Introducing Natural Resources

Introducing Natural Resources

Introducing Natural Resources

Introducing Natural Resources

Synopsis

Over the many millennia that the human race has inhabited our planet, a use has been found for almost everything that is to be found on it. However, since the Industrial Revolution, many of the resources that we have come to rely on are being depleted, some at an alarming rate. Misuse of others, such as fossil fuels, is causing such damage to the environment that measures are being taken at an international level to restrict their use Introducing Natural Resources explains how the natural resources of the Earth originated, by outlining the astronomical and geological evolution of the planet in the early period of its existence. The genesis, mode of occurrence, and abundance of the various non-renewable mineral resources are described, together with the methods of extraction, extent of reserves, and any environmental problems. The use of renewable resources, such as solar energy, air, and water, are then discussed, together with plant and animal life, which are renewable resources only if properly managed. The book concludes with a summary of future issues in resource management.Copiously illustrated, this book is intended for those whose interest in natural resources has been stimulated, perhaps by media coverage of declining resources or environmental pollution, and who want to better understand the issues involved. Technical terms are kept to a minimum and are explained in a glossary.

Excerpt

There is already an extensive literature both on natural resources and on the various associated topics such as climate change, reduction of biodiversity, destruction of habitat and so on, and it is not my intention to duplicate that. What I have attempted to do in this short book is to introduce the more important topics in a relatively simple manner, avoiding complex scientific terms and arguments, with the aim of informing the general reader about some of the most important issues of the day. Some previous knowledge of geology would be helpful in understanding parts of this book, but is not essential as terms that might be unfamiliar are highlighted in bold and defined in the Glossary.*

Over the many millennia that the human race has inhabited our planet, a use has been found for almost everything that is to be found on it. However, since the Industrial Revolution, many of the resources that we have come to rely on are being depleted, some at an alarming rate. Misuse of others, such as fossil fuels, is causing such damage to the environment that measures are being taken at an international level to restrict their use.

Earth is unique among the planets of the Solar System in providing not only an atmosphere and temperature range capable of sustaining life as we know it, but also accessible supplies of the various mineral resources that are now regarded as essential for us.

There is an important distinction between renewable and non-renewable types of natural resources. Non-renewable resources may be divided into four categories: 1) metallic minerals, including the ores of the well-known metals, but also those of uncommon and strategically important ones; 2) non-metallic minerals such as nitrates and phosphates; 3) economically important rocks such as limestone, salt and gypsum; and 4) fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), which are obviously of great economic significance. The possibility of the exhaustion of certain non-renewable resources poses significant problems.

Renewable resources include all plant and animal life, together with some physical resources that are effectively infinite, such as solar energy, air and water. In practice, renewability may be limited and exhaustion of the resource foreseeable: for example plant and animal life is a renewable resource only if properly managed, hence the importance of maintaining biodiversity. Renewable energy resources include biomass, solar, geothermal, wind, hydro, tidal and wave power. These have both advantages and limitations as energy sources.

The environment in which all living things exist, termed the biosphere, includes both the atmosphere and the oceans. It is important to understand the relationship between these and the necessity of keeping them in balance. Human intervention has created dangerous disturbances to the environment that have caused great debate among the scientific community; the topic of global warming in particular, and its effects on climate, is now a matter of widespread public concern.

*Note: all terms initially highlighted in bold are defined in the Glossary at the end of the book.

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