The rates at which humans consume multiple resources such as food and wood peaked at roughly the same time, around 2006. This means that resources could be simultaneously depleted, so achieving sustainability might be more challenging than was thought.

Ralf Seppelt of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues estimated the peak rate of extraction for 27 resources. For 20 of them, mostly renewables such as meat and rice, the peak-rate years occurred between 1960 and 2010, with many clustering around 2006. Only coal, gas, oil, phosphate, farmed fish and renewable energy have yet to peak.

Humans use multiple resources to generate new ones and to meet basic needs, which could explain the synchronicity of peak usage, the authors suggest.

Ecol. Soc. 19, 50 (2014)