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Natural Resource Depletion 

By: Emilie Baliozian


Natural resource depletion is the consumption of a natural resource faster than it can be replenished. Due to an increasing global population and an increasing level of consumption per individual, humans are depleting the earth’s resources at an alarming pace.


Earth’s resources can be both renewable and non-renewable. Resources are renewable when they can be replenished by natural processes as quickly as humans use them, such as sun and wind, which are in no danger of being depleted. Non-renewable resources are natural resources that exist in finite amounts and cannot be replaced, such as fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, natural gas).


If we were to provide each individual with enough resources to meet current consumption levels, we would need one and a half earth’s worth of resources (source). Because we’re in a resource deficit, we reach Earth Overshoot Day at some point in the year, which marks the date when humans have exhausted their resource allowance for the year. In 2020, it fell on August 22nd (source).


The leading causes of natural resource depletion? Growing populations and consumption levels, poor farming practices putting stress on land and contaminating water, deforestation putting stress on forest biodiversity, metal mining for technological equipment and jewelry, and pollution degrade resources and natural habitats (source).


Natural resource depletion can lead to many threats to humanity. Today, approximately one billion people lack access to clean water due to deforestation and contamination. Water shortages lead to war, famine, and food insecurity. Deforestation leads to a build-up of greenhouse gases, loss of biodiversity, and more flooding and drought. Same with minerals like phosphorus, copper, and zinc, which sustain life on earth. Studies show that the planet could run out of phosphorus – essential for plant growth, in the next 50 to 100 years (source).


One of the most important things we can do to avoid natural resource depletion is to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Recycling materials like metal, plastic, and glass also mitigate resource depletion and reduces the ecosystem destruction of mining, drilling, and deforestation (source). Forest management and sustainable farming practices are other ways of controlling our use of resources and preserving the environment.