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World issues

Natural resources

Trees, fresh water, water power—all natural resourcesTrees, fresh water, water power—all natural resourcesNatural resources are things that humans need and use, and which occur naturally in nature, undisturbed or unchanged by people. Water and air are essential for our survival, while most other resources satisfy our needs and wants. Some natural resources, for example, metal ores, oil and other fossil fuels, must be processed in order to extract them. Only the Sun's rays, geothermal energy (heat from rocks inside the Earth) and air are inexhaustible: they will not run out in the foreseeable future. The majority of natural resources are exhaustible: they will run out if not managed carefully.


Turbines in an offshore wind farmTurbines in an offshore wind farm

Examples of natural resources

Sunlight, water, air, animals, plants, wood, soil, oil and minerals are all examples of natural resources. The raw materials are, in many cases, processed so they can be used or consumed. Many natural resources have multiple uses: animals and plants provide, for example, food, clothing and medicines, while water is used for drinking, cleaning and supplying energy (hydro-electricity). The ocean is a natural resource in a number of ways: waves can be used to generate wave power, a renewable energy, while ocean water provides a habitat for fish and other marine animals.

The estimated time left for non-renewable energy resources at the present rate of usage is: 250 years for coal, 70 years for natural gas and 50 years for oil.

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