Sustainability of Natural Resources or the Use of Manmade Substitutes

Sustainability of Natural Resources or the Use of Manmade Substitutes




Sustainability of Natural Resources or the Use of Manmade Substitutes


Natural resources are essential in sustaining human existence. The access to these resources is therefore an important aspect of development. However, the abundance or the lack of the resources may be a blessing or curse depending on what the environment and the society wants (Baker 2006). Since resources are continuously becoming scarce, due to consumptions, the aspects of development and the complexities with time, important measures must be taken to avoid devastating outcomes (Norling &Wood-black 2005). This means that it can often be argued that the sustainability of life and development of a society or a place is highly dependent on the availability of resources that do not reach the depletion stage. This paper therefore intends to evaluate the value of sustainability of natural resources and identify the disadvantages and advantages of the economic and environmental attempts toward creating long lasting preventive measures.

The main distinction between renewable and non-renewable resources is important because it comes in handy when managing resources. Renewable sources are those that can continuously replenish themselves, non-renewable are the opposite. Meaning, once they are depleted, there is no access or a way to achieve any more of the same resource. A good example of this scenario is the non-renewable fossil fuels, which are the most important in the generation of energy including in the electric form (Norling &Wood-black 2005). Chances are that is easy to use up all the existing fossils because it takes a lot of time to build up despite its accumulation from dead organisms. This point of exhaustion can test the avenues that are relying on the availability of the said fossils and at times cause complete deterioration.

There are early theories of economic growth that consider natural resources to be of very great impact to the growth or development of an area. Economy itself depends on the saving rate various components of the economy that can sustain it in its best and its worst. When faced with the issue of natural resources having become scarce, the labor and capital tends to go up because it is more strenuous to obtain the necessary resources (Baker 2006). The ability to sustain labor and capital however may not appear realistic but once resources become scarce, many realize just how great the impact on development is as a whole. Below the paper will look at the aspect of sustainable development of natural resources and the various approaches used to create a better economic and environmental approach.

Natural resources and sustainable development


The current population is always ever growing. This means that the consumption of resources per capita increases too. The question on the ability of humankind to sustain itself without the resources is a common basis in answering any question on sustainable development. Some believe that with time, the problems of scarcity will fade away and that that the advancement of technology of today will come in and save the day. From the definition of the term ‘sustainable development’, it is all about the development that lasts long enough to meet the needs of those concerned to an extent that there is continuity of growth (Norling &Wood-black 2005). This means that the people of the past, the current time and those that will come in the future all depend on the same resources. Therefore, great care is adopted to ensure that the probability of depletion is completely dismissed. Sometimes the term ‘development’ may be a bit hard to understand. In this context therefore, explaining the whole idea and the aspect of economic sustainability enhances the ability of individuals to understand.

Some scholars however question the need to economize the aspect of sustainability of natural resources considering it gives no additional components that add further value (Norling &Wood-black 2005). Environmental sustainability is however more acceptable because it is all about the increase in utility and the saving on wastage all at the same time. Generally, sustainability being all about maintenance of a steady supply, the economic sustainability perception may work without influencing the real essence behind development and its impact on future generations. One may wonder though, is it a possibility that the quality of life can be improved even when faced by a declining natural resources reserve (Baker 2006) This is especially in reference to the case where it is from this particular reserve that most of the overall utility is derived. This will therefore bring to attention the economic analysis of ‘weak’ sustainability and ‘strong’ sustainability.

Weak and Strong Sustainability

The distinction between the two comes from the extent to which the human capital overtakes and substitutes the natural capital. This means that people in this case may believe or assume that the loss of resources through depletion may be substituted by economic investments. A measure of weak sustainability means that there is the presence of environmental degradation and slight chances of redeeming the little resources left (Norling &Wood-black 2005). Strong sustainability however shows that it is almost impossible for any operation of the human capital to take place that could replace that of the natural capital (Baker 2006). This positive aspect of depreciation of natural resources therefore is what explains the ideology behind non-sustainability because resources are not supposed to be replaced but preserved.

Several scholars however have analyzed the two scenarios and arrived at the conclusion that ‘weak’ sustainability means that the natural capital is still in existence even if in small portions and people can recreate it by man made means. The ‘strong’ sustainability perception on the other hand shows that natural capital is either non-existent to the portion that still exists and that there will be value in replicating using man made features. The two are obviously great and debatable theories between economists and ecologists with the former holding belief of a chance of redemption under the “weak’ sustainability, the latter being completely pessimists and insisting on preservation.

Weak Sustainability

This concept originated in the economic explorations of conservation. This is because, in handling matters of exhaustible or non-replenishing resources, the economists argue that one should not look at the rate of depleting (Norling &Wood-black 2005). They are for the idea that the resources should be extracted an enjoyed in achieving its intended purpose. This means that the resources once stripped of the possibility of none renewing itself, people and the society as a whole are able to enjoy the maximum benefits over time. When calculating the investments that can be done to offset the possible problems of lack of resources, it shows that it is impossible to avoid a decline in living standards and maintenance. Further, results collected worldwide show that is possible to have some relevance in reflecting in the countries that make an effort to reinvest their proceeds or replenish their resources. At the same time, the conclusive results showed that ‘weak’ stability would only measure to a certain length that will not bring equality in future.

Strong Sustainability

To counter the ‘weak’ sustainability notion, the strong one proposes that natural capital can in no way be replaced therefore emphasizing on the need for preservation and protection. It also tends to balance other form of capital such the economic and the social, where the theory behind is that they too need to be regulated to find general balance (Baker 2006). Despite the whole preservation and protection rule however, scholars have identified that some resources may be of more importance being used to produce the irreplaceable and essential services than mere preservation (Ibitoye 2007). The use of a non-renewable resource therefore ought to be limited to the amount that can be easily replaced even if it is temporarily. Generally, this form of sustainability cautions that regardless of the situation with natural resources, it is vital that natural assets unless substituted or reproduced, ought to be preserved. With time, there is further prevention from climatic change and degradation of the ecosystem due to the sustenance of the valuable natural resources.


Overall, this essay intends to reflect on two key issues from above. These are the main things that bring about great significance in development both internationally and domestically. The first case is the importance in managing resources and approaches that can be implemented for future generations (Norling &Wood-black 2005). The second one is acknowledging from the discussions above that the economic system of today is looking for the ability to have perpetual growth by reconciliation human capital to natural capital. These are indeed the vital aspects of sustainable development and therefore preservation is more advantageous than 6he reliance on substitutes.



Baker, S. (2006). Sustainable development. London, Routledge. Print

Norling, P., Wood-black, T. M. (2005). Water and sustainable development opportunities for the chemical sciences : a workshop report to the Chemical Sciences Roundtable. Washington, D.C., National Academies Press.

Ibitoye, O. A.. (2007). Environment and sustainable development in Nigeria. Scientific and environmental issues in population, environment and sustainable development in Nigeria. Print


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