List of Natural Resources: What Drives Our Planet
What makes the world go round? You probably go through your daily life without giving many things that you take for granted, a second thought. However, nearly everything you use every day is extremely important. The natural resources on Earth are responsible for our normal way of life. Without them, most life would not even be able to thrive. The list of natural resources goes well beyond air, water, and solar. There are many various types of natural resources on Earth and some are more abundant than others. Since that is the case, it is important to protect the ones we use most to make sure they are not depleted anytime soon.
List of Natural Resources
So, what exactly is a natural resource? They are resources that exist without the help of humans. Anything that you can find naturally on Earth, is a natural resource. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the vegetation we eat, etc. Essentially, anything we use is a resource. Humans have been using these natural resources since the dawn of time. However, only a handful of these resources are renewable. This means that somewhere down the line, a lot of these things we take for granted today, we will no longer have available. That’s a bit scary I think. In fact, this has already started. The fresh water basins are already beginning to diminish.
Why are some of these resources diminishing at a faster rate than they should be? Well, it has partly to do with the increase in the global population. We, as a planet are almost at 8 billion alive. Resource management is becoming a very pressing issue. In addition, climate change is affecting many aspects of the Earth and the increased use of certain natural resources like coal and oil, is increasing the risk of climate change becoming worse. The goal of environmentalists is to shift our reliances to renewable resources. These resources, we will not have to worry about running out anytime soon. This is because they replenish themselves naturally through the Earth’s systems.
There are many things that we, as a species, can do to protect the Earth from further harm. It all begins with protecting the natural resources that the Earth needs to keep the natural balance.
Natural Resource Classifications
The list of natural resources are categorized under the type of resource they are and how they are made. Firstly, on the basis of origin, natural resources are divided into two types. Biotic and Abiotic. Biotic resources are obtained from the biosphere, meaning any living and organic material. This could be forests, animals, fossil fuels, etc. Abiotic resources are those that come from non-living or non-organic material. Examples of abiotic resources are water, air, Earth minerals, and metals like iron.
When it comes to how they are used, there are also two classifications. Renewable and nonrenewable. Renewable resources are environmentalists best friends. These are resources that can be naturally replenished and their availability is unaffected by human activity. These include sunlight, air, wind, water, etc. However, there are certain types of renewable resources that can run out and may take some time to be replenished.
Fresh water, for example, will take quite a while to be naturally replenished. On the other side, nonrenewable resources are the exact opposite. They are resources that will run out sooner or later. Though they are naturally occurring resources, they take millions of years to form. Oil is a great example of nonrenewable resources. The formation of oil from decaying and pressurized organic material took millions of years. New oil reserves are very unlikely to appear in our lifetime.
The Major Natural Resources
Of course, there are many different natural resources on Earth. However, there are a select few that we rely on more than others. Some of these resources are renewable and have systems in place to take advantage of them. Others are non-renewable and we should be cautious about how much of the resource we use. Here is a list of natural resources that are extremely important to life on Earth.
First on the list of natural resources, we have water. Arguably the most important natural resource. Without it, life would not be able to thrive as it is. About 71% of Earth’s surface is water and the oceans hold about 96.5% of that water. Why is it so important? Think about how many things in your daily life require water. Coffee, shower, toilet, to wash your hands, etc. Not to mention basically all of the food you eat requires water to either live or grow. In fact, 80% of our bodies are comprised of water.
While it is technically a renewable resource, the amount of fresh, drinkable water is quickly depleting. There is only about 2-2.5% fresh water left from the total amount of water on Earth, even less is considered safe for drinking. Of course, there are systems in place to purify non-drinkable water into water safe for consumption through filtration methods and such. However, humans waste a lot of water. Flushing your toilet, taking long showers, leaving the water running while brushing your teeth or washing dishes. So many things that you probably do not give a second thought to, are wasteful. In addition, climate change is also a deciding factor. Due to the changes in weather and increase in ice melt in the poles, precipitation patterns have changed, and reserves of freshwater are disappearing.
Here is another greatly important addition in the list of natural resources. Air is more than oxygen. Air holds moisture which helps regulate temperature both on the surface and in humans. And, of course, oxygen is extremely important because really every living thing needs oxygen to survive. Air also includes the atmosphere which is necessary for containing gases needed to keep the temperature of the Earth at a constant and warm enough to support life.
Air also regulates the winds which are a renewable resource. Wind mills or turbines have been created to harness this energy and use it to generate electricity. However, breathable air is becoming more and more rare. In some areas of the world, the air pollution is so great that people are forced to wear face masks so they do not breathe in any toxins. Air pollution can lead to many illnesses including cancer. There are many things that you can do to reduce air pollution and it all revolves around lessening your emission of carbon dioxide.
This may not seem like a very important addition to the list of natural resources, but you would be surprised how important soil is. As a resource, it contains many minerals and nutrients that allow plants to grow. And we all know how important plants and trees are. Soil is also responsible for the nitrogen cycle. This is the process of taking nitrogen from the air and converting it into basically plant food.
