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Natural resources occur naturally within environments that exist relatively undisturbed by mankind, in a natural form.

A natural resource is often characterized by amounts of biodiversity and geodiversity existent in various ecosystems. On the basis of origin, resources may be divided into: Natural resources are derived from the environment. Many of them are essential for our survival while others are used for satisfying our wants. Natural resources may be further classified in different ways.

Biotic Biotic resources are obtained from the biosphere, such as forests and their products, animals, birds and their products, fish and other marine organisms. Mineral fuels such as coal and petroleum are also included in this category because they are formed from decayed organic matter. Abiotic Abiotic resources include non-living things. Examples include land, water, air and minerals including oressuch as gold, iron, copper, silver etc.

Considering their stage of development, natural resources may be referred to in the following ways:

Potential Resources Potential resources are those that exist in a region and may be used in the future. For example, petroleum may exist in many parts of India, having sedimentary rocks but until the time it is actually drilled out and put into use, it remains a potential resource. Actual Resources Actual resources are those that have been surveyed, their quantity and quality determined and are being used in present times. The development of an actual resource, such as wood processing depends upon the technology available and the cost involved. Reserve Resources The part of an actual resource which can be developed profitably in the future is called a reserve resource. Stock Resources Stock resources are those that have been surveyed but cannot be used by organisms due to lack of technology. For example.hydrogen

With respect to renewability, natural resources can be categorized as follows:

Renewable resources are ones that can be replenished or reproduced easily. Some of them, like sunlight, air, wind, etc., are continuously available and their quantity is not affected by human consumption. Many renewable resources can be depleted by human

use, but may also be replenished, thus maintaining a flow. Some of these, like agricultural crops, take a short time for renewal; others, like water, take a comparatively longer time, while still others, like forests, take even longer.

Non-renewable resources are formed over very long geological periods. Minerals and fossil fuels are included in this category. Since their rate of formation is extremely slow, they cannot be replenished once they get depleted. Of these, the metallic minerals can be reused by recycling them.[1] But coal and petroleum cannot be recycled.[2]

On the basis of availability, natural resources can be categorised as follows:

Inexhaustible natural resources- Those resources which are present in unlimited quantity in nature and are not likely to be exhausted easily by human activity are inexhaustible natural resources (sunlight, air etc.) Exhaustible natural resources- The amount of these resources are limited. They can be exhausted by human activity in the long run (coal, petroleum, natural gas, etc.)

In recent years, the depletion of natural resources and attempts to move to sustainable development has been a major focus of development agencies. This is a particular concern in rain forest regions, which hold most of the Earth's natural biodiversity - irreplaceable genetic natural capital[energy conservation] of natural resources is the major focus of natural capitalism, environmentalism, the ecology movement, and green politics. Some view this depletion as a major source of social unrest and conflicts in developing nations. Mining, petroleum extraction, fishing, hunting, and forestry are generally considered naturalresource industries. Agriculture is considered a man-made resource.Theodore Roosevelt, a well-known conservationist and former United States president, was opposed to unregulated natural resource extraction.

Natural and economic resources are distributed differently in different societies, depending upon several different factors, including the culture of the society, location of its resources, type of government, and the population density and distribution. Some cultures are nomadic in nature, moving around the countryside as resources become depleted, whereas others are more stable and cultivate the land to provide for the continuation of resource availability in one location. Some cultures are primarily agrarian, whereas others are primarily urban. Cultures may be isolated and relatively self-sufficient, and others may depend on trade to buy scarce resources and disperse resources which they

have in abundance. The amount of control the government exerts over a region affects the distribution of resources and wealth. In societies where there is a substantial excess of natural and economic resources, there is an unequal distribution of wealth and possessions, with the majority having absolutely no access to natural resources, and the only economic resources available to them are what they can earn by their skills and trades. People in these cultures amass possessions merely for the sake of having them, and as status symbols. This is most evident in Western cultures (Haviland 198). The richer in these societies amass much more than they can ever use in their lifetime, while those at the other end of the scale have to struggle just to make enough to put food on the table. In other cultures, prestige is often gained by giving away possessions. The distribution of environmental benefits (and costs) is determined largely by public policies and government practices. Too often, public policies favor affluent people and regions, enriching a few powerful political and economic elites while passing disproportionately large social and environmental costs on to poor and disenfranchised populations. Poverty reductionespecially for the poorestcan be greatly enhanced through policies that promote fair distribution of natural resource benefits. In high-inequity, high-poverty countries, equitable access and fair distribution can be more effective than economic growth alone in reducing poverty. Such reforms are often most effective in countries where natural resources dominate local economies and natural capital is particularly significant in determining the overall distribution of wealth. Even small changes in these policies can have a large effect on building the assets of the poor and reducing poverty. Paradoxically, some countries rich in natural resourcesthose that receive more than 25 percent of their government revenues from natural resources extraction actually tend to have high and growing levels of poverty, extreme income inequalities, greater risk of conflict, and high levels of corruption. Too often, government revenues from resource extraction are simply not making their way into spending for basic social services such as health, nutrition and education. Worse yet, profits from extractives too often fuel terrible violence, While populations no doubt are large in many countries, and demands on resources are obviously large, it is only one of many other causes and some of those other issues such as overconsumption based, unsustainable development may have an even larger impact. Our choice of how to use those resources (i.e. our economic policies) and for what purposes (i.e. our political

