Scarcity and frontiers

Edward B Barbier / Cambridge University Press / Paperback: £29.95 / ISBN: 978–0–52170–165–5

From the collapse of Mesopotamian civilisations in 3500 to 1000BC due to climate change and over-intensive agriculture, through the great empires of Rome and China, to the knowledge economies of the late 20th century, this scholarly book charts in great detail the way humans have consistently used resource depletion as a spur to find new “frontiers”, new sources of sustenance and wealth to exploit.

Now, says Barbier, we may be entering the “age of ecological scarcity” and will need to draw on the lessons from previous shifts to deal with this, perhaps the greatest challenge of all.

To do so we need to reconnect the concept of economic progress with the discovery and use of natural resources, because the two have become disjoined since the industrial revolution.

A fascinating read for the economically literate.