Aug. 1, 2000 SolarQuest® iNet News Service
A Review of Walter Youngquist’s GeoDestinies: The inevitable control of Earth resources over nations and individuals
The only geography course that I remember having in my educational career was in the fifth or sixth grade. I still remember world maps with little symbols standing for various minerals, tin in Bolivia, silver in Mexico, iron in Minnesota and so on. To an eleven-year-old, these facts were merely another boring part of getting through school. Now, years later, it is becoming apparent how short our educational system is in areas of vast importance such as geography and history. GeoDestinies, published in 1997, is an amazingly thorough review, for a 500-page book, of the connections between the geology of the planet and the history of the human race.
The style of the book is one that uses relatively short bulleted paragraphs for each topic and an extensive list of references following each chapter, making for fairly easy reading. The first ten chapters seem redundant in some places because he goes down lists of countries that have given types of mineral resources and the several different ways these resources affect their political and social standing. But seen in the context of the whole, it makes the book all the more comprehensive in its perspective. The definition of ‘mineral’ resources is defined right at the beginning to include fossil fuel resources, water and topsoil as well as the elements that we normally associate with the term ‘mineral.’
Petroleum is given proportionally more attention than the other minerals because of its key role in supporting the civilizations on the planet today. As with the other minerals, he discusses the history of ‘black gold’ and the role it has played in the development of our society and its role in the several wars of this century. With petroleum there are many charts and graphs illustrating various aspects of the supply and usage picture.
There are chapters on ‘alternative’ energy sources, both non-renewable and renewable, topsoil, water, and even a chapter on ‘Minerals and Health.’ Altogether, it is a treasure trove of information. I’ll mention just a few things that stuck in my mind after finishing the book and then list the table-of-contents headings below. The nations that come the closest to being the most self-sufficient in overall mineral resources (if not the technology to use them) are, not surprisingly, Russia, USA and China in roughly that order, depending on the particular resource. Obviously, the Middle Eastern nations of the Persian Gulf are at the top of the heap in petroleum reserves. The USA has the most accessible coal reserves (Wyoming and Montana being the states with the major deposits). For the immediate future, of the next few decades, it looks like coal and nuclear fission power are the most likely candidates for energy production. Water and topsoil may prove, in the long run, more limiting than energy resources. The major impression is that we have a dependency on non-renewable mineral resources that is going to place an absolute limit to the number of people this planet can support.
Youngquist discusses, in a balanced and matter-of-fact way, the development of mineral resources and how we have become dependent on them. In a section about the development of future petroleum reserves in the USA, for example, he notes that the many dire predictions of environmental disasters resulting from the construction of the Alaska pipeline and the Prudhoe Bay production facilities did not come to pass, implying that further development in that area could very likely be carried out also without dire environmental problems. He does not, however, pull any punches in continuously raising the obvious questions about the bind the human race has gotten itself into with the current population level, the rate of resource usage and the continuing growth of the population.
I definitely recommend this book as a read for anyone interested in the future of the human race.
Table of Contents:
1. Minerals Move Civilization
2. Minerals Move People
3. Minerals and War, and Economic and Political Warfare
4. The Gulf War of 1990-1991: Iraq Invades Kuwait
5. The Current War Between the States
6. Mineral Microcosms
7. The One-Resource Nations
8. The Good Geo-fortune of the USA
9. The Extraordinary Geodestiny of Saudi Arabia and the Other Persian (Arabian) Gulf Countries
10. Mineral Riches and How They are Spent
11. Minerals, Money, and the “Petro-Currencies”
12. The Petroleum Interval
13. Alternative Energy Sources: Non-Renewable
14. Alternative Energy Sources: Renewable
15. Water – Life’s Essential Connection to the Earth
16. Minerals From the Ocean
17. Topsoil – The Most Valuable Mineral Complex
18. Minerals and Health
19. Strategic Minerals – How Strategic are They?
20. Nations and Mineral Self-Sufficiency
21. International Access to Minerals – Free Trade Versus the Map of Geology
22. Mineral Development and the Environment
23. Efficiency and Conservation – To What Purpose?
24. Minerals, Politics, Taxes, and Religion
25. Minerals, Social and Political Structures
26. Mineral Economics
27. Myths and Realities of Mineral Resources
28. Earth Resources, the Future, and the “Sustainable” Society
29. The Ultimate Resource – Can it Secure Our Future?