Issues and answers: Part 5
Written by Lee Sonogan
Raw/natural resources are used to create, make fuel, structures, technology, various sub genres of products/items, land and sold to the highest bidder. Resources can be classified as stock, reserve, potential, actual, renewable, non-renwable, biotic and abiotic resources. Every man-made product is composed of natural resources at its fundamental level. There is much debate worldwide over natural resource sharing, this is particularly true during periods of increasing scarcity and shortages, but also because the exportation of natural resources is the basis for many economies, particularly for developed countries..
Resource extraction is defined as any activity that withdraws resources from nature. This can range in scale from the traditional use of past societies, to global industry. Extractive industries are, along with agriculture, the basis of the primary sector of the economy. Extraction produces raw material which is then processed to add value. Extractive industries are hunting, trapping, mining, oil and gas drilling, and forestry. Natural resources can add substantial amounts to a country’s wealth, however a sudden inflow of money caused by a resource boom can create social problems including inflation harming other industries and corruption, leading to inequality and underdevelopment, this is known by some as the “resource curse”.
Extractive industries represent a large growing activity in many less-developed countries but the wealth generated does not always lead to sustainable and inclusive growth. Extractive industry businesses often are assumed to be interested only in maximizing their short-term value, implying that less-developed countries are vulnerable to powerful corporations.
In recent years, the depletion of natural resources has become a major focus of governments and organizations such as the United Nations. This is evident in the UN’s Agenda 21 Section Two, which outlines the necessary steps to be taken by countries to sustain their natural resources. The depletion of natural resources is considered to be a sustainable development issue. In regards to natural resources, depletion is of concern for sustainable development as it has the ability to degrade current environments and potential to impact the needs of future generations.
“The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem, it will avail us little to solve all others.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Depletion of natural resources is associated with social inequity. Considering most biodiversity are located in developing countries, depletion of this resource could result in losses of ecosystem services for these countries. Some view this depletion as a major source of social unrest and conflicts in developing nations. At present, with it being the year of the forest, there is particular concern for rainforest regions which hold most of the Earth’s biodiversity. According to Nelson deforestation and degradation affect 8.5% of the world’s forests with 30% of the Earth’s surface already cropped. If we consider that 80% of people rely on medicines obtained from plants and ¾ of the world’s prescription medicines have ingredients taken from plants, loss of the world’s rainforests could result in a loss of finding more potential life saving medicines.
The depletion of natural resources is caused by ‘direct drivers of change’ such as Mining, petroleum extraction, fishing and forestry as well as ‘indirect drivers of change’ such as demography, economy, society, politics and technology. The current practice of Agriculture is another factor causing depletion of natural resources. For example, the depletion of nutrients in the soil due to excessive use of nitrogen and desertification. The depletion of natural resources is a continuing concern for society. This is seen in the cited quote given by Theodore Roosevelt, a well-known conservationist and former United States president, who was opposed to unregulated natural resource extraction.
Environmental protection is a practice of protecting the natural environment on individual, organisation controlled or governmental levels, for the benefit of both the environment and humans. Due to the pressures of over consumption, population and technology, the biophysical environment is being degraded, sometimes permanently. This has been recognized, and governments have begun placing restraints on activities that cause environmental degradation. Since the 1960s, activity of environmental movements has created awareness of the various environmental issues. There is no agreement on the extent of the environmental impact of human activity and even scientific dishonesty occurs, so protection measures are occasionally debated.
Natural resource management refers to the management of natural resources such as land, water, soil, plants and animals, with a particular focus on how management affects the quality of life for both present and future generations. Natural resource management deals with managing the way in which people and natural landscapes interact. It brings together land use planning, water management, biodiversity conservation, and the future sustainability of industries like agriculture, mining, tourism, fisheries and forestry. It recognises that people and their livelihoods rely on the health and productivity of our landscapes, and their actions as stewards of the land play a critical role in maintaining this health and productivity.
Natural resource management specifically focuses on a scientific and technical understanding of resources and ecology and the life-supporting capacity of those resources.Environmental management is also similar to natural resource management. In academic contexts, the sociology of natural resources is closely related to, but distinct from, natural resource management. Natural resource management issues are inherently complex they involve the ecological cycles, hydrological cycles, climate, animals, plants and geographetc. All these are dynamic and inter-related. A change in one of them may have far-reaching and/or long-term impacts which may even be irreversible. In addition to the natural systems, natural resource management also has to manage various stakeholders and their interests, policies, politics, geographical boundaries, economic implications and the list goes on. It is very difficult to satisfy all aspects at the same time. This results in conflicting situations.
