Natural Resources Essay, Research Paper
A natural resource is defined as a natural material found on earth that is useful
for humans in some way. It is often processed of manufactured in order for it to
meet the needs of a society. Resources then differ spatially, as different people
have different needs and therefore require different resources, and temporally
as a society grows and advances their needs will change and so to their
resources. Natural resources range from minerals and metals to people (their
labor and skills). (Kleeman 1997, Pashley 1996, Plant 1998)
In this response 2 major sample studies will be used, these are, water and
energy (in the form of uranium) on a variety of scales.
The Uranium Information Centre.
Sydney Catchment Authority
KLEEMAN (1997) Global Interactions: A Senior Geography Rigby Heinemann,
PLANT (1998) Get Smart Study Guide Science Press, Australia
PASHLEY (1996) Excel HSC Pascal Press, Australia
Natural resources are natural materials found on earth that is useful for
humans in some way (Kleeman 1997) They can be divided into categories.
Diagram 1 shows the 4 types of natural resources and an example of each.
From the above we can see that coal is an example of an exhaustible resource,
this means there exists a finite stocks. These resources are non renewable in the
ascertainable future. Renewable resources, have the potential to be renewed.
Forests will be replenished over time after they have been harvested for human
needs either naturally if left alone to do so, or with human help in the form of
plantations in an alternate area. Renewability is then often dependent on proper
management over time. Recyclable resources are also renewable but can
recycled indefinitely through reprocessing. These resources will not always come
back in the same form after undergoing recycling. Glass bottles can be recycled
into furniture, windows, ornaments, etc. Continuous resources are continually
renewable. Solar energy will always exist and can be harnessed and used without
concern for recycling or replenishment time. It can be said that it will never be
finite and the supply will always be greater than the demand.
Natural Resource: Uranium
A variety issues arise when uranium is found, extracted, processed, consumed,
and disposed of. Management strategies are in place to combat these issues.
The use of uranium produces waste has an impact on the environment. Waste
produced is radioactive and therefore hazardous, depending on the waste’s
level of radioactivity and half life it will remain hazardous for a long period of
time. The environmental issue effecting uranium is waste disposal. The view
below is from Pangia Resources, a US company that seeks to dispose of
nuclear waste in outback Australia.
“nuclear waste is a problem that won’t go away, that the best
known way of dealing with it is putting it somewhere in stable
rocks, that these rocks must be away from population centres”
(Campaign for a Nuclear Free Future – Update 17 Dec 98)
Table 1 shows radioactive waste scales and their individual disposal method.
The burial of waste, in the short term has been a suitable method but in the
long term proves to be uncertain. There are always risks of the radioactive
waste leeching out into the soil and impact on the biophysical environment.
Diagram 2 shows the spread of radioactive contamination via abiotic
processes to the biota.
Source: http://www1.octa4.net.au/ecnt/Jabiluka.htm URANIUM ISSUES
Unless a proven long term method of waste disposal is developed, uranium will
loose resource value as demand decreases due to environmental and
The Mirrar of the Northern Territory are concerned about the Jabaluka uranium
development, and any development that impacts on their cultural sacred sites
and traditional way of life.
They are traditional owners of land. They claimed much of ‘their land’ back under
the Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act 1976.
They claim to have sacred sites in the uranium mine area. These sites are directly
and severely impacted upon by the Jabiluka uranium mine.
The Mirrar believe that culturally significant sites will be damaged by the
construction of the Jabiluka uranium mine. Damage to these spiritual sites
destroys living tradition.
The indigenous population, with support and backing from a very much diversified
global community struggled against adversity in the fight to stop the Jabaluka
uranium mine and were successful in doing so. As of September 1999, all work at
Jabaluka ceased indefinitely which has effected resource by reducing supply.
Natural Resource: Water
Water is the most plentiful, vital, non-substitutional resource on the planet. Life
exists and is sustained because of and by water. Though there is abundant water
in the world and available for use, attainable potable water for human
consumption remains scarce. Map shows the global inequitable distribution of
water on a global scale.
Water is needed by all but all do not have equal access to supplies. Due to the
scarce nature of water it is necessary for management strategies to be practiced
to ensure optimum uses of water are not hindered by damage to water quality and
limited water quantity.
A case study of Sydney water will demonstrate water management strategies
utilized, their results and suggest enhancement of these strategies to ameliorate
water issues on a local scale.
Sydney water provides approximately 1500 million litres of water per day to more
than 3.7 million people. Map shows the Catchment area and the infrastructure
that supplies Sydney (33 51 S, 151 12 E) with it’s water.
The following flow diagram illustrates the path of Sydney water from Catchment to
where it is used in homes and businesses
removal of contaminants
Residential Industry Businesses
Management strategies currently used in Sydney are aimed to secure adequate
quality water for consumption and use by the population of the Sydney region.
These strategies are also devised so that there will be access to sufficient
amounts of water for all.
These strategies include:
Thus providing another water source and reducing anticipated increased future
usage. Also reducing discharge into rivers and oceans. Recycled water is used in
residential gardens and toilets, in industry and irrigation so that fresh water can
go directly to the people for consumption. This then leaves the present
infrastructure able to withstand present demands without the construction of new
Irrigation practices – increasing water efficiency
e.g. central pivot sprinklers and drip or trickle systems
Design features of Infrastructure
e.g. The Prospect plant (and others) were designed to be ‘easily upgraded’
(SMH98). So when new technology evolved and new information accumulated the
plants could be ready to put them in practice, put them to use.
