Consumption of natural resources, whether slow or at a fast rate, shall finally result in exhaus­tion of our non-renewable resources at some point of time in future. However, we have little to worry about our mineral wealth as we cannot consume metals and minerals irreversibly. Recycling and reclamation of lower and lower grade of ores, shall provide something to us, though the product concerned may become more and more expensive.

The impending threat of exhaustion of our fossil fuels presents to us a greater worry. While we may exhaust our oil within 50-65 years, and natural gas in a hundred years or so, it is coal which is going to last the longest. As we learn to adapt ourselves to the use of alternative sources of energy, there shall be drastic changes in technologies, economics and our very life-styles. Man with his tremendous skill and adaptability should be able to withstand the fuel shock rather comfortably (Cook, 1976).

Indeed, mankind has lived without minerals or fossil fuels for thousands of years. Wide-spread use of metals started about three thousand years ago while use of fossil fuels is about three hundred years old. Man can survive without these resources. However, our greatest worry is the gradual deterioration in the quality of environment which has been damaging the resources of biological origin.

These are renewable resources and it is these resources on which all life on this planet de­pends for their food supplies. For a growing human population we need an ever rising quantity of food, fresh water and other materials. This has placed enormous strain on our renewable resources which have so far been mercilessly over-exploited.


The deterioration in the quality of our environ­ment has slowly been damaging the very system which gives rise to these resources. Even under healthy conditions of environment most of the biotic resources can be exploited only upto a limited extent.

Over-exploitation leads to biological impoverishment causing a drastic reduction in its pro­ductivity. The system starts behaving like a non-renewable resource which may become completely defunct due to continued over-exploitation. The danger to its productivity becomes acute if the system has to work under adverse conditions of environment. (Eckholm 1991, Murdock 1971)

Clearly, such a state of rapid consumption of our natural resources, a steady impoverishment of our biological systems and deterioration in the quality of our environment cannot continue for long. It is unsustainable. At any point of time in future, the system could collapse, leaving the man­kind with acute shortages of food to eat, clothes to wear, and scarcities of all types.

Aggravating the situation are enormous inequalities of distribution, appalling injustices in allocation of resources, vested interests of people trying to corner for themselves a larger share through unscrupulous means. There are countries whose entire economy rests on exploitation of natural resources only – there is no other way for survival. About 20% of the global population now enjoys a life of wasteful luxuri­ance whereas much of remaining 80% live under conditions of utter poverty, scarcity and helpless­ness. Naturally such a world is not going to last for long (Ridker and Watson, 1980).