Since time immemorial, man has depended on natural resources to sustain his life on earth through simple abstraction and complex utilization processes. Natural resources are materials that occur on the surface of the earth or within the earth in their natural form. The list of natural resources is inexhaustible and includes air, water, minerals, and trees among other resources that we use on a daily basis. Without natural resources on earth, life would not exist as we know it. For instance, without trees, there would be no balance of life as carbon dioxide levels would increase to poisonous levels in the atmosphere. Moreover, without oil, our vehicles would grind to a halt until another alternative for powering the engines is sought. The natural resources provide immense benefits to human beings, most of which we take for granted because of their abundant supply.
While some resources are in abundance within the earth, others are scarce in their occurrence. Air, for example is abundant in supply and cannot be exhausted even in millennia to come but gold is scarce and its overexploitation could deplete the gold ores found within the earth’s crust. Moreover, some natural resources are localized in small locations making their exploitation hard. The distribution of these diverse natural resources is also not uniform in the fact that some countries will have certain natural resources and others will lack the same. For example, while gold is abundantly occurring in South Africa, the same cannot be said of a country like Iraq. In contrast, Iraq has an abundant supply of oil while South Africa has none. In addition, the natural resources are either renewable or non renewable depending on their rates of replenishment and the amounts available on earth. Regardless of the nature of the resources, they are all beneficial to mankind when correctly exploited.
One of the main benefits of natural resources is the provision of energy that is used to drive machinery, vehicles and even airplanes. In fact, most of the moving objects, including sheep would not move without the energy from natural resources. Crude oil is one of the main sources of this energy. Oil is mined from within the earth’s crust and then filtered to get diesel, petrol and kerosene, all of which are used to power machines and equipment. Petrol, for instance is used in driving large equipment in industries for the processes of production. In addition, it is used in most vehicles to power the engines. The advantage of crude oil is that it is universally used and the availability is abundant. However, crude oil is not a renewable resource and is scarce in its occurrence. This means that it has the possibility of being depleted because the process of replenishment takes much longer than the rate of utilization (Jagt, pp 57).
Another natural resource that is used in generation of energy is coal which is used to power equipment especially in production processes. Coal is attributed to the Industrial Revolution in that it was used to power development during and after the time. In fact, most of the locomotives and vehicles made during that time utilized coal for powering their engines. Coal is burned to produce the energy required for driving engines. The advantage of coal is that it requires minimal processing and was widely used. However, coal production has been blamed for the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today. The process of mining coal and producing it releases a lot of carbon dioxide which when release into the atmosphere cause global warming. The negative environmental impacts of coal have rendered its use minimal and most countries have banked on other sources of energy to power their development processes.
Natural gas on the other hand is used as a fuel and its utilization has grown over the recent past. In the US, for instance, more than 30% of the net energy consumed in the country is sourced from natural gas (Baofu, pp 28). It is widely used for cooking and heating homes all over the world. In addition, natural gas can be used in the process of electricity generation and to fuel vehicles instead of the normal crude oil. The same natural gas is used to power industrial furnaces and to run air conditioners both at home and in industries. The preference for natural gas has its basis on the fact that it emits the least carbon dioxide among the fossil fuels that generate electricity. Moreover, its use generates less nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides as compared to other fossil fuels such as coal and oil.
Natural resources are important in the provision of electricity that is then used to power industries and to light homes. Water is one such natural resource that is used in the generation of electricity. Hydroelectric power is one of most consistent sources of electricity all over the world. The process of its generation involves large volumes of water that in turn produce electric power. Huge dams have been set aside all round the world to cater for the electricity needs in most countries. In Egypt, for example, The Aswan dam is used in the generation of hydroelectric power and therefore lighting most of the country. The advantage of hydroelectric power is the fact that it is a cleaner form of energy. The amount of energy required to produce one unit of hydroelectric power is also relatively lower compared to other forms. Moreover, the energy is renewable because the water is only used to drive the turbines and is channeled back to the dams. The type of energy faces the challenge of water scarcity especially during dry periods of the year.
Water as a resource can also be used to produce electricity as is the case of geothermal power production. In this case, water from deep within the earth is used to generate electricity while in the form of steam. Often times, steam is found in areas near vents and along the Rift Valley floor. Geothermal power generation is considered one of the cleanest forms of energy production and rivals other forms of energy such as coal and crude oil. However, not all countries have the resource and most of the countries do not have the potential to generate geothermal power. The uncertainty as to the volume of steam available deep within the earth’s crust is also a hindrance to geothermal production because the capital required is substantially high.
