resource depletion, system dynamics modeling, climate science with a special view on fossil fuel depletion, and on the development of renewable energy. He is a member of the scientific committee of ASPO, which is the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas. His blog in English is: cassandralegacy.blogspot.com, and he has a new book out that we are going to talk about today. It is called Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet Now that is our topic today, welcome Professor Bardi, it is a real pleasure to have you on the show.
Ugo-Bardi: Thank you, it is a pleasure for me too.
Chris Martenson: Great, so there is so much to talk about with you, I hardly know where to begin. So let us set the stage for our listeners. Your latest book, Extracted, what is it about and who is it trying to reach?
Ugo Bardi: Well that is a good point; I think the target of this book is the same as it was long ago for the Limits of Growth. We are trying to raise in a certain way the consciousness of people about this problem that we have. And it is very difficult because it has to do with the way our society takes decisions. Why do we do, what do we decide to do a certain kind of things. And very often, very often I think decision make is based on the decision of faulty data, faulty theories and half-baked models. That is a big problem because I could make an example when the latest events in Ukraine, you can see they have been furiously maintained that the United States could replace Russia in providing natural gas to Europe.
Chris Martenson: Right.
Ugo Bardi: Now if you just give a look to the date, that is not possible, makes no sense, it would take decades at least. And even assuming that present trends continue and the American market does not increase its consumption, still now the United States is an importer of natural gas. So the idea that somehow the US can make an enormous investments needed to build such a structure, it would need to liquefy gas, bring it to Europe and then eventually replace Russian pipelines which bring gas here. So you see, I have this feeling if we were to ask the politicians like Mr. Obama or Mrs. Merkel, if they believe in what they are saying, I would think that they do believe. They read newspapers and make their mental models on the basis of what you read in the newspapers. And that I think is a very dangerous thing to do because if you look at the data, for instance, production of natural gas in 2013 in the United States increased just 0.9% with respect to 2012. Indication that we are already facing big limits in what we can do in terms of increasing production. This is an example, it is not the, in itself, the whole story of minerals of what you are doing, what you are trying to do and how we can manage such a huge, gigantic, little-known subject. And that is a big problem we have I think. It is not so much that we do not know about minerals, but we have troubles assimilating this knowledge into decision-making.
Chris Martenson: Well indeed we do, and to build on your example, there are two main points that come out of the natural gas example. The first is: can you increase your production of it? Certainly we always want to increase our consumption of these things, but production has to precede consumption. And the second is that however much there is, eventually, someday, it runs out. And both of those things happen, right? So let us talk then about this idea that we have about decision makers. We have people, not just politicians but I think ensconced in companies on Wall Street, in living rooms all across the world who think that we can always just continue to increase our production of various things. Your book, Extracted, begins to talk through the issues around mining and various things, copper, tin, bauxite, aluminum, you name it, and it is actually a far more complex subject than most people would realize. But the big trends, the big trends that you are noting in your book are that we seem to be having to go to ever greater lengths to chase minerals in order to bring them to market.
Ugo Bardi: That is a point, the whole point is that. You see I always have this difficulty when people ask me, "okay, but are we running out of this or that? Are we running out of rare earths? Are we running out of oil? Are we running out of natural gas?" And it is very difficult to give a simple answer to a question which is not the right one, because if I say "no, we are not going to run out of anything," then people just switch off their attention. They say "okay so if we are not going to run out of anything…" they will say, "thank you very much, bye-bye Professor." But really the question is not when we run out of something, the question is: up to when are we able to afford a certain mineral commodity? Because it is a very well-known story, and it goes back to the 19th Century, to the work of William Stanley Jevons, that the cost of extraction increases over time. Simply because you pick the low hanging fruit, so to say, in this case you pick a fruit, which is below ground and not from a branch. But it is the same concept, you have to go deeper and deeper to get the more difficult minerals, as you run out of the easy, the least expensive minerals that you can extract.
