One of the foremost challenges facing the contemporary society is how to meet the material resource requirement in the backdrop of an ever-increasing population. In their book, Turk & Bensel (2011) observe that this rapid growth in human population necessitated by the ability of man to form cooperation led to the increased efficiency in planning. This evidenced in the facts that by over12000 years ago, the human race had settled into communities and started practicing the crop growing and animal husbandry. Turk & Bensel (2011) argue that this settlement of humans into communities and the practice of agriculture are the causes by the rapid increment of human population.
They further argue that the population of humans is such that the Earth requires one and a half year replenishing of the resources consumed by man within one year. This means that resources are depleting at a rate that Mother Nature cannot replenish. Consequently, there is a danger that faces human being that calls for urgent measures. Noticeably, this danger emanates from the inability of man to control or check their production and consumption habits. This paper attempts to address the relationship between the material resources, and the production and consumption habits of human across the globe. Furthermore, it offers recommendations on the efforts for consideration in sustaining the material resources.
Production of Material Resources
In their analysis, Turk & Bensel (2011) suggest that assemblage of essential products, such as food, fuel, water and minerals has serious environmental impacts. Furthermore, this danger emanates from not only people, but also the varied technologies used, as well as the subsequent consumption of material. Noticeably, the production impacts have seriously augmented and emanates from several factors, such as the population extent, the rate of consumption and the various technologies used by the population. Furthermore, they argue that technology is a factor of innovation. As an innovation, technology is applicable in exploring the material resources provided by the earth, such as rich agricultural soils, ground water and the biodiversity. Consequently, the trend combined with ever-increasing population and per capita consumption may lead to the risk of collapsing the present global civilization.
Turk & Bensel (2011) further suggest that the production of material resources must be sustainable. This is in reaction to present situation where most of them are non-renewable. Similarly, the sustainability of the resources is immensely dependant on the technology used. Evidently, materials extracted from the earth enter the production process and are later consumed. At the end, most products undergo the dissimilar treatments. The technology used must ensure that the product meets the needs of the society to avoid the wastage. Turk & Bensel (2011) indicate that each step in the production process requires energy and has inputs that evoke varied environmental impacts. These include such impacts as air, water, as well as land.
Turk & Bensel (2011) illustrate that large amounts of materials used in the United States in production are increasing, augmenting and diversifying. The strain on the global production continues. They further suggest that material resources that result in positive environmental impacts as durables are seriously diminishing. Notably, increased population, economic enlargement, coupled with the use of new technologies rendering the use unsustainable, has necessitated these consequences.
They give the instance of the US, which produced 57% more by weight in the year 2000 than it did in 1975. Evidently, the use of material resource must have a co-relation between the material used, its consumption and the environmental impact (Spangenberg, Fuad-Luke & Blincoe, 2010). However, there is an indication that many companies and organization have come up with ways of reduction of the usage of materials in their production, thus, discovering ways to meet the needs of the society without depleting the material resources. Furthermore, consumers have also shifted their focus to a product that adds value and sustains the environment.
Consumption of Material Resources
Turk & Bensel (2011) indicate that the effects of the material consumption on the localized areas, and global environmental systems are a factor of human demand, in line with the biological capacity required to support the consumption of resources and waste absorption. Additionally, the Earth’s regenerative ability can no longer match with human demand, where people turn resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources (Macbeth, Carson & Northcote, 2004).
Furthermore, there is a consensus that materials and resources, once considered abundant will cease to remain so indefinitely. Furthermore, the global markets heavily influence the consumption of a variety of resources across the globe materials. Turk & Bensel (2011) suggest that during last several years, an increased demand resulted in the worldwide prices for many used and raw materials to increase substantially. The recent economic situation, however, has reduced the demand, causing prices for many materials to drop. The immediate effect of this has weakened the recycling markets. If the prices stay low, demand may increase over time. However, neither of these trends are helpful for the long-term materials consumption (Macbeth, Carson, & Northcote, 2004)
A case in point is the material resources used and consumed in the U.S., which has grown from 161 million metric tons in 1900 to 2.8 billion metric tons in 1995. Accordingly, of all the materials the U.S. consumed in the past 100 years, more than half were consumed in the last 25 years. Observably, this increment has emanated from the evidently increments in inventive and innovative, which ultimately adds value to the final product.
In addition to this, it is obvious that the U.S is not only having the highest consumption of materials and other resources, but also the types of materials consumed have changed significantly over time. Several studies have indicated that 1900, 41% of the used materials in the U.S. were the renewable ones (e.g., agricultural, forestry products and fishery); by 1995, only 6% of materials consumed were from the renewable sources (Spangenberg, Fuad-Luke & Blincoe, 2010).
Spangenberg, Fuad-Luke & Blincoe (2010) further indicate that most of materials consumed in the U.S.A now are not renewable, including the metals, fossil fuel derived products and minerals. Evidently, the reliance on mineral resources as the main ingredients in the products used in the U.S.A, including mobile phones, paint, flat-screen monitors and toothpaste needs more than 25,000 pounds of nonfuel new minerals per capita annually. They further assert that innovation is faced with the challenge of contributing to its sustenance. I feel that innovation and sustainability are the answer to this challenge. Theoretically, it incorporates what innovation for the environment provides, by integrating the four pillars of innovation and sustainability: social, economic, environmental and institutional aspects.
From the foregoing discussion, it is evident that innovation and sustainability are intertwined factors that direct the functions of production and consumption. The two also influence availability of material resources. With the scarcity of material resources, consumption and production habits by human population have shifted towards favorable condition of using technology to ensure that sustainability of the scarce resources is maintained. Innovation and technology has become an integral part of sustaining the scarce material resources to achieve the maximum social needs across the world. Evidently, the relationship amid material resources and the habits adopted by man in satisfying their needs cannot be undermined.
Among the recommendations by the United States Environmental Protection Agency report 2009, for achieving sustainable innovation through material resource management are the promotion efforts in managing materials and products. Additionally, expanding the focus of existing environmental programs to involve fully and continuous materials management, promotion specific materials management approaches that can help address environmental change and promotion of innovative greener products, product leadership and product-to-service transformations.