Here's some new support for economist Julian Simon's optimistic view that resource scarcity wouldn't ever be a problem, even with a growing world population, because of the power of innovation, discovery, human ingenuity, entrepreneurship, substitutes, and technological progress to overcome any resource shortages: the ocean floor might contain reserves of minerals vastly greater than those on land.
"It's easy to be a pessimist in a world full of calamities. But for those worried about the continuing availability of natural resources, data from the ocean makes a good case for optimism, says economic geologist Lawrence Cathles.
In a review paper published June 23 online in the journal Mineralium Deposita, Cathles, Cornell professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, writes that while land-based deposits may be a dwindling source of valuable minerals, deposits on the ocean floor could power humanity for centuries.
The minerals, including sulfur, copper, zinc, iron and precious metals, are contained in volcanogenic massive sulfide (VMS) deposits that form on the ocean floor where tectonic plates pull apart and allow magma (molten rock) to invade the Earth's 3.7-mile- (6 kilometer-) thick crust. The magma heats seawater to 662 degrees Fahrenheit (350 degrees Celsius) and moves it through the ocean crust via convection; and the seawater deposits the minerals where it discharges along the ridge axis.
"We are not resource limited on planet Earth. For a human on Earth to complain about resources is like a trillionaire's child complaining about his allowance or inheritance. It just doesn't have much credibility in my view," he said. "I think there's real risk if we don't really carefully, and in a credible way, articulate that there are enough resources for everybody," he added. "We don't have to fight over these things."