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IB World Geography
What is a natural resource? Anything created with natural processes that people use and value
Examples include plants, animals, coal, water, air, land, metals, sunlight, and wilderness. What is the
importance of natural resources to geographers? They are the specific elements of the atmosphere,
biosphere, hydrosphere , and lithosphere in which people interact
Characteristics of Resources
1.. Cultural values influence people ’s decisions about a commodity
2. Technology must be high enough to utilize the resource
3. Economic systems affect whether a resource is affordable and accessible
Think of how the term swamps evolved into the term wetlands As a consequence of cultural change,
wetlands are now a valued land resource protected by law. Natural resources acquire a monetary value
through exchange in a marketplace. The rule of supply and demand determines the resource’s value to the
market, and limits the production allocation and consumption of the resource.
What is an externality? A hidden cost, due to an exchange of the commodity outside the marketplace,
often as a byproduct of the commodity ’s use Example: Exhaust from a power plant creates an
undesirable pollutant that nearby residents experience. If the residents were paid for their experiences,
maybe the pollutants from the plant would decrease.
Many natural resources are valued for specific properties (coal for heat when burned, wood for strength
and beauty, fish as protein, clean water for health). In many cases, several substances may serve the same
purpose, so if one is scarce or expensive, another can be substituted
Example: Copper wire can be substituted for aluminum wire. Many resources have no substitute, and their
uniqueness only adds to the essence of their value.
Nonrenewable resources: those that form so slowly that they cannot be replaced when used
Examples: coal, oil, gas, lead, uranium, etc.
Renewable resources: those replaced continually, at least within a human lifespan
Even a renewable resource can be de pleted or used to a point where it can no longer be economically used.
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- Spring '08