Natural resources refer to the resources that exist on Earth independent of any human actions. These generally fall under one of two categories: renewable and non-renewable resources.
Natural resources are also the essence behind what forms mother Earth. These include air, water, soil, minerals, as well as metals. We can get an in-depth understanding regarding the various resources by first studying the two categories.
Before we can get to the list of natural resources, we first need to understand the different types of natural resources.
Let’s start learning!
What are Renewable Resources?
Renewable resources refer to those resources that can be regenerated despite heavy usage. Water, soil, and windfall under this category. We could say that plants, animals, and humans also fall under renewable resources. This is because all these things will continue to replenish themselves over time.
What are Non-Renewable Resources?
Non-renewable resources refer to resources that are limited. Once the supply for these resources run out, they either go extinct for good or will take thousands of years to regenerate. This type of resource includes mostly fossil fuels, coal, and petroleum. These resources need to be used in moderation due to their finite existence.
List of Natural Resources
The following is a list of natural resources present on our planet. It also explores how we can utilize these resources and their current state.
One natural resource that we take for granted is the air around us. Without it, there wouldn’t be any plants, animals, or any type of human life. Air is abundant and falls under renewable resources. The energy from this air is harnessed in the form of wind energy to generate electricity. Wind energy is becoming one of the leading green energies in the world right now.
However, due to overpopulation and mismanaged wastes, this air has become extremely polluted in recent years. Even though this is a resource that self-replenishes, the degrading air quality is bound to have direct consequences on humans.
Our Earth is composed of 70% water. This alone can help you understand how important this natural resource is. No living plant or organism can exist without this resource. It can be found in the form of oceans, rivers, lakes, streams, and groundwater.
Fast-flowing rivers are also utilized for hydroelectricity. This is an extremely effective source of energy for many countries worldwide. Despite its abundance, the availability of clean drinking water has been a very big issue.
Since the sources of accessible freshwater are actually less than 2% of the entire supply, these sources are in danger of being overused and polluted. There have been many issues with big and important rivers facing large amounts of pollution.
Soil is another crucial natural resource. It is full of essential nutrients and helpful microorganisms that help in the growth of plants. Good soil quality is fundamental for agriculture and farming, both of which are required to sustain human beings. In many villages, the soil is also used to build a shelter.
A big part of this planet is the green blanket it wears. These are the forests that supply us with oxygen. The Amazon, for instance, covers nearly 2.2 million square miles of land and is the largest rainforest in the world. We need these forests not only for the oxygen supply but also for regulating the weather and temperatures and balancing the ecosystem.
These large forests are home to hundreds of varied species of flora and fauna. However, due to rapid industrialization and urbanization, these forest lands are being depleted at alarming rates.
These lands are being cleared off to create lands for farming, industries, or habitation. Doing so displaces thousands of birds and animals that risk going extinct due to the inability to adapt.
Coal is a fossil fuel that is composed mostly of carbon. It is formed due to the heat and pressure put onto dead plant matter over millions of years. This fuel is largely used in electricity generation, steel production, and as a liquid fuel. It is used excessively because of its low production costs.
However, the burning of coal contributes largely to air pollution. It has also been linked with causing asthma, cancer, and heart problems. Similarly, it adds to the problem of global warming as well. It is projected that the remaining coal on Earth should last less than 150 years. The switch from coal to green energy has also been gaining momentum in recent years.
Natural gas refers to a naturally occurring gas that consists mostly of methane. Hydrocarbon gas also includes some higher alkanes as well as minimal amounts of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen, or helium. Some examples of natural gas can be methane, propane, butane, ethane, and pentanes.
These gases are most commonly used in heating up homes via natural gas furnaces. They are also used to cook food on barbecues and to power gas-burning stoves. It is also used in manufacturing fertilizers, plastics, antifreeze, fabrics, and a wide range of chemicals.
Natural gas is a non-renewable resource. By current estimation, it should last for about 90 more years. Since it is a cleaner alternative to oil, this gas has been overused to the point of eradication.
Oil is a viscous liquid that has tremendous usage across varied fields. It is used in food, as fuel, for medical purposes, for lubrication. Oil is also crucial in the manufacturing of many materials. It is formed due to the pressure and heat inside Earth’s surface acting on organic material over time.
A report by the BP Statistical Review of World Energy shows that we only have enough oil to last for 40 more years. There has been rampant drilling and overuse of this natural resource for decades. Now that we are on the brink of running out, the pressure is more than ever to invest in greener sources of fuels. Once this supply runs out, it will take millions of years to replenish.
Earth has an abundant supply of a wide variety of minerals that we can utilize. Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in our body. In nature, it is only obtained from phosphate rocks. This rock is only found in three places all over the world, i.e., the USA, China, and Morocco. This mineral is useful in growing crops and is estimated to go extinct within a century.
Similarly, other minerals such as gypsum, titanium, mica, zirconium, bauxite, and so on, are found in sea beds. A few rarer elements such as scandium and terbium are required to run wind turbines and are also used in the circuits that form our smartphones.
Iron forms about 5% of the Earth’s crust. Our main supply of iron comes by removing iron from its mineral forms of hematite and magnetite. This mineral was especially useful during ancient times to build weapons, transportation, and buildings. Iron, and these days steel, is an extremely important element in most of the manufacturing processes we use on a day-to-day basis.
Salt is another essential mineral. The main sources of salt are either underground rock salt mining or seawater evaporation. More than 40% of this salt goes to the chemical industry. Another 40% is used for deicing roads in winter, while the remaining 20% is used as table salt and other manufacturing firms. It is an incredibly important part of our everyday life.
Copper is one of the first metals that was ever used by man. The US is the second-largest producer of copper worldwide. It is derived from copper ores via mining. One of the most attractive features of this metal is that it can be recycled without any loss in quality. This is why it is found abundantly used in electrical wires, industrial machinery, and roofing or plumbing equipment.
Natural resources are abundant and crucial to the survival of all life on Earth. However, overpopulation and overuse have driven many of these sources to the point of exhaustion. We need to become more aware that some of these resources are finite and that even renewable sources need to be maintained.