So this is the problem, and at some point, you do not run out of anything, you run out of your financial capability of buying, of paying for this task of extraction. So I try to frame these questions—it is not a question of running out, it is a question of diminishing economic returns. A concept that also goes back to Jevons, back in the mid-19th Century. It is a very simple concept: diminishing economic returns from extraction. So you make less and less money, and in order to keep your profit—the company which extracts has to raise prices, and at some point customers will say, "well we cannot afford that anymore." At that point, it is like it starts running out in the sense that you cannot have it anymore. It is still there, the mineral is still underground, but you cannot afford to extract it, and that is the problem. And that—why do you suppose over all of the metal commodities, mineral commodities, fossil fuel, the rock, whatever you have, it is the same problem everywhere, because we have been mining for tens of thousands of years. But in the past century, one or two centuries, we step it up, the speed of extraction, so right now we have extracted the easy resources. Now we are starting to have troubles because we have to access the difficult resources, the resources are expensive. And if it is expensive then it means that you have to allocate resources to pay for these resources. So that is having bad effects on the economy.
My impression, and not just mine, is that much of the problems which we see today in the world—economic problem, but also political problems, and strategic programs, geo-political problems—are due to the fact that resources everywhere are becoming scarce in the sense that they are becoming expensive. And at this point, you have to fight for what is left.
Chris Martenson: I totally understand why people say "if this getting too expensive, maybe we will not go after it anymore," but as a scientist myself, by training, let me flip that a bit. Because what we are really saying is that the marginal utility of going and getting that next ingot of aluminum, say, is not worth the benefit we are going to get from that as a society. But are we not really saying that the work required to get—not just human labor but the total work of applying a force over time—the work required to get the aluminum no longer justifies the benefit that we get as a society. And costs are just—as costs go up, that just reflects the fact that more and more work is required.
Ugo Bardi: You mean energy.
Chris Martenson: Energy yes.
Ugo Bardi: The energy. Eventually, it is all a question of energy because to extract minerals, you need energy. And that is the problem, you need more and more energy, and you have less and less because energy comes from minerals, which are fossil fuels, you see the problem?
Chris Martenson: That is exactly the problem, and so as I look at this, I am seeing that—I think you are absolutely right, we have to look at everything interconnected. What is happening in the Ukraine, Yemen, Libya, what has happened already in Egypt and continues to unfold. We could look at those as political events, but you might look at those and say these are resource events.
Ugo Bardi: Very likely yes, I think you can say that actually. Of course it is an interpretation, but it makes sense. You can see a country like Yemen, you cited Yemen, it is a very interesting case. Yemen was an oil producer, not a small one, it produced an important amount of oil, and they went through a complete cycle of production. It went up to about half a million dollars per day, which is a substantial amount, and then it went down. And now, at this point, it is very close to producing just as much as it consumes, so it would not be able to export anything anymore. Why that? Well if you look at the newspaper in Yemen, everybody says it is because of terrorism, it is because of Al Qaeda, it is because of sabotage, it is because our politicians are thieves, it is because of an evil conspiracy against us… But really if you look at the date of the production curve of oil for Yemen, it goes through a very nice, very clear bell-shaped curve, which simply indicates depletion. Depletion in the sense that Yemen oil went through first, through the easy resource, which is oil that is close to the surface, which was easy to extract. And then slowly the investments needed to extract more oil became so high, that nobody wanted to make these investments anymore, so eventually production starts to decline. And now you can see that Yemen is a disaster in a political sense and social terms. It is a complete mess of tribes fighting each other. And that I think you can explain in terms of sympathy, people do not have any more money, do not have any more service. They are running out of food actually, you can read that even the gas in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, you have problems because the service stations cannot provide any more gas for people who need to fill their tanks. So you see what can happen. But if you look at the data, there is still some more oil in Yemen that could theoretically be extracted. But at such high cost that it is not done, and will probably never be done.
Chris Martenson: Well, this is an important point then which is this idea that when you get down to diminishing grades of ore or very small pools of oil left under the ground, or whatever the marginal resource is. You need to do more and more and more simply to stay in place. Something in your book called the "Red Queen syndrome."
Ugo Bardi: Yes.
Chris Martenson: And just describe that for us if you would.
