Everything that people use is made with natural resources. Natural resources are things like water, minerals, and plants.
People use some resources just as they are found in nature. Fresh water is one of these. But most resources must be changed first. Resources that must be changed or worked are called raw materials. For example, trees are the raw materials for paper and wood.
The world is filled with natural resources. But not all resources are alike. There are two main groups.
Renewable resources can be replaced. Some are replaced naturally because of the way Earth works. Water is one of these. Earth has a steady supply of water because of the water cycle.
Some types of energy are renewable resources. Solar energy is a renewable resource. No matter how much of the suns energy we use, there will always be more. The same is true for geothermal energy.
Living things such as plants and animals are also renewable resources. With proper planning, people can have a steady supply of living resources. For example, timber companies can plant new trees to replace the ones they cut down.
The second major group of resources is called nonrenewable resources. They include most nonliving things, such as metal ores, most minerals, natural gas, and petroleum. These cannot be replaced. Coal, natural gas, and petroleum are called fossil fuels. Scientists think they were created from the remains of prehistoric living things. In time, these fuels will run out.
However, many metals, minerals, and plastics can be recycled. The resource can be reused. The material hasnt been replaced, but recycling means we will use less of the resource.
A Special Resource: Energy
Many natural resources are sources of energy. People use energy from fossil fuels. They also use energy from the wind and the sun. Dams use the power of falling water to make hydroelectric power.
People in every country need energy. But energy resources are not spread evenly around the world. Some areas have many energy resources. Others have few.
Countries like Canada and Saudi Arabia have more energy resources than they need. They sell some to other countries. Countries like Japan and the United States cannot make as much energy as they use. They have to buy energy from other countries.
Every day, people use more and more energy. There are not enough fossil fuels to meet energy needs in the future. This means that people will have to find other kinds of energy.
Here are some ideas. Wind and solar energy are available. Geothermal energy is energy from the heat of Earths interior. It will not run out. Biomass, or plant material, is a renewable source of energy.
Atomic energy uses radioactive materials. They are not renewable, but they are plentiful. Radioactive materials can be dangerous. On the other hand, atomic energy does not pollute the air.
Fossil fuels will last longer if people use less energy. New technologies can help. You may have seen hybrid cars. They use less gas. If people use less energy now, there will be more energy in the future.