We seem to be living in age of abundance – well, some of us at least in a few parts of the world (and if you have time to stop and read a list like this one on the internet instead of looking for food and water, or trying to avoid being killed by your local neighborhood warlord, you’re probably one of them).
However there are plenty of resources which, no matter where you live, might soon scarce enough that you’ll notice. Check out the list if you want to know which – and probably start your own stockpile or something!
Though most people are probably mostly aware about its party-related uses (raising the pitch of your voice to hilarious levels and keeping balloons afloat), helium is actually really important for all sorts of industries because it can be used to cool things to very low temperatures.
The problem is, there’s a really limited supply of the stuff here on Earth, and there’s not much effort being made to conserve the stuff, which just leaks into the atmosphere and then into outer space.
And while there are huge stockpiles to be found in space (helium is the seconds most abundant element in the Universe, after hydrogen), we’re still a long way from being able to harvest those reserves. So consider that the next time you’re organizing your next party!
9. Chocolate and coffee
Chocolate and coffee are probably the most universally loved things in the world, so the fact that it seems we won’t be having these things in the future is terrible news for millions of people.
The problem is, most of the world’s cocoa supply comes from highly unstable regions like West Africa, as well as South America.
And what politics and economics won’t ruin, climate change definitely will, since rising temperatures are likely to have devastating effects on cocoa bean crop yields.
8. Medical drugs
Terrible management of resources is responsible for this one.
If there was any more proof needed that oligopolies are bad, the fact that the medical drug industry is dominated by a handful of big players means prices go up, small competitors are easily run out of business, and there’s a general disconnect between the needs of the customers and what actually gets made.
This translates to serious drug shortages all over the world.
7. Medical isotopes
This is somewhat related to both the helium and the medical drug shortage, though slightly different in nature. You might not be aware of this, but a lot of medical procedures require something called a radioactive tracer, basically a slightly radioactive substance which decays inside the body and helps with the imaging process, usually something called technetium-99m.
The problem is, there are very few facilities that produce the stuff, which is highly unstable (with a half-life of about 12 hours) and thus can’t be stockpiled.
So when those facilities have to be shut down for various reasons (like maintenance), something which happens from time to time, the entire national and global supply can suffer.
6. Lethal injection drugs
We’re not going to go into a debate regarding the effectiveness or morality of the death penalty here, but the fact is pharmaceutical companies seem to be against it and are starting to refuse to manufacture the drugs used during the procedure.
It’s gotten so bad that states which still have the death penalty, like Texas, Oklahoma, or Utah have started considering alternatives to the lethal injection, like nitrogen gas or even bringing back the firing squad.
5. Doctors and surgeons
An aging population and an increase in the number of people who are insured are just two of the factors which are leading to a skyrocketing demand for medical professionals, especially those involved in primary care and surgeons who treat diseases associated with older age, like cancer.
According to some estimates, by 2025 the United States could be facing a shortage of up to 90,000 physicians, though other projections are a bit more optimistic.
And since training a doctor lasts about ten years, measures have to be taken right now to make avoid this problem in the future.
4. Fresh water
This one seems a bit odd, since about three quarters of our planet is covered in water – however the problem with that is that it’s salt water, which is useless for both people and crops.
Fresh water, on the other hand, is not nearly as abundant and in fact it’s becoming increasingly scarce due to factors like climate change.
If you’re following the news in America, you’ve probably heard about the California drought, which is one of the most severe on record, but the problem is one of global proportions.
In fact, the UN estimates that in the not-so-distant future, about 500 million will have to deal with water shortages, in addition to the billions already facing this problem around the world.
Another really important element you probably don’t think too much about is phosphorus. Its most important application is in the manufacturing of fertilizer, which, if you like food and think that it’s important to have some of it every day, is kind of a big deal.
At the rate we are currently going through the stuff, it is estimated we might reach “peak phosphorus” in just three decades and probably start experiencing Interstellar-level agricultural woes within the next 100 years.
2. Good bourbon
While straight bourbon will mature in about a couple of years, good Bourbon needs about two decades to get there. And since 20 years ago bourbon wasn’t all that popular, people who enjoyed (and could afford) it started fearing a shortage and bought up the best of it – which actually ended up causing that shortage.
In recent years however, bourbon has become popular again (due, in part, to the popularity of shows like Mad Men), with demand increasing as much as 70%.
This only made the best stuff even rarer! You can still get younger bourbon, which is also quite cheaper, relatively easily, however you’ll have to pay a premium for the reality high quality stuff – or you can wait a couple of decades for supply to catch up with demand.
Bricks seem to be so simple to make and ubiquitous that it’s hard to imagine how there could ever be a shortage of them.
However due to effects of the economic crisis and the accompanying housing crisis, the United Kingdom is facing a dramatic shortage of these very important building blocks.
After the collapse of the housing market a few years ago, Britain had a huge surplus of bricks, which led to the shutting down of brick factories.
Now, as the demand is rising again, especially with plans to build hundreds of thousands of homes to help reduce the skyrocketing house prices, hundreds of millions more bricks are needed than are currently being produced.