What is Depletion of Natural Resources?
Depletion of natural resources occurs when resources are consumed at a faster rate than that of replacement. Natural resources are those resources that are in existence without human’s actions and they can either be renewable or non-renewable. And when it gets down to the discussion of natural resource depletion, it a terminology used in reference to water usage, farming, fossil fuel consumption, fishing, and mining. And above all, natural resource depletion is defined on the premise that the value of a resource is measured in terms of its availability in nature.
A resource that is rare on earth due to depletion has a higher value than a natural resource which is in abundance. Due to the increasing global population, the levels of natural resource degradation is also increasing. Consequently, the world’s eco-footprint is estimated to be one and a half times the ability of the earth to sustainably provide each individual with enough resources that meet their consumption levels. Herein is a detailed explanation of the causes, effects, and solutions of natural resource depletion.
Causes of Depletion of Natural Resources
The total global population is more than seven billion people. Still, there is a consistent increase in the overall earth populace and this has been a critical factor in accelerating the depletion of natural resources. An increase in populace expands the need for resources and conditions necessary to sustain it.
In addition, it contributes to increased ecological contamination. Research further indicates that developing countries are using more and more resources to industrialize and support their ever-increasing population. Hence, the depletion of natural resources will continue as long as the world population increases.
2. Poor Farming Practices
Humans are causing a lot of stress to land resources due to the over-reliance on food production for daily nutritional requirements. Poor irrigation practices, for example, is a key contributing factor to salinization and alkalization of the soil that sustains plants growth. Poor soil management practices and the use of heavy machinery and farming equipment also destroy the soil structure making it unsuitable for plant growth.
Some farming practices such as excessive use of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides equally kill important soil micro-organisms that are essential in replenishing nutrients in the soil.
The World Bank reported that the net loss of global forest between 1990 and 2016 was 1.3 million square kilometers. On the same note, tropical deforestation is estimated to occur at a rate of one percent annually, especially in Latin America regions. People are clearing forests primarily for agricultural reasons due to the increase in the population pressure.
Humans are also cutting down trees to make space for residential complexes and multiplexes. Through deforestation, the planet not only loses tress but also thousands of animals and great plant biodiversity due to the destruction of their natural habitats. Moreover, increased logging activities lead to soil erosion that degrades natural soil minerals.
4. Over consumption of Natural Resources
The 1760 industrial revolution saw large-scale mineral and oil exploration and the practice has been gradually growing, leading to more and more natural oil and mineral depletion. And together with the advancements in technology, development and research in the contemporary era; exploitation of minerals has become easier and humans are digging deeper to access different ore. The increased exploitation of different minerals has led to some of them entering into a production decline.
For example, minerals such as Gasoline, Copper, and Zinc production are estimated to decline in the next 20 years. Plus, oil mining continue to rise due to the upsurge in the number of engines that use petroleum thereby magnifying its depletion. The peak oil theory supports this fact by putting forward that it will come a time when the globe will experience uncertainties on alternative means of fuels owing to the over-harvesting of petroleum.
An increase in population and modern anthropogenic activities is a major contributor to the disposal of pollutants into the natural environment and as such, the value of natural environments are gradually exposed to degradation. The soil, air, lakes, and seas are being contaminated with sewage, radioactive, materials, and toxic chemicals among other pollutants.
Uncontrolled release of carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, sulfur oxide, and carbon dioxide, for example, have resulted in the degradation of the ozone layer and global warming – environmental changes with their resultant depletive impacts on different natural habitats. Millions of different animal and plant species have thus lost their natural habitats and are on the verge of extinction.
6. Industrial and Technological Development
The present-day world is incessantly becoming industrialized as more and more countries make major technological breakthroughs. But as technological advancements continue, there is similarly a considerable growth in industries that release toxins and chemical by-products which are eventually deposited in lakes, soils, and lands. As a result, the by-products and toxic materials alter natural habits such as aquatic systems and wildlife.
