Our current global economy would make Dracula proud. Since 1800, the global population has increased sevenfold. This mind-boggling increase has come at the cost of sucking more and more non-renewable, or fossil, resources from the earth. This exponential expansion comes from improvements on the way we drain finite resources from the earth, and is unsustainable. Due to the economic sleight of hand of externalities, the cost of using these finite, unsustainable resources is not correctly felt in market prices. Market prices don't reflect investments that need to be made into sources of renewable energy. The global economy is recklessly and heedlessly overdrawing irreplaceable resources from the environment, while subsidizing the
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Eventually, these water tables will disappear entirely. The Chinese government is trying to level this water imbalance by spending billions on a series of aqueducts to pipe water from the tropical south to the desert north. In the Middle East, the water imbalance is equalized by trading oil for wheat and corn with the United States. To attach numbers to this trade, it takes 500,000 gallons of water to grow one acre of corn. Instead of keeping regional populations at reasonable, sustainable levels, that half of a billion gallons of water must be either drawn from a finite water table or shipped halfway around the world in the form of food products. This method of abusing fossil aquifers is doubly damning, since it drains both non-renewable water and the fossil fuels used to transport water in the form of food.
Since this overuse of finite resources does not reflect on the price of wheat or corn, except where, for example, deeper wells must be dug yearly to reach lowering water tables, the global market for wheat, and, by extension, the world's population is insulated by this problem with the magic of externalities. Externalities remove responsibility from producers and consumers by shifting some costs onto third parties. In many of the world's markets, at least one of these third parties is the environment.
A famous example of these externalities at work was the effect of the use of DDT as a pesticide.