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HungryGuy's avatar

What will happen when peak phosphorus is reached?

Asked by HungryGuy (15956 points ) February 17th, 2012

We’re all concerned about having reached peak oil, but what about peak phosphorus? Phosphorus is an element that is essential to life itself, and some people think we’re close to peak phosphorus in a few years, even though it’s not getting the press attention that peak oil is getting. When the phosphorus runs out, life itself will cease to be possible. Woe is me. What can we do?

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11 Answers

King_Pariah's avatar

Um, the peak phosphorus is about fertilizer which yes poses a problem for human life but through agriculture. Life itself will continue, just we’re gonna have a bit of a food shortage problem.

SpatzieLover's avatar

we’re gonna have a bit of a food shortage problem

No, the food chain would collapse.

Sustainability initiatives need to get the word spread, IMO, @HungryGuy.

King_Pariah's avatar

Then start using bodies as fertilizer, I really do not get the point of graves and what not. Hell, what, nearly half the human skeleton is made up of phosphate.

Sunny2's avatar

I like the idea of bodies for fertilizer. Saving earth space for corpses seems a waste of land. I’d be the first to volunteer.

flutherother's avatar

We will have to find ways to recycle waste products.

CWOTUS's avatar

Then we’ll have to keep increasing production – if we’re going to keep producing humans, that is. What makes you think that we’re running out of phosphorus? It’s not like we lose it or convert it into something else where it can’t be recovered again later. “Peak” anything only means that we’ve replaced it with something else.

You could go back in history and look at production / usage curves for Stone, Tin, Bronze, Iron, Wood and Coal to find peaks in all of those things. It doesn’t mean that we’ve run out of any of them, only that we supplant their use with something else. Obviously that won’t happen with elements that make up part of our bodies.

In any case, I’d be far more concerned about a pending lack of fresh water in the stores where we now have it (primarily ancient aquifers) because it’s going to be hideously expensive to make fresh water where there is no ocean nearby, and expensive enough to make fresh water along the ocean shores.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@CWOTUS You can’t increase production of phosphorous. You can increase sustainability.

CWOTUS's avatar

It’s the 11th most abundant element on the planet. Just because we may not find it in major deposits of rock and guano as we have in the past doesn’t mean that it will disappear. We’ll just have to find other ways to produce it. (And yes, I do say “produce”. I understand that we can’t create new elemental material, but elemental materials are always produced by mining, refining and other production means.)

If you want to worry about an element that is disappearing from the planet – by which I mean it is escaping into space, never to be seen again – then consider helium.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Permaculture or bust. Breaking down dams would help, as the salmon runs that used to come up just about every major river in this country used to bring a lot of it with them. That would take time to reestablish the extinct runs (that is, fish from other ones would wander up the wrong river, it happens to about 1 or 2% of the salmon).

mattbrowne's avatar

The Vatican promoting contraceptives.

mattbrowne's avatar

BTW, about eighteen months ago we discussed the same question:

http://www.fluther.com/90731/feeding-more-than-8-billion-people-how-serious-is-the/

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