Summary of discussion and future research topics
Exhaustion is broader than merely material resource depletion: e.g. the function of ecosystems as carbon sink is getting exhausted. We use the word “sustainability” too loosely for small, incremental, improvements. That is not a good use of the “icon” of sustainability because it is not addressing hard limits and often not considering the medium and long term. In many countries, we are not in fact decoupling resource use and economic growth, because we are substituting local production with imports. We need to consider “phantom” resource consumption (from imported goods) in our “decoupling” exercises. We still have a lot of scope to use more efficiently many of our resources. One example is biomass related to the food cycle, e.g. by recycling waste biomass. Ultimately all natural resource consumption is the result of demand by consumers. Industry and business have of course their own agendas, and they actively promote consumption, but in fact ALL goods production, with its value chain, is predicated on demand by consumers. Even with technological advances, there will be no effective decoupling if people are not willing to want less, particularly in the richer countries. There has been insufficient research into this issue. Using the words of Pope Francis (Encyclic “Laudato Sí - on care for our common home), our biggest enemies are greed, wastefulness and selfishness.