We learnt in Class IX, about some natural resources like soil, air and water and how various components are cycled over and over again in nature. In the previous chapter we also learnt about the pollution of these resources because of some of our activities. In this chapter, we shall look at some of our resources and how we are using them. May be we should also think about how we ought to be using our resources so as to sustain the resources and conserve our environment. We shall be looking at our natural resources like forests, wild-life, water, coal and petroleum and see what are the issues at stake in deciding how these resources are to be managed for sustainable development.
Not just roads and buildings, but all the things we use or consume – food, clothes, books, toys, furniture, tools and vehicles – are obtained from resources on this earth. The only thing we get from outside is energy which we receive from the Sun. Even this energy is processed by living organisms and various physical and chemical processes on the earth before we make use of it.
Forests are ‘biodiversity hot spots’. One measure of the biodiversity of an area is the number of species found there. However, the range of different life forms (bacteria, fungi, ferns, flowering plants, nematodes, insects, birds, reptiles and so on) is also important. One of the main aims of conservation is to try and preserve the biodiversity we have inherited. Experiments and field studies suggest that a loss of diversity may lead to a loss of ecological stability.
Water is a basic necessity for all terrestrial forms of life. We studied in Class IX about the importance of water as a resource, the water cycle and how human intervention pollutes water bodies. However, human intervention also changes the availability of water in various regions.
We have seen some of the issues involved in the conservation and sustainable use of resources like forests, wild-life and water. These can meet our needs perpetually if we were to use them in a sustainable manner. Now we come to yet another important resource – fossil fuels, that is, coal and petroleum, which are important sources of energy for us. Since the industrial revolution, we have been using increasing amounts of energy to meet our basic needs and for the manufacture of alarge number of goods upon which our lives depend. These energy needs have been largely met by the reserves of coal and petroleum.
Sustainable management of natural resources is a difficult task. In addressing this issue, we need to keep an open mind with regard to the interests of various stakeholders. We need to accept that people will act with their own best interests as the priority. But the realisation that such selfish goals will lead to misery for a large number of people and a total destruction of our environment is slowly growing. Going beyond laws, rules and regulations, we need to tailor our requirements, individually and collectively, so that the benefits of development reach everyone now and for all generations to come.