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World Resources is the topic of the Weekly Chat for Module 02 during the weeks 5, 6, 7 and 8.
Background: A resource can be defined as “something we use.” Shelter, clothing, transportation, heat, and so on are all resources. The word also applies to the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we farm, and the space we use for living and recreation. Not only do people use more resources today, but they also use them faster than ever before.
There are three basic types of resources: renewable, nonrenewable, and perpetual. In human terms, wind, solar energy, and the movement of tides last forever, so they can be considered perpetual. Renewable resources are replenished through natural or human actions. For example, trees may grow either naturally or on tree farms. Animals that give us food and other products are replaced naturally through reproduction. But renewable resources must be carefully managed. If a renewable resource is overused, it will not recover. Nonrenewable resources exist in finite amounts and once used are gone. Coal, oil, rocks, and minerals such as gold are examples of nonrenewable natural resources that took millions or even billions of years to form.
Coal, like all fossil fuels, is a nonrenewable resource. Because it formed over millions of years, it contains an astounding amount of energy. When burned, this energy is released in the form of heat, which can be used to generate electricity. But along with all that wonderful energy come some not-so-wonderful things, too, like mercury, sulphur dioxins, lead (another toxic metal), and greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change. These pollutants are causing major problems all across the world.
One reason we continue to burn coal is that there’s still a lot of it, compared to oil. It’s also easy to turn coal’s energy into power—today’s power plants operate on much the same principle as the first one ever built. Yet because of this, coal is used inefficiently. At a typical modern power plant, for every one unit of energy turned into electricity, two units are wasted!
Scientists, engineers, and energy policy makers are exploring ways to reduce pollution and improve the efficiency of coal-fired power plants, and they’re also inventing and implementing alternatives to coal like solar and wind.
In the meantime, each of us can play a part in making a difference in how we use our natural resources. Building a sustainable future requires a shift in the ways we extract natural resources, a shift in the ways we use natural resources—and a shift in the way we think about products that are made from natural resources. In other words, every one of us has a role to play in making a sustainable future.
Some questions to possibly open the chat with or discuss prior to the LIVE chat!
What types of resources do you use in your daily life? Are these mostly renewable or nonrenewable?
Would you be willing to change your actions to use fewer resources? What suggestions can you make to reduce the amount of resources consumed in your life?
Are the world’s governments being active enough in conserving resources? Are you?