Natural Resources
What Are Natural Resources?
Key PointsNatural resources are useful materials from the
Earth, such as ...
Biodiversity refers to the variety of organisms
that live on Earth. Supporting so many different
organisms re...
What Are the Benefits
of Natural Resources?
Renewable resources offer a
number of environmental and
economic benefits over...
many animals, forcing them to
find homes elsewhere. If these ani- Natural Resource Consumption Facts
mals leave an ecosyst...
• More than 65 percent of the steel produced in the United States is made from recovered steel.
• Using recovered alum...
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Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Published in: Education      

Transcripts - Natresources

  • 1. Natural Resources What Are Natural Resources? Key PointsNatural resources are useful materials from the Earth, such as coal, oil, natural gas, and trees. People use natural resources as raw materials to manufacture or create a range of modern conven- iences. Water and food provide humans with sustenance and energy, for example, and fossil fuels generate heat as well as energy for trans- portation and industrial production. Many of the same natural resources used by people are impor- tant to plants and wildlife for survival as well. • Natural resources are vital to all forms of wildlife and the ecosystems in which they live. • Humans use natural resources for such modern conveniences as electricity, transportation, and industrial produc- tion, as well as basic survival. • Rapid population growth, a higher stan- dard of living, and technology all contribute to increased use of natural resources. Virgin Versus • Extracting, processing, and using natu- Recovered ral resources can cause environmental Resources problems, such as the disruption or Resources used for the destruction of ecosystems; a decrease first time are consid- in biodiversity; and land, water, and air pollution.ered virgin resources, and their extraction, processing, and use requires a great deal of energy and can create • Using renewable natural resources impacts the environment less than using nonrenewable resources because their supply can be regenerated. pollution. Resource • Using recovered resources prevents recovery is a practice that conserves natural natural resources from being wasted. resources by extracting used materials (e.g., paper, glass, and metals) and energy from the • Using recovered resources rather than waste stream and reprocessing them for reuse. virgin resources reduces the emission For example, a company can create plastic from of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. oil, a virgin natural resource, or it can use • Resource recovery and conservation, recovered plastic from recycling programs. If a as well as buying recycled products, are company uses recovered plastic, it is actually emerging trends that reduce consump- saving materials that would otherwise become tion of natural resources. waste, helping to prevent the depletion of natu- ral resources, conserving energy, and preventing pollution that would have been created in the extraction and processing of oil from the ground. vanishing. Diminishing the Earth’s biodiversity In addition to the benefits already discussed, using recovered resources reduces threats to biodiversity. Natural resource extraction, along with other human activities, increases the rate at which species of plants and animals are now has a substantial human cost because wild species and natural ecosystems are important resources. For example, some economists esti- mate that the lost pharmaceutical value from plant species extinctions in the United States alone is almost $12 billion. Reducing the land The Quest for Less Unit 1, Chapter 1.1, Natural Resources 5
  • 2. Biodiversity Biodiversity refers to the variety of organisms that live on Earth. Supporting so many different organisms requires the conservation of the nat- ural resources they need to survive. Using natural resources can not only deplete the Earth of the resources themselves, but by destroying critical i , it can also drive some specieshab tats to extinction, ultimately reducing biodiversity. Products Made From Natural Resources People use an abundance of resources to survive in a continually developing world. Globally, how- ever, some people live simpler lifestyles than others and therefore use fewer resources. The fol- lowing table lists some natural resources and the products and services people produce from them. Natural Resource Product/Service Trees Paper, furniture, fuel Clothingdisturbance and pollution Cotton plant associated with virgin Oil/Petroleum Plastic, fuel materials extraction by Fuelusing recovered materi- Gas als, therefore, helps stop Coal Fuel the degradation of the Steel products (cans, bridges) Earth’s ecosystems. Iron ore Bauxite ore Aluminum products (cans, car parts) Renewable Versus Jewelry, dental material Nonrenewable Resources Gold Wire, coins, electrical equipmentSome natural resources are nonrenewable and Copper some are renewable. Nonrenewable resources Manganese Steel, cast iron are those that become depleted more quickly Steel, jet engine