Conservation of resources is the sustainable extraction and exploitation of resources with minimal impact on the environment, economy and society. This article answers the question; what is conservation of resources and its importance? as outlined below;
Definition of Conservation of Resources from Multiple Perspectives
Conservation of resources is a concept that can be defined from various perspectives; including ecological, social and economic (which are also the perspectives of sustainability).
Three separate definitions of resource conservation are provided in this section as follows;
1). Natural Resource Conservation
Natural resource conservation, refers to the sustainable management and protection of Earth's finite natural resources, such as water, air, soil, minerals, forests, and wildlife. It involves practices aimed at preserving these resources for present and future generations, minimizing waste, and maintaining the balance of ecosystems.
2). Ecological Resource Conservation
Ecological resource conservation focuses on preserving the integrity and diversity of ecosystems. It involves the protection of habitats, species, and ecological processes to ensure the resilience of natural environments. Conservation efforts aim to maintain the functionality and health of ecosystems, thereby enabling them to provide ecological services like pollination, water purification, and climate regulation.
3). Socioeconomic Resource Conservation
Socioeconomic resource conservation takes into account the human dimension of resource management. It involves strategies and policies that balance the utilization of natural resources with economic development and societal well-being.
This perspective aims to ensure that resources are used efficiently and equitably, considering the needs of local communities, industries, and future generations, while minimizing negative environmental impacts.
*Natural Resources and Examples
Natural resources are raw materials or substances that occur in the natural environment and have economic value to humans. These resources are often essential for survival and support both human civilization and the global economy.
Natural resources can be categorized into several types based on their origin and use, such as; renewable, non-renewable; biotic, abiotic, and energy resources. Some of these categories are interrelated and may be addressed jointly in some discussions. Below is a concise outline discussing the types/classes of natural resources.
1). Renewable Resources
2). Non-Renewable Resources
Non renewable natural resources include fossil fuels, nuclear radionuclides, minerals.
Examples of minerals are; iron, copper, and gold, which may be used in construction, manufacturing, and other fields of technology.
3). Biotic Resources
Biotic resources is a classification system that cover all natural resources that are also organic in nature. They include forests; fisheries, and agricultural crops.
Forests provide timber for construction, paper manufacturing; and are also essential for biodiversity sustenance and carbon sequestration.
Agricultural land is used for growing crops and raising livestock to feed the global population.
4). Abiotic Resources
Abiotic resources are non living and naturally-occurring, useful materials like soil, water reserves; rocks and minerals.
Soil is essential for agriculture, it provides a medium for plant growth and recycling of nutrients.
Beyond freshwater, oceans are also important water reserves that provide various resources, such as fish, and mineral salts.
Rocks and minerals are utilized in construction, manufacturing, and the production of ceramics and metals.
Although it is not traditionally considered a resource, clean air is essential for the maintenance of human health and the sustainability of the environment.
5). Energy Resources
Geothermal energy occurs as heat from within the Earth, and is utilized for electricity generation and heating.
Nuclear energy is derived from radionuclides through nuclear reactions in specialized power plants.
Effective management and sustainable utilization of natural resources, are critical measures for ensuring their availability for future generations, while minimizing present, adverse environmental impacts.
*Anthropogenic/Manmade Resources and Examples
Manmade resources, also referred to as synthetic resources or artificial resources, are materials or substances that are created, produced or manufactured by humans to serve specific purposes or meet particular needs.
Unlike natural resources, which occur naturally in the environment, manmade resources are the result of human ingenuity and technological processes. These resources are instrumental to the sustenance of modern society, and have a broad range of applications.
Some examples of manmade resources are; plastics, metals, synthetic fibers, chemical fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, synthetic fuels, composites, artificial intelligence, synthetic gemstones, artificial sweeteners, synthetic adhesives and nanomaterials. They are summarily discussed in the following outline;
Synthetic polymers like polyethylene, polypropylene, and PVC (polyvinyl chloride) are widely utilized in manufacturing, packaging, construction, and several consumer products.
Rubber compounds, including butyl rubber and neoprene, can be artificially synthesized and used in the production of seals, tires, and gaskets.
