Who uses more resources?
It's not hard to tell that the people on the right uses more resources than those in the home on the left. Many natural resources were needed to create a home like this. Imagine a world in which everybody had equal access to resources. Some people would have fewer resources than they do now. But many people would have more.
Whether a resource is available for use depends on several factors.
- Supply: Some resources are very abundant. Some are rare. When a resource is close to running out a replacement needs to be found. Some resources are very valuable because they are very rare.
- Price: The price of a resource depends on how much of it is available. It also depends on how easy it is to find and extract. A resource may not be used until its price goes up enough to cover the costs of finding and extracting it.
- Politics: Resources are not found equally around the world. Some nations may have a lot of some vital resources. Some nations may have none. It is possible for a nation rich in a resource to control who gets it. They can also control the price.
Rich nations use more natural resources than poor nations. In fact, the richest 20 percent of people use 85 percent of the world’s resources. What about the poorest 20 percent of people? They use only 1 percent of the world's resources. Figure below shows this for two types of resources.
The U.S. uses more than its share of paper and oil. What if everyone used resources this way? We would need five times more space to produce what was used! (Note: Per capita means “per person.”)
More People, More Resources
Every 20 minutes, the human population adds 3,500 more people. More people need more resources. For example, we now use five times more fossil fuels than we did in 1970. The human population is expected to increase for at least 40 years. What will happen to resource use?
- The availability of a resource depends on how much of it there is, how much it costs to get and where it is located.
- Politics plays an important role in resource availability.
- The world's wealthiest people use most of the resources. The world's poorest people use very few resources.
Use this resource to answer the questions that follow.
Where Does E-Waste End Up? at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JZey9GJQP0 (7:43)
- Why are they melting computer circuit boards?
- What toxic gases are given off?
- What metals are they extracting from these computers?
- What do CRTs contain?
- What do computer batteries contain?
- How can these chemicals harm people?
- How much does recycling a computer cost in India?
- What companies have committed to reducing the toxic chemicals in their products?
- What factors affect resource availability?
- Why is politics important in the availability of resources?
- Why do some nations consume more goods than others?