6 Important Things You Didn't Know We're Running Out Of

#3. Tequila

The Mexican cactus booze has been in trouble for the last couple of years, and high demand and diseased crops have seriously threatened its supply in the past. But now, we might actually be looking at a possible eradication of tequila as a worldwide commodity.

In 2006, the Bush administration introduced new regulations to begin substituting gasoline with biofuels made from corn-based ethanol, the idea being to ease America's dependency on foreign oil. One side effect was that ethanol prices skyrocketed to the point that farmers in Mexico started abandoning their old crops in favor of corn to ship off to the U.S.

Unfortunately, this included destroying crops of agave cactus (from which tequila is made) by setting them on fire, because that's how they roll in Mexico.

"Yeah, fuck you, my previous livelihood!"

But whatever -- we can just plant more of that cacti, right? About that ... you see, the blue agave cactus is what you would call the Chinese panda of the plant world, in that it's insanely particular about how it reproduces. It's prone to diseases and will grow only in a very specific climate -- on very high altitudes and preferably in red volcanic soil. This pretty much confines it to the Mexican state of Jalisco and surrounding areas, the only places in the entire world where Mexican law allows for the production of "tequila," a name to which Mexico holds exclusive rights.

In 2007, Mexican farmers planted 35 percent less agave than in the previous year, and the remaining cacti were given the red-headed stepchild treatment: mistreated and generally ignored, causing global tequila production to drop significantly. Basically, when one region in Mexico goes sober, the entire world gets the tequila shakes.

Vomit may never taste the same again.

Here's the best part: Tequila is made by removing the fructose at the core of the plant in its 12th year. So basically, if they're replanted tomorrow, you might have enough for one very basic crop in 2023, assuming the plants aren't harmed by diseases, weird weather patterns or anything else in the next dozen or so years. In short, you might want to start developing a taste for wine coolers.

#2. Phosphorus

You might not even know what phosphorus is or what it does, but the life of every single person on Earth depends on it. Phosphorus is used to make fertilizer, and without it, there is virtually no way to produce enough food for the world's population. As you might have guessed, we are quickly approaching "peak phosphorus" and might run out of it in as little as 30 years.

Researchers from Australia, Europe and the United States agree that the worldwide focus on production of biofuels (jump-started by the U.S.) can in all reality use up all of the planet's phosphorus. And when guys from three continents can agree on anything other than their mutual hatred for one another, you know they have to be right. The situation is getting so desperate that Sweden has actually started designing toilets that will extract the precious phosphorus from our piss.

"Fifty bucks a vial."

China is already hoarding all the phosphorus it has, which hasn't exactly done anything to calm the global markets. From 2007 to 2008, phosphate rock prices went up 700 percent, and the demand might continue to rise 2.3 percent a year, seeing as the majority of nations aren't too keen on starving to death in the future. The remaining phosphorus is located chiefly in Russia and Africa, whose reserves might one day basically give them the keys to the planet.

The only alternative is extracting phosphorus from the seabed but the costs would be staggering, and we'd risk running into and pissing off Cthulhu.

#1. Water

Humanity's fight for scarce water is a staple of dystopian fiction (and the plot of one shitty Bond movie), but in the end, that's all it is: fiction. Because come on -- water? It's like ... right there, and plenty of it. There of course are Third World countries where clean water is a precious commodity, but you don't see Western multinational companies and businessmen actually investing millions of dollars in it. But that's only because they have been really quiet about it.

"Ahem: Yee-haw."

T. Boone Pickens is a Texan ex-oilman and currently the biggest private owner of water in the United States, with access to most of the Texan portion of the Ogallala Aquifer, which holds more than a quadrillion gallons of the liquid. Pickens has invested more than $100 million and eight years of work in acquiring the rights to this much "blue gold" and now plans to sell it to Dallas or some other major U.S. city desperately running out of water. There are plenty to choose from.

If you're hoping that Pickens is just some crazy rich guy, it's worth mentioning that he wasn't the first to have this idea. To become a water baron, Pickens had to fight for 15 years with the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority, which tried to buy his reserves out from under him. Water drilling is serious business.

T. Boone Pickens

Furthermore, what the man is doing is pretty old-hat by American standards. For years, New York has been getting its water from the Catskill Mountains, while Southern California has to reach all the way to the Sierra Nevada range -- hundreds of miles in both cases. Then there is Russia diverting its Siberian water surplus to China, and Alaska selling its H2O to India of all places. Either these multi-million-dollar companies and huge governments are paranoid as hell, or they know something that we don't. Something horrifying.

But even if fresh water is running out, we can take comfort in the fact that, as rational people, we at least won't be going to war over it all Mad Max-style, right? How about we just leave you with these links about water supply-related conflicts between Pakistan and India, India and China or Israel and the rest of the Middle East, and let you answer that question yourselves. Sleep tight!

Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance online writer and Japanese-English-Polish translator. Contact him at c.j.strusiewicz@gmail.com.

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