Environmental degradation through Depletion of natural resources
The depletion of natural resources is the process by which the natural resources found on earth, such as coal, oil, water, wood, are reduced due to their excessive utilization. This utilization of non-renewable natural resources causes environmental degradation. Environmental degradation is a secondary factor associated with using non-renewable energy sources for power generation, with the primary factor being the emission of greenhouse gases causing global warming. The factors that degrade the environment also help in increasing global warming, therefore, natural resources must be maintained energy should be derived from renewable energy sources. The major factors behind environmental degradation are explained separately below.
Mining of resources
In simple words, mining is a process of removing precious minerals and ore deposits from the earth. These minerals are excavated from the earth using tools and machinery, which in itself causes pollution even if the effect of depletion of natural resources is ignored. The resources mined specifically for energy are given and described individually below.
Coal is a blackish rock that is combustible, which means it can catch fire easily and will produce appreciably greater heat than the fire that is burning it. Coal is used for a long time in power generation and there are still many coal power plants operating in the world today. Moreover, coal is also mined to make stainless steel and has many applications. This demand for coal increases its mining and it is estimated that in~400 years, we would dry out our coal reserves.
Extraction of oil (Oil and oil shale mining)
The oil mining or extraction of oil is a process by which petroleum is drawn out from the earth by drilling. Petroleum is drawn out from the earth’s surface using drills, and this site is referred to as an oil rig. When petroleum comes out of an oil rig, it is called crude oil. After the extraction, crude oil is subjected to fractional distillation that separates different types of oil. Oil is sometimes referred to as liquid gold due to its high demand in the market. The oil is already scarce on earth and it is estimated that it will run out within the next ~40-45 years.
There is another way to get oil, and that is with the help of oil shale mining. The oil shale is a rock containing kerogen which can produce hydrocarbon (which is the scientific notation for bonds of hydrogen and carbon that essentially depicts oil and its forms).
Mining natural gas
The natural gas is primarily considered to be methane CH4, which itself is one of the major greenhouse gases. The extraction or mining of methane is almost the same as mining oil, however, there is a danger of explosion when dealing with flammable gases. Therefore, when the drills reach the deposit site, the natural gas is cooled such that it turns into liquid. This liquid gas is then transported to the surface using pumps and stored in cylinders. Natural gas can then be utilized for power generation. In about ~160 years, our reserves of natural gas will get depleted if natural gas is mined at the current rate.
Effects on envronment by mining resources for energy
- The process of mining causes pollution and therefore is a factor causing global warming.
- Mining minerals causes the depletion of natural resources and their reserves.
- Mining minerals and resources create tons of waste causing pollution.
- Mining can cause water pollution. If a large amount of water is utilized to run machinery, drain a mine, etc, hazardous chemicals can dissolve into the water, which can then be carried away to cause further contamination to ground and surface water.
- Mining causes environmental degradation by decreasing the quality of soil (due to drilling holes), water (due to drainage of chemicals), and air (due to machinery).
Deforestation is the loss of trees and vegetation due to natural, accidental, or artificial means. Natural calamities such as droughts, floods, fires, etc., can also deforest a locale, but the primary cause for deforestation is the clearing of forests by humans. Wood is an abundantly available resource and this is why it is the most outrageously utilized non-renewable resource. Wood is used in the paper industry and it is still employed today to generate power. Although there is no estimation before we run out of forests, the world till now has lost almost 1/3 of its forest land to agriculture. The time when the earth runs out of forests, humanity will be long gone by then, but such a situation will never occur, as when the population starts to decrease, forests will start to increase. Everything on earth is in a critical balance, and when that balance is ticked, usually the balance will move back and forth unless it finds its new equilibrium position.
Adverse effects of deforestation
- Reduces the production of oxygen.
- Increases the production of CO2, since trees and vegetation are naturals trappers of CO2. This factor, therefore, leads to environmental degradation.
- Causes loss of marine life-form, since most of the aqueous trees (such as mangroves), are a natural habitat for marine life-form.
- Causes more severe floods. The trees places in the path of a flood help to decrease its intensity. Planting more trees also helps to prevent soil erosion, which is caused by floods and water run-off.
- Deforestation causes water pollution as the polluted water during floods and run-off is not stopped.
The benefits of trees are listed in the Fig. 1 in shape of a visual representation.