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Natural Resources: Characteristics and Importance

Aug 20, 2022
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Key Concepts:

  • Earth
  • Natural resources
  • Renewable resources
  • Non-renewable resources

Introduction: 

Humans depend on natural resources because humans use natural resources as sources of energy and raw materials to make products. Food is a natural resource that can be consumed in its natural state or processed form. Natural resources are of two types – renewable and non-renewable. We should use natural resources carefully so the supply will last for longer. 

There are many of Earth’s resources that are used to generate energy. Energy is used for many purposes such as transportation, manufacturing, construction, etc. Energy resources that are present in limited amounts and cannot be replaced easily once they are used are called non-renewable resources. Resources that can be replaced within a human life span or whenever they are used are called renewable resources. Examples: Wind, water, solar energy, nuclear energy, biomass energy, etc. 

Renewable resources examples 

Natural Resources 

Natural resources are materials we get from the Earth that are used to support life and complete people’s requirements. Any natural substance that is used by humans can be considered a natural resource, for example – Oil, coal, natural gas, metals, stone and sand are natural resources. Other examples of natural resources are air, sunlight, soil and water, animals, birds, fish and plants. 

Natural resources are used to make food, fuel and raw materials for the production of goods. Plants or animals are the sources of food. Natural resources like coal, natural gas and oil give heat, light and power. Natural resources are also used as raw materials for making goods that we use every day, starting from a toothbrush, lunch box, clothes, cars, televisions, computers and refrigerators. 

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Natural resources 

Renewable and Non-renewable Resources 

Renewable resources are those natural resources like trees, water, sun and wind that can be restocked at the same rate at which they are used. Renewable resources can be exhausted if we do not properly manage or conserve them.  

Non-renewable resources are those natural resources that are exhausted more quickly than they can regenerate. Fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas take over millions of years to form. Non-renewable resources are gone forever if they are mined once and used completely. 

Renewable and non-renewable sources of energy 

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The Challenges of using natural resources:Extracting, processing, and using natural resources can cause pollution of air, land, and water, destruction of ecosystems, and a decrease in biodiversity. 
 
For example, carbon dioxide, which is produced from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas, is a very serious greenhouse gas. Heat from the sun is absorbed and retained by greenhouse gases. Methane, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and certain chlorinated hydrocarbons are examples of greenhouse gases. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can cause global climate change. Global climate change is the change in the average global temperature of the atmosphere near the Earth’s surface. But if this condition is prolonged, then it could pose dangers around the world, such as flooding, drought, and disease. Extracting and using natural resources also causes disturbances in relationships within ecosystems. 
 
Ecosystems, which consist of ponds, wood, and fields, are self-regulating communities of plants and animals that interact with each other and their non-living environment, such as soil, air, water, etc. For example, trees uprooted from a field can destroy habitats used by many animals that force them to search for new homes elsewhere. If these animals leave the ecosystem, additional disturbances occur within plant and animal populations that depend on these animals. 
 
Biodiversity may decrease by extracting and using natural resources – along with other human activities. Biodiversity comprises a variety of organisms that live on Earth. Declining the Earth’s biodiversity has a significant human cost because wild species and natural ecosystems are important resources. 

Resource recovery: 

Natural resources used for the first time are considered virgin resources, and their processing, extraction, and use require a great deal of energy and can create pollution. Resource recovery is a practice that preserves natural resources by extracting materials such as paper, glass, aluminium, and steel from waste material and recycling them into other materials or using them to produce energy. There are many companies developing new and innovative technologies that use recycled materials in the manufacturing of products. In the steel manufacturing process, many steel companies use almost entirely recovered steel as raw material in the steel manufacturing process. Another example: A company can either produce plastic from oil, or it can also use recovered plastic from recycling programs. If a company uses recovered plastic, it means it is using recycled material that would otherwise become waste material. This helps in preventing the depletion of natural resources by saving energy and avoiding pollution that would have been generated in the extraction and processing of oil from the ground. So, there are many ways in which each of us can save natural resources. One of the simplest ways to conserve natural resources is to reduce, reuse, and recycle. To reduce consumption – that means reducing what you buy, buying products that have less packaging, and reusing the things that you can use again.  

 Conservation of natural resource 

Importance of Natural Resources 

Importance of natural resources for everyday life: 

Food and drink: It includes agricultural products as well as naturally occurring foods, water, and resources that are used to make food packaging. 

Mobility: It includes the resources that are used to make vehicles like automobiles and planes, as well as the natural resources used to make the fuel to power those vehicles. 

Housing and infrastructure: It include the natural resources to build houses, roads, stop signs, etc. It also comprises the natural resources that are used to make the energy to heat and power these housing and infrastructure structures. 

Natural resources and eco-energy

Eco energy is becoming more important because non-renewable energy sources are getting depleted, and the effects of fossil fuels on the climate are becoming more pronounced. Eco energy companies focus on generating energy solutions that work for the planet and the environment and that do not cause harm as other energy sources do. 

Importance of natural resources in the economy 

Natural resources and wealth 

There is a lot of wealth in natural resources. Actually, natural resources make up the ‘wealth’ of most countries. Countries that have a lot of natural resources, especially non-renewable natural resources, see the value of those resources rise because developing countries require more and more energy. This increases the value of non-renewable natural resources because of their decline and demand in the market. Hence, many countries rely on natural resources to keep their economies afloat. 

Natural resources and poverty 

Poor people have a tendency to depend more on natural resources for their livelihoods, especially people from rural areas. Natural resources can also provide food and shelter directly to those who need it. Hence, natural resources are important for the survival of poor people. When areas of natural resources receive investment, the people who live in those areas are also able to gain from this. 

Natural resources and employment 

Natural resources generate employment and are thus critical for low- to middle-income rural residents. In rural areas, the majority of employment depends on the use of natural resources. 

The importance of natural resources to agriculture 

Since humans started to move to an agricultural area for their existence, they have used natural resources. In fact, agriculture cannot be carried out without natural resources. There are many natural resources that are needed for agriculture, such as soil, water, plants, animals, trees, resources required to make farming equipment, resources required to make fuel and electricity, and so on. 

In recent years, there has been a push to make farming and agriculture more sustainable because of their heavy dependence on natural resources. This includes the use of less intensive farming methods that do not damage natural resources like soil and vegetation. It also means controlling the use of water, using sustainable and less harmful methods of pest control. Beyond the natural resource management for those used directly in agricultural methods, agriculture also depends on other natural resources like the climate and sustainable fuel techniques. 

Summary:

  • Humans use natural resources as sources of energy.
  • Natural resources are materials we get from the Earth that are used to support life and people’s requirements.
  • There are two types of natural resources – renewable and non-renewable.
  • Resources that can be replaced within a human life span or whenever they are used are called renewable resources. Examples: Wind, water, solar energy, nuclear energy, biomass energy, etc.
  • Non-renewable resources are those natural resources that are exhausted more quickly than they can regenerate. Example: Fossil fuels.
  • Extracting, processing and using natural resources can cause pollution of air, land and water, destruction of ecosystems and a decrease in biodiversity.
  • Biodiversity may decrease by extracting and using natural resources.
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle are the ways to conserve natural resources.

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