Wind is another natural resource that can be harnessed to produce energy in the world. Wind turbines are erected in areas of high wind velocity thereby capturing the energy from the wind and converting it into electric power. Despite its unlimited availability, wind energy has not been exploited for long on earth due to the lack of technology and the infrastructure that is required for the production to start. Areas that have high wind velocity are lucky because it means that the energy from the wind can supplement other forms of energy available in the different countries. Wind is a clean form of electricity since little or no carbon dioxide is released in the process of production. Moreover, wind energy generation has no costs other than the cost of setting up the infrastructure. As thus, wind energy can be considered a renewable form of energy that is much more efficient than other non renewable forms of energy. The limitation of this type of energy is that not all areas are suitable for wind energy generation and the few available cannot satisfy the world’s demand for electricity (Baofu, pp 37). However, energy from the wind can be use to compliment other forms of electric power and reduce dependence on non renewable forms of energy.
The sun is also a natural resource that is the main source of energy on earth. Without the sun, there would be no biological production and life would not exist. Radiation from the sun is used in the process of photosynthesis in plants which are then fed on by animals up the biological cycle. Without the sun, humans’ bodies would also not be able to synthesize certain forms of vitamins that require energy from the sun for their production. Moreover, without the sun, the world would be a dark ball of mass and temperatures would fall below average. It is only through the sun’s radiations that we can be sure of normal earth temperatures.
In addition to the biological processes that the sun supports, it is also a form of energy that can be used in the generation of electricity. Energy from the sun can be harvested to light homes through the use of solar panels. In addition, the same energy can be used in heating water at homes and in the process of heating houses. Large scale production of electric power from the sun is also probable although little has been done to harness solar on a large scale. In recent years, there has been talk of possible solar powered vehicles. In fact, experiments have been done and the models declared feasible meaning that sooner enough people will be driving solar powered vehicles. Moreover, solar power can be used to charge phones’ batteries while they are still in people’s pockets. The advantage of solar power is that it is not limited and the sun is guaranteed to be heating the earth for millions of years to come. There is no limitation as to the amount of energy that we can harvest from the sun. This means that the suns’ power is renewable and not exhaustible. In addition, the power from the sun is clean compared to other fossil fuels because it produces no carbon dioxide. It therefore, has no negative effects on the environment during the process of generation and utilization.
Natural resources are also important in the provision of basic needs of food and drink. Both naturally occurring food and agricultural foods are all considered natural resources. Every food we eat and every drink we take has its source from natural resources that are either used directly or are use in the process of making the food or drink. Examples of foods include fruits, game, fish, seeds and nuts. Moreover, water is also abstracted from nature and can be used for drinking, sanitation and cooking. The natural resources of food and drink provide the required nourishments to keep the human bodies healthy.
Natural resources are also important in the provision of medicines for human’s healthcare. Every medicine that we find in the hospitals is sourced from products of natural resources such as trees and from deep oceans. Various trees are used to make both traditional and conventional medicines. Scientists agree that plants have served as the focal point for most of the drugs that are currently in the market. The assertion that nature is a natural chemist is particularly true since natural products from plants and animals have proved to be the most successful in the production of new drugs. For example, sap from the guggul tree that is native to India has a compound that is used in fighting heart disease. The same tree has been used in generation of drugs that treat heart disease all over the world.
Natural resources of water and air also provide channels of mobility therefore enhancing transportation. Large water bodies are used for transportation through ships and boats and they connect people across many different continents. The impact of these resources is magnified by the amount of development that is evident in coastal towns all around the world. Transportation of huge cargos and equipment is made possible by the availability of water transport channels. In the air, airplanes can transport people and goods from thousands of miles and are particularly useful in long distance transportation. The effectiveness of the air transportation is outstanding because of the few hours that are used in covering very long distances. The benefit of this forms of transport are immense and diverse and have led to the aspects of globalization.
