I think that’s probably the main driver, this resource crunch. Depending on what industry you’re in, there are regulatory threats. There are threats related to climate change. There are political threats. Social threats. And the sustainability enterprise is geared toward figuring out which of these megatrends are lurking behind the corner, so that companies and consumers can be ready for them.

You just published a special report, “Peak Everything,” in which I noticed an odd difference in tone between the article about peak oil and the ones about peak food and peak water. The oil report was very optimistic and seemed to suggest that we shouldn’t worry because we have plenty of unconventional sources, from deep-water to shale. The other two reports were much more pessimistic. Why?

Part of the answer relates to how wide a circle are you drawing around these resources. I don’t want to get into peak oil here, but you can draw a circle around conventional oil. You can draw a circle around one well. You can draw a circle around all of the hydrocarbons in the solar system and include Saturn’s moon Titan. And depending on where you draw the circle, that’s where you get the answer.

Drawing the circle around water is harder. Another thing to keep in mind is that the peak oil story is right now. The other stories—peak food and water—are really about trying to understand what things will look like in 2050.


Curtis Brainard is the editor of The Observatory, CJR's online critique of science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.