This Natural Resource and Science section addresses the question posed at the end of the case study:
- How is matter organized on Earth? What are the fundamental cycles of matter that form the basis of our natural resources? What are Earth’s principal natural resources? What are the environmental impacts of natural resource extraction and use?
The Earth provides all of the resources that sustain and enhance human life. Plants, animals, water, air, soil, and rock provide food energy, nourishment, and oxygen needed for life, as well as materials for building shelter and making clothing. Fossil fuels and wood are harvested and burned in order to provide the energy we need to cook food, produce heat and electricity, and provide transportation. Other natural resources, such as minerals, metal ores, and precious metals, have been used by humans for thousands of years to make products, and to develop and modernize human cultures. In the modern industrial world, natural resources still form the raw material used to produce all of the technology that so drastically shapes our lives. However, the sheer quantity of modern resource use and extraction has a major impact on the Earth’s ecosystems, the other organisms that live on the planet, and on us.
Who are natural resources for? This is an important question that will be discussed in the upcoming Spirituality Section.
In order to make use of all of Earth’s natural resources, we must harvest or extract them, and in some cases, transform them into materials that can be used for our consumption. The rates at which we harvest resources, and the methods by which we extract them, impact Earth’s natural cycles and the availability and quality of natural resources for those who come after us. Therefore, it is important to take a close look at how we harvest and extract natural resources.