"warning that the world was already running out of cheap and sources of some essential materials such as oil, copper and gold."
Aside mild annoyance at their placing "oil" next to "copper and gold" as natural resources this report only underscores a trend that must attend a growing population that is moving collectively toward greater levels of affluence.
Those of you who've read my articles on the need to develop a Self Healing Infrastructure (SHI) are very familiar with my solution to enable us to decouple economic growth from the resource utilization profile of the planet.
I do not believe in the long run of the next 30 years that it comes from providing jobs in a disorganized way. Rather, the efficient routing of work to be done to workers able and willing to do it is what is most critical. In a sense this is learning to use the existing resources (human) more efficiently in order that they can help contribute to the development of efficiencies in service provision or product creation that reduce costs for physical resources over time. This human resource efficiency problem is a hard one that I attacked started in 2004 with the development of Action Oriented Workflow, also written up extensively in a series of articles over the last few years. This is the near term solution to the long term problem.
More important however for the long term are the construction of the SHI elements that will allow us to switch from non renewable resources that currently contribute to environmental change that is more immediately worrisome, over to renewable or virtually infinite (solar,wind,geothermal) resources that we've already been using but are at cost/efficiency levels that still need improvement.
Hence my objection to the article author placing "oil" in the same grouping as "copper and gold". The total amount of copper in the crust of the Earth is the same as it was 500 years ago, same as it was 5000 years ago...it may be in a different form from the original copper ores from which they are refined.
So an immediate way to eliminate the apparent shortage is to more efficiently reclaim deployed uses of copper, at present humanity is doing a terrible job of recycling many types of renewable resources including gold and copper...which are piled away with plastics and other non renewables in garbage heaps or dumped into the ocean! The chief problem being exorbitant cost to extract those resources from garbage in comparison to simply mining anew...but at some point the available supply/demand cost curve is going to make extraction more expensive than recovery IF we keep going as we are with utilization.
The problems we face are multidimensional unfortunately, spanning both social and economic spheres. On the social side, the emergence of the developing world and rising demand for a modern life style are fueling the rate of global resource consumption. Cultural and Religious mores encourage the mindless growth of families in these areas and is a big problem that must be tackled head on.
Relative to the social problems of expanded human growth the technological advances needed are actually relatively easy and advances in the areas of artificial intelligence, renewable resource extraction and deployment and intelligent automation that allows economies to grow while reducing the creation of displaced human work forces are currently under way.
The good news is that it is clear that in many advanced societies, a consequence of development is actually the reduction of the birth rate. Some of the most advanced societies in Europe and Asia have neutral or negative growth rates. Among the identified reasons for these rates of growth have been improved education among the populace in general, education and access to methods of contraception and very important, the elimination of religion and cultural proclivities to smaller family sizes. We need to study these countries and make active efforts to emulate their growth profiles in emerging countries to ensure that human population growth does not stress the parallel efforts to maximize inherent value in all of us while generating a dynamic self healing infrastructure that can allow us to free ourselves of the tyranny of a "need to work" while ensuring the population that does exist exerts minimal environmental impact on the planet.
We've got our work cut out for us that is sure but with resolve and the courage to apply new modes of thinking and new technologies I believe we can at least minimize what discord there is to come.