Watch trends to be resourceful

One of our great northern resources is the forest. But controversy about it continues: Who should get how much of it? What can we do to both use and keep it?
Resource use fluctuates with perceived value. The value usually depends on competition for it, and on what substitutes are available.
Resource use is a change force. To help us understand the present and peer into the future, we should monitor it. The other change forces are:
•population
•politics/governance
•socio-economy
•information
•technology
•values
•nature
Change forces or change engines are those broad factors that are always present, and that shift all the time. Each engine of change is powerful. Moreover, they do not act alone. They reinforce and overlap so their combined effect is even greater.
Major changes within these forces are events or trends.
To raise our awareness and response, a key question to ask is: “What’s going on in this area, and how does or will that affect us?” Use of resources includes both natural and manufactured materials. Here are some examples:
•Plastic/fibre laminates
Birch and poplar once were considered weed woods. Now they are valuable fibre sources for kraft, veneer, oriented strandboard, and dimension lumber.
Straw also was a waste product (a problem for farmers). Now it’s replacing wood in laminates for kitchen cupboards and furniture. It is becoming a second cash crop.
And its quick growth and ease of harvesting could reduce both the use and the commercial value of our northern trees!
•New plastic
Carbon-based material is replacing steel in golf clubs, fishing rods, cars. Plastic and fibreglass have replace some steel in vehicles.
Steel, in turn, is changing and finding new uses.
•Zinc and copper substitutes
Fibre optics has replaced vast amounts of copper wire. Various alloys, plastics, fibreglass, RPF, and new battery technology reduce use of zinc.
Paints and printing inks use more vegetable dyes instead of metals.
These examples, and many more, affect the price and the industrial activity related to Northwestern Ontario’s major natural resources–minerals, forest, and, increasingly, water.
Water is not recognized enough yet. People now buy water even where it is still pure and free from the tap. But the only northwestern bottler I know of is Kakabeka Springs.
How much is our clean water advertised as value for international tourists? And paid for? What a resource to guard!
Every time a problem is identified with a product, a change in resource use follows. Every time a new need emerges, resource use changes. Every new technology affects resource use.
Inventions and innovations drastically change how we do things all over the world.
We can choose to regard changing use of resources as a problem or opportunity. Either way, it demands personal and organizational adjustment to survive and prosper.
By paying attention to it, we have a much better chance.

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