Ugo Bardi: Well of course, I think everybody knows the story of the Red Queen and this strange place in the book, Alice in Wonderland where you have to run just as fast as you can just to stay in the same place. And that is the point, I mean if you want to keep extracting oil, you need to invest more and more resources. And that is a problem, because your resources are limited, you have to take them—more than limited, you take the resources from something else, or something that you could find useful, at the level of a state if you want to keep extracting oil, and if you have to pay more for it, it means you have to save on social services, Social Security, and retirement funds, or whatever you have. And that is the problem of what we are seeing here. And there is no doubt that costs are increasing.
The oil industry spent more than $600 billion dollars in 2012 to prospect and develop new sources of oil, which is a lot of money. It is one of those decisions that you wonder, who decided that as a world, as human kind, we should spend more than $600 billion dollars in this specific purpose? And the answer is that there is no organism, no body, no structure that decides this. It is a result of micro decisions taken at some level that somebody thinks we will have a return from spending a lot of money to develop new oil sources. And so this money is spent because of the financial system that thinks that it is a good idea so it allocates resources to developing energy resources in the form of fossil fuels. But this is a choice. We could have had reasoned a different way; we could have invested that money in nuclear plants, for instance, or renewable energy plants. And you see all these kinds of macro decisions, which eventually you see in the world—you read about that after these decision have been taken. They are leading the world in some direction, but the problem is that spending so much money in developing new oil means that we are taking the road of diminishing returns. You see what is the problem. I think this is a major mistake that we have made as a civilization. And it will be very difficult to address it.
Chris Martenson: Well is that—it sounds suspiciously like the decisions the Romans made.
Ugo Bardi: Yes, don’t you think so?
Chris Martenson: Yes, they are diminishing—their productive engine of course was their military, and that is how they went out and secured additional resources, after they depleted their own soils or depleted the mines, and they used that same tool, their military, well past the time that it made any sense, deepening into diminishing returns and—
Ugo Bardi: And they spent a huge amount of money building fortifications around the borders of the empire. And that was a major loss of resources, that eventually—it kept the empire working for a while longer, but eventually spending too much destroyed them.
Chris Martenson: So when I see one of those gigantic, offshore, ultra-deep water platforms, I ought to be thinking of it as a Roman fortification?
Ugo Bardi: Could be, could be, that is a good idea. It would be interesting to think in these terms. I mean you have to think, as usual, and as we said at the beginning, it is a question of vantage. How much energy is that platform bringing in comparison with the energy and resources which have been needed to build it? Now I think we are close to being even in that. The ratio of the two energy's is getting close to one. And energy is a physical perimeter, but not necessarily a financial perimeter. From a financial viewpoint, you can still make money, even losing energy. So that is another big problem we have. Because people who take financial decision do not know anything about energy.
Chris Martenson: Well you know, mining has been going on for thousands of years some people tell me. And they say "well perhaps, maybe there are thousands more years left." And as you mentioned in your book, the truth is, you can take any piece of ordinary rock and if you could decompose it all the way down, you would find all kinds of elements in there. As I understand the data, in the last 34 years, just 34 years, half of all the copper ever minded in history has been mined. What I would like you to do is help our listeners understand the mining process. Because I think it is understanding what the process actually is, as you go from this ore, which looks like rock, which might have .2% copper in it, to that finished ingot. Can you walk us through those steps so we could—
Ugo Bardi: I could try, I could try. The interesting thing is how the mining process is today and what it should be in the future, and what it will be probably, and what we could make it if we really were thinking how to make what I could call "sustainable mining," which is, I think possible. I am not pessimistic, I think we could do it, we can walk out of this situation if we really want to. The point is that now, right now we mine from sources which are extremely diluted in comparison to what was the standard 100 years ago, 1,000 years ago.
So in the beginning, think of world for instance, people will use panning, you know what is panning, finding nuggets in rivers. And the grade of an ore is 100 of a magnitude, it is 100%, a nugget of gold can be 100% gold, or at least 100% precious metal. It normally contains a little silver, but that is good anyway, you do not care too much. But then they had to move already from the time of the Romans, the beginning, they would find nuggets in the Alps. But then they had to move it, to go to the mother lode, which means you have to dig out gold out of the mountain, which takes a lot more work. You have to use picks and hammers and all that. And then you go on and end up be several cycles of mining. The gold is a good example, but copper is the same. You have to go using more and more energy to mine for lower and lower grade ores, which means that today you can mine gold from ores—you can take this rock in your hand, and you do not see any gold because it is so diluted that you do not see it by the naked eye. So you have to use a lot of chemistry which involves cyanides and mercury and whatever to get this gold out, which is expensive. It can still be done. There is a story, for instance, of the mines that the Romans exploited in what was at that time the region of Dacia, which today is Romania. And then today there are talks about reopening the mines in Romania because now we have ways of extracting gold, which make it possible even from extremely diluted deposits. It is possible. It may bring a profit, but it costs a lot of energy. And that is the big problem.