directions and policies) are critical issues as well on the resulting impact on the environment to meet those uses and purposes. Consumption Existing consumption patterns as seen in Europe and North America can put strain on the environment and natural resources, which can haveserious impacts on society. But, how much of the environmental degradation we see today is as a result of over-population and how much is due to over-exploitation due to consumerism and geopolitical interests? Though most societies were efficient for the time in which they were formed, powerful nations disintegrated when too large a share of their labor was diverted to unnecessary tasks. Some societies, such as the European aristocratic structures, needlessly expended labor, resources, and capital to support militaristic elite bent on plundering neighbors and their own workers. Each of these societies became locked into a wasteful system of production and distribution. The United States is also locked into a wasteful expenditure of labor, resources, and industry. Some suggest that the industrialized nations need to drastically change their consumption patterns that are currently seen, as this is depleting resources more than the demands from large populations as seen in many developing nations.

Even the 1998 Human Development Report from the United Nations politely suggested similar things:

Today's consumption is undermining the environmental resource base. It is exacerbating inequalities. And the dynamics of the consumption-poverty-inequality-environment nexus are accelerating. If the trends continue without change - not redistributing from high-income to low-income consumers, not shifting from polluting to cleaner goods and production technologies, not promoting goods that empower poor producers, not shifting priority from consumption for conspicuous display to meeting basic needs-today's problems of consumption and human development will worsen.

... The real issue is not consumption itself but its patterns and effects.

... Inequalities in consumption are stark. Globally, the 20% of the world's people in the highest-income countries account for 86% of total private consumption expenditures - the poorest 20% a minuscule 1.3%. More specifically, the richest fifth:
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Consume 45% of all meat and fish, the poorest fifth 5%. Consume 58% of total energy, the poorest fifth less than 4%. Have 74% of all telephone lines, the poorest fifth 1.5%.

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Consume 84% of all paper, the poorest fifth 1.1%. Own 87% of the world's vehicle fleet, the poorest fifth less than 1%.

Runaway growth in consumption in the past 50 years is putting strains on the environment never before seen.

Take for example the United States. With around 5 percent of the world's population, the US consumes about 40% of the world's resources and emits around 21% of the worlds carbon dioxide, a greenhouse-causing gas. The United States, however, is not over-populated, but the consumptionbased life style does have its effects. That is not to say that there are no problems in developing countries! In India for example, Delhi is a good example of a growing city. However, with this development come serious growing pains, such as pollution and unsustainable resource management.

Consumption patterns driven by current growth-based economics promote production and purchase of more and more material wealth and satisfaction. The impact on the environment from the increased need to obtain inputs such as raw materials and use of the environment, as well as increased waste, is considerable. The consumption levels of all people around the world are not the same. Take the following for example that compares consumption levels: Some Consumption Numbers Below are some numbers from the World Bank on consumption of energy in certain countries. I have shown the highest few in consumption numbers and the consumption of those with highest populations, as seen in an earlier page on population numbers. Energy (Kilograms of oil GNP GNP per Population equivalent) rank Capita rank (millions) No. of citizens compared to U.S. citizens 1997


1980 1997 1998



Source: World Development Report 2000, World Bank. Consumption data from Table 3.7. Size of Economy (GNP) data from Table 1.1. United States Germany 7,973 8,076 1 4,603 4,231 3 10 13 270 82 1 2

Energy (Kilograms of oil equivalent)

GNP rank

GNP per Population Capita rank (millions)

