Natural resources are those which occur naturally in the environment. It may be biotic or abiotic. It may be renewable or non-renewable. It may be exhaustive or non-exhaustive. It may be actual or potential.
Natural resources can be classified into abiotic and biotic. Abiotic resources encompass non-living things such as land, water, air and minerals and ores such as iron, copper, gold, silver etc. Biotic resources relating to those obtainable from the biosphere and have organic implicit in it such as forest and their products, birds, animals, marine organism including fish. Coal and petroleum are derived from decay organic materials and therefore included in this category.
Natural resources can be categorized into renewable and non-renewable resources. Renewable resources can be reproduced, replenished and are non-exhaustible. Sunlight, water, air, wind, agricultural products including forest produce. Their availability and quantity do not get exhausted due to human consumption. Some of these may get depleted for the time being and get replenished easily. A few may take a longer time. Forest, for example takes longer time to return to its status quo since trees take 20-30 years to mature. Water gets replenished as per climatic cycle of the region specific. Agricultural crops can be reprocessed more than twice in a year. Non-renewable natural resources consists of fossil fuel and minerals which are termed as such since the rate of consumption is far faster than their rate of recovery.Non-renewables such as metallic minerals can be recycled but coal and oil can not be bought to their original state by recycling.
Natural resources can also be divided into actual and potential. All such natural resources which have been identified in terms of quality and quantity are actual. Such resources are accepted and are used. There may be actual resources which are kept under reserve for future use. We often hear such key words as forest reserve, coal reserve etc. The most fascinating kind of natural resource is the potential natural resource. We may not know the exact quality and quantity but have a scientific validation of such presence. Oil exploration in high seas and mineral mapping all around the world are cases of example. We have added universal debris floating around the earth, moon and the mars in this category where we expect some positive result and ways to acquire.
Some of the natural resources are being exploited to an extent that there is fear of complete depletion or extinction. Natural resource industries such as petroleum, coal mining, hunting, fishing and forestry are on the danger zone due to excessive withdrawal without giving proper time for its natural restoration. Many species of animals, birds, marine creatures, trees, plants, bushhes, shrubberies are on the verge of extinction.
Public awareness is drawn in through several measures some of which are regulatory. States have enforced various statutes against illegal mining. There are several forests and animal protection laws in place. A scientific study course has been introduced previously, Conservation Biology. This is focused on the study of the status and nature of biodiversity and ways and means to protect species, their habitat and ecosystem from extinction. There is a complete course on Natural resource management which deals with the management of natural resources and describes improvement in quality of life for the present and the future. These courses are part of sustainable environmental development program.
The lives of people and the economy of a country are highly dependent upon the natural resource banks. Without an alternative is presented, there is little scope of fundamental protection of natural resources from extinction. One alternative is the exploration of limitless natural renewable resources such as solar radiation, wind energy, geothermal energy etc. Organic fuel such as ethanol is being researched upon for commercial exploitation. We have still been unable to tame the rain water for domestic, agricultural and industrial use. Rain water harvesting is being given its due importance. There are forest and marine sanctuaries to protect animals and birds.
There is yet another alternative. Our space exploration may, in near future, open up gates for import of precious minerals. The Earth, its moon and the other planets have taken birth from similar debris floating around the Sun. There is every reason that precious minerals are also in abundance. We may find some more elements which are more precious and productive than those ever found on the Earth.Let not history of wars for control of non renewable repeat. We must learn to "Live and let live" lest star trek may turn into star wars.