Comment: Is the turn of an era secondary?
September 14, 2023
Revival of the natural circular model of the economy
Since February 24, 2022, it has been highly official that we are living in the phase of a turning point. Is the reason for this Russia's invasion of Ukraine or the dependence and naivety that has become obvious at this moment and from which we have to turn away?
For years, gas as a resource has provided us with cheap energy and prosperity. Under pressure, we have now managed to build solutions - even if we are far from finished. Other resources will be much harder to replace at this point, as they are basic materials of our economy that cannot be replaced by renewable energies. We cannot consume more than we have - this realization is not new. We all know the earth overload day (2023 in Germany on 04.May, in the USA already on 13.March) (1). The problem with the 'pumping on environmental costs' is: We can definitely not say when we have to pay back the credit from the future.
For analysis and to underpin political decisions, the EU has built a dashboard or information system RMIS ("Raw Materials Information System"), to which the citizen also has access. There, 87 relevant raw materials are analyzed and presented in a comprehensible way for interested parties (2). According to this, only 37 raw materials are uncritical, whereas 50 raw materials are 'critical', and 25 are even rated as 'strategically critical'. It shows more than clearly how strongly dependent Germany and the entire EU is on other countries for raw materials. According to this analysis (dated 16.03.2023), gallium is also one of the most critical raw materials with a risk rating of 4.8 (max. 5). Fittingly, China wants to supply gallium together with germanium only to a limited extent or has sanctioned them in the meantime. Both play a key role in future technologies (including fiber optic cables, semiconductors, solar cells).
Actually, these two rare earths are little-noticed raw materials, but we know that well over 80% of the world market is refined in China. So are we running from one crisis/dependence to the next? Yes, but we are not running, we are already in the middle of it.
We have to admit that we cannot plan our future autonomously, but how much we are dependent in our daily life, and how much our economy is dependent on the behavior of others. Stupid that they don't necessarily see us as a priority.
There is no other chance than that we get used to the natural circular model of the economy again in the future. And therein lie new prospects - especially for those who are not above thinking about re-use, recycle, and regenerative as a value. Advantages that arise are obvious: we could become a little more independent, reduce our waste, protect the environment, and develop new technologies that hold the potential as the basis for new economic growth. After all, there will be demand for this know-how everywhere. This potential for innovation together with reduced dependence should be motivation enough for us alone.
Albert Einstein already said, "It is a sign of madness to always do the same thing and expect different results." That should be motivation enough. We can only hope that this time our leadership manages to convey what is important correctly and to emphasize the positive aspects instead of driving voters in the wrong direction with fear of losing.