Soil is another natural resource that is threatened by pollution. Soil pollution, caused by landfills, waste, fertilizers and pesticides, and other factors is a pressing issue for the land. It can result in low crop production, as well as the plant life containing chemicals that are not ideal for human consumption. It can also result desertification which means the land becomes barren and unable to support plant life. To avoid further soil and land pollution, simply follow the three R’s of recycling, which are reduce, reuse, recycle. That is a very effective start to reduce the effects and the spread of pollution of all types.
Most likely the least known part of the list of natural resources. However, phosphorus is very important. It is the main source of food for plants. Phosphorus is also the main ingredient in many plant fertilizers. However, of course, too much of a good thing can turn it into a bad thing. However, used responsibly it can be of great help to crops.
On Earth, there are only three places where phosphorus can be found. They are China, Morocco, and the United States. The projected lifespan of the current amount of the resource is about 100 years. This could mean that within 100 years, there could be no more phosphorus left to use. Spelling disaster for plant life. Unfortunately, there has not been any significant research into a replacement for the resource. If not used sparingly, we could see the depletion of it not too far in our future.
Trees! Should not have to explain why this is an important part of the list of natural resources. Trees help with so many things. They produce oxygen, help deal with the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, allow people to heat their homes, have a totally dope bonfire that basically makes the camping worthit. Not only that, but forests are also home to incredible amounts of biodiversity, especially the rainforests. 80% of the world’s species can be found in the tropical rainforests. Also a lot of medicine finds it origins in the rainforests, and the plants have not all been tested yet. Meaning there may be even more medicinal properties of the plants in rainforests than there already are.
However, forests in general are constantly threatened by deforestation. This is the reckless destruction of trees by cutting them down. The reason for this deforestation is either for paper or other products, infrastructure, forest fires, etc. We are literally destroying something that is helping us stay alive. If we are to continue to thrive on this Earth, we have to start treating it like a home and not an all you can eat buffet. Tropical rainforests are especially under threat of this.
Yup, oil is a natural resource. However, this is one of the very non-renewable and controversial parts of the list of natural resources. Oil was created over the span of thousands, if not millions of years. It is the cause of wars, pollution, and strife. However, it is also what powers our lives. Nearly all of our transportation and manufacturing industries are 100% reliant on petroleum products.
However, because we are almost totally reliant on oil, that has reduced the total resource. Making it a quickly depleting natural resource. The general estimate is that the remaining reserves of oil will last us possibly the next 30-40 years. If all of the oil reserves are emptied, not only will we lose our largest source of energy, the Earth will also take a beating as well. Without oil, there will be large, empty cavities under the Earth’s surface. Making the crust of Earth fairly fragile and unfit for crop production.
However, companies and governments are still pushing for fracking and drilling to continue at an insane rate. If we want to hold on to the resource we have, we need to embrace other means of energy production. Shifting our reliability on renewable resources such as air, solar, and water.
Another underdog in the list of natural resources, minerals are more important than you probably realize. Rare minerals found within the Earth are responsible for making up pretty much all of your precious electronics like your computer and cellphone. These minerals include gypsum, bauxite, titanium, phosphate (which we talked about already), bentonite, mica, zirconium, and many more. They are often found in sea beds along the coastal plains. In fact, two of the most power minerals on Earth, scandium and terbium, are used in wind turbines and electronic circuits in our smartphones.
This was the literally the building blocks of modern society. While it is not as important in modern culture as we have turned to steel and petroleum products, it was back in the day. Iron allowed our ancestors to craft stronger weapons, means of transportation, buildings, armor, etc. Everything that made the world what it is today. If you have ever played a medieval video game like Skyrim, you know just how important iron is as an elemental natural resource. Iron and steel are both heavily used today in industries.
This is an obvious addition to the list of natural resources. Natural gas, which is made up of hydrocarbons, contains methane and many others that are incredibly important for things like cooking, heating, and generating electricity. These gases, when used are much cleaner than fossil fuels such as oil. They are also only doing slightly better in terms of lifespan than oil is. Natural gas reserves are estimated to last for the next 60 years, if the current use is continued. For this reason, many areas have started looking to natural gas as an alternative resource for oil. However, it still stand to run out just as quickly.
While being one of the leading causes of air pollution, coal is still a very important part of the list of natural resources. In fact, it is by far the cheapest way to generate electricity. Without coal, many energy and transportation inventions would not have been created. Especially the train, which was originally powered by coal. Coal is still in heavy use today, which is why the supplies of the natural resource are dwindling quickly. However, coal is probably the one fossil fuel resource that has a larger reserve. It is estimated that our coal reserves will last less than 200 years. However, since it is not a renewable resource, humanity could still be forced to deal with the total depletion of coal as a natural resource.
Protect Our Natural Resources
Conservation is not something that can be taken lightly. The depletion of our natural resources is a very real possibility and mankind will be in serious trouble if action is not taken soon. If we shift our focus onto the list of natural resources that are renewable and will not be affected by us using them a lot, we could help the planet a lot.
By switching from petroleum generated energy to solar or wind power, we could save a lot of carbon emissions. Just by doing a little bit here and there and conserving what you can, you might be surprised by the changes you see. It began with us, it can end with us. No problem is too big, not even a global problem, if we work together.