No. of citizens compared to U.S. citizens 1997 2 2

Country Japan Russian Federation China Nigeria Indonesia India Bangladesh

1980 1997 1998 2,967 4,084 2 5,414 4,019 16

1998 7 97

1998 126 174

610 743 402 352 172

907 753 693 479 197

7 55 30 11 53

145 181 149 161 173

1,239 121 204 980 126

9 11 12 17 41

Per capita energy consumption of selected countries

Notes On The Above Consumption Numbers


United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and some other nations, show a higher per capita energy consumption than those listed here (UAE being higher than the U.S.). However, the same World Bank report also points out that these are net exporters of energy that is, they produce oil that is exported and hence consumes far less domestically than the US and other wealthy nations that typically largely purchase that oil. The United States consumes more than anyone else does, followed by Germany and Japan and the Russian Federation. For example, one American consumes as much energy as 41 Bangladeshis as the final column shows, even though the American population is just over twice as large as that of Bangladesh. China, Nigeria, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh are listed here as examples of the heavily populated countries to show the disparity with respect to consumption. They are also listed on the numbers page at the beginning of this web site's section on population. There, quoting from the UN population data on where most growth is in population, they say that, Six countries account for

half of this annual growth: India for 21 per cent; China for 12 per cent; Pakistan for 5 per cent; Nigeria for 4 per cent; Bangladesh for 4 per cent, and Indonesia for 3 per cent.
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Nigeria is also listed as a net exporter and so would consume less itself. You can see the table of data from the World Bank's World Development Report 2000 online which has the full list of country consumption. The report also mentions, The United States, Japan, and other high-income countries, with 15 percent of the world's population, consume half of the world's commercial energy. The GNP ranking lists orders the size of the economy. The per capita ranking takes into account each persons share of that GNP and how a nation ranks in relation to that. Because the World Bank data here is based on 1997 and 1998 figures, the population numbers shown are from that period, while in the numbers page, the updated population numbers are provided from the United Nations, but there, the consumption figures aren't available for this year (as it is too early to know). While the numbers are therefore different, the general pattern is likely to be similar today. However, it is still worth seeing the 97/98 data, due to the relational relevance. Note also that I have not included information on economic sizes etc of various multinational corporations. Given that some 51 of the largest 100 economies in the world are corporations, their impact (due to the very small number of people they employ in comparison, as well as the underlying economic drivers) is also considerable. Some of their contributions obviously are accounted for in the nation statistics above but it highlights a further concentration of resource use etc. For more about this aspect, visit this web site's section on corporations.

Of course, if countries with large populations such as China and India follow the consumption models of today's wealthy nations, then the impact on the planet will be considerable. And China for example, is interested in increasing the use of automobiles. Automotive business interests are mouthwatering at the prospects of a massive market to build and sell cars, regardless of concerns on the environment.

In addition, if we look at consumption disparities today, as shown above, it also helps put another perspective on the issue of population problems and consumption problems with respect to strains on the environment.

Furthermore, if we conclude (as some resign to) that changing economic models and consumption habits are far too difficult, is the alternative to reduce population sizes in the poor countries? What of the fact as shown by the UNDP report quoted above, that the impacts and demands on the environment by the poor is far less when compared to the rich? If a sustainable planet is still the aims and goals, then in admittedly

simplistic terms, one would have to do some 86 times the effort to get the same supposed gains by reducing poor populations!

And, more seriously as described in the poverty section of this web site, the wealthy have been able to influence the economic conditions to benefit them and maintain dependency and poverty in the poorer nations. Reducing populations in poorer countries without addressing economic justice issues and so on could lead to further poverty and marginalization of other people while giving a rest bit to the environment, further legitimizing calls that the poor are to blame for most environmental degradation. Misuse Of Land And Resources How land is used to produce food etc. can have enormous impacts on the environment and its sustainability. (This can sometimes challenge assumptions on the instinct and common belief that we are overpopulated by sheer numbers and that this is the major cause of environmental degradation. While populations can burden the environment, it is the relative impact of population numbers alone versus why and how resource are used that we wish to consider here.) Take the following as an example:

Junk-food chains, including KFC and Pizza Hut, are under attack from major environmental groups in the United States and other developed countries because of their environmental impact. Intensive breeding of livestock and poultry for such restaurants leads to deforestation, land degradation, and contamination of water sources and other natural resources. For every pound of red meat, poultry, eggs, and milk produced, farm fields lose about five pounds of irreplaceable top soil. The water necessary for meat breeding comes to about 190 gallons per animal per day, or ten times what a normal Indian family is supposed to use in one day, if it gets water at all.

... Overall, animal farms use nearly 40 percent of the world's total grain production. In the United States, nearly 70 percent of grain production is fed to livestock.

Vandana Shiva, Stolen Harvest, (South End Press, 2000), pp. 70-71. Because industrial agriculture is using more monocultures, rather than a diversity of crops, the loss of biodiversity is leading to more resource usage, as described above. This as well as other political situations such as the motives for dumping surplus food on to developing countries to undersell the local farmers, leads to further hunger around the world. For more information on that aspect, refer to this web site's section on food dumping.

