The global resource problem is that people consume without any limitation, and deplete the reserves of natural elements of the planetary ecosystem, the components of organic and non-organic life, and the conditions for the existence of the biosphere including people and society. Meanwhile, Earth’s resources are not unlimited, they are exhaustible; increased wasteful use of natural resources on a regular basis leads to their depletion, and does not allow them to renew.
Human needs are limited by the resource available for their subsistence: whether we want it or not, this relation is objective. The real tragedy is that some kinds of resource are exhaustible, they are non-renewable.
Normally, the resource problem is either considered as a solely environmental or a purely economic issue. We have purposefully put it as a single item to emphasize its planetary twofold value as both an environmental and economic (social) issue at the same time.
In the 20th century, industrial growth accelerated unprecedentedly in comparison with previous historical periods. This became possible due to the technological realization of the many 19th and 20th century scientific discoveries, and the conditional leveling of leading economies and market globalization. In the 20th century, people extracted more mineral resources than during the entire history of human civilization. The consumption level of fossil fuels increased thirtyfold due to the fiftyfold increase in global industrial production. Moreover, three fourths of the increase in fuel consumption and four fifths of industrial growth took place in the period starting in the 1950s. The main effects included economic growth, huge demographic shifts, and dramatic environmental changes some of which are irreversible: the Earth found itself on the brink of exhaustion, because humanity consumes more resources than the planet can produce.
Today, the problem of resources is considered in terms of availability, exhaustibility (renewability) and remaining reserves.
The indicator of resource availability is a ratio between the volume of reserves and the amount of their consumption. Mineral resource sufficiency is measured by the number of years known reserves will last if they are consumed at the current rate; while forestry, land and water resource sufficiency is determined by the per capita reserve amount.
The feature of exhaustibility is crucial in resource evaluation and divides all planetary resources into renewable and non-renewable in a natural way. Thus, many renewable natural resources have ceased to be renewable due to an anthropogenic impact: air, fresh water, fertile soil, many animal and plant species, and entire ecosystems.