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October 23, 2013

Essay on Environmental Studies

3:40 PM

Engineering & the Environment



If any international response is to be meaningful, close cooperation at all levels is called by the complexity of the challenges facing humanity, like, the pervasiveness of force displacement and armed conflict, an increase in the intensity and number of natural disasters, and the depletion of non-renewable resources (Swaminathan, 1991, pp. 121). Developed countries have to deal with issues, like, unlimited urban expansion with limited resources, pollution and infrastructure deterioration, as problems of political conflict, disease and overpopulation are faced by developing nations.
The most well-known definition of sustainable development in all of the sustainability literature was coined by the United Nations World Commission on Development and Environment. Nonrenewable resources, like, mineral and fuels, renewable resources, like, crops and woods that not faster than their rate of replenishment can be harvested and continuous resources, like, wind and sunlight, the use of which does not lead to a reduction in their size, are the three kinds of reserves of natural resources that can be identified.
A slow geological process creates the non-renewable resources, and they are so slow that the available stocks can be diminished by their use, in human terms. Given the time required for their recovery, resources, like, biodiversity, fertile soils and clean water, can also be considered as non-renewable (Haq, 1997, pp. 1). The purpose of this paper is to discuss and investigate the five most non-renewable resource depletion issues facing mankind and in order to ensure sustainable global development, what could be the most effective and appropriate technological interventions.

Statement of Scope / Objectives of Study

Within the limitations of the global environment, the process to improve the quality of human life, is known as, sustainability. Solutions for human welfare are included in that does not result in impinging on the well-being of other people and degrading the environment. Maintenance of a rational supply of opportunity and resources for current and the next age band, understanding the interconnections among environment, society and economy and to preserve the lifespan the survival within defined restrictions of the capability, are the three basic concepts involved in sustainable measures.
Often with development strategies and new technology, the resources have been found substitutes, depleted and in abundance with others, throughout history. Natural resources surpluses were converted into infrastructural and financial wealth as trading systems were approached by the society with great difficulty. Three waves of concern about the environment and resources were summarised (Wiesbaden, 1981, pp. 90). The first subject of the matter was the quantifiable interactions between economic development and availability of the resource, was in the early 1950s, and the late 1940s, which to increase rates of production, resulted in technical progress.
The subject of the matter regarding the environmental capability to reprocess contamination resultant from development as well as the awareness that limits in growth were led by the scare natural resources were the second concept by the early 1970s and the late 1960s. Great struggle of welfares was led inn the demand for environmental services.
Natural systems were viewed by ecologists as assets that were associated with the flexibility of these structures and that serve as reservoirs of material and energy, in order to recover following intervention or stress. However, environmental quality and the market were mainly concentrated by the economists, in order to see that environmental quality has been under provided and undervalued and included in market transactions. At the beginning of the 1970s, attention to the depletion of resources was first drawn by the Club of Rome, this was the third concept.
The emphasis was on the depletion of mineral and fossil resources, at that time. It was assumed that within a few decades, the various material natural resources, like, various metal ores and oil, would be exhausted, which turned out to be true, later on. The estimated remaining lifetimes of some resources have been considerably extended as the recovery of lower grade ores; have been made possible by discoveries of falling energy prices, technological advances and new deposits (Drew &, 2002, pp. 19).  But this is no reason for complacency, since at the current rate of consumption; the reserves of certain resources will be exhausted, sooner or later.
There is a danger that critical that critical thresholds will be crossed, as other resources, like, fertile soils and biodiversity are being used up so quickly, and this may be a long way off for a number of mineral ores and fossil fuels. Fertile soils and biodiversity are being rapidly used up, that makes the drain on biotic resources particularly alarming. It is indicated by the research of WWF that in twenty five years, based on the measurements of the loss of marine animal species, freshwater and the forest areas, has declined by thirty per cent. In the last thirty years, half of the natural forest cover worldwide has already been disappeared.
Only one per cent of the original forest cover is left of Europe. The 2/3rd of the poverty, which is an essential underlying cause of further deforestation, is carried out by small farmers who want to obtain wood for fuel and clear land for cultivation. For most of the rest, commercial logging for timber is responsible. With the worldwide demand for commercial timber products grow and the numbers of people with a low income, the pressure on the remaining forests is increasing. Since protein is comprised by the diet of people and as the population of the world rises, the demand for agricultural land will also rise with the demand for food.
Leading to loss of biodiversity and more soil erosion, less suitable land is being brought into cultivation, as almost all the best agricultural land is already cultivated. The basis of agricultural production is the fertile soil. Intensive efforts will be needed, as in the last fifty years; twenty five per cent of all fertile soils have been degraded or lost. In 3rd world countries, in a number of significant food producing area, significant problems are forecasted and the poorer countries are worst affected. At an extremely slow rate, the soil recovers naturally, and the costs of restoration cannot be afforded by these countries due to its high cost.
The pressure on the reserves of suitable agricultural land has also been increased by the growth in biofuels. Twenty to twenty five per cent of all suitable agricultural land will be needed for biofuel crops by the year of 2050 if a large-scale conversion to biofuels reduce the availability of fossil fuels and stimulate the greenhouse gas policies, in accordance to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands (Sutinen &, 2005, pp. 27). Given the considerable rise in the demand land for the production of food, it is hardly conceivable that this can happen.
The worldwide demand for mineral and fossil resources also continues to grow. Growth in the use of fossil fuels may also be inhibited by the global policies, in order to reduce greenhouse gases. Over the next fifty years, the demand for metals is forecasted to be doubled over and compare to fossil fuels, the demand for a number of mineral ores may even be rising faster. The result is that since the demand for raw materials rises and the world population grows, the availability of many resources is declining.
The backbone of every economy is the resources. Environmental services and raw materials for production of services and goods are the two basic functions provided by the resources. Flow resources, like, wind and solar energy, environmental resources, like, soil, water and air, slowly renewable resources, like, forests, quickly renewable resources, like, fish, recyclable and non-renewable resources, like, minerals a non-recyclable and non-renewable resources, like, fossil fuels, are the common classification of natural resources. In the usage of resources, which were non-renewable and renewable, an essential role is played by the issue of depletion.
When extraction exceeds renewal rate, depletion occurs in the renewable resources. The sink function is included in the environmental services which recycles and assimilates waste products from consumption and production (Gupta, 2007, pp. 189). Environmental and flow resources always exist and are not depleted. However, with rendered useless and pollution, the environmental resources can be degraded by pollution.
The history of the non-renewable and natural resources provided the statement of scope for this paper. The objectives of the study are the detailed discussion and investigation about the most critical non-renewable resource (NRR) depletion issues faced by the human kind and are the effective and appropriate technological interventions that can be considered in order to ensure sustainable global development.