Pay per use
Consumers are charged for water usage as the following diagram illustrates.
There is then an incentive to use less, conserving the resource, because of
reduced costs of consumption.
Public awareness and education programs
National programs such as WaterWise which “aims to inform and educate the
community on how to use water wisely and promote the need for water
conservation” (www.nsw.gov.au). Also specifically Sydney water conservation
campaigns such as “Sydney water: Good enough to bottle, too good to waste”
Monitoring of the system and water quality
Managing the levels of contaminants and foreign particles in the water to ensure
the public has access to the optimum water possible.
These strategies and others used are effective to a certain degree though are
not always faultless as the 1998 Sydney water crisis pointed out.
Cryptosporidium and giardia parasites entered the supply system jeopardizing
public health and safety which emphasized the need for the evaluation and
improvement of the current management strategies being employed.
Suggestions for improvements of management strategies
More water recycling for all uses so less water is deducted from storage
The spreading of the new efficient methods so the benefits can be felt
Implication of new technology to existing infrastructure
As new technology is made available it should be put to use.
Put the ‘user pays’ principle to further use. All costs of getting the water to the
consumers, building the infrastructure and the environmental costs are
factored into the costs to the user. Consumers would then be hesitant of the
inevitable new dam because they would have to finance it themselves. They
would be forced to conserve.
Strengthen campaigns to make the message loud and clear.
Develop and strengthen regular thorough checks on water composition. Set
strict tight controls on acceptable levels of parasites and ensure these are met
and not surpassed.
Other suggested strategies
Quotas and limits
If these are preceded, heavy fines should be demanded
If the weather is accurately predicted it can be known when demand will be at
a high (when it’s hot) and when supply will be abundant (when it rains heavily
for a prolonged period of time)
Migration restrictions and incentives to move elsewhere to reduce the
population hence reducing demand (provided demand per head does not
Water management in Sydney is a long term process but the strategies used
must be evaluated in the short term for the strategies to be effective. Water
provision is a function of a city and the people of the city have a right to
assessable clean water . This can be granted and sustained provided the
proper management strategies are set in place and new ones are continuously
developed and implemented.
The spatial distribution of the world’s resources is inequitable. Humans have
no say or no hand in where the majority of natural resources are located. It is
the physical processes that brought about the appearance and the make up of
the earth as we know it today that is the force behind the scattered
non-uniform distribution of worldwide natural resources. The maps below
illustrate the distribution of some examples of natural resources throughout the
The reason behind the differences between production and consumption of
natural resources lies in the fact that the so called ‘North’ countries or the
developed countries industrialized early on and first. They then depleted their
local resource stocks temporally and were compelled to search elsewhere for
the resources to satisfy their needs. To do this they turned to the developing
world and exploited foreign resources. A cycle of supply and demand was soon
afterward created, where the demand originated from the developed countries
who saw the supply of cheap raw materials and cheap labor, and the supply
emanated from those the developing counties who sought to the capital
Distribution and consumption evolved to be based on wealth. Access to and
supply of resources is granted to the country, corporation or company that
makes the most lucrative offer. Typically the developed nations of the world are
in a position to do this, but as discussed above, not locally. They have the
means to consume what is produced elsewhere. In percentage figures this
translated to 90% of the world’s resources being consumed by 30% of the
Technology has played a part in creating disparities between production and
consumption. Transportation carries resources all over the world, no longer is
there a need to locate near the resource you need to have access to it.
The map below indicates uranium production and consumption on a global
The trends, as can be seen from the map, uranium is produced in areas where
it isn’t consumed. The wealthier nations with the money for nuclear electricity
generation import their needed uranium. The producer/supplier nations do not
have the same needs for uranium so they export it.
In today’s unstable state of the world international and national conflict and
aggression is a prevalent concern. So too is the world armament and defensive
measures that exacerbate these concerns. Nuclear weaponry is a concern on a
global scale because of it’s potential cataclysmic damage it could inflict on the
world. Measures have been taken to prevent this.
The International Atomic Energy Agency was set up by the United Nations in
1957 to help countries develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Safeguards are in place to discourage the change of course of nuclear material
from peaceful use by increasing the risk of early detection…i.e. the principle of
prevention by stopping it at the source as opposed to the cure after a warhead
has been fired.
When Australian uranium export was approved it was under the condition of
safeguards which meant that countries importing Australian uranium did so
under the strict condition that is was used specifically for peaceful purposes,
namely electricity generation and not for military purposes. The pie chart below
shows Australia’s uranium exports
Other forms of Political issues include government policy such as the “three
mines” policy by the 1983 Hawke Labor government. By only operating 3
mines this limits supply.
Natural resources are present in different categories : exhaustible, renewable,
recyclable and continuous. On a global scale spatial and temporal variations on
the distribution and production and consumption rates and levels exist.
Differences in production and consumption of natural resources arise because of
environmental, social, economic, and political factors. In the finding, processing,
consuming, producing, and development of natural resources issues emanate.
These issues include that of a social, political, economic, environmental, and
technological nature, But management strategies are formed and utilized to
confront these issues. Management strategies are based on the conservation of
natural resources and maximizing their efficiency in meeting the needs of society
without damaging people or the environment..