Excited about resource scarcity

I just found myself getting quite excited about resource scarcity. Not the fact of depleting the earth’s resources, but that the subject is relevant to three things that I can claim to know something about: engineering, chemistry and explaining science.

Yesterday I was doing some background research for a new teaching resource that we are exploring developing at Think Up related to resource scarcity and material choice. The resource could become part of Workshed.  The starting point for my work Michael Ashby’s book “Material and the Environment, Eco-informed Material Choice”

All the time I was reading I was thinking how interesting it would be to create ways of explaining some of these complex and multidisciplinary issues in an engaging way – from the maths required to understand the economics of resource scarcity, through to understanding how to optimise the design for the whole life of the product.

Here are some choice facts that struck me from the first chapter:

– in 1930 it was estimated that the world would exhaust its stock of copper in thirty years; in 2008, the remaining reserves of copper will still estimated  to be exhausted in thirty years.

– the global annual consumption of steel is greater than that of all other metals combined

– the weight of wood used annually in construction is greater than the weight of steel

– the weight of concrete consumed in construction annually exceeds the weight of all other construction materials combined.

The book then goes into detail about the economics of resource depletion and processes for assessing the environmental impact of one material over another during the design process.

Watch is space for teaching resources of this flavour.