Via Andrew Sullivan, an Asimov’s editorial in which Robert Silverberg suggests, rather bizarrely IMHO, that zinc and copper may suffer the same fate as the dodo and the great auk:
But now comes word that it isn’t just wildlife that can go extinct. The element gallium is in very short supply and the world may well run out of it in just a few years. Indium is threatened too, says Armin Reller, a materials chemist at Germany’s University of Augsburg. He estimates that our planet’s stock of indium will last no more than another decade. All the hafnium will be gone by 2017 also, and another twenty years will see the extinction of zinc. Even copper is an endangered item, since worldwide demand for it is likely to exceed available supplies by the end of the present century.
My first thought: This would be good fodder for an apocalyptic SF story. Sullivan and Silverberg are way ahead of me—Sullivan references Wall-E, Silverberg a 1932 novel called The Death of Iron. (No word from Michael Crichton, but I’ll be shocked if he hasn’t already inked a movie deal on this subject.)
My second thought: Demand exceeding available supply equals extinction? So if I try to book a flight but the plane’s already full, that’s an extinction event?
My third thought: Like many things that trigger thought #1, this is probably not something I need to worry about in real life. But Michael Crichton is still going to make a mint.