Polyurethane foam, epoxy resins, and silicone-based materials are all utilized in construction, electronics production, and other areas of manufacturing.
Alloys such as steel (derived from the combination of carbon and of iron) as well as unalloyed metals like aluminum (derived from the refinement of bauxite) are essential for construction, transportation, and the aerospace industry (aluminum is usually alloyed by mixing with other elements such as manganese, magnesium, copper and silicon, to make it suitable for some applications).
Synthetic fiber materials like polyester, nylon, and acrylic are used in the textile industry for making wearable clothing, fabrics, and carpets.
Chemical fertilizers generally contain essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, which can be used for soil conservation and to enhance crop growth and agricultural productivity.
Pharmaceuticals like drugs are synthesized to treat various medical conditions and diseases, thereby improving public health.
Synthetic fuels including refined biofuels, hydrogen fuel, and synthetic hydrocarbons are developed as alternatives to traditional fossil fuels, to aid the energy transition and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Materials such as fiberglass, carbon fiber composites, and reinforced plastics are used in the construction of lightweight, durable structures in automotive and aerospace industries.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and enzymes, are developed for agriculture, medicine, and energy production.
Synthetic gemstones such as lab-grown diamonds and sapphires, are created for use in aesthetic and industrial applications.
Artificial sweeteners are substitutes for natural sugar, like saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose, which are used in the food and beverage industry.
Glues and other synthetic adhesives are formulated for various purposes, including woodworking, and construction.
Lastly, engineered nanomaterials, such as carbon nanotubes and nanoparticles, have applications in electronics, materials science, and medicine.
Manmade resources have revolutionized various industries and notably impacted the way we live, work, and interact with the environment. Their development and responsible utilization, are critical for addressing contemporary challenges and fostering technological innovation.
*Human Resources and Examples
Human resources (HR) refer to the people who make up the workforce of an organization or society. They are individuals with various skills, knowledge, experiences, and abilities who contribute to the functioning and success of an entity.
Human resources encompass a broad range of aspects, from talent management in organizations to the overall population's skills and capabilities in a society. Some important factors in the discussion of human resources are; organizational workforce, talent management, recruitment and hiring, employee relations, compensation and benefits, training and development, diversity and inclusion, labor relations, human capital, education and training.
Human resources can be corporately categorized into various groups including healthcare professionals, public service workers, researchers and innovators, entrepreneurs and business leaders, as well as volunteers. These groups are outlined below;
In businesses and institutions, human resources refer to the employees who work for an organization, including managers, staff, and executives. This aspect of HR involves recruiting, training, managing, and developing these individuals to achieve the organization's goals.
Organizations focus on managing human resources to optimize their talents and skills. This includes identifying high-potential employees, providing training and development programs, and conducting performance evaluations.
HR departments are responsible for attracting and hiring new employees. They create job descriptions, conduct interviews, check references, and make employment offers.
HR professionals handle employee relations, including addressing workplace conflicts, providing counseling and support, and ensuring a positive work environment.
Compensation and benefits programs are also managed by HR, including salaries, bonuses, health insurance, retirement plans, and other perks to attract and retain talented employees.
Organizations invest in employee training and development to enhance skills and knowledge, improve performance, and adapt to changing industry trends.
The promotion of diversity and inclusion is important within organizations, as it ensures equal opportunities and a multicultural workforce.
Labor relations are fostered by HR professionals who engage with labor unions, to negotiate contracts, address labor disputes, and maintain positive labor relations.
In a broader societal context, human resources encompass the skills, education, and capabilities of the entire population. A highly skilled and educated population can contribute significantly to a nation's economic growth and development.
Schools, colleges, and vocational training programs are all essential components of human resources development, equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in various professions.
Doctors, nurses, therapists, and other healthcare professionals are critical human resources in the healthcare industry, providing medical care and improving public health.
Public Service Workers: Police officers, firefighters, teachers, and civil servants are essential human resources in public service sectors, contributing to the well-being and safety of communities.
Scientists, researchers, and innovators are key to driving technological advancements and discoveries, by which they contribute to human progress and development. Visionaries and entrepreneurs create businesses, facilitate economic growth, and provide employment opportunities.