Literature Review

The Weak and Strong Sustainability

Capital stocks are built in transforming and using resources, which is another argument that has been emerged. The wealth of the future and present generations are added by the capital stocks. A constructive connection between procedures of quality of environment and economic growth is argued by some economists. The concept of strong and weak sustainability was led by this argument, and the amount to which natural and synthetic systems of investment can be substitutes for everyone, was referred to this concept. There is a magnificent amount of replacement in weak sustainability, though the benefits of the further use of the resource will have to be larger to validate the usage as the resource become scarce.
The fact that income increases, the environment is degraded, and resources are exploited, throughout the initial growth’s phases, was the fact and the basis of this concept. However, at a critical point, since the influences of the environment of the initial commercial growth phases, were restored by the higher-income society, the environmental quality begins to improve. This relationship has been recently reviewed as a Prototype Environmental Kuznets’s Curve, based on the assumption, human technology and knowledge is increased by the synthetic investment used in the initial growth’s phases and leads to sustainable economic growth as there is an optimal substitution of resources.
However, for alternative welfare and resources, greater investments to the future generations, is led by the potential of new technologies that are pacified with concerns about irreversible loss of resources, like, global warming and biodiversity (Ghai & Vivian, 1992, pp. 213). To maintain critical levels of environmental services, there is a need and there is no possibility of having unlimited substitution between man-made and natural capital, this was the argument of string sustainability.
For example, the limiting factors in present economic development are the old forests and fisheries that are the small stocks of natural capital. The availability of nature resources and functions will be affected by the capacity of the earth to recycle and assimilate waste, and the earth is of a definite size, was another arguments. It was suggested that sustainability must be perceived that rather than antagonistic to natural capital, a structure in which improvements related to economic and/or growth in the life’s quality take place in an incorporated system, which is complimentary.

The Sustainability and Natural Resource Use

Due to the use of raw materials, the exhaustion of reserves is in large part. There are other causes too, like, needs of land for infrastructure and housing. But the rate of consumption of natural resources is largely determined by the use of raw materials. The economic and social impacts of the use of natural resources cannot always be justified, and the environmental problems are caused all over the world, by the use and extraction of natural resources (Folke &, 2002, pp. 437). There are three aspects of natural resource use.

