Is Peak Phosphorous a Bigger Threat Than Peak Oil?

Believe it or not, climate change and "Peak Oil" are not the biggest problems facing the 21st century. "Peak Phosphorous" could hit sooner and harder, threatening food supplies for half the Earth's population. Phosphorous is a fertilizing nutrient that is vital to large-scale agriculture, and currently it can only be mined, but supplies are growing shorter and shorter.
Fortunately, there may be a solution. Ostara, a Canadian-based company backed in part by environmental legend Robbert Kennedy Jr., has patented a technique to extract valuable chemicals out of the waste stream (i.e.: sewage). The result is called "Crystal Green" a slow-release chemical fertilizer that contains high levels of phosphorous and is extracted from an abundant, ever-flowing resource ... sewage.
Intentionally or not, the brand name bears a remarkable similarity to Soylent Green, the 1973 cult classic in which an undercover cop discovers that an agribusiness giant is peddling [wafers made of people] to satisfy a world hunger crisis. The book Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison which was the basis for the film was not, it turns out, terribly off the mark.
In the novel, 2022 was the year that marked a depletion of world food stocks due to overpopulation and resource depletion. A new study by Foreign Policy (as reported in The New York Times) confirms Harrison's fears of a collapsing agricultural system. About 90 percent of the world's phosphorous supplies are controlled by five countries, and they warn that as soon as 2040, this limited resource could be lost forever if we don't get better at reclaiming our discarded phosphorous. Ostara has been testing their PEARL chemical reactor in a Candian sewage plant with great results and now a plant near Portland, Oregon, has implemented a full-scale version of the reactor which produces 500 tons of fertilizer per year.
It's interesting to note that the technology was pioneered not to save the planet from famine, but to solve a problem in sewage plants in which a build up of ammonia and phosphorous clogs pipes and causes waste streams that are toxic to the environment. The result is a win-sin situation-cleaner waste water and a mineral fertilizer that acts as an added revenue source for sewage treatment plants.
Most importantly, it offers a way out of the nightmare of "Peak Phosphorous."
Via Fast Company (watch the video on Ostara's website to learn more).
Karl Burkart blogs about the latest in green media and technology for the Mother Nature Network.\n
Related Articles on Mother Nature Network:\n
Photo via Ostara via Mother Nature Network \n
AFP News Agency / Twitter

A study out of Belgium found that smart people are much less likely to be bigoted. The same study also found that people who are bigoted are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence.

A horrifying story out of Germany is a perfect example of this truth on full display: an anti-Semite was so dumb the was unable to open a door at the temple he tried to attack.

On Wednesday, October 9, congregants gathered at a synagogue in Humboldtstrasse, Germany for a Yom Kippur service, and an anti-Semite armed with explosives and carrying a rifle attempted to barge in through the door.

Keep Reading Show less
via Andi-Graf / Pixabay

The old saying goes something like, "Possessions don't make you happy." A more dire version is, "What you own, ends up owning you."

Are these old adages true or just the empty words of ancient party-poopers challenging you not to buy an iPhone 11? According to a new study of 968 young adults by the University of Arizona, being materialistic only brings us misery.

The study examined how engaging in pro-environmental behaviors affects the well-being of millenials. The study found two ways in which they modify their behaviors to help the environment: they either reduce what they consume or purchase green items.

Keep Reading Show less

One of the biggest obstacles to getting assault weapons banned in the United States is the amount of money they generate.

There were around 10 million guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2016 of which around 2 million were semiautomatic, assault-style weapons. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry's trade association, the U.S. industry's total economic impact in 2016 alone was $51 billion.

In 2016, the NRA gave over $50 million to buy support from lawmakers. When one considers the tens of millions of dollars spent on commerce and corruption, it's no wonder gun control advocates have an uphill battle.

That, of course, assumes that money can control just about anyone in the equation. However, there are a few brave souls who actually value human life over profit.

Keep Reading Show less
via Reddit and NASA / Wikimedia Commons

Trees give us a unique glimpse into our past. An examination of tree rings can show us what the climate was like in a given year. Was it a wet winter? Were there hurricanes in the summer? Did a forest fire ravage the area?

An ancient tree in New Zealand is the first to provide evidence of the near reversal of the Earth's magnetic field over 41,000 years ago.

Over the past 83 million years there have been 183 magnetic pole reversals, a process that takes about 7,000 years to complete.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Pixabay

The final episode of "The Sopranos" made a lot of people angry because it ends with mob boss Tony Soprano and his family eating at an ice cream parlor while "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey plays in the background … and then, suddenly, the screen turns black.

Some thought the ending was a dirty trick, while others saw it as a stroke of brilliance. A popular theory is that Tony gets shot, but doesn't know it because, as his brother-in-law Bobby Baccala said, "You probably don't even hear it when it happens, right?"

So the show gives us all an idea of what it's like to die. We're here and then we're not.

Keep Reading Show less