• What is meant by global resource demand?

    When people use something, it becomes a resource. Natural resources, including materials, water, energy and fertile land, are the basis for life on Earth and neither the world’s economy nor society could function without them. These natural resources comprise renewable and non-renewable resources. Renewable materials include agricultural products, fish and livestock for food, and timber to produce furniture and paper. Non-renewable resources include fossil fuels that provide energy, metal ores used in the manufacture of cars and computers, and industrial and construction minerals used to build houses and roads. Resource extraction is very unevenly distributed across the world. How many natural resources are extracted on a continent depends on several factors: the size of the continent, the availability of resources, the size of the population as well as the level of affluence. Almost half of the world’s resource extraction takes place in Asia (48%), where more than half of the world’s population lives. Humans today extract and use around 50% more natural resources than 30 years ago, representing about 60 billion tonnes of raw materials a year. Given current trends of growth, extraction of natural resources could increase to 100 billion tonnes by 2030 (Seri et al., 2009).

    Likewise, consumption increases along with a growing global population, economy and affluence. Population density and distribution (determined by migration and urbanization), and population composition (in terms of age and household size) all impact consumption levels and trends. Consumption of products often takes place far away from the origins of their raw materials. International trade redistributes resources across the globe, allowing some countries to export resources and to raise revenues and other countries to increase their supply of raw materials and products. World trade accelerates resource extraction by linking local resources in all parts of the world with global demand.

    In monetary terms, most consumption occurs in industrialized nations: in 2004 the 2.3 billion residents of low-income countries accounted for less than 3% of public and private consumption, while the 1 billion residents of high-income countries consumed more than 80% of the global total. In the same year the United States accounted for 4.6% of the world's population and 33% of global consumption (http://earthtrends.wri.org/updates/node/236 accessed 12.10.11). Consumption in developing countries is also increasing at a rapid pace, particularly in rapidly industrializing economies such as China and India. China saw an urban population increase by 215 billion people between 1990 and 2005, and not surprisingly consumption trends in China have outpaced both high- and low- income countries. With almost no exception, consumption is increasing everywhere in absolute terms, but in developed countries such as the US and Europe, the increase is not as rapid as in China for example.

  • How important is this threat compared to others?

  • Why is it a threat to great apes?

  • Is global resource demand dangerous for all species in the same way?

Compiled and edited 2011 by Kay H. Farmer
Reviewed by Hjalmar Kuehl, Josephine Head and Neba Funwi-Gabga

  • References