Overexploitation of natural resources can lead to the extinction of species and dramatic changes in the environment. This problem often begins when markets open for previously untapped species and resources. As these markets expand, the demand for these products and resources grows and the overexploitation of these resources and species continues.
How can sustainable living help in overcoming overexploitation? Read on to learn more. The article also explores ways to reduce our use of natural resources.
Overexploitation of natural resources
Despite the soaring prices of oil, coal, and other fossil fuels, people worldwide are still eager to extract as much of these valuable resources as possible.
While this is undoubtedly an attractive strategy to gain wealth faster, it is also harmful to society. It is not surprising that some influential people advocate overexploitation.
For instance, in 1986, British Columbia’s premier, Bill Vander Zalm, said that “cutting down trees will create jobs” – a blatant disregard for the environment.
It is vital that we remember that our exploitation of natural resources has ecological costs. Conventional economics does not take these costs into account, which is one of the main reasons why many people abuse resources.
In fact, this overexploitation of natural resources has been responsible for the destruction of natural capital and “natural debt,” which is the result of overexploitation of the Earth. Fortunately, we can design systems that can help conserve natural resources and prevent future damage to our planet.
Most resources are overexploited in sequential ways, so only certain species are highly valued economically. In some cases, only certain species are valuable, and they may be very large or rare.
In coastal British Columbia, for example, old-growth forests are dominated by large individuals of precious tree species.
Pre-exploitation communities of fish and whales are characterized by large populations of desirable species. By contrast, overexploitation is not sustainable for ecosystems or communities.
How does overexploitation affect the environment?
Human overexploitation has devastating effects on the environment. Overexploitation can result in extinction of species or destruction of natural habitats. It can also lead to the complete use of fossil fuels and cause climate change.
Sadly, human overexploitation of natural resources is not a new problem. In fact, human overexploitation of resources is as old as human civilization itself. Ancient Chinese philosopher Lv Buwei wrote about the consequences of overexploitation more than 2000 years ago.
Aquifers and lakes are both renewable resources, but when over-extracted, they deplete. These over-extracted resources are described as over-drafted or depleted.
Forests are a major source of aquifer depletion. The resulting over-extraction has many negative effects on the environment. Some of these effects can be preventable, such as protecting forests from development. But when aquifers and lakes are depleted, the effects can be catastrophic.
Deforestation has long-term consequences on the provision of natural resources and ecosystem services. Degraded ecosystems cannot recover from the effects of over-exploitation and might not bounce back, affecting human health and food security.
Eventually, ecosystems can no longer provide their essential services. Eventually, exploitation of natural resources may lead to the global warming, food insecurity, and climate change. This is why it is so important to protect the environment, and to implement conservation initiatives.
How can barriers to sustainability be overcome?
A critical challenge to sustainability is that it confronts social, economic, and environmental issues simultaneously. These issues require multidisciplinary and cross-stakeholder work. We can identify several barriers to sustainability, including the tendency to operate in silos.
Several solutions are proposed, including the creation of better information to guide decision-making, collaborative incentives, and tearing down silos. Here, we share some of these solutions and discuss how barriers to sustainability can be overcome.
One of the first steps to implementing a sustainable business strategy is to understand the specific barriers to implementation. For example, some employees are resistant to the idea, while others have a negative attitude.
It is important to get buy-in from management before attempting to change this culture. Once buy-in is achieved, education can go a long way towards addressing these concerns. Providing sustainability training to employees can help move the culture in the right direction.
Sustainable development is based on the needs of people and the organization of society. Despite its global importance, however, sustainable development has not yet received much attention at a local level.
Most companies still treat sustainability as an afterthought after product development, a requirement for complying with government regulations. This approach adds unnecessary operational burden and cost.
By contrast, an integrated approach to sustainability would offer numerous opportunities for improved product development, innovative technologies, and cost savings.
Ways to reduce the use of natural resources
Sustainable living requires us to conserve natural resources. We should try to avoid depleting natural resources, especially water, through proper recycling. You can also start a community recycling program or ask the local government to start one.
You can also use alternative energy sources instead of fossil fuels. These sources are renewable, inexpensive, and do not produce harmful gases. Lastly, sustainable living also ensures the survival of our ecosystem.
Overusing water resources is a serious concern for the world’s ecosystems and climate. About 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered in water. Only three percent of that water is fresh and drinkable.
Water is a finite resource, and conserving it is critical to life on earth. Many ways to reduce the overuse of water include installing water-efficient appliances. Governments can also encourage people to adopt water-efficient appliances, and they can help build wastewater treatment infrastructure.
A major cause of global climate change is our inability to stop the depletion of natural resources. We have become so dependent on fossil fuels that we might need to regenerate three planets by 2050. We should also use alternative sources of energy such as bio-fuels.
These fuels are bio-friendly and reduce air pollution. Recyclable materials are another good way to reduce the use of natural resources. Recycled materials can be re-made into new products, thereby reducing wastes and soil pollution.
Can overexploitation be sustainable?
The world faces a pressing problem of overexploitation of natural resources. Humans have been exploiting these resources for many years and, as a result, they have reduced the amount of available resources.
Overexploitation is a major problem that jeopardizes the livelihoods of resource users and the health of ecosystems. Overexploitation often manifests itself in fishery collapses, and it is imperative to regulate resource use in order to protect our natural resources.
The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (COP15) in Stockholm, Sweden, adopted some basic principles for conservation of natural resources.
How can sustainability reduce overexploitation?
Ultimately, reducing overexploitation of a resource means ensuring its long-term viability and preserving its biodiversity.
In order to do this, an efficient system must balance resource utilization with environmental conditions over time. Developing such a system isn’t an easy task, but scientific research has identified two main approaches to achieving this goal:
Overexploitation of natural ecosystems has many long-term consequences, including affecting our food supply, causing health hazards and increasing the risk of natural disasters. If natural ecosystems are degraded, they may not recover fully, making them less valuable and threatening our survival.
This means that we should all embrace conservation initiatives and strive to reduce our dependence on natural resources. The following are some of the key principles of sustainable development.
While environmental forcing often has weak positive consequences on social and economic aspects of sustainability, it does have some positive impacts. By incorporating stakeholders in decision-making, we can enhance the knowledge of sustainability.
For example, by creating stakeholder groups in a fishery, we can increase the number of stakeholders involved. Furthermore, inclusive governance can result in more comprehensive knowledge about the topic than if the decisions are made by experts only.