We're still thinking about pollution and resources as two separate things, as two separate problems, when they are one and the same. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill helps us see why. Pollution is nothing more than "lost" resources. Something as messy and devastating as the deep sea rig gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico actually helps illustrate this point.
We all grew up thinking of pollution as tiny particles of various substances that foul our air, water, or soil and that sometimes cause health problems, disrupt other life, and cost millions of dollars to clean up, so it's a little hard to think of them as resources. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill makes the idea of pollution as resources much easier to grasp. Millions of gallons of oil spewed from the drill site. All of it, captured as intended, would have been processed and sold as a valuable resource. During that processing, some of it inevitably would have spilled. Some more might have spilled during transport. Finally, a lot of it would have been released into the atmosphere after it was sold and burned.
But it's fundamentally the same resource, whether it's in the ground, in a tank, or in the air. Resources are valuable to us when they're in a form that we know how to collect and use to create wealth, to increase our chances of survival. But they become harmful pollution when they're released in a form and in a way that disrupts the natural world on which all of our lives depend.
Think about our economy as a simple, though massive organism with inputs and outputs. Each day, we import countless tons of resources into our economy and then transform them into things that hopefully perform some useful function, that help us create wealth. In the simplest terms: resources come in and resources go back out. They go back out in two forms - as intended products and as unintended by-products, or pollution.
Pollution originated from the same place as the products we intended to make. Pollution, or waste, is simply resources that we brought into our industrial system at great cost and, because of our inefficiency or lack of understanding, failed to transform into whatever it was that we intended. When it goes "out" of the economy, it's just going back into the larger system where we live, often in forms and places where it becomes harmful to us and to other living things. Sometimes its presence and impact is clear immediately, sometimes not.
In the case of the Gulf oil spill, the presence and some of the danger is clear. We're aware of some of the impacts on our environment, at least in the short term. But, we're still thinking about pollution and resources as two separate things, as two separate problems, when they are one and the same.
Our ability to re-form resources for some purpose is what allows us to create wealth. To the extent we are able to do that without unintended side effects, without waste, we increase our wealth. As we're able to learn how to do more with less resources, we'll build wealth. This is one of the principles of dMass.
If you're able to reduce the amount of resources your business, your organization, or even your home uses, what happens? Less resources in means less waste out, fewer risks, fewer liabilities, and fewer fines. A reduction in resources used also translates to lower operating, transportation and storage costs in the first place. The result is higher profits and improved asset value.
But the consequences of lost resources stretch much further. There are many, less obvious ways that pollution diminishes our wealth, reduces our opportunities, and drives up the prices on our remaining resources. Decades ago, it didn't matter so much if we understood this. Today, with billions more people on the planet, it matters a great deal.