Judicious Use of Natural Resources

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Natural Resources

All the products and features of the earth that permit it to support life and satisfy people’s needs are collectively termed as Natural Resources. There is a wide variety of such resources,both living and non-living, on land, in water or in the air. We make use of all of these for our food, or fuel, or as raw materials for manufacturing and industry.

We can collectively classify them as follows –

 

  • Biological resources – flowers, fruits, forests, trees, birds, fish, wild animals
  • Mineral resources – ore, oil, coal, natural gas, metal, stone, sand
  • Other natural resources – soil, sun, wind, water, weather conditions such as temperature, pressure

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Some resources, such as soil and water, trees and fruits, are essential for life to exist and survive. Others, such as wood, sand, and stone, are useful to build homes and shelters. Yet other resources, such as minerals and metals, can be used to build things,such as automobiles and plastics, for economic gain. And other resources, such as oil and gas, sun and wind, are useful for providing heat, light, energy and power.

All regions and countries are endowed with natural resources, some more than others. However, all countries do not necessarily make judicious use of these resources. Why is that necessary?

Renewable and Non-renewable Resources

Natural resources can be renewable or non-renewable in nature.Renewable resources are those that cycle or can be replaced within a human lifespan.

  • Sunshine, wind,and even sea waves, are not only renewable but also inexhaustible in their supply;they are best suited for power generation.
  • Water is also constantly renewed or replenished by the Water Cycle; however, fresh water supply can be limited in many regions, calling for careful monitoring of quality and usage of water in such regions; this can happen in hot, arid zones or in regions where rivers have been dammed or diverted, creating ecological imbalances.
  • Agricultural resources such as soil, and foods that are planted and harvested continually, are also renewable; unless food consumption exceeds the rate at which they are replaced, which can happen due to overpopulation; or soil erosion may occur due to over-farming or due to climate change.
  • Biomass fuels, geothermal energy, nuclear power, hydropower, are also renewable, though over-use of wood fuel can result in deforestation, thereby accelerating global warming.

Non-renewable resources are those that cannot be replaced within a human lifespan. They took thousands of years to form and are in limited supply on earth. Conservation of these resources is extremely critical or else we will completely run out of these resources.

  • Mineral ores, metallic and non-metallic; some are valuable such as gold, diamond, gemstones, others are heavily used in building and industry such as copper, aluminum, zinc, sand and gravel. None of these can be replenished once they are depleted in a region or location.
  • Fossil fuels are resources such as natural gas, coal, crude oil, charcoal and peat. Over-exploitation or overuse accelerates global warming due to increased greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.

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Conservation

It is clear that most natural resources will not last a long time. Their quality will also start deteriorating long before they completely disappear. If plant and animal life is to survive and thrive on the planet for millennia, then the management, protection and wise use of natural resources, or Conservation, is the need of the hour. People working in this field are called Conservationists and their primary responsibility is to ensure that the environment can continue to provide for human needs without colossal wastage, degradation or destruction.

They focus on a wide range of activities such as –

  • Soil conservation – prevent soil erosion and enhance soil fertility through better farming methods such as terracing, crop rotation, and correct use of fertilizers
  • Water conservation – judicious construction of dams and reservoirs, vegetation and watershed management to retain land water longer, desalination of sea water using solar power
  • Forest conservation – manage judicious supply of timber and ensure non-destructive, non-degrading use for recreational purposes such as camping and hunting
  • Conservation of grazing lands – protection of ranges which may not support farms or forests but are essential for wild animals such as cattle, sheep, horses
  • Wildlife conservation – ensure survival of wildlife species, prevent destruction of their habitats such as rain forests, prevent over-fishing and over-hunting
  • Mineral conservation – through efficient mining and processing methods that reduce waste and by recycling products made of aluminum, nickel, chromium, zinc, copper, and many others
  • Energy conservation – reduce reliance on fossil fuels and shift to renewable energy sources, car-pooling and increased public transportation, use of insulation to make fuel usage more efficient, even turning off unnecessary lights
  • Urban conservation – improve quality of life in cities, build green lung spaces, reduce traffic and air pollution, undertake urban renewal projects

Check Point

Identify whether these natural resources are – a) Inexhaustible, b) Renewable, c) Non-renewable, or d) Recyclable

  1. Plants
  2. Aluminum
  3. Sunlight
  4. Coal
  5. Animals
  6. Wind
  7. Copper
  8. Petroleum

Answer Key

  1. Plants – renewable because they reproduce and replace themselves
  2. Aluminum – recyclable
  3. Sunlight – inexhaustible (for at least 5 billion years!)
  4. Coal – non-renewable
  5. Animals – renewable because they reproduce and replace themselves (except those that are on the verge of extinction!)
  6. Wind – inexhaustible
  7. Copper – recyclable
  8. Petroleum – non-renewable

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