What are some solutions to the problems caused by using non-renewable resources?
All species use up resources around them as they forage for food, create homes of mud or debris, and survive in a space. Most of the time this is not an issue as populations tend to have a way of balancing themselves out--large populations use up too many resources and the population shrinks allowing resources to regrow.
Humans, on the other hand, are one of the most successful species of our time and we have become masters of our resources and surroundings. In our growth as a species we have found more and more resources and spread out to cover much of the globe to take advantage of all the space. This has created an issue, as the once "infinite" resources we use turned out to be quite limited. We are fully facing the mortality of our resources, and thus our way of life. There are a few areas that are the most critical to human survival, and these include:
Energy: Our current energy infrastructures rely on oil, natural gas, and coal. These have been our staples since the industrial revolution and have helped propel us into being the technological giants we are today. All of these resources are also being quickly diminished as we surpass 7 billion humans and continue to grow exponentially. To continue our growing trend we need to find new solutions for energy, and we've found a few. Wind and solar are proving to be reliable forms and are growing in popularity. Scientists are also researching machines that can harness the kinetic energy of waves and ocean tides to spin turbines for energy.
Plastic: Gasoline is used as a fuel source, and it can also be used to make plastics. These are used to make everything from plastic shopping bags to toys to cars and other machines. Once our stores of oil run out we will have to find other more renewable resources to replace our black gold. Wood can't replace it as it also cannot be reliably renewed and other materials such as bamboo or cotton are just not as feasible as plastics. To alleviate this issue we turn to recycling efforts to keep as much usable material as we can in the production cycle.
Fresh water: The amount of usable fresh water on our planet is extremely small when compared to the amount of water on the planet. This presents issues especially in arid and drought-ridden places, where rain is sometimes the only water source. As we continue to pollute and use up our fresh water sources we reduce the area that is livable significantly. To fix this growing issue, communities are turning to collecting rain water and even removing salt from sea water (which is an expensive and high-energy task). We also reuse sewage water after it has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
There are many other resources that we are using to an extreme (arable land, clean sand for concrete, etc.) each with their own answers and solutions. While our usage and recycling methods may change, there is one thing that will never change: There is no such thing as a limitless resource, and we need to plan our future accordingly.