Exploitation of Natural Resources

Pete Laburn, one of this blog’s contributors and an associate of TomorrowToday, is one of the clearest thinkers on strategy we know. He’s developing a new talk on the key issues facing the world and business leaders today, and what we should do about it. He’s releasing the key issues one by one on his blog, and we’re syndicating them here. Pete is well worth following on Twitter.

Exploitation of Natural Resources

by Pete Laburn

This is the second of a series of posts discussing what I believe to be the important global trends occurring in the world right now. This series will forms part of a broader talk that I deliver simply called: Right Whats Wrong.

The world, it seems, is obsessed with what we take out. Historically it was just basic minerals and stones which, used for practical purposes, had very little impact on the planet. This trend has continued and now our world economy is centered around mass scale extraction of natural resources and minerals such as crude oil, gold, platinum, coal and various other natural gases, not to mention the ocean’s resources. Throughout the planet, mineral rich locations have been scraped dry, forced into war and destroyed as the environment is left in ruin whilst the ‘organisations of extraction’ seek elsewhere to mine, fight and get rich off the worlds natural resources. With a world that seems obsessed with what we take out, at what stage is the earth just going to say no more?


The lunacy of what we are doing to our planet will only be evident in generations to come. Our dependance on fossil fuels (Fuels from Hell as referenced by Thomas Friedman in his book Hot, Flat and Crowded) will seem as ridiculous and morally incorrect as apartheid seems to the younger generations of this planet. Not only is our economy dependent on a resource (crude oil) that is detrimental to our environment and running out but we have also created an economy that is centered around natural resources (gold and diamonds) which only have worth owing to humanity’s placed valuation on them….Insanity!

Water too is a key element which is slowly being depleted, wasted and treated as an endless resource. So much of this precious resource is used to water large gardens, cool power stations as opposed to being reserved for human livelihoods. The suggestion that the next great wars will be fought over water are not unrealistic. Already in parts of Africa and on the Nile, downstream communities are opposing the overuse of natural water for upstream communities wishing to extend their crop growth and farms. Imagine when this becomes a common occurrence in every continent…

The lack of change and the achingly slow movement towards sustainability on this planet is a result of one simple yet ever pervasive factor: GREED. Most organisations are desperately taking as much as they can to ensure they accumulate the largest amount of money in the shortest amount of time. It is a necessary procedure to give them the balance of power once these many resources dry up on after another. There is scant regard for effects of their actions, the future of the environment and the long term effects of many of the end uses of their products.

Perhaps there is more attention on the exploitation of natural resources owing to the interconnected world of social media, however things do not seem to be slowing down. It is not just the removal of the earths minerals but the mass scale extraction of fish, animals, endangered species and rainforests which are also, quite simply put, running out. Rhino horn poaching is on the increase, many species of fish are moving toward extinction whilst a few species of tigers already are!

More and more organisations and individuals are going to have to be accountable for how sustainable their actions are. The true movement for environmental sustainability comes from standing up to giant corporations such as Shell who are wanting to frack the natural beauty and diversity of the karoo for underground gases. It comes from holding your associates, colleagues and family accountable for not actively working towards a more sustainable existence. It comes from making your voice heard in government to state what laws and legislation should be implemented to preserve our country and our planet.

It is imperative that corporations and governments, as much as individuals, take the lead role in this move towards sustainability and do so with a moral conscious for the future of our planet.

It is the words of an old proverb which are so fitting for the mindset which humanity needs to adopt: “The planet was not given to us by our parents, it was loaned to us by our children.”

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