The scarcity of natural resources impedes economic growth. Economic growth cannot continue unhindered when the environment is overexploited beyond its carrying capacity. The maximum use by the economic system that the environment bears is defined as the carrying capacity of the environment.
Sustainable uses of Natural Resources and Economic Development
Our dilemma is that we in the developing economies cannot afford to forego economic growth although the present economic growth causes environment damage. And irreparable environmental losses limit the prospect of future economic growth. What would be the solution to our dilemma? How can we achieve higher economic growth with environmental degradation? The answer to this could be found in the notion of sustainable development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generation to meet their own needs.
This definition emphasizes two important things. One, that natural resources are vital to every one of us- even to the urban future generations. That, it is a long-term concept. It does not narrowly focuses only on the present economic growth but it also takes into account the future economic growth. Thus, sustainable development is a kind of economic development that ensures the availability of natural resources even for the future use. If the economic development is sustainable then the present use of natural resources will not limit us from their use in the future. It will not make them scare. It involves the present as well as the future of the economic development. That makes it a long-term concept.
Ways to Conserve the Natural Resources
The long-term use of natural resources has to be sustainable to avoid their future scarcity. In case of renewable resources, the task is easy. Since they are inexhaustible, their present use does not compromise their future use. Their sustainable use would mean that they are not overexploited but allowed to regenerate. Among them, some are living or animate. Living renewable resources like trees regenerates automatically because they reproduce themselves. Their reproductive ability makes them inexhaustible but to certain extent. When trees are cut for wood we do not lose them for the future use. We get them back again when we sow their seeds or replant sapling. But we lose them forever when they are recklessly leaving none of them to grow. So even if the living resources have the ability to regenerate they should not be overexploited.
The ability inanimate renewable resources like air, water and sunlight to regenerate them is quite different from the animate renewable resources. They regenerate themselves by various physical, chemical and biological natural processes. The purity of water is maintained naturally by the physical process of evaporation. Similarly, carbon dioxide, one of the pollutants of air is removed from and oxygen is resorted to it by the process of photosynthesis in green plants and trees.
Although inexhaustible renewable natural resources regenerate themselves automatically, yet they should not be used recklessly. We can take the example of water. Water is a scare source today yet people waste and pollute it because they find it unlimited in supply. Water is in great scare in many parts of out country. People do not have enough clear water to drink. The pollution of drinking water is the cause of water borne diseases. The scarcity of clear drinking water has led to the growth of the market of various brands of bottled water. They are costly and the poor people cannot afford them.
To save water from pollution and wastage, it is very essential to conserve water. Water can be conserved by the following ways: Harvest, rain-water; check overflow of roof-top tanks; recycled used water; increase the price of the user charge to check its wastage.
The sustainable use of exhaustible resources is a difficult task because they are finite in availability. Once used, they are not available for future use. For example, coal which is an exhaustible resource once burnt is reduced to ash. Ash cannot be used again in future for burning. Thus, the finiteness of non-renewable resources compels us to save them for their future use. Although use of these resources is the need of the present time but it is very essential for us that we should use them very efficiently.
For their sustainable use, the inexhaustible resources need to be conserved. One of the ways to conserve these resources is the use of substitutes. The use of a substitute resource that is abundant in supply can help save them. For example, petrol and diesel can be substituted by CNG and LPG. Similarly, ethanol mixed with petrol, good substitute of petrol saves the use of petrol in vehicles. These substitutes of oil are not only cheap but are environment friendly as they pollute less. Today plastics have widely replaced steel, iron and wood.
In certain uses, renewable resources that are infinite in availability can overcome the finite of non-renewable resources. That helps save the non-renewable resource. Inexhaustible resources like solar energy, wind energy, biofuels or gobar gas can replace oil and coal and thus can help in saving these exhaustible resources. In many villages of India solar energy appliances like solar cookers, solar lanterns and solar cells are being encouraged and promoted by the government. Solar energy is used for heating solar cooker and lighting solar lantern purposes instead of kerosene coastal areas the wind energy harnessed by the windmills is being used to draw water from wells and to generate electricity.
The task of sustainable use of exhaustible resources is difficult in comparisons to that of the inexhaustible resources, yet it is not difficult. To same them for the future use we must conserve, save and use them efficiently. It should also be our utmost duty to try to find ways and means to substitute them by abundant resources especially the inexhaustible resources. Finally, it is also very essential for us to try limiting our wants which are the chief cause to natural resource depletion.