Unit 2- Consuming resources


Types of resources

There are 3 main types of resources:

  • Natural resources e.g. wood
  • Human resources e.g. skills of the population e.g. Doctors
  • Material or capital resources e.g. goods and equipment allready in society

You can also define resources by their availability:

  • Non-renewable resources- cannot me remade because they take millions of years to form e.g. coal or oil.
  • Sustainable resources- can deliberately be renewed so they can last into the future e.g. wood.
  • Renewable resources- renew themselves, so do not need to be managed e.g. solar and wind power.
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Consuming non-renewable resources

E.g. Tar sand oil


  • Extraction would bring further money to oil companies.
  • Could avoid the costs of switching to other fuels such as hydrogen.


  • Extraction uses huge amounts of water.
  • Only a 5 year supply.
  • Need removal of forest to get to the oil.
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Consuming sustainable and renewable resources

E.g. Biofuels


  • CO2 absorbed when they are grown.
  • Engines need ittle change to cope with biofuels.


  • Need huge area of land to grow the crop.
  • Reduces habitat variety due to monoculture.
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Sustainable yet limited resources

E.g. solar energy


  • Unlimited
  • Environmentally friendly so limited carbon emissions.


  • New ways of storing energy are needed.
  • Current production is tiny.
  • Relatively expencive.
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Uneven patterns of oil supply

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World reserve of oil

  • Current production of oil is focused in the middle east, especially Saudi Arabia.
  • However many of these countries have reached 'peak oil' (production of relatively cheaply obtained oil has reached its maximum, so there is now a fall in production).
  • Consumption is largely related to the wealth of a country and its reliance on cars.
  • 70% of the worlds oils is consumed transporting goods and people within and between countries.

The USA:

  • Less than 5% of population, but uses 25% of the oil, due to:
  • Lack of public transport systems.
  • Low density urban settlements so need long journeys to work, school etc.
  • History of low petrol prices.
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Pressure on supply and consumption

  • China and India are continuing to grow rapidly.
  • Compined population of  1,400 million using 71 million cars.
  • As the population increases so will the demand for cars, in the hope to get the 'american dream'.
  • To achieve this Tata motors based in India has begun producing a car priced at £1500, increasing the demand for oil and adding to CO2 emissions.


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Malthus theory (1766-1834)

  • Population grows exponentially (doubling at each stage), but food production grew arithmetically (adding one unit at each stage).
  • Meaning the population would eventually outstrip food supply.
  • The population will decrease through starvation.
  • Malthus called this a 'naural check' on population growth.
  • Other 'natural checks' were war, disease and morality.
  • Malthus had deep religious beliefs that affected his work. He believed people have a moral duty to keep the population low.


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Boserups theory 1965

  • Population growth has a positive impact on people as it forces them to invent a way out of a problem when resources start to run out e.g. GM crops
  • - Overpopulation leads to innovation and higher productivity in use of land (irrigation, weeding, crop intensification, better seeds) and labour (tools, better techniques) e.g. GM Crops and the Green Revolution.

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Ethiopia and Malawi


  • Follows Malthuses theory
  • Greater population than the resources
  • Many rely on food aid to survive
  • A preventative check is when the government does something to stop.


  • Food supply has been increased by irrigation and the genetic modification of seeds.
  • Irrigation- take water from places that have it and give it to places that don't.
  • Genetically modified seeds, may allow growth of more food especially in dry areas, creating jobs and economic growth.

In most counries Malthuses theories have not occured because people have found ways to increase food production.

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Reducing demand

Reducing dependance on oil:

  • Plastic bottles are made from oil and then oil is used to transport them across long distances.
  • Now carrying reusable water bottles and recycling the bottles.
  • Switch to hydrogen run cars as they release no harmful emissions e.g. the ford edge car is the first alternative fuel car able to travel similar distances to traditional petrol cars.

Individual actions:

  • Changing habits, e.g. public transport and energy efficient light bulbs.
  • Recycling and conservation.
  • Buying food from local farms to reduce 'food miles'.

Corporate action:

  • Eliminate waste in all areas of business and using renewable energy sources.
  • Google headquarter use hydrogen cars and provides a shuttle bus for employees to reduce their car usage.
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Sustainable development

Sustainable development- development that meets the needs of the present without comprimisng the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.

  • 1995- UK generated 2% of its electricity from renewable sources, compared with the EU average of 14%.
  • The UK set its target as 10% by 2010.
  • By 2010 it had only reached 6%.
  • There is still a huge market for the UK to switch to more renewable sources.
  • Technological fix isthe idea that we cn solve problems by inventing solutions to them. The problem of finding alternative fuels to replace 'cheap' oil would require huge amounts of effort from the government, coorporation and researchers to cope with the issue of 'peak oil'.
  • E.g. Genetically modified food, hydrogen fueled cars, wave power machines.
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