Natural resources are defined as those items for consumption and features of the planet earth that allow it to sustain life as well as to satisfy the needs of the living creatures on the planet (Smith 2). Water as well as land is both considered to be natural resources. Similarly are the biological resources that live in both. Mineral resources consist of sand, oil, metals, stone, and coal (Smith 2). Moreover, climate, sunlight, and air are natural resources too (Smith 2; Baland and Platteau 9). These resources are utilized to produce food, fuel, and supplies for the manufacture of commodities (Smith 2; Baland and Platteau 9).
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Biological resources are considered to be the most important natural resources (Smith 2). Since the early days, people have used wood from trees for fuel and shelter. Biological resources, in turn, are dependent on other natural resources (Smith 2). Most plants and animals could not live without air, sunshine, soil, and water.
Mineral resources are less important than biological resources in supporting life, but they are extremely important to modern living. Mineral fuels – including coal, oil, and natural gas – provide heat, light and power. Minerals serve as raw materials for the manufacture of certain goods, such as automobiles, plastics, and refrigerators (Smith 3; Baland and Platteau 9).
Soil as a renewable source
Soil is valuable natural resource that encompasses a large portion of the earth’s surface (Smith 3). All living creatures on the planet rely on it as a source of food. The flora is rooted in it and acquires nutrients from it. The fauna acquires nutrients from the flora or other fauna that consume plants. A variety of microbes found in the soil cause lifeless creatures to decompose, which assist in bringing back the nutrients to the soil. Furthermore, several types of fauna seek refuge in the soil. Soil forms gradually but it is damaged easily. It must be preserved in order for it to keep on sustaining life on the planet (Smith 3; Baland and Platteau 9).
Air as a renewable source
Air may be defined as a mixture of gases that surrounds the earth (Smith 3). Without air, there could be no life on the earth. All living things – animals and plants – need air to stay alive. Air shields the earth from certain harmful rays from the sun and other objects in outer space. At the same time, it traps the heat that comes from the sun. In this way, air helps keep the earth warm enough to support life (Smith
3). All living things must have water to live, just as they must have air.
Water as a renewable source
Water is the most universal substance present of the planet (Smith 4; Baland and Platteau 9). In the absence of water, life on earth will not be possible. All living creatures on the planet need water in order to survive. Indeed all living creature consists mostly of water. Life itself, as most scientists believe originated from the saline waters of the oceans (Smith 4; Baland and Platteau 9).
All living creature depend on water for survival (Smith 4; Baland and Platteau 9). This is due to the fact that, the course of life, from food intake to the elimination of waste involves water. However, human beings rely on it not solely as a means of survival. Human beings depend on it to sustain their lifestyle. Water is used in residences. It is used to produce commodities. It is employed to crow crops in parts of the world where water is scarce (Smith 4; Baland and Platteau 9).
Wood as a renewable source
Wood is a tough substance under the bark of trees, shrubs, and certain other plants (Baland and Platteau 5). The physical properties of wood, plus its chemical composition are what makes wood as one of the most valuable natural resources on earth. Wood is used to make thousands of products, including baseball bats, furniture, lumber, musical instruments, cellophane, charcoal, and paper (Baland and Platteau 9).
Wood’s physical properties make it especially useful for construction work. It is tough, strong, and easy to handle. Wood also insulates well, does not rust, and resists high heat better than steel. However, wood shrinks and swells, depending on how much moisture it loses or absorbs (Baland and Platteau 9).
Petroleum as a nonrenewable source
Any greasy substance that does not dissolve in water, but can be dissolved in ether, is classified as oil (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 54). There are many different kinds of oil. Most are lighter than water and are liquid at room temperature (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 54).
Petroleum is considered to be among the most important natural resources that the planet earth has (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 54). Some people refer to it as black gold. However, petroleum is best identified to be the lifeblood of developed nations of the world. Fuels produced from it generate energy used to run vehicles, aircrafts, industrial plants, farm tools, trucks, trains, and vessels. It is also utilized to provide heat as well as power for residential and well as industrial establishments. Overall, it supplies practically half of the energy consumed in the planet (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 54).
