availability of natural resources


From the table in the concept "Materials Humans Use," you can see that many of the resources we depend on are non-renewable. Non-renewable resources vary in their availability; some are very abundant and others are rare. Materials, such as gravel or sand, are technically non-renewable, but they are so abundant that running out is no issue. Some resources are truly limited in quantity: when they are gone, they are gone, and something must be found that will replace them. There are even resources, such as diamonds and rubies, that are valuable in part because they are so rare.

resource availability


Politics is also part of determining resource availability and cost. Nations that have a desired resource in abundance will often export that resource to other countries, while countries that need that resource must import it from one of the countries that produces it. This situation is a potential source of economic and political trouble. Of course the greatest example of this is oil. Twelve countries have approximately 80% of all of the worlds oil (Figure 1.2). However, the biggest users of oil, the United States, China, and Japan, are all located outside this oil-rich region. This leads to a situation in which the availability and price of the oil is determined largely by one set of countries that have their own interests to look out for. The result has sometimes been war, which may have been attributed to all sorts of reasons, but at the bottom, the reason is oil.


Besides abundance, a resources value is determined by how easy it is to locate and extract. If a resource is difficult to use, it will not be used until the price for that resource becomes so great that it is worth paying for. For example, the oceans are filled with an abundant supply of water, but desalination is costly, so it is used only where water is really limited (Figure 1.1). As the cost of desalination plants comes down, more will likely be built. Tampa Bay, Florida, has one of the few desalination plants in the United States.



The topic of overconsumption was touched on in the chapter Life on Earth. Many people in developed countries, such as the United States and most of Europe, use many more natural resources than people in many other countries. We have many luxury and recreational items, and it is often cheaper for us to throw something away than to fix it or just hang on to it for a while longer. This consumerism leads to greater resource use, but it also leads to more waste. Pollution from discarded materials degrades the land, air, and water (Figure 1.3). Natural resource use is generally lower in developing countries because people cannot afford many products. Some of these nations export natural resources to the developed world since their deposits may be richer and the cost of labor lower. Environmental regulations are often more lax, further lowering the cost of resource extraction. Click image to the left or use the URL below. URL: The nations in blue are the 12 biggest producers of oil; they are Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela. Pollution from discarded materials de- grades the environment and reduces the availability of natural resources.



instructional diagrams

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which factor affects resource availability?

a) supply

b) price

c) politics

-->  d) all of the above

if a nation is wealthy, it can determine the price of a resource.

a) true

-->  b) false

nonrenewable resources

a) are usually quite limited in abundance.

b) are extremely valuable.

-->  c) may be extremely abundant.

d) are rarely very valuable.

overconsumption is the recognition that people in developed countries use many more natural resources than people in developing countries.

-->  a) true

b) false

discarding an item costs natural resources and contributes to pollution.

-->  a) true

b) false

another word for electronic waste is _____.

-->  a) e-waste

b) e-cycle

c) electro-garbage

d) electro-trash.

a nation with a lot of neodymium may _ that resource to other countries that will _ it.

a) export; export

-->  b) export; import

c) import; export

d) import; import

electronic waste generated in developed nations

a) is disposed of safely.

b) is not valuable to anyone.

-->  c) exposes people in developing nations to hazardous compounds.

d) none of these.

since natural resources are distributed fairly evenly around the planet, nations can usually obtain what they need.

a) true

-->  b) false

if a resource becomes scarce, the result may be

a) a rise in price of that resource.

b) interest in finding more of that resource.

c) war.

-->  d) all of these.

diagram questions

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