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Natural Resources

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What are Natural Resources?

What do plants, soil, sunshine, air, water, wood, wildlife, metals, minerals, fossil fuels, have in common? They all are Natural Resources that we get from the environment and that we use as raw materials for our everyday needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, travel, communication, entertainment, and much more. Every single product manufactured by humans is made only from natural resources. Natural resources support life and satisfy people’s needs.

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Where do we Use Natural Resources?

Many natural resources such as sunshine, soil, water, trees, plants, fruits, are all essential for animal and human life on earth. We use natural resources such as wood, sand, stone, to build our homes and shelters. We use minerals and metals to build a variety of things, such as automobiles, plastics, phones, refrigerators, and many other such products manufactured by humans. Yet other resources such as oil and gas, sun and wind, are useful for providing heat, light, energy, power.

Variety of Natural Resources

There is a wide variety of natural resources that can be found on land, in water, or in air. They may be living or non-living things.

They are often classified as follows –

  • Biological Resources – flowers, fruits, forests, trees, plants, birds, fish, wild animals. These are typically all living things. They are also referred to as the Biosphere. (See: Spheres of Earth)
  • Mineral Resources – mineral ore, oil, coal, natural gas, metal, stone, sand. These are typically all non-living things.
  • Other Natural Resources – soil, sun, wind, water. Without these essential natural resources, no living beings would exist, and many non-living things would not be formed.

Earth is endowed with all of these natural resources, some in abundance, some limited. However, we do not always make judicious use of these resources. As a result, many resources are fast depleting. In recent times, this has led to a new classification of natural resources – Renewable and Non-Renewable Natural Resources.

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What are Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources?

Renewable resources are those that never run out of supply or those that can be replaced within a human lifespan. For example –

  • Sunshine, wind, and sea waves, are in infinite supply. They are clean, non-polluting, sources of energy, best suited for power generation.
  • Water is also in nearly infinite supply. It is constantly renewed or replenished by the Water Cycle. However, freshwater essential for drinking purposes can be limited in some regions that are hot, or in places where rivers have been dammed or diverted. It is important to manage the quality and usage of water in such places.
  • Agricultural resources such as soil, wood, forests, fish, and crops are also renewable; However, they are not in infinite supply and we need to manage their use wisely. The increasing population can create shortages in agriculture, fish, and food supply. Soil erosion may occur due to over-farming. Over-use of wood as fuel can result in deforestation.

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. These include –

  • Valuable metals and stones such as gold, diamond, gems, are depleted due to mining.
  • Metals used in building and industry such as copper, aluminum, zinc, sand and gravel.
  • Fossil fuels such as natural gas, coal, crude oil, charcoal, peat. They are in short supply and also their over-use creates pollution and global warming.

Conserving Natural Resources

It is evident that many natural resources will not last a long time. Their management, protection and wise useis called Conservation. Conservation ensures that the environment can continue to provide for human needs without wastage, degradation or destruction. There are many forms of conservation. (See also: Conservation of Earth)

  • Soil conservation
  • Water conservation
  • Forest conservation
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Mineral conservation
  • Energy conservation

Check Point

  1. Identify whether these natural resources are –Infinite, Renewable or Non-renewable
    1. Plants
    2. Sunlight
    3. Coal
    4. Animals
    5. Wind
    6. Petroleum
  1. Which of the following requires conservation?
    1. Soil
    2. Mineral
    3. Energy
    4. Wildlife
    5. All of the above

Answer Key

  1. Infinite, Renewable or Non-renewable
    1. Plants – renewable
    2. Sunlight – infinite
    3. Coal – non-renewable
    4. Animals – renewable
    5. Wind – infinite
    6. Petroleum – non-renewable
  1. e) All of the above

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