Info

Land

Land

Energy

Figure 25.1 (a) Linkages that have been quantified, at least to some extent; (b) linkages identified in this volume, but not quantified; (c) linkages known to exist, but not addressed in this book. The direction of the arrow indicates the flow of a resource from one node to another.

Energy

Figure 25.1 (a) Linkages that have been quantified, at least to some extent; (b) linkages identified in this volume, but not quantified; (c) linkages known to exist, but not addressed in this book. The direction of the arrow indicates the flow of a resource from one node to another.

Figure 25.1b illustrates the linkages that have been identified in this book but not quantified. Some of these are shown. We speculate that a few of these could be quantified with some effort, but that effort has not yet been made, to our knowledge.

Figure 25.1c shows linkages that are known to exist, but are not discussed in any of the contributions to this volume. Some are doubtless of little importance, on a global scale, but others have the potential to be highly constraining, as in the phosphorus resource and its importance for agriculture. All are worthy of study, whether we presently perceive them to be important or not.

As a specific example, Figure 25.2 shows the linkages that need to be considered in the production of biofuels, one of the better-studied examples of resource linkage. It is obvious that the potential for biofuel production depends on the simultaneous availability of a package of resources, not just land or water or the necessary nonrenewable resources.

This compilation demonstrates dramatically how little is known about the quantitative aspects of the linkages that connect resources and resource receptors. If these linkages represent truly important constraints to sustainability, as we believe, there is much work to be done before this issue is understood to the degree it appears to demand.

Many chapters in this volume emphasize the dynamism of the individual systems: significant changes over time in energy demand, water availability, land access, and so forth. What is less evident, but at least as important, is that the linkages themselves are dynamic as well. If we wish to double biofuel production, will sufficient land be available on the same timescale? If we wish to increase water desalination by 5% per year, will sufficient energy be available? It is almost certain that resource linkages will impose constraints not currently considered by those evaluating options for individual resources.

Figure 25.2 Diagram of linkages involved in the production of biofuels.

Thus, linkage dynamism appears to demand the development of models that take into account the interlocked availability of crucial resources under a variety of future scenarios. Developing such models will, in turn, require a high degree of interdisciplinary involvement, including a strong social science component. While it may be technologically possible to provide energy in a certain way, to use land for a particular purpose, or to enhance mining activity in a remote area, social and political structures and preferences may be inconsistent with those ideas.

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