Is our technological civilization sustainable?
We live in an extremely complex structure of interlocking processes. In raw and quasi-raw materials, we need steel; plastics of many forms; aluminum; glass in many shapes; many different, esoteric minerals for electronics; raw petroleum; others. Were we to lose even one of these catagories of raw or quasi-raw materials, our technological civilization would come to a halt.
Were we to lose one or more of the fundamental raw materials, it is possible–given time, organization, and the will–that we could recover, say by developing the technology for a massive recycling of previously mined or manufactured materials. It is, however, unlikely that we would ever be able to open the now-deep and now-rare mines and wells to once again have access to the basic raw materials.
In addition to raw and quasi-raw materials, over the past centuries we have developed a variety of “soft” systems which are equally vital to today’s technological civilization: Transportation systems; economic systems (currency, capital, trading); communication systems; peace-making and -keeping systems (to keep war from turning civilization into rubble); political systems; others. Should any one of these disparate social systems fail, our technological civilization would likely follow.
The question is: Can we (–and, if so, how can we–) sustain the underpinnings of technological civilization into the indefinate future; say, to have a specific goal, for the next thousand years?