Sometimes it feels like the world runs on autopilot. Food comes from the supermarket, hospitals are equipped with life-saving devices, and a new iPhone can be sent to your doorstep. None of this would exist, though, without the abundant natural resources we inherited from the planet itself. Some, like sun and wind, are renewable and will likely never run out. Others, like minerals, fossil fuels, and even the air we breathe, are non-renewable, so it’s actually possible to lose them forever. But could we ever really find ourselves living in a world depleted of essential life forces like oxygen and water? If so, what would that world look like? The answers might give you an existential crisis.
Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe, according to Scientific American. While we take it for granted, Earth’s oxygen levels have been on the decline for about a million years, says Live Science. The main culprit is carbon emissions – and some researchers say we’ll soon run out of breathable air as a result – though most scientists agree we are nowhere near an oxygen crisis. That said, if all the Earth’s oxygen disappeared for even five seconds, airplanes would crash, concrete buildings would turn to dust, among other dire consequences.
Water has been nourishing the Earth for 4.6 billion years, according to research published in Science. About 70 per cent of the planet’s surface is made of this natural resource – that includes our oceans, seas, rivers and lakes. Water is in our atmosphere, too, and even beneath the Earth’s surface. But more than 95 per cent of it is undrinkable, according to the BBC, and we face an increasing shortage of freshwater compared to the demand for it. If we ever do run out of water, experts predict catastrophes like war, famine, and a global economic crash, according to Newsweek.