What is discussed much less is that all non-renewable resources will eventually reach peak production. In the Untied States this has occurred for many commodities, including bauxite in 1943, copper in 1998, iron ore in 1951, magnesium in 1966, phosphate rock in 1980, potash in 1967, rare earth metals in 1984, tin in 1945, titanium in 1964 and zinc in 1969.
For example, China produces 97 per cent of the rare earth metals, elements critical to such hi-tech products as catalytic converters, color TVs, flat panel displays, batteries, petroleum refining, missiles, jet engines and satellite components. But China can't keep up with demand and it is getting skittish about exporting what it increasingly needs itself.
Even what we tend to think of as renewable resources are depleting. For example, every year significant areas of agricultural land are lost to desertification, salinization, erosion and development.
As resources deplete we might expect substitution and efficiencies to make up for some of the losses, but they can hardly make up for all of them. Unless we want a future where humanity is like a pack of dogs fighting over the last bone, we are going to have to change our ways, and change them dramatically. We must start planning for a steady-state global economy where renewable resources are exploited at a rate lower than the Earth's ability to replace them; where non-renewable resources are used at declining rates and extensively recycled; and where human population is constrained to a level consistent with the above. We must start thinking of growth in ways that increase human happiness without increasing consumption, ways that are far more cooperative and far less competitive. And we must start now.
We can transition peacefully into a new economy or we can allow chaos to precipitate us into a new economy. The choice is ours.