Consumption patterns in wealthier countries increase demands for various foods, flowers, textiles, coffee, etc. Combined with commercial interests in things like tobacco, largely grown by corporations from wealthy nations, and with input-intensive agricultural practices (including using herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers, even if their use is becoming more technically efficient) the diversion, and misuse of land and the associated environmental damage in unsustainable methods adds up. For additional examples and information on misuse of land, refer to this web site's look at causes of hunger.

Land ownership has become more concentrated in the hands of larger companies, larger agribusinesses and so on. In addition, things like food dumping, mentioned above, increases hunger and drives rural workers out of jobs. Such effects combine and lead to an increase in urban migration as people move to the cities in hope for a better chance. These economic policies that are based less on people's sharing and development, but more on acquiring wealth and profit lead to additional stress on the larger cities to provide for more people. It also results in more slum areas, health problems and so on. Many easily conclude that by just looking at the cities that we have overpopulation in the world. While the cities are no doubt facing problems of over population, a variety of political and economic circumstances are leading to such conditions and looking only at cities to determine if the planet is over populated misses out these factors.

But cities aren't the only places that the landless move to. Some, being pushed off their own lands, will move to less arable land and forest frontiers in the hope to farm that, which may conflict with wildlife. In other cases, many may try to immigrate to other parts of the world if they feel there is no choice left in their own country. In yet other situations, economic growth can also lead to more urban migration. Sometimes this growth of cities can go in hand with decline in the rural areas.

Due to these and a multitude of other complex socioeconomic and political factors, in different parts of the world, there are different proportions of people in urban and rural areas. For example, the World Bank reported in a 1999/2000 report that 74% of poor in Latin America and Caribbean lived in urban areas, while in Europe and Central Asia it was 67%. In the Middle East and North Africa it was 58%. In East Asia and Pacific, 33% while in Sub-Saharan Africa it was 32%. In South Asia it was 27%. North and Central America have approximately 76% and 50% urban populations, respectively. (For more details see the World Bank's World Development Report 1999/2000, Table A.2. Full country breakdowns are available in the report.) Land ownership for the poor provides mechanisms to ensure sustainable and efficient use, because of the need to care for it for their survival, as detailed for example, by Vandana Shiva, in her book Stolen

Harvest (South End Press, 2000). In an interview, Peter Rosset also shows that smaller farms are more efficient.

Economic policies of the wealthier nations and their consumption demands mean that more land is often used for less than ideal purposes, such as

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Growing cash crops (bananas, sugar, coffee, tea etc) for export to wealthier countries (primarily); Diverting productive land for non-productive uses (tobacco, growing flowers for export markets, etc); Clearing land and used to grow things like cattle for beef exports. (Parts of the Amazon for example, are cleared for cattle ranches so the beef can be exported for use in fast food restaurants. Smaller parts are cleared by the poor who are forced onto marginal lands, or frontier areas due to poverty.

These economic policies are often imposed on the poorer nations, through things like Structural Adjustment (SAPs). In the past, colonialism achieved similar things more explicitly, but today it is often wrapped up in complex trade and economic agreements. (One cannot separate geopolitics from economics and the environment.) For more about SAPs, see this web site's section on structural adjustment. And because food is a commodity, then it is those who can afford to pay, that will get food. The following is worth quoting at length:

To understand why people go hungry you must stop thinking about food as something farmers grow for others to eat, and begin thinking about it as something companies produce for other people to buy.

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Food is a commodity. ... Much of the best agricultural land in the world is used to grow commodities such as cotton, sisal, tea, tobacco, sugar cane, and cocoa, items which are non-food products or are marginally nutritious, but for which there is a large market. Millions of acres of potentially productive farmland is used to pasture cattle, an extremely inefficient use of land, water and energy, but one for which there is a market in wealthy countries. More than half the grain grown in the United States (requiring half the water used in the U.S.) is fed to livestock, grain that would feed far more people than would the livestock to which it is fed. ...

The problem, of course, is that people who don't have enough money to buy food (and more than one billion people earn less than $1.00 a day), simply don't count in the food equation.

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In other words, if you don't have the money to buy food, no one is going to grow it for you. Put yet another way, you would not expect The Gap to manufacture clothes, Adidas to manufacture sneakers, or IBM to provide computers for those people earning $1.00 a day or less; likewise, you would not expect ADM (Supermarket to the World) to produce food for them.

What this means is that ending hunger requires doing away with poverty, or, at the very least, ensuring that people have enough money or the means to acquire it, to buy, and hence create a market demand for food.

Richard H. Robbins, Readings on Poverty, Hunger, and Economic Development

When the best agricultural land is used up as described as above, more marginal land has to be used for food and subsistence farming, which may require clearing more rainforest, or other forms of encroachment on other ecosystems.