And so you see, I think we are approaching a point in which recycling will cost as much or less than mining. Because so far, we have not recycled so much, we have recycled very little, because in general, mining costs less than recycling. There is nothing to do about that. Many times we do recycling because we think it is a good thing to do. But if you consider the cost involved, it still is less expensive to mine many materials than recycling them. I will make you another example. You know about lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are the latest development, the best batteries we have now, and you may be interested to know that the lithium recycled from batteries is near zero percent. Because lithium is still so cheap to mine, that it makes little sense to recover it from old batteries, which is stupid if you think about that, because eventually, we will be in trouble. But as you mine more lithium, lithium is exhausted slowly, and then you will have, at some point, you will have to mine the lithium out of batteries, which will happen, absolutely. And then with all minerals you have this slow transition from mining being cheap and recycling being expensive to a point in which mining becomes more and more expensive and recycling does not become so cheap but it becomes not so much expensive than mining. At some point you can choose to do recycling.
So I think it is possible to—at some point in the future we will be able to move to an economy which recycles 100% of everything. It is not impossible, it is possible. Just think of land plants, trees for instance. You know, we have had trees on this planet for 300 million years, and trees use minerals. Trees are miners. They take minerals out of the ground. But in 300 million years, they did not run out of anything, okay. So how can they do that? Because they recycle 100%. How can they recycle 100%? First because they use little, they are careful, and they use solar energy. So if you are careful, you use little and you use solar energy, you can recycle anything at 100%. But it takes a certain way of doing it. You cannot do it so wastefully as we have been doing it so far, up to now.
Chris Martenson: So it takes energy and one of the areas you mentioned before that I hear a lot of, is people think that we could limit our use of fossil fuels by moving into, say, nuclear energy, by which I mean uranium as the nuclear source. Is that going to be possible?
Ugo Bardi: I personally think not. If you read my book you will find some discussion about nuclear energy. And with nuclear energy we have a big depletion problem, which cannot be ignored. It may not be so bad as some people think, but it is there. Right now we have this big problem because uranium is a finite resource, just like fossil fuel, like oil, like gas, like coal and all that. So in the case of nuclear power, it depends a lot on the kind of technology we use. If we remain within the present of nuclear technology, the kind of reactors we use today, then there is no way that we can expand nuclear energy to a level such as it can replace oil and give us enough energy to do everything we really want to do, and we need to do if we want to survive as a civilization. And of course, some people may have a point in saying that we can develop better technology. It could be. And if we could develop much better technologies then we might be able to extract, for instance, uranium from seawater, and that would give us a lot of uranium maybe. But I might be skeptical about that. But there is no—as always, when you are discussing about technology, there are always new possibilities. So you cannot say with absolute certainty, "we do not have enough uranium, no matter what." But right now, we are in trouble. That is sure. For a problem of mineral, uranium, availability.
My opinion, renewable energy is a much safer bet because in that case, we rely mainly on minerals which are abundant and cheap, like silicon for solar cells, which is the main component of a solar cell is the silicon, and we just use traces of other minerals to make the contacts, and we need a bit of aluminum which is also abundant to make the plant. Then we need the electronics, which we need not just cheap minerals, but that is the general problem, electronics for nuclear, for fossil fuels, for renewable, the same problem for everything. So I think renewables are a reasonable, safe bet on where to go to obtain abundant and cheap energy.
Chris Martenson: Let us talk about the scale of that. We could obtain abundant and cheap energy, but do you think we could do that at the scale we are currently using energy? I am looking at a chart here which shows total world energy use, and fossil fuels are, give or take, about 80% of that mix right now.
