New research outlines how energy resource depletion and declining energy return on investment (EROI) may affect prosperity. Modern, prosperous lifestyles are heavily dependent on the availability of abundant, low-cost energy supplies. In fact, a society and its component parts (people, groups, organisations, institutions) are physical systems that require inflows of affordable energy resources with high thermodynamic quality to perform work and power their various functions. To date, modern societies largely source their energy supplies from fossil fuels, which raises important sustainability concerns related to both their exhaustibility and the environmental degradation induced by their large-scale use. One specific concern regards the ‘energetic productivity’ of energy resources, and its evolution in the face of resource depletion and energy transitions. Gathering energy resources from the environment indeed generally consumes large amounts of labor and capital, but also of energy, meaning that only part of the energy obtained is effectively available to […]