How do changes in technology and society result in changes in the way resources are used?

This shows the percentage of each population that is undernourished. the areas in red, orange and yellow show countries that are undernourished. these countries will therefore still use food as a resource to survive. (photo credit: medicalnewstoday.com)

A resource is typically defined as something that can be used to meet the demands of humans, but overtime changes in technology and society can mean that what was once not a resource will then become one along with some resources changing in the way that they are used. a resource is not something that stays the same forever as it’s purpose and need can be influenced by other factors.

Take food as an example. in most of history, food has been a resource to aid survival and the aim of technology has been to get enough food to survive and avoid undernourishment. However, now food is used as a resource for pleasure and leisure especially in westernised cultures such as in the UK and USA . this is because food has become readily available at affordable and convenient prices due to the development of fast food chains such as McDonalds and this was due to advances in technology in agriculture and food production and processing as well as individuals receiving a higher disposable income that can be spent on using food as a means of enjoyment instead of just being able to survive. changes in food as a resource has meant that more and more people now eat for enjoyment and it has led to food controlling aspects of our daily lives such as going out for a meal. however, there are still places in the world where several factors such as poor climate conditions for growing food, political instability and war that has meant that food is still very much a resource that is used for survival such as in Sub Saharan Africa where food is still necessary for survival and the aim of society here is more to get enough food to survive rather than for leisure and enjoyment.

oil production in ANWR, Alaska has become possible due to advances in technology. (photo credit: reuters.com)

Technology has also meant that areas that where previously considered not to be a useful resource are now being considered for the exact opposite. even though the oil supplies are decreasing there is now the potential to extract more oil due to advances in exploration and extraction technology. this is the case in the area 1002 region of ANWR in Alaska as the demand for oil has led to the use of new drilling technologies such as horizontal drilling, which allows an environmentally sensitive site to be drilled for oil with minimal damage meaning more oil can be extracted which increases the availability of oil as a resource. also other advances in  drilling technologies has led to changes in the way energy is used as a resource as before these changes the UK used coal to heat homes whereas now gas is used the most to fuel homes as it is now easier to drill for oil and gas than it is to mine for coal leading to oil and gas being the main suppliers of energy in homes. also changes in the way society thought about the environment has meant that more people now prefer oil or gas to coal as they are considered a cleaner fuel than coal. this has also led to the development of renewable energy supplies as society is becoming more environmentally aware so energy is increasingly coming from sources such as solar and wind power. in some countries such as Denmark the public’s positive opinion on renewable energy has meant more can be developed since there is less opposition to the construction of them. however there are still many countries where the changes in public opinions have not been significant enough yet to let renewable energy become one of the main sources of energy. technology has also enabled new resources to be accessed such as offshore wind farms. this meant that a resource that was previously unreachable is now available for exploitation, which means that some  previously non renewable  resources may be more renewable than originally perceived.

advances in travel tourism meant that Victorians were able to take holidays on the coast (photo credit: bbc.co.uk)

Also as technology has developed, it has made some landscapes into a resource such as the coastline in the UK during the 19th century.  in the UK the increase in tourism came at the same time as the increase in travel technology. train travel was becoming widely available which allowed wealthier Victorians to go on holidays to the coast and as the technology became more available it also became cheaper allowing people from the middle a lower classes to travel to the coast for leisure eventually. this changed the use of the natural landscape as a resource as it had become more important in terms of tourism than it had done before. today advances in air travel has led to people being able to travel further distances and take more holidays abroad as 81% of the UK’s tourist population travel abroad by plane. also with society becoming more environmentally aware, ecotourism has become more popular with more people staying at sustainable holiday locations such as the El Pbetano rain forest farm in Ecuador. These changes have meant that areas that were previously not seen as a valuable resource have now become one in terms of tourism.

It is possible therefore that something that is not currently a resource could become a major resource in the future as changes in technology and society will provide the means and social willingness to make it happen. it is also possible that a current resource could not be so valuable in the future as alternatives to it, as with the case of coal, oil and gas, could become more attractive.

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