ESS3.A: Natural Resources
How do humans depend on Earth's resources?
- Introduction to ESS3.A
- K-12 Progression and Grade Band End Points for ESS3.A
- Performance Expectations Associated with ESS3.A
- Additional Resources for ESS3.A
Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources, including air, water, soil, minerals, metals, energy, plants, and animals. Some of these resources are renewable over human lifetimes, and some are nonrenewable (mineral resources and fossil fuels) or irreplaceable if lost (extinct species).
Materials important to modern technological societies are not uniformly distributed across the planet (e.g., oil in the Middle East, gold in California). Most elements exist in Earth’s crust at concentrations too low to be extracted, but in some locations—where geological processes have concentrated them—extraction is economically viable. Historically, humans have populated regions that are climatically, hydrologically, and geologically advantageous for fresh water availability, food production via agriculture, commerce, and other aspects of civilization. Resource availability affects geopolitical relationships and can limit development. As the global human population increases and people’s demands for better living conditions increase, resources considered readily available in the past, such as land for agriculture or drinkable water, are becoming scarcer and more valued.
All forms of resource extraction and land use have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks, as well as benefits. New technologies and regulations can change the balance of these factors—for example, scientific modeling of the long-term environmental impacts of resource use can help identify potential problems and suggest desirable changes in the patterns of use. Much energy production today comes from nonrenewable sources, such as coal and oil. However, advances in related science and technology are reducing the cost of energy from renewable resources, such as sunlight, and some regulations are favoring their use. As a result, future energy supplies are likely to come from a much wider range of sources.
Grade Band Endpoints for
By the end of grade 2. Living things need water, air, and resources from the land, and they try to live in places that have the things they need. Humans use natural resources for everything they do: for example, they use soil and water to grow food, wood to burn to provide heat or to build shelters, and materials such as iron or copper extracted from Earth to make cooking pans.
By the end of grade 5. All materials, energy, and fuels that humans use are derived from natural sources, and their use affects the environment in multiple ways. Some resources are renewable over time, and others are not.
By the end of grade 8. Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources. Minerals, fresh water, and biosphere resources are limited, and many are not renewable or replaceable over human lifetimes. These resources are distributed unevenly around the planet as a result of past geological processes (link to ESS2.B). Renewable energy resources, and the technologies to exploit them, are being rapidly developed.
By the end of grade 12. Resource availability has guided the development of human society. All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks, as well as benefits. New technologies and regulations can change the balance of these factors.