Natural resources are naturally occurring parts of the environment that do not exist because of human intervention. They are part of the earth, seas and skies. For example, there are minerals, trees, fish, animals and fossil fuels. All of these exist in nature in and of itself, and cannot be synthetically created by humans.
Humans exploit these natural resources to live. We need air to breathe, water to drink, and food to eat. We use timber to build shelter, we use plants and animals to eat, and we use fossil fuels to power machinery that we make out of ores we dig out of the ground and smelt into metals.
Natural resources can be divided into 2 main categories: renewable and non-renewable. We harvest timber, but trees can be replanted to grow into new timber resources. We catch fish to eat, but with proper management, we can give new fish the proper environmental conditions to grow and breed to renew the fish population that was harvested.
Non-renewable natural resources are ones that exist in a finite amount, that is, they cannot be replaced once they have been taken for our use. We mine coal from under the ground to burn. Once it has been burned, that amount of coal can never be re-created. We pump oil with wells from under the surface of the earth to use for petroleum products such as gasoline. Once an oil field has run dry, we cannot replenish that oil. Minerals such as copper, gold and silver also fall into this category.
Because we use many of these natural resources to survive, it is very important that we take the time and effort to conserve them. If we don’t, we will lose them. We have lost several species of animals over the last 200+ years because of overharvesting (the great auk, passenger pigeons, and the western black rhinoceros). At times in our history we have also overharvested timber and fish.
Conservationists are always working to save environments and species from overuse and pollution. It is a challenging job. Many natural resources are worth a lot of money, and that causes a strain on their continued viability. Some people only see natural resources as potential profit, and don’t see the long view of saving them for future generations to enjoy.
It’s important that we care for our natural resources and use them wisely, not only for our benefit but also for the benefit of those who will need them for their own survival in years to come.