Non-renewable resources are those that cannot be regenerated, and thus are finite in quantity. They are closely linked to non-sustainable resources, which may be regenerated, but not at a rate that keeps up with consumption. There are many different types of non-renewable resources, including fossil fuels, ore, plant and animal species,
Fossil fuels are often cited as a non-renewable resource, partially because humans are so reliant on their use. Fossil fuels are organic materials such as coal, oil, and natural gas, which are created through the application of intense heat and pressure on organic materials over thousands of years. Though the Earth does continue to naturally generate fossil fuels, the rate at which humans remove these resources for use far exceeds the rate of natural development. Since humans cannot synthesize the slow-moving processes that create fossil fuels, they are considered non-renewable resources.
Though nuclear power is often described as a sustainable or renewable power source, it is actually based on non-renewable elements known as uranium and plutonium. Both of these elements are natural resources that cannot be synthesized through lab creation, like gemstones, or re-planted, like trees. Since the creation of nuclear power is impossible without the use of uranium and plutonium, it is not a renewable energy resource.
Non-renewable resources are not necessarily related only to energy production. Anything that can be used up and cannot be replaced is a type of non-renewable resource. Animal species driven to extinction by human usage, for instance, can be considered a non-renewable resource. One North American bird called the Carolina parakeet was hunted out of existence during the early 20th century, coveted for its beautiful plumage. The use of certain trees and plants for medicines has driven many species throughout the world to the brink of extinction. Though both animal and plant species can be renewed through breeding and forestry programs, where these programs are absent, whole species can disappear within a few short decades.
The use of non-renewable resources is a controversial and complicated issue. In the early 21st century, human society remains largely dependent on fossil fuel resources for transportation, electricity, and a myriad of other basic requirements. Greater education about dwindling resources has led to a cry for the development of new practices that capitalize on renewable energy resources and proper management programs for sustainable resources. Despite these efforts, some experts fear that changes may not come soon enough, leading to a global crisis when non-renewable resources disappear.