Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Deborah Levi: The Assess and Regulation of Natural Resources

Environmental Studies
Warner Pacific College
August 4, 2014

The Assess and Regulation of Natural Resources
            A natural resource is a substance and energy source that is taken from our environment and is used for survival (Withgott & Laposata, 2014). Natural resources can be nonrenewable or renewable. Renewable resources are essentially inexhaustible and nonrenewable resources are in finite quantities and once consumed cannot be resupplied. The outcome of using either type of resource depends directly on how society chooses to regulate such consumption.
            Society has changed their views on natural resources from the problem with depletion of such resources to the problem with environmental effects that are occurring due to the methods society is employing to extract and use the resources (Magdoff, 2013). These changing views have highlighted the importance of the regulation of resource use and extraction.
            The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is a governmental agency dedicated to protect human health and the environment (EPA, 2014). Through agencies of this type, society and the government can regulate companies’ procedures, processes, and waste production/removal conduct when extracting our natural resources. Regulation is important because “the greater use of resources to produce goods results in greater flows of pollutants into the “sink” during extraction, processing, transportation, manufacturing, use, and disposal” (Magdoff, 2013, p. 1). The more we use our resources the greater the environmental effects become.
            For example, when researching Hydraulic Fracturing, also known as “fracking”, the major issue presented was not if we were using up our supply of fossil fuel but if hydraulic fracturing is a safe method of extracting natural gas and oil. Fracking became popular in the early 2000’s due to the thought that we could tap into the natural gas and oil resources in the United States and would, in turn, produce job opportunities and revenue for remote rural areas (EEC, 2010). In the beginning, fracking was viewed as not posing any threat to drinking water or the environment. As time progresses, studies are showing viable threats are apparent to drinking water and ground pollution. Many issues have come to fruition; water usage, sand usage, toxic chemicals, health concerns, surface water and soil contamination, ground water contamination, air quality, waste disposal, and chemical disclosure are all major concerns (Earthworks, 2014). These major concerns have been uncovered by the governing agencies and are being investigated to hopefully enlighten society about the possible dangers of fracking. At present time, water usage is a main issue, fracking uses 2 to 10 million gallons of water in one well. This estimate has raised concerns about water resources. The toxic chemicals used are a trade secret and companies are not liable to listing any of the chemicals used which can promote problems with identifying other issues caused by these chemicals. Furthermore, many of the toxic chemicals are known to be hazardous to humans and wildlife; several are known to cause cancer. Humans can ingest these chemicals by ground water sources that have been contaminated by the fracking process. Spills on the fracking sites occur and contaminate surface soil and water. In 2013, 41 spills impacted surface water (Earthworks, 2014) in one state alone. The air quality is compromised due to high levels of benzene that has been measured in close proximity to drilling wells. The EPA reports that “chronic inhalation or oral exposure to methanol may result in headache, dizziness, giddiness, insomnia, nausea, gastric disturbances, conjunctivitis, visual disturbances (blurred vision), and blindness in humans” (2014).  It is in exploiting these methods of extracting our natural resources that we have to ask ourselves if the worth of having the resource at our disposal outweighs the damage it creates for humans and mother Earth. And in this question lies the delicate balance that needs to occur for proper usage of our natural resources; regulation of the tactics for extracting these resources is the only way to achieve such balance.
            Society is in a forward movement pattern that propels us into smarter technologies, faster transportations, and evolving advancements of numerous characteristics. But with this forward momentum, the Earth is showing stress and depletion. Population has risen exponentially and our resources are suffering. Assessing the renewable and nonrenewable resources that are crucial to our continued advancement and continued survival has to be accomplished with distinct acknowledgement of responsibility towards our environment to which we are extracting the resources from. In life there is give and take. Society cannot take from the Earth without somehow giving back. Regulation of usage and by-products from extracting resources is one way society can give back to the Earth.
            Balance is the key to tapping resources without depleting the Earth of function and sustained life. We must learn to balance the forward movement of society with the usage of natural resources in a safe and responsible manner. Regulation of extraction of resources will impact our culture through every facet of our lives; from the health of our people to the economic status of our country. It is through regulation that we can find balance and it is through forward movement that we can find the answers.

Earthworks [website]. (2014). Hydraulic Fracturing 101. Retrieved from:             http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101#.U9v9Pbsg_IU
            August 1, 2014.
EEC [website]. (2014). A brief history of hydraulic fracturing. Retrieved from:             http://www.eecworld.com/services/258-a-brief-history-of-hydraulic-fracturing.             
            August 1, 2014.
EPA [website]. (2014). Summary of Acts. Retrieved from: http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations.             August 1, 2014.
Wheeler, J. (2014).  Fracking: the pros and cons of the booming and controversial extraction             process. Retrieved from:             http://www.mlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2014/05/fracking_a_divisive_practices.htm            August 1, 2014.           
Withgott, J., & Laposata, M. (2014). Environment: the science behind the stories (5th Ed.). New             York, NY. Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

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