Notes for Patterns in resource consumption

Notes for Patterns in resource consumption for IB SL Geography, unit 4

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  • Created on: 14-05-13 10:58

Ecological footprints

Ecological footprint: the theoretical measurement of the amount of land and water a population requires to produce the resources it consumes and to absorb its waste, under prevailing technology. 

Arable land: land for growing crops.  Pasture land: land for growing animals. Forests: Land for fuel, futniture and buildings. Oceans: for fish and other marine products. Infrastructure: transportation, factories and housing, based on the built-up land used for these needs. Energy costs: the land required for absorbing carbon dioxide emissions and other energy wastes. 

The planet's biocapacity is estimated to be 1.9 hectares per person. Currently, we are using up 2.2 hectares per person. We are living above the planet's biocapacity to sustain us. If we continue to use up resources at this rate, by 2050, the ecological footprint available to each person will be reduced to 1.5 hectares per person. If the whole word lived like Westeners, we would need 4/5 Earths to sustain ourselves. 

Carrying capacity: The concept of a population ceiling is where population equals the carrying capacity of the local environment. There are 3 models of what might happen as a population growing exponentially approaches a carrying capacity: 1) The rate of increase is unchanged until the ceiling is hit. 2) The rate of increase plateaus approaching the ceiling. 3) Fluctuations.

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Reserves: resources that are accessible and usable. 

Resources: anything useful to humans e.g. soil, oil, water and minerals. 

Peak oil production: the year in which the world or an individual oil-producing country reaches its highest level of production, with production declining thereafter. 

Energy security: a country's ability to secure all its energy needs.

Energy insecurity: a lack of security over a country's energy sources. 

Geopolitics: political relations among nations particularly related to claims and disputes pertaining to borders, territories and resources. 

Cartel: an organisation of people who supply the same good and join together to control the overall supply of the product. The members of a cartel can force up the price of their good either by restricting its supply on the world market or by agreeing on a particular supply price and refucing to sell the good for any less. 

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Case study: OPEC, an oil cartel

The Organisation of Petroleum exporting countries was established in 1960 to counter oil price cuts by American and European oil companies. Founder nations included Iran, Irad, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezeula. Qatar and Indonesia and Libya joined in 1962 and UAE, Niger and so forth later. In 1979, the OPEC countries produced 65% of world petroleum but only 36% by 2007. Revenues from oil have allowed OPEC to diversify their economies and generate wealth over the past 40 years. 

From a western perspective, the development of OPEC and the onctrol of oil had important implications. As OPEC controlled the price of oil and muhc of the production in the 70s/ 80s, Middle Eastern countries increased their economic and political power. Arguably, this provides incentive for old industrialised countries t oincrease energy conservation or develop altnerative forms of energy.

The importance of oil meant that countries needed to maintain favourable relations with OPEC countries and that the middle East would be involved in economic cooperation with industrialsed countries. This also led to political stability within the Middle East. 

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Case study: The Exxon Valdez disaster

In 1989, Exxon Valdez, a supertanker laden with 1.2 million barrels of crude oil, ran aground in Alaska. The ship, which was being piloted illegally, had just left Valdez and the terminal at the southern end of the Alaska pipeline. Over a quarter of a million barrels of oil leaked out during the 10 hours it took to set up the first oil containment booms. The oil spread over 25 000 square kilometres of offshore waters. 

By the following year, 35 000 dead seabirds had been found, a small proportion of the total killed.10 000 otters were killed, 16 whales and 147 bald eagles. Fish spawning ther grounds were decimated. The clean-up is believed to have cost the Exxon company over $2 bn. In addition, in 1993, the US federal judge fined the company $5 bn in damages. This money was used to compensate the 34 000 fisherman affected by the spill. 

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Case study: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

The Deepwater Hozion oil spill is the largest in US history. In april 2010, an explosion ripped through the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, 80km off the Louisiana coast. 2 days later, the rig sank, with oil pouring out to the sea at a rate of 62 000 barrels a day. The oil threatened wildlife along the US coasts, as well as the livelihoods dependent on tourism and fishing. Over 160km of coastline were affected. 

The extent of the environmental impact is likely to be severe and long-lasting. A state of emergency was declared in Louisiana. The cost to BP, who operated the rig, may reach $20bn. BP's attempts to plug the oil leak were successful eventually. Dispersants were used to break up the oil slick. By the time the well was capped, about 4.9 million barrels of crude oil had been released into the sea. 

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Recycling: the processing of waste so that materials can be reused.

Reuse: the multiple use of a product. 

Reduction: using less of a resource.

Substitution: using one resource in place of another.

Landfill: burying waste in big pits. 

Biodiversity: biological diversity. This is the variety of all forms of life on Earth . It refers to species (species diversity), variations within species (genetic diversity) and interdependence within species (ecosystem diversity) and habitat diversity. 

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