What’s wrong: treating rival sources as non-rival, treating non-rival sources as rival

Below is a very efficient device to raise awareness of the destruction of the biosphere: the ecological debt calendar, which shows that industrialized countries have recently passed the treshold when they are literally ‘eating up the world’.

This is a key issue for P2P Theory, and has been one of the key message of economist Herman Daly. In the current political economy, we do exactly the opposite of what should be done: 1) we treat rival resources (natural physical resources), which are essentially finite, as if they were non-rival, i.e. non-finite; 2) through intellectual property, and especially its extreme extensions in the last decades, we articially treat non-rival resources (information and cultural resources), as if their were rival. If we could want to summarize the underlying program of the Foundation for P2P Alternatives, then it would be the reversal of that situation.

If you want some extra background, read our entry on Abundance vs. Scarcity , which reviews these matters in detail.

Here’s an excerpt from the Guardian article, which summarizes a recent report from the New Economics Foundation, which is, in my opinion, one of the most important think thanks in the world.


If every country had Britain’s level of consumption, it says, there would need to be not just one world but 3.1 worlds to cope with the demand. At just 22 weeks old, an average British citizen will be responsible for the equivalent emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide that someone in Tanzania will generate in a lifetime.

The UK is not quite in the same league as the US; it would take 5.3 worlds to supply the necessary resources if the 6 billion people on the planet had the same appetite as the 300 million Americans. But Britain’s position has changed radically in the past 45 years and, lacking North America’s natural resources, it goes into what NEF calls “ecological debt” long before the US.

Back in 1961, according to the NEF calculations, the UK could manage until the second half of the year under its own steam. It was July 9 before we started to call on the rest of the world to top up our own efforts. Twenty years later, the end of national self-sufficiency came on May 14; the date this year falls on April 16 – one of the earliest in the developed world.

The Dutch and the Japanese are the first to hit the buffers in terms of sustainability. By the first few days in March, consumers in Amsterdam and Tokyo are starting to live off others. Italy comes next, on April 13, followed by the UK. The Germans manage for themselves until the end of May, and the abundance of natural resources in the US means that Americans are self-sustainable for almost half the year.

France‘s support for home-grown production, from camembert to Citroën, ensures that it can fend for itself until July 27, while the Austrians manage until October 1 – almost six months longer than we can in the UK.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.