Resource depletion is the consumption of a resource faster than this resource can be replenished. Natural resources are commonly grouped into renewable and non-renewable resources.Renewable resources can be replenished and do not change the ecological balance while non-renewable resources are those which once used up will be exhausted forever. The use of either of these form of resources especially the depletion of non-renewable resourcesis considered natural resources depletion. Population growth, industrial and technological development, irrigation, over-fishing, mining all contribute to the problem of resource depletion.The rate at which we consume natural resources for food, for shelter, to generate energy and to manufacture products is unsustainable.A thing becomes resource only when it can be used by humans to perform a function. Since man lives in nature, therefore, he depends on the resources of nature. Natural resources include groundwater, fossil fuels,forests, soil, and animals. In addition to direct consumption, the effects of pollution, erosion, deforestation and climate change also endanger resources. For example, the melting of glaciers that feed several major rivers; the effect of this could lead to drought in the future.Population growth not only increases food consumption but also accelerates the need for shelter and living space.Increase in Earth’s population leads to; sewerage and stock effluent, increase use of fertilizers and pesticides use, over exploitation of fossil fuels, oil leaked, land deforested, degradation of land, minerals mined. As a result of all of these things earth’s natural resourceswill deplete or degrade.
This is how humans causes natural resources depletion; clearing forests to create space for farms and developing urban areas leads to deforestation. Now constructions in these areas consume natural resources such as sand, iron, gravel and crushed stone. Deforestation will also lead to erosion causing the soil to lost its fertility and the land deteriorates gradually.Some farming practices introduce toxins to the soil this contaminates the groundwater leading to fresh water depletion. Industries expand to meet the demands of the growing world population, thereby, consuming increasing amounts of resources.One of the most serious aspects of natural resources depletion arises from the impact of economic efforts of mankind especially for the purpose of maintaining its existence, survival and also for efforts to increase the standard of living. The basic needs which caused the human beings to destroy the natural resources for their welfare have led to a situation which threatens now to be disastrous. Efforts are being made to save human beings from self-destruction. The effects of resource depletion have become so serious that it is necessary to take some precautionary measures so that the complications may not worse further.
The top three natural resources being depleted are discussed below and their related consequences.
- 1. Water
Water is critical to all life.What will we do without water?Only 2.5% of the world’s total water reserve is fresh water. Of the 2.5%, 70% is frozen.The depletion of water resources is more serious than the current oil depletion. Oil can be substituted by other forms of energy but nothing can replace our fresh water. Agriculture consumes about 70% of the available fresh water while 20% goes in industries and only 10% is left for human consumption. Increased irrigation, increased use of water in agriculture, infrastructure prevent water seepage in the soil, increase temperatures results to water depletion and as a consequence there will be shortage of fresh water, food shortage and famine.
- 2. Oil
Fossil fuels are by far the main source of energy for modern civilization.Nothing can be moved, manufactured, built, transported, planted, mined or harvested without the fuels that we get from petroleum.Oil reserves are a non-renewable resource and it accounts for 40% of all energy we use.Cheaper and more sustainable energy such as solar energy, wind energy and other forms of renewable energy that can replace fossil fuel are developed. What causes oil depletion are: industrial boom, increased population and wastage. When the depletion of non-renewable resources (oil) occurs, the consequences are that there will be less transportation, some industries will shut down and the economy becomes small. A positive feedback is that CO2 emission will be reduced and there will be less pollution.
- 3. Forests
Forest is an important natural resources, it is the source for a large number of products man use. Besides this, forest plays an important role in CO2 recycling. Imagine a world without trees. They absorb greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide then produce the oxygen we breathe.Half of the world’s forest has been cleared with an estimated of 18 million acres destroyed each year. Forests are the habitats of millions of animal species. Urbanization, logging, agriculture, forest fires, subsistence farming are the causes of deforestation and the consequences are soil erosion, global warming as a result of rise in greenhouse gases,extinction of species and loss of biodiversity, flooding and drought.
How to conserve our natural resources
It may seem like there is nothing we can do as individuals to stop the factors that are causing natural resources depletion. But there is something you can do. If every person contributed to the conservation of our natural resources and reducing their Carbon dioxide emissions footprint, this can reduce the effects of resource depletion.Reusing non-biodegradable items, such as shopping bags and glass bottles, decreases the amount of waste dump, lowers the demand for new products and limits the consumption of raw materials can be a solution. Therefore, there are three important conservation approaches which can be taken into consideration:
i) We need to increase reclamation and recycling of materials.
(ii) Change the way of life, and
(iii) Reduce wastes and to minimize demand.