Natural resources are components that exist in the world without the input of humans. These natural resources are diverse ranging from renewable resources to non-renewable resources, living to non-living resources, tangible to intangible resources. Natural resources are essential to the survival of humans and all other living organisms. All the products in the world use natural resources as their basic component, which may be water, air, natural chemicals or energy. The high demand for natural resources around the world has led to their rapid depletion. As a result, most nations are pushing for proper management and sustainable use of natural resources.
Types Of Natural Resources
Natural resources could be classified into different categories such as renewable and non-renewable resources, biotic and abiotic resources, and stock resources.
Renewable Natural Resources
Renewable resources refer to resources that can naturally regenerate after use. They include resources such as wind, water, natural vegetation, solar energy, and animals. These resources exist in nature in abundance. There is little concern about depleting renewable resources because their rate of production exceeds the rate of human consumption. Conservationists throughout the world advocate for the use of renewable resources because they are readily available and less costly to the environment.
Non-renewable Natural Resources
Non-renewable resources are components that take too long to replenish after use or exist in limited quantities. Non-renewable resources include products such as crude oil, precious metals, minerals, and rocks. Some endangered animals are also classified as non-renewable resources because their mortality rate is much higher than their reproduction rate. These non-renewable resources need to be protected and to be used responsibly to stop their depletion.
Biotic Natural Resources
Biotic natural resources refer to living resources that exist naturally in the environment. Such resources include forests, wildlife, and fossil fuels, which are all listed as biotic natural resources.
Non-biotic Natural Resources
Non-biotic natural resources are natural products in the environment that are non-living. These resources include water, rocks, metals, and minerals among many others.
Stock Natural Resources
The world has numerous resources some of which are yet to be exploited. Humans lack the skills and technology to extract and use some of the naturally occurring resources like rare gases and some radioactive materials. As a result, these resources are classified as stock resources to be utilized in the future.
Threats To Natural Resources
Most natural resources exist in limited quantities. Unfortunately, various factors have led to the exploitation of these resources. Some of the components are at the risk of depletion.Environmental pollution, high population, uncontrolled development, climate change, and modern lifestyles are some of the threats to natural resources.
Environmental pollution has been the leading cause of natural resources degradation and depletion. Environmental pollution is mainly caused by industries that produce and use chemicals and plastics in their operations. These chemicals sip into the soil and water systems and alter the composition of the resources. The increased use of harsh chemicals and plastics in the environment has led to destruction of aquatic life.
High Population Levels
The world’s human population has significantly increased in the past five decades. As the number of people rises, so does the demand for natural resources. People have over-exploited resources such as water, agricultural land, minerals and wildlife leading to depletion of most natural resources in some parts of the world. Countries that have uncontrolled population increase often put pressure on the limited natural resources leading to environmental degradation.
Most countries have experienced rapid development with the creation of new industries and infrastructure. These development projects require lots of resources such as land, energy, water and human resource. In some cases, development has encroached on forests or protected land and led to the destruction of significant vegetation and wildlife. It is, therefore, necessary to control the development to prevent overutilization of limited and endangered resources.
Climate change is a reality in the current world. The effects of climate change have been excessive flooding, extreme weather conditions, earthquakes, and other calamities. These changes have threatened the way of life of numerous species leading to the extinction of some. Forest fires caused by climate change have also resulted in the destruction of forests which are valuable natural resources.
The modern society is the most advanced society in human history. Due to the advanced way of life, more resources are needed to meet the many demands humans have. For instance, people consume so much energy through vehicles on the roads, electronics in homes, and during recreational activities. This increased consumption has led to high demand for fossil fuels and energy production. Subsequently, these natural resources have been over utilized resulting in their depletion.
Harmful Agricultural Practices
Agricultural activities have increased in most countries due to increasing demand for food. Some places clear out forests or use land inappropriately leading to the destruction of the environment. Additionally, large farms have been known to use harsh chemicals without proper disposal methods. This results in harmful products in the soil and water. Therefore, agricultural activities are increasingly leading to the degradation of natural resources.
Conservation Of Natural Resources
In 1982, the United Nations saw the need for environmental protection and preservation of natural resources. The World Charter for Nature lists the measures to be taken to prevent depletion of natural resources. It also states the importance of environmental protection and the need to create laws on the same subject. Other organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have also led in the push for protection of natural resources. The organizations have funded scientific studies like Conservation biology where scientists research on ways to conserve the natural resources found in the environment. At the local level, countries have established protected areas to conserve natural resources from exploitation. Conservationists also encourage the use of renewable natural resources such as wind and solar energy instead of non-renewable resources which are at risk of extinction. Additionally, most countries have government departments that oversee the extraction and use of natural resources. These departments create rules on management of natural resources like precious metals, rare metals, and energy sources. They also provide licenses to companies involved in the production and sale of such resources.