parts, cutting tools than they naturally regenerate. One example Cobalt of a nonrenewable resource is mineral ore. Platinum Air pollution control and telecom- Once mined and used completely, it is gone munications equipment, jewelry forever for all practical purposes, because it Chromium Stainless steel, green glass, gems will take millions of years to regenerate. (rubies and emeralds), leather Renewable resources can be replenished at treatment approximately the same rate at which they are used (for example, sun and wind, which can Diamonds Jewelry, mechanical equipment be used to provide energy). Renewable or Nonrenewable—or Both? Some resources can be considered both renewable and nonrenewable. Trees are considered a renewable resource because their supply can be replenished (e.g., more trees can be planted). If, however, an entire forest of 400-year-old trees is cleared and a new-growth forest is planted, the supply of old-growth trees has not been replenished. It takes many generations for an old-growth forest to mature, and so, old-growth trees are considered nonrenewable. Trees are a complex resource because as a forest, their environmental and economic contributions often depend on their age. For example, clearing a forest of 200-year-old Redwoods, unlike clearing a forest of new- growth pines, reduces the corollary biodiversity that is usually found in old-growth forests. 6 Unit 1, Chapter 1.1, Natural Resources The Quest for Less
  • 3. What Are the Benefits of Natural Resources? Renewable resources offer a number of environmental and economic benefits over nonre- newable resources. One obvious benefit is the infinite supply of renewable resources—they cannot be depleted. Another benefit of using renewable resources is self-reliance. A country that can provide its own renewable resource, such as solar-powered electricity, need not rely on other countries for an energy source. Additionally, renewable resources offer communities relief during periods of recovery from natural disas- ters. When communities lose standard services that require the use of natural resources (e.g., electric power or natural gas), renewable resources, such as wind and solar energy sys- What Are the Challenges of Using using natural resources cre- pollution, which can cause global environmental prob- A gas that absorbs and retains heat from the sun. Greenhouse gases include methane, ammonia, sulfur dioxide, and certain chlorinated hydrocarbons. A buildup of the global climate. Gl l Cli Natural- or human-induced change in the average global temperature of the atmosphere near the Natural Resources? Extracting, processing, and ates air, water, and land lems. For example, carbon Greenhouse Gas: these gases traps warmth in the Earth’s atmosphere, changing oba mate Change: Earth’s surface. tems, are used to provide these services until the usual methods of achieving service can be restored. Following Hurricane Andrew in 1992, for example, a south-Miami subdivision contin- ued to have working streetlights because they were all photovoltaic (PV)-powered. The areas became neighborhood gathering spots for a community left without electricity following the storm. In several cases, homes equipped with PV systems were able to keep minimal services running and became emergency shelters for sur- rounding residents who had lost power. dioxide, which is produced from deforestation, and from burning coal, oil, and natural gas (fossil fuels), is a critical greenhouse gas. Many scientists believe that the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can cause global climate change. Over time, this condition could pose serious dangers around the world, prompting such disasters as flooding, drought, and disease. In addition, extracting and using resources can disturb relationships within ecosystems. For example, the effects of clearing an old-growth forest for wood can destroy habitats used by What Are Ecosystems? Ecosystems are self-regulating communities of plants and animals that interact with one another and with their nonliving environment. Examples of ecosystems include ponds, woodlots, and fields. in or . In a food chain, energy is trans- tree, which provides sustenance for wasps. The wasps are a food source for spiders, which are eaten by birds. More complex food webs can be thought of as a network, involving energy transfers among several organisms. Organisms within an ecosystem are connected by energy. Individuals in a community feed on each other, thus transferring energy along a food cha food web ferred from one organism to another in a linear form. For example, the sun provides fuel for a fig The Quest for Less Unit 1, Chapter 1.1, Natural Resources 7