The Environmental Impacts

The loss of natural areas, the significant movements of materials through the biosphere, the disruption of materials cycle led by the introduction of previously unavailable matter into the biosphere, and the direct impacts of extraction, like, the impacts on the landscape and the nature of opencast mining are the various environmental impacts that are led by the use of natural resources. The use of pesticides in the production of acidification and food caused by the combination of fossil fuels is the various other environmental impacts that are associated with the use of natural resources.
Large local environmental impacts and far-reaching impact were caused by the extraction of minerals and fossil fuels. Examples are the recent disasters of oil spills from Russian oil fields and the recent disasters in Hungary/Romania and Spain. During the distribution and transport of oil, accidents continue to occur, and these can impact the marine environment severely. In terms of global environmental effects, the most significant human activity is the use of natural resources. The greatest environmental impact worldwide is led by the production of agricultural raw materials.
Fertility is diminishing, and a prominent deal of land is required. The health effects and ecological impacts are caused by the use of pesticides, and with the need of the crops, the mineral use is not balanced, and the large areas of soils are being lost.

The Ecological Limits

Large environmental impacts are found by the use of reserves of natural resources, and they easily exceed the ecological limits. To keep the effects of climate change within manageable proportions, the heightened greenhouse effect must be reduced by fifty to seventy per cent, in accordance to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Despite a small number of successes, the loss of biodiversity is continuing undiminished. To enable biodiversity to be maintained at present levels, various attempts have been made to estimate how large an area of the land area of the world must be left undisturbed (Lele, 1991, pp. 607).  The loss of areas of vast value for biodiversity can be led by the increasing demand for buildings, forestry and land for agriculture.

The Future and Resource Use

Disagreeing opinions have also led by the concept of sustainability defined by the Brunt land Commission, which states that the same sort of share of the intergenerational equity, opportunities and resources must be given to future generations. The summary of one perception is related to the query regarding the intergenerational justice can be answered in case of exploitation of non-renewable resources. Since it is a common sense that contradicts the whole concept of equity, for future generations, only a minor part of the unusual quantity will be accessible at any portion of resources usage, although the time period of energy resources becoming economic for exploitation is unknown currently.
In the early 1960s, since numerous types of whales were startled nearly to extermination that led to decline of the supply of whale oil and outlines the other side of the arguments of economic scarcity and resource availability. The needs for whale oil were replaced by the development of low-cost electricity and petroleum products. It was found that both non-renewable and renewable resources become more not less, by examining the period between the year of 1870 and the year of 1957 (Nijkamp &, 1990, pp. 153).
The use of different hypotheses by each side was the reason behind this on-going argument. Since the environmentalists believe that with resource depletion, the rising environmental costs and falling production costs were not included, though acknowledging with the technical developments’ benefits. Rather than focusing on the extraction of mineral resources and opportunity costs of finding, abandoning of the fixed stock paradigm was agreed by both schools of thought.
Before physical depletion becomes an issue, economic depletion therefore occurs. In addition, less-costly substitutes are found, obsolete mineral commodities are found, new deposits are discovered, new cost saving technology is developed, and the economic incentives are strengthened by the higher prices. To create better technology, more good minds can be led by the increase in population. Since, resources are a product of human ingenuity that are resulted from the creation of science and technology and are not natural, finite and fixed and ideas to change the atmosphere for purposes of human, are carried by the humans, who are the active agent.
However, on the other hand, the mineral prices and costs were kept rising in the past, by the forces and new technology, of whom the pessimist were well aware. The wisdom of assuming that mineral scarcity can be kept in check by the new technology and market incentives, was questions, as the demand for mineral commodities was seen rising rapidly by the pessimists. Now technology was viewed by them with some suspicion and was a two-edged sword for them (Binswanger, 2001, pp. 119). Serious problems, like, loss of biodiversity and global warming were led by technology and benefits like, lower-cost mineral commodities, were also provided.


The Sustainability and Development

The issue of development can be presented as a generic approach. Based on the comprehension that the advanced of technical scientific produced the social economic development and also assure the progress and growth of the power, and the liberties of the men and human virtues, the vision of the occidental humanist paradigm is justified by the principal idea of development. As supreme truth from this development, this vision can be synthesized, that technical scientific development leads to Socio economic development, which finally leads to growth and progress.
Thus, the idea of development is still tied to the economic rationality as it is continuously tragically underdeveloped. Moreover, in comparison to modernization, the idea of development is diminished (Hopwood &, 2005, pp. 38). The application in the entire world of a unique model of modernization has been conducted by this kind of ethnocentrism and therefore is also related to the underdeveloped countries. Based on an environmental, economic, social, cultural sustainable development, there is a possibility think about a new mode of social organization or development.
The understanding of natural resources being, not infinite brings in the concept of sustainable development. The new idea about a sustainable development was built by the recognition of the actual unsustainability of the development patterns of the coeval society.

