The planet has a large amount of natural resources and human beings have been taking advantage of them for thousands of years, but the question is, can we always do so without worrying about their depletion? This depends on the type of natural resource we are talking about, that is why natural resources are classified as; renewable resources, non-renewable resources and inexhaustible resources. This classification is based on the possibility of the resource to regenerate.
What are renewable resources
Natural resources are those that regenerate naturally at a rate greater than their consumption , therefore, we would be talking about resources that we could continuously supply without harming future generations by leaving them unavailable.
There are many renewable resources that we have at our fingertips, although sometimes it is not so easy to take advantage of them due to the great cost of their facilities. These are examples of renewable resources that are known:
We can obtain heat and electricity with solar radiation and this is possible through solar panels that transform the sun’s rays, either by photovoltaic plates to obtain energy or photothermic plates to generate heat. This type of energy is clean and renewable. The problem is, that although you have only a large initial economic investment and then you do not need more investment, only maintenance over a long time, not everyone can afford it.
As with the sun, we can obtain energy through the wind with windmills called wind turbines . We are also talking about a clean and renewable energy, because the wind does not run out even if there are seasons with more or less volume. However, the wind turbine installations having to be located in mountainous areas can generate erosion. In addition, wind turbines emit a lot of noise, thus producing noise pollution in the places where they are located.
Water is a very important and vital renewable resource for living beings. In fact, there are countries with a shortage of water where their inhabitants die for lack of it. This resource, in addition to being used for direct consumption, is also used for the food industry, for recreational use, to generate energy from hydroelectric plants, for personal hygiene, etc. For example, water is a renewable natural resource that is used to obtain tidal energy , which uses the tides of the oceans and seas, or wave energy , which uses the movement of the waves themselves.
These provide food for humans and other carnivorous or omnivorous animals and, in general, can be considered a renewable source of food. Other uses of this type of renewable resource are that they are used for the textile industry such as, for example, in obtaining leather, today some animals are also still used for work in the field and other leisure uses, such as in shows, circuses, zoos, etc.
This resource is also overexploited, especially for the food industry , large hectares of land are needed to raise the amount of animals that the population demands. As a consequence, forests are being deforested for intensive cattle ranching. The general use of animals as a renewable resource for years has caused various controversies.
Plants, in addition to serving as food for a wide variety of animals, are also food for human beings. In addition to the use of plants in the food industry , they have a very relevant use in the pharmaceutical industry . Surely you have also heard about alternative energies, one of them is the generation of energy with biomass , which is nothing more than using forest and agricultural resources to obtain energy. Other products that we can obtain from plants are wood and paper .
The problem with this resource that despite being renewable, there is an overexploitation of it that causes a desertification of the soil. For example, in Argentina the soil is impoverished due to the overexploitation suffered by soy plantations.
Geothermal energy is a renewable resource , since it is the internal heat of the Earth , that is, it originates in the core of the planet. To learn more about geothermal energy, you can check out these other posts on Geothermal Energy: Definition, Advantages and Disadvantages and How Geothermal Energy Works .
In addition to renewable resources, we find those that are not renewable. Non-renewable resources are found in nature in a limited way , since they need long periods of time to regenerate and we consume them much faster than this time they need to recover. Some examples are minerals, oil, natural gas, and coal.
There are big differences between renewable and non-renewable resources :
- On the one hand, renewable resources, as we have already mentioned, regenerate quickly and can be found in large quantities and, on the other hand, non-renewable resources regenerate very slowly, being limited.
- Obtaining renewable resources to generate energy is a great cost compared to obtaining non-renewable resources. In addition, with non-renewable resources, greater amounts of energy are obtained and it is well known how to obtain it. However, obtaining energy with some non-renewable resources is still something that is half way or large sites are needed to obtain it.
- You may be wondering what type of resource is most beneficial for the environment, these are renewable resources due to their capacity for renewal, although it is true that on some occasions the infrastructures necessary to obtain them deteriorate the environment where they are found, as is the case with hydroelectric plants or with the wind turbines of the wind farms.
- Another difference is that renewable resources can generally be found all over the planet, which is not the case with non-renewable resources. This situation creates conflicts of wars between countries, in addition to creating enormous inequality. For example, the wars in the Middle East are the result of conflicts over resources such as oil and natural gas. This is a somewhat paradoxical result, since countries with the highest non-renewable resources are ultimately poorer than those with fewer non-renewable resources.