I received a free review copy of the book, Red Alert: How China’s Growing Prosperity Threatens the American Way of Life. I was interested in this book because it discusses how the world’s diminishing amount of natural resources and growing population will lead to a crisis. The focus of the book is on China but it also discusses these issues in general.
The author makes clear in the book that he isn’t demonizing China. China is acting in its own best interest in accumulating commodities that will be in short supply in the future. The commodities that China has are resources that the United States and other countries will be scrambling to obtain. One can’t expect China to share the resources cheaply if at all.
The author states that China produces 97% of the world’s rare earth metals. This is important because these materials are used in the manufacture of cell phones, laptops, TVs, and other electronics. They are also needed for the production of wind energy, solar energy, and electric vehicles. It is somewhat ironic that part of the reason China is able to produce more of these metals needed to produce green energy is that they are willing to deal with the massive pollution that mining these metals causes.
It isn’t just rare earth metals that is the problem though. China is well ahead of the United States in procuring other metals such as copper and iron. Although the metals are plentiful today the author makes a compelling case that demand could outstrip supply in the future and China has taken steps to help ensure that they will have access to the metals they need.
There is another chapter on peak oil and peak coal. The author argues that peak oil has already arrived and that peak coal isn’t far behind. I’m not sure if peak oil has arrived although I do think it will happen in the near future. China’s increasing use of oil and coal will cause demand to accelerate and energy prices to soar. China is preparing for this by investing heavily in alternative energies.
Although China is preparing for scarce resources in the future they do face some problems. One problem is whether they can produce enough food and water for their growing population. Another problem is potential rebellion. One of the reasons that China is able to prepare for long range problems is because they don’t have to worry about getting re-elected. If the people of China face shortages of food and water it could lead to rebellion but that possibility seems unlikely to the author.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like there is much the United States can do about the situation. Any attempts to remedy the situation would require that people make some sacrifice now so they can be better off in the future. The American people generally don’t want to do that and most politicians would be afraid to suggest any policies that would demand any sacrifices. You will need to make your own preparations to deal with the future. I’m not sure what those are but I am reading more about peak oil and permaculture and can hopefully come up with a few measures to better weather the future crisis.