Natural resources are things that have been created by natural process. From one point of view, they are resources (or things of use) that nature has provided us with. We need them for our survival, hence it is important to know how to use them to meet our needs, and how to conserve them so that future generations can meet theirs.
Natural resources can be classified into renewable resources and nonrenewable resources.
Resources that are regenerated or replenished by natural cycles fall under this energy category. Plants, animals, microorganisms, water, air and soil are all renewable resources. We will not run out o them, provided we do not use them up at a rate faster than that at which nature can regenerate them. Consider wood, for example. We ill not run out of it so long as we do not clear forests so fast that new trees cannot replace the ones we cut down. Similarly, we will not run out offish, so long as we do not catch so many that three are not enough to breed.
You will see that though these renewable resources cannot get used up, or exhausted, they can get degraded or polluted. Also, there can be localized shortages, as for example, when a river dries up because too much water is pumped out of it.
Some renewable resources, like solar energy and wind energy, are called inexhaustible, or perpetual, resources because they will last forever (as long as the sun lasts).
Non renewable resources
These resources were created by natural process over millions of years. When we call them nonrenewable we mean that the process of regeneration would take so long that it is of no relevance to us. For all practical purposes, there is limited stock of these resources. Coal, petroleum and natural gas are nonrenewable resources. They are called fossil fuels because they were farmed by the decomposition of plants and animals buried long ago. Minerals too are nonrenewable resources.
Nonrenewable resources can also be called resources that are exhaustible. However, they can last for a very long time if we use them carefully.
Have you ever thought of the impact of the simple act of burning a matchstick on the environment?
A matchstick is a wooden stick with a head made of compounds of sulphur and phosphorus. Burning it does not mean only using wood, sulphur and phosphorus. It also means using the resources needed to cut, transport and process the wood, and to extract, transport and process the sulphur and phosphorus. Fuel and electricity are also needed to run the factory where the matchstick is made and to carry the matchstick to the market.
The act of burning a matchstick harms the environment in another way too. It releases carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide; UN burnt carbon particles, and so on, into the air. In fact, each step in the making and marketing of a matchstick releases harmful substances into the environment, or pollutes it.