The Strategies and Reduction Targets

To cut land consumption and take of other resources by a factor of two to four, to reduce the greenhouse effect, and to cut fossil fuel consumption by a factor of four to ten, are the challenges faced by the Western World. In the production of products and materials, this challenge goes much further than the automatic process of energy efficiency and improving materials (Andrae &, 2007, pp. 180). Use of alternative resources and raw materials, developing new services and products, making better use of resources in the economy, limiting wastage of energy and materials in consumption and production chains, and bringing materials used in line with functional use, are the fundamental changes that are required.
Half of the consumer use of fossil fuels is for domestic activities and passenger transport. Great savings to be made here are allowed by current technologies. Zero-energy houses are a possibility; in which 10 to 20 is the amount of gas consumption is used in existing home. The fuel consumption of cars by a factor of four can also be reduced by the possible use of current technologies. In compare to the expectation, the introduction of these technologies is progressing more slowly, since adapting and replacing the existing products will take a long time, as existing products have a long life.
Almost half of this is taken up by food consumption. During the various consumption and production phases, food is lost throughout the whole chain, due to spoilage, an unnecessarily high proportion of meat and also because of wasteful diets with too much calorific and protein content. The target for metal and wood products is the same reduction in energy consumption.
Some processes will have to be replaced by others and more material will have to be recycled, to achieve this considerably (Amosu &, 20120, pp. 201). With a strong international orientation and growing levels of consumption, these developments of these changes in a society are much more valuable in the long run.

The Sustainable Development Project of Brazil in Latin America

Mata Atlantica Biosphere Reserve programme was a strategy for sustainability in Brazil, which was on a regional and much larger scale. A peasant exchange training network operating in 6 states, the Association of Alternative Technology Programmes (APTA), federal government organizations and fourteen federal states, were involved in this programme. The programme was located in Espirito Santo States and was coordinated by the State Department for Environmental Affairs. Thirty six per cent of the Mata Atlantica biosphere reserve was acquired by the Espirito Santo State.
Because of the cultivation of eucalyptus to produce cellulose and the green revolution policies, the areas were suffering from severe agricultural and structural development problems. To reverse the deterioration of the remaining 5% of the original sub tropic forests was the main objective of the program. The world’s most threatened ecosystem was comprised by the original sub tropic forests. To improve the local standards of living and the economic conditions of the region was the second social object of the program. To promote agricultural production by ecologically sustainable and local techniques was the additional objective of the APTA.
In the year of 1988, this programme was set up in Brazil and received twenty five per cent from the federal government and seventy five per cent from the World Bank. The programme was executed by the several NGO’s and the APTA network and several meetings among the different governmental parties. For a forest monitoring system, a coastal management project and for economic and ecological zoning, a general state system for environmental information was created. Some good example of improvement in the technical and scientific work performed by the Rio Doce Forestry Commission was the recovery of degraded areas, the management of native tree species and the agroforestry systems by using pioneer species in systems.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy in practice, some indicators were defined to evaluate, like, increase in the numbers of visitors, reduction in deforestation, increase in the population of endangered species and biodiversity conservation (Walsh &, 2006, pp. 45). For the training of the technicians of the NGO and the use of appropriate agro-ecological and seeds production techniques, through implementation and research programmes, state conservation programmes, better coordination between business and government forestry sector and indirect pressure, those efforts were coordinated with those of APTA as improvement of state regulations.


The first worldwide step towards recognizing the ability of humans in technology to improve global systems for current and future generation, was highlighted by the advice given by the Brunt land Commission in the year of 1987, that stated that the current needs must be addressed in such a way that the future generations do not have to compromise on their needs, although the concept of optimising and preserving human welfare and resources has been less or more the norm. The current known and unknown are distinguished by the concept of sustainability.
On one, side, there are people who are convinced that with the new technology, recycling, material substitution, appropriate public policies and market incentives, the needs of the world can be satisfied indefinitely. However, on the other hand, there are people who are convinced that the demand of the world for other mineral resources and oil cannot be supported forever by the earth (Hamilton & Atkinson, 2006, pp. 309). To improve the standard of living, it is impossible to know that the desires of people around the globe will either be frustrated or promoted by the future trends in resource availability.
All the proposed ideologies have been based on assumptions about the future course of technology and are based on debatable assumptions. The development of sustainability cannot be imposes on large, small or community scale, and it has been observed from the case studies. Decision makers are required to be willing to modify their approaches in accordance to changes in the technological advances, human desires and needs and the environment since rather than a static state, sustainability is a dynamic concept. This means that if the context changes, actions that contribute today to sustainability, either in reality or in perception, may be deemed detrimental tomorrow.


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