Renewable resources, together with inexhaustible resources (sunlight, wind, salty water…) are fundamental because their existence and renewal depend on rational use. Examples are land and forests.

Fertile soil is one of the most important because agriculture and livestock form the basis of the global food supply, and overexploitation can use it up. Excessive use of pesticides, fertilisers and inappropriate crops make the soil less fertile, or make land disappear altogether (desertification, loss of soil), and this brings serious consequences.

Forests are an important source of resources, such as wood, but they are also essential to the absorption of CO2 emitted by industrial processes and everyday activities (vehicles, heating…). Furthermore, they are necessary in order to maintain plant and animal biodiversity or to generate oxygen, becoming natural lungs’ and recreational areas.

Logging and forest fires expose the ground to weather conditions that can cause soil erosion, uprooting and displacement. Thousands of hectares of rich soil disappear every year and it cannot be recovered. The forests are one the most threatened renewable resources due to abusive exploitation, especially the equatorial forests and tropical forests.


Intense industrial and economic development, a high global population and a lifestyle based on consumerism all rely on large amounts of nonrenewable resources, such as hydrocarbons (oil, natural gas) or mining resources.

The demand for these products is so great that the whole of the Earth, including the ocean, is ripe for exploration and exploitation. The increased level of oil resources used in energy production may lead to non-renewable resources being used up completely.

These resources must not be wasted and it is essential that we find alternatives to produce the energy that we need


Fresh water is renewable and is in scarce supply on our planet.

Fresh water is another one of the most threatened resources and there is no alternative (except desalination of sea water); just like air, it is necessary in order for life to exist. Pollution and overexploitation of aquifers or wasteful use of this resource are serious dangers due to its consumption in developed countries.

The availability of drinking water for people and animals does not depend on the country being dry or wet, but on its level of development. There are countries in Central Africa that have the greatest amount of rainfall due to the equatorial climate but they do not have a sewerage system or a water distribution network. There are similar situations in India, China, Central America and South America.

The most advanced countries do not worry about the scarcity of water. They don’t worry that it is a renewable good that must be conserved, whether in domestic consumption, in inadequate watering systems in farming (the largest consumer of fresh water) or recreational spaces that consume vast amounts of water (amusement parks, golf courses…).

Agricultural production consists of the following: cereals, coffee, tea and cocoa; vegetables and seeds, wine and tobacco; fruit and vegetable fibres.

Cereals. These are the foundation of the world’s nutrition. The most important cereals are wheat (produced in mild and cold climates in Europe, American and Asia), rice (the main food in Asia, produced in warm climates that have lots of rain and which therefore flood) and corn (America is the biggest producer, followed by Asia and Europe). Other important cereals are sorghum and millet found in the Sub-Saharan Africa, and barley and oats. In Europe, barley is used to make beer and oats as fodder for livestock.

Coffee, tea and cocoa. There is a high demand for this type of product. Coffee (originally from Ethiopia) is produced in South America (Brazil, Colombia) and Southeast Asia. Tea is a plant that is usually grown on the mountainsides of China, India and Sri Lanka (but it is also produced in Kenya, in high altitude conditions). Cocoa comes from the warm and humid rainforests in Central America; it is also produced In Africa (the countries on the Guinean Gulf) and Southeast Asia.

Vegetables and seeds. Potatoes (originally from Peru but consumed across the whole world), legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans) and other products (tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, pumpkin, melon) play a large part in human nutrition. Sugar is extracted from sugar cane (Brazil, India, China), as well as sugar beet. Common types of seed include: sugar beets, soybeans and alfalfa.

Wine and tobacco. The vines used to make wine are characteristic of regions that have mild climates, mainly Mediterranean (Spain, Italy and France), but they are also found in the USA, Argentina, Chile, Australia and other places. Tobacco was originally grown in the Caribbean, but it is now cultivated in mild and warm climates.

Fruit. This agricultural product is now one of the most widely consumed. Regions with mild climates produce large quantities of fruit (apples, pears, peaches) but countries are gradually consuming more and more tropical fruits (banana and plantain, mango). Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, mandarin) is the largest group of fruits.

Vegetable fibres. Although these are being replaced with artificial fibres, large quantities of cotton are still being produced across the world (China, USA, India) and, to a lesser extent, linen, jute (for bags), sisal (for ropes and cords), hemp and other fibres.

Vegetable oils. Used widely in human nutrition. Olive oil is characteristic of Mediterranean countries (of which Spain is the main global producer, followed by Italy and Greece). Other types of oil are sunflower oil (Russia, Ukraine), soybean oil, (USA, Brazil, Argentina) and peanut and palm oil.

Other agricultural products. Although not as important as other products on a global scale, the following are the main types of food grown in some regions: sesame, sweet potatoes, yams, mango, papaya, avocado and dates.


Mining resources are raw materials that have a mineral origin, although they can also be of vegetable origin (coal, petroleum). They belong to the primary sector as they are raw materials, but they are the foundation of industry (secondary sector) because they provide the minerals and the sources of energy that the secondary sector needs. 

Although minerals are found in all continents, some countries or regions are richer in these raw materials, because of their size or geology. 

Coal is found in the basins next to the mountain ranges such as the Appalachians or the Ural Mountains, and other places in China, Europe and Australia.

Oil is found mainly in the countries near the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, and other countries, and is often found in close proximity to natural gas.

Although Europe is a continent rich in minerals, much of its production has dried up because the minerals have been exploited continuously since Roman times.

Spain has historically been a country with one of the richest traditions of mining(gold, silver, copper, iron, mercury, lead, coal, uranium), but today the mining industry has almost completely disappeared.

This is not due to the drying up of the deposits but because of the extraction costs. It is more economical to import many of the minerals that we need rather than producing them ourselves.

Some large countries have developed their mining industries in recent years, and have become forces in world mining. These include China, the United States, Australia, Canada, Brazil and South Africa.

The country with the most mineral resources is China. It is the leading global producer of coal, gold, iron, lead, aluminium, zinc and tin, the second for silver, the third for copper and the fourth for oil. Next is the United States, which is the leading producer of natural gas, the second for coal, the third for oil, gold and lead and the fourth for copper and aluminium. Australia has a relatively young mining industry but it is very powerful: it is the second highest producer of gold, iron, lead and zinc, the third for uranium and the fourth for coal and silver.