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Updated: May 7

The Earth’s natural resources include air, water, soil, minerals, fuels, plants, and animals. Conservation is the practice of caring for these resources so all living things can benefit from them now and in the future.


All the things we need to survive, such as food, water, air, and shelter, come from natural resources. Some of these resources, like small plants, can be replaced quickly after they are used. Others, like large trees, take a long time to replace. These are renewable resources.


Other resources, such as fossil fuels, cannot be replaced at all. Once they are used up, they are gone forever. These are nonrenewable resources.


People often waste natural resources. Animals are overhunted. Forests are cleared, exposing land to wind and water damage. Fertile soil is exhausted and lost to erosion because of poor farming practices. Fuel supplies are depleted. Water and air are polluted.


If resources are carelessly managed, many will be used up. If used wisely and efficiently, however, renewable resources will last much longer. Through conservation, people can reduce waste and manage natural resources wisely.


The population of human beings has grown enormously in the past two centuries. Billions of people use up resources quickly as they eat food, build houses, produce goods, and burn fuel for transportation and electricity. The continuation of life as we know it depends on the careful use of natural resources.


The need to conserve resources often conflicts with other needs. For some people, a wooded area may be a good place to put a farm. A timber company may want to harvest the area’s trees for construction materials. A business may want to build a factory or shopping mall on the land.


All these needs are valid, but sometimes the plants and animals that live in the area are forgotten. The benefits of development need to be weighed against the harm to animals that may be forced to find new habitats, the depletion of resources we may want in the future (such as water or timber), or damage to resources we use today.


Development and conservation can coexist in harmony. When we use the environment in ways that ensure we have resources for the future, it is called sustainable development. There are many different resources we need to conserve in order to live sustainably.

courtesy national geographic




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