Examples of the impacts include acidic lakes, dead zones, and the death of wildlife as well as aquatic life. Industrial and technological advancements have also driven the demand for virgin materials for research, development, and production. More resources are hence being used to satisfy the industrial demands, increasing the rate of natural resource depletion.
Effects of Depletion of Natural Resources
1. Water shortages
Poor farming practices, deforestation, and pollution are major causes of water resource depletion due to contamination, wastage, and the destruction of natural water catchment areas. As of today, approximately one billion people lack access to clean water because of the effects of deforestation and contamination of water sources and groundwater. Water shortage further contribute to famine and food insecurity.
2. Oil depletion
Oil is a non-renewable resource that accounts for approximately 40 percent of the total energy used globally. Research by EIA’s International Energy Outlook in the year 2013 had shown that due to the high rate of oil exploitation, the amount of oil remaining would last for only 25 years.
Oil is an essential commodity in manufacturing, planting, mining, and transportation among many activities, and its depletion would be devastating. The adverse effects of oil depletion include fall of business, high cost of living in developing countries, and uncertainty in the transport sector.
3. Loss of forest cover
Approximately 18 million acres of forest cover is destroyed annually. This means that half of the world’s natural forest cover has already been cleared. Furthermore, studies indicate an increase in deforestation in the past three decades has resulted in 12% to 17% rise of greenhouse gases globally.
Other devastating effects of deforestation include soil erosion, an increase in the greenhouse gases leading to global warming, loss of biodiversity, increased flooding, and drought.
4. Depletion of minerals
There has been an increase in the exploitation of minerals such as phosphorus, gasoline, copper, and zinc among others to sustain the seven billion people on earth. Studies by Global Phosphorus Research Institute, for example, shows that the earth could run out of phosphorus – an essential element for plant growth, in the next 50 to 100 years.
Studies by the United States Geological Survey also indicate that there is an increase in non-renewable resources consumption of natural minerals and construction materials such as copper, sand, gravel, and stone.
5. Extinction of Species
Due to the changes in the living conditions of animals as a result of resource overexploitation and habitat degradation, some species may go extinct. Forested regions are known to be a habitat for thousands of animals but deforestation is progressively destroying forest habitats. Practices such as overfishing and pollution have similarly led to a drastic reduction in the number of marine species such as the tuna fish.
Solutions of Depletion of Natural Resources
1. Controlling Deforestation
Programs aimed at checking against deforestation such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) created by the World Bank, the New York Declaration on Forests, and the United Nations are initiatives that could help reduce the depletion of natural resources.
The initiatives may also act as incentives for encouraging the general public to conserve forests as these are the habitat and protectors of some of the world’s unique plant/animal species and water sources respectively. Sustainability programs that aim to educate people about the importance of conserving natural resources should also be enacted as a way of focusing on the long-term risks associated with environmental degradation.
2. Reducing oil, mineral, and material consumption
Oil-rich countries together with the World Bank, states, and consumables’ regulatory bodies should join hands towards a common international objective of discussing how oil and mineral consumption as well as exploitation can be reduced. Manufactures can, for instance, be trained on lean manufacturing (recycling, re-use, and reducing wastage) while consumers sensitized on how to adopt re-use, reducing wastage, and recycling techniques.
3. More exploration and use of renewable sources of energy
Renewables such as solar and wind power can be explored more and utilized to reduce the dependency on fossil fuel, which is a major cause of environmental pollution, climate change, global warming, and destruction of natural habitats.
4. Protecting wetlands and coastal ecosystems
Wetlands are regions saturated with groundwater that serve a significant role in sustaining vegetation cover. The coastal and wetland ecosystems are thus vital in sustaining the food chain as they replenish water sources and avail minerals and nutrients for primary producers (green and flowering plants), essential for maintaining plant and animal biodiversity. Also when coastal ecosystems are protected, they aid in controlling marine overfishing and protect coral reefs.
5. Sensitization and awareness creation
People need to be educated on how their daily practices put a strain on the scarce natural resources and their individual contributions to the depletion of natural resources. The main purpose of creating awareness would be to encourage people to preserve and restore the natural environment by getting involved in conservation efforts.