The challenge of conservation is to understand the complex connections among natural resources and balance resource use with protection to ensure an adequate supply for future generations. In order to accomplish this goal, a variety of conservation methods are used. These include reducing consumption of resources; protecting them from contamination or pollution; reusing or recycling resources when possible; and fully protecting, or preserving, resources.
Consumption of natural resources rises dramatically every year as the human population increases and standards of living rise. Between 1950 and 1990 the world population doubled to 5.3 billion, with nearly 80 percent living in developing, or poorer, nations. The large, developed nations, however, are responsible for the greatest consumption of natural resources because of their high standards of living. Conservation education and the thoughtful use of resources is necessary in the developed countries to reduce natural-resource consumption.
Recycling Aluminum Cans
protect natural resources from pollution, individuals, industries, and
governments have many obligations. These include prohibiting or limiting the use
of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, limiting wastewater and airborne
pollutants, preventing the production of radioactive materials, and regulating
drilling and transportation of petroleum products. Failure to do so results in
contaminated air, soil, rivers, plants, and animals.
Some resources are so unique or valuable that they are protected from activities that would destroy or degrade them. Forests and wetlands (areas with high soil moisture or surface water) may be protected from development because they enhance air and water quality and provide habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. Unfortunately, these areas are often threatened with development because it is difficult to measure the economic benefits of cleaner air, cleaner water, and the many other environmental benefits of these ecosystems (the plants and animals of a natural community and their physical environment).