Introducing students to the global distribution of natural resources and the international relationships these resources generate
What are natural resources?
How are natural resources globally distributed?
To begin the lesson, write down five different natural resources on sticky notes and rank them in order of importance of society. Discuss as a class what natural resources are, and use the examples that have been identified by yourself and other students.
Natural resources are any kind of substance which in their natural form is required (or desired) by humans. Human beings rely on natural resources to meet a variety of their needs. Natural resources are considered valuable because humans rely on them to meet their changing needs. While natural resources occur all around the world, specific resources often require specific conditions and so not all natural resources are spread equally. As a result, countries trade their natural resources to ensure that their needs can be met.
This lesson introduces the key natural resources found on the planet, their distribution and their value. While there are many natural resources which could be explored, this lesson focuses on oil, coal, iron ore, gold, diamonds, copper, coffee, wheat, cotton, and natural gas.
Before you explore the distribution of these natural resources in more detail, you need to find out what each of the natural resources are used for. Some natural resources have many uses.
There is a uneven global distribution of natural resources including minerals (e.g. gold, copper), energy resources (e.g. coal, oil, natural gas), as well as wood, food and water.
The main task for this lesson then focuses on identifying the top natural resources for different regions of the world. Examine the maps in the Natural Resource PPT which shows the highest valued export for countries across the world. The PPT includes close-up of different continents. Each group should explore a particular continent and then discuss as a class the global distribution of natural resources. For the map you have chosen to examine:
Identify which are natural resources (and which are manufactured or processed goods)
Comment on the pattern of different categories of natural resources.
Download the top producing countries data set. This provides you with data for the top 10 producing countries for a range of natural resources (Cotton, Copper, Iron Ore, Gold, Diamonds, Coffee, Wheat, Oil, Uranium, Natural Gas). You should create a key for the natural resources and then create a map showing the top producers of natural resources. A blank outline map is provided, although if GIS software is available this could also be completed via computer.
You should revisit your sticky notes from the beginning of the lesson. Can they name two more natural resources, and where do these rank in terms of importance for society? If the maps you had produced showed consumption rather than production of these resources what distribution patterns do you think you would see? For homework, pick one of the natural resources and find out more about the consumption distribution pattern. Is it different to the distribution of production?
Explore how patterns of natural resource extraction have changed over time by visiting the Material Flows gap minder website.
Read this article from the Guardian which identifies the six natural resources most drained by the world’s 7 billion people. Go to the Guardian website. Which of these resources is most important? Why?
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