Existing scarcity

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The page relates to 'significant scarcity'. Scarcity that matters to survival and quality of life.

"Do you remember the Great Depression when one day everybody was doing business and things were going along pretty well and the next day there were breadlines? It was like someone came to work and they said to him, "Sorry chum, but you can't build today. No building can go on: we don't have enough inches." He said, "Whaddaya mean we don't have enough inches? We got wood, haven't we? We've got metal, we've even got tape measures!" They said, "Yeah, but you don't understand the business world. We just haven't got enough inches, just plain inches. We've used too much of 'em." And that's exactly what happened when we had the Depression, because money is something of the same order of reality as inches, grams, meters, pounds or lines of latitude and longitude. It is an abstraction. It is a method of bookkeeping to obviate the cumbersome procedures of barter. Our culture is entirely hung-up on the notion that money has an independent reality of its own." — Alan Watts

Nearly all of the major scarcity that exists today is not due to an actual lacking of material or energy. For example, enough energy falls on the earth from the sun every single minute to provide mankind's energy needs for a year [1], we produce enough food to feed everyone on the planet[2] and there is 1,360,000,000 cubic kilometers of water on Earth[3]. Yet we go to war over energy sources, 6 million children starve to death every year, and 13% of humanity does not have clean water to drink.

Part of the aim of this site is to show that this scarcity is neither natural nor necessary; it is the result of historical socio-economic structures and systemic inefficiencies. Buckminster Fuller is quoted as saying, "It is now highly feasible to take care of everybody on Earth at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. It no longer has to be you or me. Selfishness is unnecessary and henceforth unrationalizable as mandated by survival."

So what surmountable scarcity exists today?

Slums built on swamp land near a garbage dump in Jakarta
Collecting water in Mwamanongu Village, Tanzania
Pharmaceuticals, which are kept artificially scarce by commercial pricing

All the usual suspects, and a lot applies as much to Western countries as it does to the developing world.

  • Clean energy
  • Clean water
  • Nutritious food
  • Medicine and medical facilities
  • Decent housing
  • Sustainable development 11px-Wikipedia_logo.jpg
  • High quality, interesting education
  • Efficient transport that doesn't kill or maim significant numbers of passengers or contribute to changing our climate
  • The facilities for people and communities to do more things for themselves; we are too reliant on machines and products from global businesses. Most people are not in a situation where they can even keep themselves alive when cut off from the products of centralized production, and this leads to unnecessary deaths and suffering when these services are disrupted in disasters
  • Resources to get things done that need to be done - at a community level — sounds woolly perhaps but covers uncountable worthy projects that simply don't get done through lack of funds, manpower or bureaucratic hurdles
  • Quality - quality products and architecture as examples.
  • Time - people's time. Time to follow things important to the individual. Time for other people.


  • Lack of appropriate technology locally
  • Locked-up resources.
  • Short-term thinking
  • Inadequate co-operation (lack of communication and sharing of knowledge).
  • Cultural and systemic inertia (that's the way it has always been done).
  • Ignorance (lack of education or understanding).
  • Incompetent government administration
  • Bureaucracy
  • War (which can be considered as an extreme manifestation of competition and self-interest)
  • and in no small part, monetary economics.

See also

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