Natural resources have also been utilized in the housing and infrastructural sectors in the entire world. Materials used for the construction of houses such as bricks and cement are mined from the earth’s crust. In addition, the metals that are used in laying the foundations of major buildings are also mined from deep within the earth’s crust. Most of the development in terms of infrastructure is due in part to the many natural resources that are utilized in the process. The tar used in building roads are for instance mined within the earth’s crust as well as the rocks and gravel used. Moreover, the materials used in making railway lines are also mined from the ground including steel that is considered the strongest metal.
Natural resources are a source of many different minerals that are important in many processes on earth. Minerals are mined from beneath the earth’s surface and are considered valuable due to their economic value. The minerals are used as raw materials and ingredients in making other materials. Iron ore and steel are used to make metals that are in turn used in many manufacturing and construction processes. Petroleum is also used in making many products including fats and petroleum jelly for skin application. More minerals are used in their natural forms like salt which is used for food seasoning. Many other minerals are used as jewelry and they fetch very high prices in the international market. Such minerals include gold, silver and diamond all of which are scarce in their occurrence. Moreover, mercury is used in thermometers and manufacturing of chemicals. Other minerals are also used in making fertilizers and farm inputs. The limitation of minerals is that they take long periods of time to form and they can therefore be easily depleted from the earth’s crust. Even when they are in abundance, they are mostly concentrated in small areas making their distribution uneven.
Natural resources are also beneficial to mankind by virtue of providing leisure activities that man can indulge in (Long, pp 68). The large water bodies of seas and oceans are important for swimming fishing and boat riding. In addition people usually take part in deep water diving activities and even playing certain sports as beach football and beach volleyball. On land, people can go for hikes and mountain climbing adding on to the fun. Without these natural resources on earth, such activities would not be possible and life would be rendered boring. The diversity of the natural resources increases the diversity of the leisure and sporting activities that can be indulged in. For instance, the availability of ice and snow in Polar Regions makes the areas ideal for skating activities. People travel for long distances to take part in skating and skiing activities in areas that have permanent snow and/or ice.
The natural resources further enhance tourism by availing natural sceneries and phenomena that the world wants to watch. For example, tourists from all over the world travel to East Africa every August to witness the seventh wonder of the world when wildebeests are migrating. There are so many tourists attraction sites that are brought about by the availability of many and diverse natural resources. Tourism is a source of revenue for many governments in the world and accounts for a large share of many countries GDPs. Ideally, without the many natural resources in these countries, there wouldn’t be much tourism, at least not in such magnitudes. In addition, tourism is one of the leading sources of job creation and leads to the growth of the hospitality industry all around the world (Long, pp 126).
Aquatic resources are another form of natural resources that are equally beneficial to human beings. These resources include everything that is found within the water bodies including fish and the ocean water itself. Fish and other aquatic organisms such as crabs and oyster provide nourishment of humans. In fact, sea food is considered as one of most nutritious types of food. Essentially, these organisms contain very high nutrients that are important in hu8man development. Fishing is also considered a sport and is facilitated by the presence of these natural resources in the form of fish. The oceans also act as carbon sinks that absorb high levels of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This has the general effect of reducing the greenhouse effect and by extension the global warming. Large water bodies are also sources of water for irrigation thereby boosting agricultural production in farms. Large projects have been developed for irrigation with the water sourced from such large water bodies.
It is no doubt that natural resources are beneficial to man and contribute to man’s existence on earth. However, natural resources have in many cases been referred to as curses due to the conflict that they bring about in their utilization. Regardless, it is because of human greed that such conflicts arise, otherwise they would not exist. Life on earth would be meaningless without the many natural resources that are found on earth. In this regard, natural resources are a source of many benefits that are utilized by human beings.
Baofu, Peter. Beyond Natural Resources to Post-Human Resources: Towards a New Theory of Diversity and Discontinuity. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013. Internet resource.
Jagt, C.J , Tara Gujadhur, and F . Bussel. Community Benefits Through Community Based Natural Resources Management in Botswana. Gaborone: Community based natural resources management (CBNRM) support programme, 2000. Print.
Long, S A. Disentangling Benefits: Livelihoods, Natural Resource Management and Managing Revenue from Tourism : the Experience of the Torra Conservancy, Namibia. Windhoek: DEA Publications, 2002. Print.
Natural Resources: Woody Biomass Users’ Experiences Offer Insights for Government Efforts Aimed at Promoting Its Use : Report to the Chairman, Committee on Resources, House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2006. Print.
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