Traditional economics tells us that the market will sort us out. When resources become scarce, the price goes up, people start innovating to develop or market alternatives, and the problem is resolved.
However, there are at least three fundamental problems with that analysis:
First, those of us who are richer are cushioned against the impacts of scarcity or instability, while poorer people are already suffering from a lack of water, less fertile land, changing climate and resulting conflicts. We won't react until we are the ones feeling the pain.
Second, our accounting system simply doesn't put an adequate value on many of the resources – and particularly the ecosystems services – we depend on, so that the price does not reflect the importance of maintaining them and the market does not send the right signals.
Third, there is a time lag. By the time the market recognises the problem, starts to value these resources and sends the signals, it may be too late. It takes time to develop alternatives – clean technologies to replace fossil fuels, new ways to purify or access water, new farming techniques that are less damaging to the topsoil.