From the beginning of the industrial revolution, natural resources have continuously been overused by humans. Humans exploit more resources than they ever have before due to the increasing population- approximately 7 billion people in the 21st century. The planet provides only a limited amount of natural resources to human beings and every other living organism. The earth cannot keep up with the ever-increasing human demands. The future generations also have a right to enjoy and sustain themselves with natural resources.
Natural resources are the resources found in nature without any human assistance. Any naturally occurring resource qualifies as a natural resource, such as plants, herbs, animals, water, soil, oil, energy, wood, light, coal, land, etc. Humans use natural resources in ways that are beneficial to them. Natural resources are of two types: renewable and non-renewable.
Renewable resources refer to the resources that can be used repeatedly and cannot be diminished, such as hydropower, solar energy, biomass energy, and wind energy.
Non-renewable resources refer to the resources that cannot be restored naturally at a sufficient pace to meet the increasing demands. Non-renewable natural resources include minerals, nuclear energy, fossil fuels, water, and natural gases.
Importance of Conserving Natural Resources
All living organisms, including human beings, rely on natural resources for survival. However, as mentioned above, not all natural resources are renewable. Humans consume food and water for survival, breadth in air, and utilize wood to build shelters- all these derive from natural resources. Thus, it is essential to conserve natural resources to ensure a healthy and sustainable future. Human practices and activities, primarily the overuse of non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, are responsible for worldwide environmental crises.
Conservation and preservation of natural resources will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eventually positively impact the natural environment. It is important to conserve natural resources:
To protect and preserve biodiversity.
To ensure the survival of human beings.
To ensure the survival of millions of other species that humans depend upon.
To support life by supporting environmental balance.
To ensure the availability of resources for the coming generations.
Saving Water or Reducing Daily Water Usage: Even though water can be seen everywhere on the planet, 70 percent of the earth is covered by water only 2.5 percent of that water is freshwater. The rest of the water is saltwater which humans cannot use for consumption. The 2.5 percent of available freshwater is mostly in the form of ice or permanent snow cover. Thus, only a tiny percent of water is available for consumption. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, by 2025, 1.8 billion people on the planet will have no water to drink. It is evident that water is one of the essential natural resources. Currently, industries, factories, and households utilize water with a lot of wastage and contamination. To conserve water, one can simply avoid taking long showers, remember to turn the faucet off while brushing, use tap water for drinking purposes by boiling it instead of using bottled water, choosing low flow and low water appliances, reusing kitchen water for watering plants, using washing machines and dishwashers only when there is a full load, and switching to energy-saving appliances can help conserve water.
Usage of Renewable Energy Sources: Utilization of renewable energy sources is beneficial to reduce the impacts of climate change and conserve non-renewable energy sources for future generations, as it is in danger of complete depletion. For example, coal is the most used fossil fuel. Experts have predicted excessive coal extraction between 2025 and 2048. In 2011, it was estimated that the world had enough coal to meet demands worldwide for 188 years only. If demand increases, the timeframe decreases. Similarly, natural gas is also in danger of depletion, as of 2010 the known natural gas reserves were estimated to last around 58.6 years. The consumption of renewable energy needs to increase due to the current effects of climate change and global warming. As renewable energy replenishes itself, it will reduce the need to gather new resources. The usage of wind energy or solar panels can help reduce the dependence upon natural gas, coal, and other non-renewable resources and their depletion over time.
Recycling: Recycling is an essential factor in conserving natural resources. It significantly contributes toward the improvement of the environment. Manufacturing and producing new products require the use of resources. For example, petroleum to make plastic bags, iron ore to make steel cans, trees to make paper, aluminum to make cans, etc. Recycling helps to reuse the resources that we already have. Individuals can recycle plastic, metal, glass, etc., to decrease resource depletion and ecosystem destruction. Production of fewer new materials will reduce waste and help decrease air and groundwater pollution.
Thrifting and Avoiding Fast Fashion: The fast fashion industry has enormous impacts on the environment, according to research. An average human being purchases approximately 40 new pieces of clothing annually, leading to mass production of clothes. The production of clothes requires huge amounts of water and energy. Over 600 gallons of water are used to produce a single cotton t-shirt. Purchasing second-hand clothing and supporting thrift shops can reduce the amount of clothing that lands in dumping grounds and decrease the need for overproduction.
Responsible shopping: Overconsumption and excessive materialism are one of the primary drivers of natural resource depletion. American citizens make up only 5 percent of the world’s population but consume 17 percent of the world’s energy. Humans tend to purchase products that are not necessary. A lot of products also endanger animal life and ecosystems—for example, the cosmetic industry and the meat industry. Shopping responsibly by only purchasing the required products and by checking the ingredients of a product before purchasing it can make a big difference. Purchasing products with environmental labels or sustainable ingredients is a good start.