23 June 2024

Using natural resources wisely


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By: Dr. Rulia Akhtar

The production of necessities like food, energy, and raw materials for manufacturing is based on natural resources. Food comes from plants or animals in all cases. Heat, light, and energy are provided by resources like coal, natural gas, and oil, enabling a variety of human needs like sustenance, warmth, and mobility. They also aid in the production of solar energy through sunlight, animal feed, and fertile soil.

The overuse of these resources is causing environmental degradation, which has become a major worldwide concern. Because they either directly or indirectly contribute to climate change and environmental degradation, human activities in many different domains pose serious risks to the environment. Attention has been drawn to the effects of climate change on environmental quality, highlighting the serious dangers that life on Earth faces as a result of continued human activity and damage to the environment.

The main source of human activity is natural resources, which offer necessary services and materials for the advancement and expansion of the economy. As a result, the environment is harmed by the depletion, extraction, processing, and exploitation of these resources, which has an effect on ecological systems and lowers environmental quality. Soil erosion, desertification, climate change, carbon dioxide emissions, and air, water, and land pollution are examples of this degradation. Natural resources are crucial for reducing the damaging effects of human activity on the environment.

As a result, there is a focus on protecting and wisely using these resources, and regulations have been implemented to stop waste. It has long been acknowledged as being essential to reducing the negative effects of human activity on the environment. For example, forest resources protect landscapes from erosion brought on by animals, people, or water flow, among many other advantages they offer to the environment. Furthermore, because they recycle nutrients into the soil and break down dead plant matter, forests are essential for preserving soil fertility.

Malaysia’s wealth of natural resources, which are mostly supplied by ecosystem services, have produced significant economic benefits. The nation’s natural resource base is a valuable asset, so managing ecosystem services effectively with an emphasis on conservation and sustainable use in particular must be given top priority. To guarantee that current and future generations can continue to enjoy the gifts of nature and to encourage environmentally responsible development, sustainable management of natural resources is essential.

Natural resource rent is the money received from the extraction or use of natural resources, such as minerals, oil, gas, or forests. It has serious detrimental effects on the environment even though it has the ability to boost a country’s economy.

First, the extraction of natural resources frequently results in deforestation, disturbance of ecosystems, and contamination of air, water, and soil, which leads to habitat loss, a decline in biodiversity, and a reduction in the functions of ecosystems.

Second, greenhouse gases are released during the extraction and burning of fossil fuels like petrol and oil, which exacerbates climate change. The increased profits from the extraction of fossil fuels may encourage more exploitation, exacerbating the effects on the climate.

Third, depleting water supplies for multiple uses can cause competition and scarcity, which will be bad for communities, agriculture, and ecosystems that depend on water for different uses.

Fourth, substantial land usage for infrastructure is required for large-scale exploitation of natural resources, which compromises biodiversity and ecosystem health by producing deforestation, habitat loss, and ecosystem fragmentation. Fifth, the exploitation of natural resources has the potential to invade indigenous lands, endangering their way of life and cultural legacy.

Fifth, the revenue generated by natural resources frequently goes to a small number of people or foreign organisations, hence escalating social and economic disparities and impeding fair development.

Furthermore, effective governance is essential to preventing environmental harm caused by human activity in order to conserve natural resources. It is crucial to establish laws and policies that are specifically designed to reduce the negative effects that human activity has on the environment. Increasing the effectiveness of natural resource use encourages the development of eco-friendly economies. In the end, responsible and sustainable resource management techniques must be adopted by corporations, governments, and civil society organisations in order to address these environmental issues.

These could be putting environmental laws into effect, practicing conservation, interacting with the community, and making investments in eco-friendly and alternative energy sources. Sustainable natural resource management guarantees the preservation of resources for future generations, ensuring their access to the same resources that are available today, in addition to helping to protect the environment and decrease pollution, which in turn protects human health and ecosystems.

The author is a Research Fellow at the Ungku Aziz Centre for Development Studies (UAC), Universiti Malaya, and may be reached at uacds@um.edu.my