In similar manner, individuals who volunteer their time and expertise to various causes and organizations contribute to the betterment of society, often without financial compensation.
Conservation of Resources Theory
The conservation of resources theory is a psychological and organizational theory that focuses on individuals' efforts to protect and conserve their personal resources to maintain well-being and cope with stress and demands effectively.
It was first introduced by Stevan E. Hobfoll in 1989, and has been influential in fields and applications such as psychology, stress management and organizational behavior.
The conservation of resources theory suggests that key principles of resource conservation include loss and gain, resource-dependent wellbeing, resource investment, loss spiral, stress buffer, preservation and growth. These principles are summarily outlined as follows;
Resource loss and gain principle acknowledges that individuals possess various personal resources, which can be tangible (such a money, possessions) or intangible (such as self-esteem, time, energy). These resources are essential for well-being and achieving life goals.
The loss or depletion of personal resources can lead to negative consequences for an individual's physical and psychological well-being. For example, losing a job can lead to financial stress, and dealing with a chronic illness can deplete one's energy and time resources.
On the other hand, acquiring or replenishing personal resources can have positive effects on an individual's well-being and stress resilience. For instance, receiving social support during a challenging time can enhance emotional well-being.
Resource investment principle rule that people invest their resources in different life domains, such as work, family, health, and leisure. Wise resource allocation and management are therefore essential to maintain well-being and manage stress effectively.
According to the concept of resource caravans, resources often interact and influence each other. For example, having a supportive family (social resource) can enhance one's ability to cope with work-related stress (work resource).
When individuals experience resource loss or depletion in one domain of life, it can lead to a spiral effect, where the loss negatively impacts other areas, creating a cycle of stress and progressive resource depletion.
Adequate resource investment can serve as a buffer against the negative effects of stress. For example, individuals with strong social support networks may be better equipped to cope with work-related stress.
Individuals actively engage in behaviors and strategies to conserve and protect their resources. These preservation efforts may include seeking social support, setting priorities, and managing time in an efficient manner.
Also, individuals can engage in resource-enhancing behaviors, such as skill development, education, and pursuing opportunities, to increase their personal resource pool.
According to the conservation of resources theory, losses of personal resources often have a more significant impact on well-being than gains of equivalent resources.
In general, the conservation of resources theory provides a framework for understanding how individuals manage their personal resources to adapt to life's challenges, protect their well-being, and build resilience in the face of stress and adversity, especially within a linear economic framework.
It has practical implications for stress management, workplace well-being, and interventions to support individuals in conserving and enhancing their resources.
Why the Conservation of Resources is Important
The conservation of resources is important for several reasons, which span environmental, economic, and social dimensions. Some reasons why the conservation of resources is essential include ecosystem preservation, climate change mitigation, limited resource availability, energy security, resource efficiency, social wellbeing, and long term planning.
These factors are outlined in categories below;
1). Environmental Sustainability
Conserving natural resources, such as forests, water bodies, and biodiversity, is a crucial step for maintaining healthy ecosystems. These ecosystems in turn provide essential services like air quality control, water purification, and pollination of crops.
Resource conservation can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, combat climate change, and mitigate its adverse effects. For example, conserving forests preserves their role as a carbon sink, and enables them capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide.
2). Resource Scarcity
Several natural resources, such as fossil fuels, minerals, and fresh water, are finite and non-renewable. Conserving these resources ensures that they are available for future generations.
Reducing energy consumption and promoting renewable energy sources can enhance energy security and reduce dependence on finite fossil fuels.
3). Economic Stability
Conservation efforts can improve resource efficiency in industries and reduce waste. This leads to cost savings, increased competitiveness, and sustainable economic growth.
The conservation of critical resources can help to stabilize their prices and prevent volatility in commodity markets, which can have largescale economic impacts.
4). Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
Conserving natural habitats is essential for the preservation of biodiversity. Biodiversity provides resilience to ecosystems and supports food security, pharmaceutical development, and genetic diversity.
Natural resources underpin ecosystem services like soil conservation, water purification, and pest control. Protecting these resources ensures the continued provision of these services.
