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Availability of Natural Resources

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Availability of Natural Resources

Who uses more resources?

It's not hard to tell that the people on the right use 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.

Resource Availability

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 certain 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.

Who Uses Natural Resources?

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 ).

The U.S. uses more than its share of 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?

Vocabulary

  • e-waste : Electronic waste; often transported from wealthy countries to poor countries where it is dumped.

Summary

  • 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.

Practice

Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.

  1. What is e-waste ?
  2. Why are they melting computer circuit boards?
  3. Why are the workers doing this work?
  4. What metals are they extracting from these computers?
  5. What do CRTs contain?
  6. What do computer batteries contain?
  7. How can these chemicals harm people? Which people are most at risk and why?
  8. Why do computers from North America and Europe end up in India for recycling? #Which factors go into this difference in costs?
  9. How often do you replace you computer or cell phone?

Review

  1. What factors affect resource availability?
  2. Why is politics important in the availability of resources?
  3. Why do some nations consume more goods than others?

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