Man has depended on natural resources for decades to survive. Man exploits these resources and uses them for a variety of purposes in his daily life. In addition to this, the exploitation of natural resources has created a vast number of job opportunities for thousands of people across the world. However, exploitation of natural resources has often caused different types of environmental damage such as the destruction of natural vegetation, landscape degradation, and climate change. Natural resources are becoming strained globally as more people engage in their exploitation in different parts of the world.

  1. Sand

Sand is one of the key raw materials in the construction industry. Also, it has other uses such as making concrete, filling holes, making molds, in recreation areas such as beaches. After water, sand is the second-most exploited resource. Due to its scarcity, developed nations such as the USA have now turned into the deepest ocean parts to mine sand thereby destroying the ecosystem underwater as this type of mining interferes with patterns of water circulation, alters other habitats and kills aquatic organisms.

Sand mining
Sand Mining

Sand harvesting should only be initiated when proper environmental impact assessment has been done. Also, for licensed individual projects involving sand harvesting, there needs to be an environmental impact assessment that highlights the mitigation measures needed to be put in place to minimize environmental damage.

  1. Water

Water is the most exploited resource on earth. It is important as we need it to survive and run many processes in daily life. For example, water has domestic use for indoor and outdoor domestic purposes. In industries, water is also used to process raw materials before manufacturing processes. Whereas rain, oceans, lakes, and water trapped underground are replenished through rain, water sources are still over-exploited and polluted.

Water pumping for irrigation
Water pumping for irrigation

Pollution of water mainly occurs when industries dump wastes into water bodies such as rivers and oceans, or when there are accidental leaks of oil into water sources or bodies. Oil spillage, for example, kills every form of aquatic life by preventing the circulation of oxygen between the atmosphere and the water bodies.

For instance, in a country like China, over 75% of the rural waters have been polluted as a result of the process of exploiting water. Also, the Middle East is one of the driest places on earth. Due to this natural phenomenon, there is continued stress on water and its sources.

  1. Fossil Fuels

According to an interactive graphic by The Guardian, study statistics indicate that about 99 billion barrels of oil and more than 10.6 trillion cubic meters of natural gas have been harvested since the year 2015. Fossil fuels are usually hydrocarbon-containing natural resources that are not derived from plant or animal sources. They include deeply buried combustible geological deposits of organic materials formed from decayed plants and animals that have been converted into crude oil, coal, and natural gas by exposure to pressure. The utilization of fossil fuels has enabled large-scale industrial development.

Natural gas mining
Natural gas mining

Due to wide-spread industrialization, the world needs sources of energy. The majority of the energy used in the world is supplied by fossil fuels and it is projected that the demand may be high in the future.

The burning of fossil fuels has often resulted in serious environmental pollution. This is because fossil fuels produce greenhouse gases that acidify the oceans when they dissolve in them. This results in the killing of aquatic organisms.

  1. Palm Oil

Products such as home households like soaps and foodstuffs such as bread, chocolate contain palm oil. This makes palm oil the most commonly used vegetable oil in the world. However, the harvesting of palm oil cause ecological imbalance in countries where it is harvested.

For instance, the top world producers of palm oil, Malaysia and Indonesia, where the cultivation of palm oil is unregulated, natural forests have been depleted because people encroach the forests to cultivate the palm oil. This also interferes with endangered species that live in the natural forests.

Harvested palm fruit for processing to oil
Harvested palm fruit for processing to oil

Amazon rain forests are among the carbon-rich forests in the world. However, natural rain forests in Indonesia are more carbon-rich compared to Amazon rain forests. Unfortunately, these forests have been occasionally cleared to pave way for palm oil cultivation. For instance, Indonesia cleared 804,000 hectares of forest in 2012 to pave way for the palm oil industry.

  1. Trees

Trees are one of the resources which provide essential roles and are also of great value. For instance, trees filter the atmospheric air, provide food, protect the environment and are also a source of building materials in the form of timber.

Harvesting of the trees, however, has resulted in devastating effects around the world. As the world population continues to grow each day, there is pressure to settle a large number of people. As a result, people have encroached rain forests for various reasons such as for settlement or cultivation.

Forest clearing due to human activity
Forest clearing due to human activity

The deforestation of trees is driven by agricultural, livestock and real estate industries. Also, as mentioned before, the palm oil industry has spearheaded deforestation in countries such as Indonesia.

  1. Soil

Soil is the earth’s fragile top layer that supports all life forms. It is comprised of the countless number of microorganisms that create complex ecosystems and is among the precious resources mined on earth. Soil is important mostly for agriculture.

Over the past 150 years, half of the topsoil of the earth has been lost through human activities and natural events. Human activities have resulted in industrial pollution that has led to soil loss. Besides, indiscriminate agricultural practices, building and construction industries, water contamination and soil erosion are other factors that have led to the loss of soil.

Soil cover removal
Soil cover removal

About 95% of the food that humans consume come from the soil. Therefore, continuous loss of soil poses a great threat to the existence of humans. Governments around the world have called for sustainable use of natural resources. The health of the soil is paramount to supporting the existing population through yielding high productivity. This can only be realized when soil is conserved.