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GCSE - Overview Resources and human development

The significance of food, water and energy to economic and social well-being

There are natural resources that are essential to human survival, these being food and water, but if we add energy to that list we have the resources that are fundamental to human development.

Key word

Resource Management - The control and monitoring of resources so that they do not become depleted or exhausted.

Food, water and energy have a huge significance in determining people’s economic and social well-being across the globe.  This is recognised by both the World Bank and the United Nations. However, access to these resources is unequal across the globe.  Without access to these fundamental items, countries and people get trapped in the mire of poverty.  Reliable energy supplies are vital to allowing a countries industry and economy to function, whilst human survival and well-being require clean and reliable food and water supplies.

When food water and energy are abundant relative to the number of people living in a place, their quality of life increases.  Where there are scarcities of these items there can be social and political unrest.  As global population and rates of consumption increase there is a need to increase water, food and energy supplies, but to do so in a sustainable manner to meet the needs of all people. The world population crossed 7 billion in 2011, this puts increasing pressure upon resources.


People need enough food to survive and live a healthy life.  According to the NHS the guideline figures per day are;

Women 2000 Kcal
Men 2500 Kcal
Teenage Boys 2414 to 3150 Kcal
Teenage Girls 2223 to 2462 Kcal

Food production is governed by many factors including physical factors such as climate (temperature and rainfall), the gradient or slope of the land, and the quality of the soils.  Human factors also play a role, with capital (money for investment, technology, land ownership and government policies all having an effect.

WATER SUPPLY and QUALITY vary around the world and not everyone has the luxury of safe, clean drinking water on tap. Water quality can have a massive impact on people; this is why India has attempted to clean up the River Ganges.  Poor water quality has a direct impact on people’s lives as it is an essential element for life.  Poor water quality can lead to disease, which weakens people and therefore has a direct impact on their productivity and hence economic development.  Diseases related to poor quality water include Bilharzia (snail fever, where snails transmit flatworms to people causing internal organ damage), Yellow fever and Malaria (both related to mosquitos which breed around water) and cholera (extreme diarrhoea).  Water supply is another major issue because in many parts of the world unreliable water supplies limit agriculture and other development areas.  If people are searching for and carrying water they cannot focus their energies on other areas of the economy, limiting development further.

According to Water Aid;
• Around 700,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. That's almost 2,000 children a day
• 768 million people in the world don't have access to safe water. This is roughly one in ten of the world's population
• 2.5 billion people don't have access to adequate sanitation, almost two-fifths of the world's population.
• More than one fifth of the world’s population live in areas of water scarcity, where there isn’t enough water to meet everybody’s needs.
Water supplies are also under pressure from uses in food production, energy production, industry and urbanisation.


We use energy is a huge variety of ways including powering our homes, for transport, in our industries and to help produce and process our food.  There are big gaps in who uses energy around the world and how much.  More traditional forms of energy involve burning wood and coal for heat, but we can also use fossil fuels to produce electricity and many countries are increasing turning to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power to meet their energy needs.
There are other issues in energy, relating to the pollution of our atmosphere which can cause health issues and global changes in our climate, and issues related to the extraction of the resource and the damage that does to the environment.  Another issue to consider is that of biofuels, where we use farmland to produce oils to be used as fuel.  Is this a good way to get a fuel when some people around the world do not have enough food to eat?


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