Coal as a nonrenewable source
Coal is a black or brown rock that can be ignited and burned (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 72). As coal burns, it produces energy in the form of heat. The heat from coal can be used to heat buildings and to make or process various products. But the heat is used mainly to produce electricity. Coal is also used to make coke, an essential raw material in the manufacture of iron and steel. Other substances obtained in the coke-making process are used to manufacture such products as drugs, dyes, and fertilizers (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland).
Coal was once the main source of energy in all industrial countries. Coal-burning steam engines provided most of the power in these countries from the early 1800’s to the early 1900’s (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland). Since the early 1900’s, petroleum and natural gas have become the leading sources of energy throughout much of the world. Unlike coal, petroleum can easily be made into gasoline and the other fuels needed to run modern transportation equipment. Natural gas is often used in place of coal to provide heat (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 72). But the world’s supplies of petroleum and natural gas are being used up rapidly.
Increased use of coal, especially for producing electricity could help relieve the growing shortage of gas and oil. However, the use of coal involves certain problems. The burning of coal has been a major cause of air pollution (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 72).
Gas as a nonrenewable source
Gas or fuel is considered as one of the world’s most valuable resources. Gas is burned in order to supply heat as well as to generate power for industrial consumption (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 97). In the chemical business, the chemical found in gas is used in order to create certain products as detergents, medicines, plastics as well as various other products (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 97).
People sometimes confuse it with gasoline, which is often called simply gas. But gasoline is a liquid (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 97). On the other hand, gas fuel – like air and steam – is a gaseous form of matter. That is, it does not occupy a fixed amount of space as liquid and solids do (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 97).
Gases are classified into two types. One is natural gas and the other is manufactured gas (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 97). Roughly all the gas consumed in both the United States and Canada is natural gas (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland). The natural forces that produced gas are usually located by or in the vicinity of oil deposits (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 97). On the other hand, manufactured gas is formed mainly from both coal and petroleum, employing heat as well as some chemical procedures (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 97). Manufactured gas costs more than natural gas and is used in regions where large quantities of the natural fuel are not available.
Wherever large quantities of natural gas are available, gas is the most popular cooking fuel. One reason for its popularity is that it costs less than most other fuels. In addition, a homemaker can have the desired amount of heat instantly, control the heat easily and even automatically, and shut it off instantly.
Uranium as a nonrenewable source
Uranium is a silvery-white, radioactive metal (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124). It is the main source of nuclear energy. It is more plentiful than such “common” elements as iodine, mercury, and silver. But only tiny amounts of uranium are present in most of the rocks in which it is found. Uranium is highly reactive, and it combines with most other elements to form chemical compounds. These compounds are always highly poisonous (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124).
Uranium is used chiefly as a fuel for nuclear reactors (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124). The reactors produce nuclear energy with which nuclear power plants generate electricity. Uranium is also used in making atomic bombs and some other nuclear weapons. Medical researchers use it to produce radiation for certain experiments. Also, uranium is used in research to produce radioactive isotopes and such artificial elements as neptunium and plutonium (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124).
Uranium and its compounds have been used for various purposes for more than 2,000 years (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124). Colored glass produced about A.D. 79 contains uranium oxide, and this substance has been used through the centuries to color glass. For nearly 100 years after the discovery of uranium in 1789, it continued to be used chiefly as a pigment in glass manufacturing. Uranium was also used as pigment in painting china and as a chemical for processing photographs (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124).
In 1896, the French physicist Antoine Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium is radioactive (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124). His achievement marked the first time that any element has been found to be radioactive. Becquerel’s discovery led to a surge of scientific interest in uranium (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124).
In 1938, the German chemist Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman used uranium to produce the first artificial nuclear fission (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124). In 1942, Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi and his co-workers at the University of Chicago produced the first artificial nuclear chain reaction. They used uranium as the fissionable material. Fermi’s work led to the development of the atomic bomb (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124).
Scientific research also led to peacetime uses of uranium. In 1954, the U.S. Navy launched the Nautilus, the first submarine powered by nuclear fuel (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124). In 1957, the first nuclear power plant in the United States began to operate (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124).
Since the early 1970’s, nuclear energy has become an important source of energy (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124). Many scientists predict that it will continue to play a major role in the future. However, the supply of easily obtainable uranium is decreasing, and the cost of locating, refining, and enriching uranium remains high (Torleif, Bergesen, and Roland 124). In addition, many people are concerned about the safety of nuclear energy production.
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