Ugo Bardi: Yes, that is right, that is a big problem. I mean I think we could, I do not think we will. Because there is such strong resistance, so much is being intended to stay with the business as usual, people are reluctant to invest now for a future gain. So right now, it is still a difficult proposition to say whether it is better to invest in fossil fuels or renewable energy. Because the yields of the financial returns from renewable energy are very good, but over a longer time span. And as human beings we have a tendency to discount the future as you know. So we prefer, normally, a buck now than a buck in 10 years from now. So that is the reason why I think we are still investing so much money into fossil fuels, even though it is a dead-end road. So in principle, technologically, I think it is not impossible to—it is possible to make a system that produces a lot of energy from renewable sources. A lot. I mean, even much more than what we are doing now from fossil fuels, and to produce it for a long, long time. But it is expensive, we need to make sacrifices, we need to think long-term and we need to make big modifications in our society.
Chris Martenson: Well let us talk about that for a second because information does not lead to behavior changes in humans. I was just at a conference recently where I was speaking and Paul Ehrlich was there as well, and so he wrote, Population Bomb and the year before, or two years before I was at the same conference, and Dennis Meadows was there, so, Limits to Growth. Both of these books proved rather handily I think that information is insufficient to lead to cultural decisions. In your view, what does lead to change?
Ugo Bardi: That is a good point, a good question. As you say, we have plenty of information about the present crisis, it was predicted with reasonable accuracy back in 1972. We knew that we were facing a resource crisis, absolutely, but we did not do anything because, I think, we have such a good propaganda system, which was developed mainly during the First and Second World War, which now works so well that it affects also the people who use it. So if we want to convince ourselves that resources are still abundant, that there is no such thing as climate change, if there is it will not do us any harm or whatever… If the system works, and even the people who theoretically manage it, eventually get so they start believing in their own machine. So it is a big problem that we have, is that we have a system which really does not have the capability of doing long term decisions. We work on—everything is on a short term. And we have big problems here, because, you see, our system is still somewhat primitive, because to make a real efficient decision system, we need to integrate various decision levels of society from the bottom to the top. And our system is extremely imperfect because the bottom can influence the top only every four years or so by those games we call elections. But really the top is not very much influenced by the bottom and we will need a more integrated chain of decision making, but we do not know how to do that.
At this point it's so inefficient that some people are now saying that we want back a dictatorship, which I think it is a bad idea. It is a solution which is worse than the problem, because when you have a dictatorship, then the top has no contact with the bottom, and it is worse. But really, earlier—we have this gigantic problem, and we do not know how to solve it. I think we have to put up with the consequences of this system which is unable to make wise decisions. And so we will have to understand that the hard times coming. But again, I think eventually there is a reality out there. So no matter how well we can convince ourselves that the fossil fuels are abundant and the perfect energy source, eventually we will be forced to stop using them, there is nothing to do about that. And if renewable energy, as I think is so much better as it is, then we will use renewable energy. There is no alternative to using the right thing to use eventually. I think you can make mistakes, if there is a road that will lead us away from this predicament which we in now, I think eventually we will take it, but it will not be easy.
Chris Martenson: Well it is interesting you know, my work has led me—as a scientist I love information, data, all of that, but my work has led me to the conclusion that information is not helpful if that information is being presented and it runs counter to the beliefs that happen to be entrenched. And we have a belief in growth. We talk about growth constantly at the political level, at the banking level, so the finance and the political systems are both entwined around this idea of growth. To me, the problem and the solution are the same thing. So if growth is our problem, then ending growth is our solution. That is really the only conclusion I can come to. Does your work take you any other directions?
Ugo Bardi: No, it is correct. Already Jay Forrester, who was the inventor of what we call system dynamics, which in turn is the basis of the study titled The Limits to Growth, he said exactly the same thing. The problem is that there is growth. Growth is a problem, it is not a solution. This is a curious aspect of human beings so that usually you understand what is the problem, the critical point of the system, but you act on it in the wrong way. It is so typical, it is growth you know. People realize that growth is a problem, but then how do they react? Instead of slowing down growth, they try all what they can to speed up growth. And then they make the problem worse. Let me make you another example about depletion: Everybody understands that we have a depletion problem, right. So what do they say? "We should drill more." But they do not understand that if you drill more, Drill Baby Drill as you know, you drill more, you run out of it faster, so you worsen the problem. So if you have a depletion problem, you have to drill less. But it is exactly the opposite of what politicians, companies, chairmen and whoever you ask the questions say.