Sustainable development is defined as a process of meeting human development goals while sustaining the ability of natural systems to continue to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depends. While the modern concept of sustainable development is derived most strongly from the 1987 Brundtland Report, it is rooted in earlier ideas about sustainable forest management and twentieth century environmental concerns. As the concept developed, it has shifted to focus more on economic development, social development and environmental protection for future generations.
Sustainable development is the organizing principle for sustaining finite resources necessary to provide for the needs of future generations of life on the planet. It is a process that envisions a desirable future state for human societies in which living conditions and resource-use continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity, stability and beauty of natural biotic systems. The ecological stability of human settlements is part of the relationship between humans and their natural, social and built environments. Also termed human ecology, this broadens the focus of sustainable development to include the domain of human health. Fundamental human needs such as the availability and quality of air, water, food and shelter are also the ecological foundations for sustainable development; addressing public health risk through investments in ecosystem services can be a powerful and transformative force for sustainable development which, in this sense, extends to all species.
In ecology, sustainability is the property of biological systems that remain diverse and productive indefinitely. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture. Sustainability science is the study of sustainable development and environmental science.
Environmental sustainability concerns the natural environment and how it endures and remains diverse and productive. Since natural resources are derived from the environment, the state of air, water, and the climate are of particular concern. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report outlines current knowledge about scientific, technical and socio-economic information concerning climate change, and lists options for adaptation and mitigation. Environmental sustainability requires society to design activities to meet human needs while preserving the life support systems of the planet. This, for example, entails using water sustainably, utilizing renewable energy and sustainable material supplies. Such as harvesting wood from forests at a rate that maintains the biomass and biodiversity.
An unsustainable situation occurs when natural resources ares used up faster than it can be replenished. Sustainability requires that human activity only uses nature’s resources at a rate at which they can be replenished naturally. Inherently the concept of sustainable development is intertwined with the concept of carrying capacity. Theoretically, the long-term result of environmental degradation is the inability to sustain human life. Such degradation on a global scale should imply an increase in human death rate until population falls to what the degraded environment can support.
Sustainable agriculture consists of environment friendly methods of farming that allow the production of crops or livestock without damage to human or natural systems. It involves preventing adverse effects to soil, water, biodiversity, surrounding or downstream resources—as well as to those working or living on the farm or in neighboring areas. Elements of sustainable agriculture include permaculture, agroforestry, mixed farming, multiple cropping, and crop rotation.
Sustainable development may involve improvements in the quality of life for many but may necessitate a decrease in resource consumption. According to ecological economist Malte Faber, ecological economics is defined by its focus on nature, justice, and time. Issues of intergenerational equity, irreversibility of environmental change, uncertainty of long-term outcomes, and sustainable development guide ecological economic analysis and valuation.
The total environment includes not just the biosphere of earth, air, and water, but also human interactions with these things, with nature, and what humans have created as their surroundings. Numerous sustainability standards and certification systems exist, including organic certification, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, UTZ Certified, Bird Friendly, and the Common Code for the Coffee Community.
As countries around the world continue to advance economically, they put a strain on the ability of the natural environment to absorb the high level of pollutants that are created as a part of this economic growth. Therefore, solutions need to be found so that the economies of the world can continue to grow, but not at the expense of the public good. In the world of economics the amount of environmental quality must be considered as limited in supply and therefore is treated as a scarce resource. This is a resource to be protected. One common way to analyze possible outcomes of policy decisions on the scarce resource is to do a cost-benefit analysis. This type of analysis contrasts different options of resource allocation and, based on an evaluation of the expected courses of action and the consequences of these actions, the optimal way to do so in the light of different policy goals can be elicited.
Natural resource economics is a field of academic research within economics that aims to address the connections and interdependence between human economies and natural ecosystems. Its focus is how to operate an economy within the ecological constraints of earth’s natural resources. Resource economics brings together and connects different disciplines within the natural and social sciences connected to broad areas of earth science, human economics, and natural ecosystems. Economic models must be adapted to accommodate the special features of natural resource inputs. The traditional curriculum of natural resource economics emphasized fisheries models, forestry models, and minerals extraction models.
Overall, economics should be only about resources. Because only resources and science limit and make it possible to do things and to nourish the ecosystem on planet earth. This money based system at the moment makes almost everyone, who can do something because he has money, blind in front of the real needs of the communities around him. This system already destroyed so so many healthy cycles on earth including healthy cycles between humans, animals, plants, soil and geology, water cycles and more. In order to reestablish healthy cycles and hence a balance on planet earth again a resource based economy is a good option we should consider. Making all world resources information public is a must. Only then we will know who has what and what we have to use to survive, sustain the planet and create growth. In the next part I will continue on the theme resources with energy.
“..the planet is just too small for these developing countries to repeat the economic growth in the same way that the rich countries have done it in the past. We don’t have enough natural resources, we don’t have enough atmosphere. Clearly, something has to change.”
― Mario J. Molina