5). Social Well-being
Clean air, water, and access to nutritious food are all vital for human health. Conserving resources safeguards these essential elements of well-being.
Resource conservation can enhance the resilience of communities to natural disasters and climate change impacts, reducing vulnerability.
6). Long-Term Planning
Resource conservation aligns with the principles of sustainable development, which aims to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Responsible resource management ensures that future generations inherit a planet with healthy ecosystems, abundant resources, and a tolerable climate.
7). Ethical and Regulatory Considerations
The conservation of resources theory acknowledges the interconnectedness of all life on Earth. It recognizes the ethical responsibility to protect and share resources equitably among all species and future generations.
Many indigenous cultures emphasize the importance of living in harmony with nature and conserving resources as part of their cultural heritage.
Also, resource conservation is often mandated by national and international laws and agreements. Non-compliance can lead to legal and financial consequences for individuals, businesses, and governments.
Problems Associated With Conservation of Natural Resources
Some of the problems associated with the conservation of natural resources are; lack of awareness, resource conflicts, rapid globalization, lack of funding, policy and governance issues, and short-term focus.
These problems in turn may lead to poverty, overexploitation, environmental degradation, habitat destruction, climate change, land pollution, invasive species' proliferation, water pollution, and air pollution. Below is an outline with more detail;
Inadequate public awareness and education about the importance of resource conservation can hinder conservation efforts. People may not understand the consequences of their actions on natural resources.
Competition for limited resources can lead to conflicts among different user groups, such as artisanal miners, farmers, fishermen, and conservationists. Resolving these conflicts can be challenging.
The globalization of markets can drive unsustainable resource extraction and trade. High demand for products like palm oil, minerals, and exotic hardwoods can contribute to deforestation and habitat destruction in distant regions.
In many cases, local communities rely on the exploitation of natural resources for their livelihoods. Conservation efforts must consider the social and economic implications for these communities and provide alternative livelihood options.
Weak environmental policies, inadequate enforcement of regulations, and corruption can hinder effective resource conservation. International agreements may lack strong mechanisms for enforcement.
Also, conservation efforts often require significant financial resources. A lack of funding can limit the implementation of conservation projects and research.
Political and economic pressures often prioritize short-term gains over long-term sustainability. This can lead to decisions that prioritize resource exploitation over conservation.
Overuse or exploitation of resources beyond their sustainable limits is a common problem. This includes overfishing, overgrazing, deforestation, and excessive water extraction, leading to resource depletion and ecosystem degradation.
Illegal activities such as logging and poaching pose significant threats to the conservation of forests and wildlife. These activities often result from weak law enforcement and systemic corruption.
The conversion of natural habitats into agricultural land, urban areas, and infrastructural sites leads to habitat loss and fragmentation. This disrupts natural equilibrium and threatens biodiversity.
Climate change is a major challenge to resource conservation. Rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events can harm ecosystems and disrupt the distribution of species.
The introduction of invasive species, often unintentionally, can exert excessive competitive pressure on native species and disrupt ecosystems. This can lead to a loss of natural resources and ecosystem function.
Pollution from industrial, agricultural, and urban sources can contaminate water bodies, making them unsuitable for aquatic life and human consumption. Polluted water negatively impacts wildlife ecosystems and human health.
Air pollutants, including some greenhouse gases, organic compounds and particulate materials, harm both natural environments and human health. They can damage vegetation, disrupt ecosystems, and contribute to climate change.
Lastly, soil erosion, salinization, and desertification can degrade land, reducing its ability to support agriculture and natural habitats. Unsustainable land management practices exacerbate these problems.
Conservation of resources is a concept that can be defined from various perspectives; including ecological, social and economic.
The conservation of resources theory is a psychological and organizational theory which suggests that key principles of resource conservation include loss and gain, resource-dependent wellbeing, resource investment, loss spiral, stress buffer, preservation and growth.
Resource conservation is important for several reasons, which include ecosystem preservation, climate change mitigation, limited resource availability, energy security, resource efficiency, social wellbeing, and long term planning.
Some of the problems associated with the conservation of natural resources are; lack of awareness, resource conflicts, rapid globalization, lack of funding, policy and governance issues, and short-term focus.