Chris Martenson: So we have that there, and here is the interesting thing: In your book, it is just full of all these examples of where we are clearly in a depletion stage where the—I think I will use a word here—I think the rational response to entering a stage of depletion is to ask the question, "how are we going to get by with less of this stuff coming out of the ground?" Not, "how do we apply technology so we can still get more of it out of the ground?"
Ugo Bardi: Exactly, exactly, and so as you see, it is a big problem that comes with a communication system which we have, which is not adapted to ask these kinds of questions. It is very difficult to use the media to pose these kinds of questions, it is nearly impossible.
Chris Martenson: So let me turn to the hopeful part of the story, hopefully. When you are interacting with students these days, what is the—are you seeing that they are maybe having a different view of how the world works and around growth and around limits than in times past?
Ugo Bardi: What I say to my students normally I say, "you know, boys and girls, I think I should have to apologize because my generation has destroyed most of the resources that you could have used. But on the other hand," I tell them, "if you were in our position you would have done the same." And so you have no right of moral indignation [Laughs]. It is a problem which has to do with human beings, so there is not much that you can do. Even students, I think they are starting to realize the problem, but really it is very difficult for students to take a position, because—I can put myself in the position of somebody who is 20, 25, or 30 years old, and the situation for people of that age is very difficult, especially here in Europe and in Italy— let me say nothing about Italy—but you see, if you realize that we are really running out of resources, we have to make big changes in our lifestyle or we'll have big problems, even about survival, physical survival. I mean I think there are no qualms in saying that we will have these problems. And so there are several possible responses where I think some of these young people exaggerate, they move to the countryside, they start becoming peasants and cultivating potatoes and things like that. Which I am not sure is the right response. I think we have to keep—to stand and try to work on the problem.
And I do not think we have to abandon what we have been doing up to now to move to a rural society. That would be a wrong decision I think. We have to try to strive for a society in which we still have energy, but where this energy is abundant. I like abundant energy, I think everybody likes abundant energy. It does not mean that we keep growing forever, but we can have energy from renewable sources. And then with this renewable energy, we can manage our remaining mineral resources to keep a certain level of prosperity. A certain level. That does not mean that we can grow, that does not mean that we can waste. That does not mean that we can keep increasing population and our growing things. But I think if we have just a minimum degree of wisdom, which maybe we have, maybe we can make it.
Chris Martenson: And this is, I think, one of the main points that Limits to Growth put forward, which I read in your book, which was a great summary of it, which is that Limits to Growth was not a prediction, although it is turning into a prediction. But that Limits to Growth was simply saying, "If we continue on our current course, here are some possible consequences." And so what I like about that, is the idea that we always have choices. We just—we can choose to do this or that. We chose to put $600 billion into more exploration for oil and energy. We chose to put trillions of dollars back into a banking system that is clearly too big and made some really poor decisions. We are making those sorts of choices. We are making choices around Ukraine that a military solution is increasingly the way we want to go. These choices now have consequences that are different in this world than they were in the world of when I was a boy or when my father was growing up, right, because, in that world, you had the resources necessary to correct your mistakes. You could Marshal Plan and rebuild Europe. I am not as sure that after we make the next set of bad choices and we wreck some stuff—
Ugo Bardi: Eventually we run out of bad choices too, right?
Chris Martenson: Right, you go into the sort of dark ages, right. The Romans pull out of Europe and—
Ugo Bardi: It could be, we could be.
Chris Martenson: Things have to replenish themselves naturally, which takes time.
Ugo Bardi: And eventually you know what Stevenson is reported to have said, "Sooner or later everyone sits at the banquet of consequences." At some moment you face the results of your choices.
Chris Martenson: And that is what this interview has been about. I want to thank you for your time, we have been talking to Ugo Bardi, Author of Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet. It has been a great discussion, thank you so much, and I hope to have you on the show again sometime.