Our planet is rich in resources such as food, energy and water. These are essential for human development. World consumption of resources has increased rapidly over time. Our ability to access resources has improved due to improving technology. As resources have been more accessible, we are able to exploit them more easily and as a result, we are overusing some resources. Earth has a biological carrying capacity (maximum number of species which can be supported) which depends upon population size, resource availability and demand. As technology improves, this carrying capacity can increase. However, this carrying capacity does have a limit and as population rises and we demand more resources, these resources will eventually run out.
The demand for resources is increasing because:
- Rising population: global population is increasing, we are currently at just over 7 billion and we’re expected to reach 9 billion by 2040. More people require more resources. Also demand for one resource can increase demand for another e.g. more people means more food needs to be grown, which requires more water.
- Economic development: people are getting wealthier, especially in EDCs. Wealthier people have more disposable income which affects their consumption of resources. Wealthier people have more money to spend on food and often people buy more than they need. They can also afford cars, fridges, TVs etc which all use energy. Manufacturing these goods and producing the energy they require also uses a lot of water. More people can afford flusing toilets, dishwashers, showers etc, which also increases water use.
The supply of resources isn’t increasing fast enough because:
- Climate: some countries have low rainfall so water supplies are inadequate. This limits how much food they can grow. Climate change is likely to change rainfall patterns, further affecting crop growth and water availibility.
- Geology: some countries have no fossil fuels reserves and may not have a suitable landscape for producing renewable energy e.g. wind or hydropower. Geology can also limit water supply e.g. when rainfall falls onto permeable rock (e.g. sandstone) it flows into the rock and can form underground water stores which are difficult to access.
- Conflict: can disrupt transport of resources e.g. by damaging roads
- Poverty: some countries can’t afford the technology to exploit the natural resources that they have.
- Natural hazards: tropical storms, earthquakes and other such events can damage agricultural land and destroy infrastructure such as water pipes.