  • 4. many animals, forcing them to find homes elsewhere. If these ani- Natural Resource Consumption Facts mals leave an ecosystem, further • The United States uses one million gallons of oil every disturbances can occur within 2 minutes. plant and animal populations that • Every American uses about 47,000 pounds of newlydepend on these species. mined materials each year. Additionally, with the absence of tall trees in the forest, lower vege- • A television requires 35 different minerals, and more tation would lose shade provided than 30 minerals are needed to make a computer. • Over the past 40 years, global consumption of woodby the upper canopy, resulting in as industrial fuel rose by nearly 80 percent. Northincreased exposure to sunlight America alone accounts for about 40 percent of bothand decreased moisture. Changes production and consumption of wood as industrialin an ecosystem’s climatic condi- wood products.tions will eventually change vegetation type, which will alter • In 2001, each person in the United States threw away the kinds of animals that can exist an average of 4.4 pounds of waste each day. in that community. Over time, if (Sources: Natural Resources Defense Council, 1996; National enough ecosystems are affected, Mining Association, 2000; World Resources Institute, 2000; EPA, an entire community type can 2003.) change (e.g., over-harvested fields can turn into deserts). undeveloped nations. For example, according to Population growth, increas- the Department of Energy, residents of the ing affluence, technological industrialized world comprise only 20 percent of change, and urbanization the world’s population, yet consume 86 percent are all responsible for rap- of its iron and steel, and 76 percent of its idly rising resource timber. Despite the inconsistent relationship consumption all over the between resource use and developed and unde- world. The relationship veloped nations, it is apparent that worldwide, between population more people use more resources. With popula- growth and increased tion, technology, and lifestyle demands growing resource use varies exponentially, people are using increasing among developed and amounts of many natural resources. such as plastic grocery bags and wood chips or sawdust. Used as a wood alternative, plastic lumber offers several example of how using plastic lumber can conserve and Missouri. The construction of the plastic lumber bridge utilized 13,000 pounds of mixed plastics that otherwise would have gone to waste. This exercise in reuse trans- lates into significant natural resource conservation. Innovative Technology Using Recovered Materials Plastic lumber was developed to utilize low-cost materials advantages over using lumber; it is long lasting, requires limited upkeep, and resists warping and decay. One recover resources is a bridge at Ft. Leonard Wood, Emerging Trends Increasing demands for natural resources have spurred new methods for conserving existing resources. More and more companies are developing new and innovative technologies that use recycled materials as raw materials in the manufacture of products. Some steel producers, for example, use minimills and a manufacturing process that uses virtually 100 percent recovered scrap steel as the raw material. Unit 1, Chapter 1.1, Natural Resources The Quest for Less8
  • 5. • More than 65 percent of the steel produced in the United States is made from recovered steel. • • • Using recovered aluminum cans saves 95 percent of the energy required to make the same amount of aluminum from bauxite, its virgin source. • of oil. By 2003, the paper industry relied on recovered paper for 50 percent of its feedstock. Recovery—In Action The average aluminum can contains an average of 50 percent post-consumer recycled content. Recycling and reuse of 2,000 pounds of paper saves 7,000 gallons of water and 380 gallons (Sources: Steel Recycling Institute, 2000; Aluminum Association, 2000; American Forest and Paper Association, 2000; The Can Manufacturers Institute, 1997; Weyerhaeuser Company, 1999.) How Can You Help? for ways to practice conservation of natural An increasing number of individuals are also resources include: practicing conservation methods by using less— • Reducing waste by reusing paper grocery such as buying products with less packaging. and lunch bags or eliminate waste by using (See the Teacher Fact Sheets titled Recycling on cloth bags. page 101 and Buying Recycled on page 107). Certain lifestyle changes, such as composting • Donating old toys, clothes, furniture, cars, food scraps rather than buying fertilizer (see the and other items to organizations such as the Teacher Fact Sheets titled Source Reduction on Salvation Army rather than throwing them in page 79 and Composting on page 141), also the garbage. preserve natural resources. Other suggestions • Closing the recycling loop by purchasing recycled-content products and packaging. • • composting/index.htm> • • • • • Additional Information Resources: Visit the following Web sites for more information on natural resources and solid waste: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): <> U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste composting site: < World Resources Institute: <> Natural Resources Defense Council: <> United States Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory: <> United States Department of Energy’s Center of Excellence for Sustainable Development: <> To order the following item on municipal solid waste, call EPA toll-free at (800) 490-9198 or look on the EPA Web site <>. A Collection of Solid Waste Resources on CD-ROM The Quest for Less Unit 1, Chapter 1.1, Natural Resources 9

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