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The Past, Present, and Future of Earth’s Natural Resources (November 2018): Conclusion

By Brian Shmaefsky


Of all the natural resources used by humans, two stand out as having the biggest impact on human survival and environmental quality. Mineral and fossil fuel resources are largely responsible for moving human civilization from hunter-gatherer societies to heavily industrialized urban ones. Mineral resources provided efficient implements for procuring food, conducting warfare, and building large structures. Fossil fuels gave humans the energy needed to power heavy duty machinery, produce electricity, improve transportation, and maintain large urbanized cities. Today, demand for these vital resources continues to grow, while the Earth’s supply does not. The cultures that took the most advantage of these resources have caused their depletion through overconsumption and environmental destruction.

A progression of policies and recommended practices is working to address of our rapid pace of natural resource depletion. Unfortunately, there are many consequences associated with the reduction of mineral and fossil fuel consumption. New difficulties arise as existing problems are remedied. Efforts to change the psychosocial factors leading to resource depletion include promoting sustainability and resource security philosophies. Hopefully, we will gradually develop more prudent resource consumption practices before herculean measures are needed to survive in a world with depleted resources.