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A resource is anything of value as an input in production. Classical political economy identified land, labor, and capital as the three factors of production, and in this way it distinguished between natural resources, human resources, and financial resources. Capital could be understood merely as physical instruments of production, but, for example, William Stanley Jevons (1871) considered a sum of money or financial resources a transitory form or capital that could be transformed into physical instruments of production. Whereas human resources and financial resources are terms that are still in common usage, the term resources can also be used more narrowly to refer to natural resources only. This is the sense in which resources are discussed in this article.

Natural resources are conventionally divided into three categories: indestructible or nondepletable, renewable or depletable, and exhaustible or nonrenewable resources. Examples of nondepletable resources include wind and solar energy, whereas fisheries, pastures, forest resources, and soils are examples of renewable resources. Minerals, ores, coal, and oil are exhaustible resources. Sometimes the term exhaustible resources is also used to refer to both renewable and nonrenewable resources. A broader definition of environmental resources would include newly discovered or defined resources such as biodiversity, the ozone layer, and atmospheric and other sinks, in addition to conventional natural resources. Most of these resources are best understood as renewable or depletable resources.

Exhaustible resources are categorized further by the U.S. Bureau of Mines and the U.S. Geological Survey (1976) on the basis of the economic feasibility of their extraction and the state of knowledge on their quantity and quality: Resources are identified or undiscovered, and economic or subeconomic. Identified and economic resources constitute reserves. Reserves, such as those of oil, increase when technology changes and reduces extraction costs, making it economically feasible to extract previously identified but subeconomic resources. New discoveries can also increase reserves if it is economically feasible to extract them.

The 1972 book The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Romes Project on the Predicament of Mankind (Meadows, Meadows, Randers, and Behrens 1972) raised concerns upon its publication regarding the future availability of key resources. Its computer simulations, which were based on the postwar experiences of high population and economic growth and the prevailing technological performance of the time, suggested that a continuation of resource use as it was happening would result in the exhaustion of many important resources such as oil, coal, and metals in a few decades. However, the standard economic argument is that when resources become scarcer, new stocks are called into reserves by increasing prices. Price increases also give incentives for technological development and new discoveries that harness new resources to replace the ones that are exhausted. The exhaustion of resources is not a problem from an economic point of view if the proceeds from resource use can be invested in a way that compensates for the loss of economic returns from the resource use.

While the predictions of the report have not become literally true, some general trends have played out: Population growth, increasing income levels, and globalization have put pressure on renewable resources, in particular, to such an extent that physical scarcity and absolute limits have to be taken seriously. In their article Human Appropriation of the Products of Photosynthesis (1986), Peter M. Vitousek and his coauthors estimate that humans consume 40 percent of total terrestrial net primary production. Boris Worm and his coauthors in Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services (2006) find that global fish landings have diminished since 1994 despite significantly increased fishing efforts, and that the main commercial fisheries are likely to collapse in the coming decades if marine biodiversity is not protected effectively. In their article Tracking the Ecological Overshoot of the Human Economy (2002), Mathis Wackernagel and his coauthors estimate that the global mean ecological footprint is 2.3 hectares per person, but it is twice that figure in Europe and four times higher in the United States. This means that many developed countries have to import carrying capacity, often from the developing world, as described by Marc L. Imhoff and his coauthors in Global Patterns in Human Consumption of Net Primary Production (2004). The global ecological footprint, the area needed to produce the goods and resources that humanity uses, currently amounts to 1.3 Earths. According to the authors, we currently overshoot the carrying capacity of the earth by a large margin.

SEE ALSO Natural Resources, Nonrenewable


Imhoff, Marc L., Lahouari Bounoua, Taylor Ricketts, et al. 2004. Global Patterns in Human Consumption of Net Primary Production. Nature 429 (6994): 870873.

Jevons, W. Stanley. 1871. The Theory of Political Economy. London and New York: Macmillan.

Meadows, Donella H., Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III. 1972. The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Romes Project on the Predicament of Mankind. New York: Universe Books.

U.S. Bureau of Mines and the U.S. Geological Survey. 1976. Coal Resource Classification System of the U.S. Bureau of Mines and U.S. Geological Survey. Geological Survey Bulletin 1450-B.

Vitousek, Peter M., Paul R. Erlich, Anne H. Erlich, and Pamela A. Matson. 1986. Human Appropriation of the Products of Photosynthesis. BioScience 36 (6): 368373.

Wackernagel, Mathis, Niels B. Schulz, Diana Deumling, et al. 2002. Tracking the Ecological Overshoot of the Human Economy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 99 (14): 92669271.

Worm, Boris, Edward B. Barbier, Nicola J. Beaumont, et al. 2006. Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services. Science 314 (5800): 787790.

Jouni Paavola


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There are many published accounts of the history of genetics, but some of the most exciting versions were written by the pioneering researchers themselves. Although many sources were used to construct the historical overview and highlights contained in this book, James Watson's The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), Francis Crick's memoir What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery (London: Sloan Foundation Science Series, Basic Books, 1990), and Alfred Sturtevant's A History of Genetics (New York: HarperCollins College Division, 1965) provided especially useful insights. The Mechanisms of Mendelian Heredity (New York: Holt Rinehart & Winston, 1915) and The Theory of the Gene (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1926) offer detailed descriptions of ground-breaking genetic research. Ricki Lewis and Bernard Possidente offer more recent history in A Short History of Genetics and Genetic Engineering (New York: Cold Spring Harbor Library, 2003).

Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (London: John Murray, 1859) and The Descent of Man (London: John Murray, 1871) provide historical perspectives on evolution. The discussion of nature versus nurture is drawn from Neil Whitehead's My Genes Made Me Do It! A Scientific Look at Sexual Orientation (Lafayette, LA: Huntington House, 1999), as well as Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (New York: Touch-stone Books, 1996) and David Cohen's Stranger in the Nest: Do Parents Really Shape Their Child's Personality, Intelligence, or Character? (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999). Ethical issues arising from genetic research and engineering are analyzed in Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002) by Francis Fukuyama, Playing God? Human Genetic Engineering and the Rationalization of Public Bioethical Debate (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002) by John Evans, and Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (New York: Times Books, 2003) by Bill McKibben.

The journals Nature and Science have reported every significant finding and development in genetics, and articles dating from 1953 from both publications are cited in this text, as are articles from Scientific American, Nature Biotechnology,, and e-biomed: The Journal of Regenerative Medicine. Research describing genetic testing, disorders, and genetic predisposition to disease is reported in professional medical journals. Studies cited in this book were published in the American Journal of Nursing, Archives of Disease in Childhood, Archives of Internal Medicine, British Medical Journal, Hospitals & Health Networks, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Journal of the American Medical Association, New England Journal of Medicine, and Seminars in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Ethical and psychological issues and the contributions of genetics to personality and behavior are examined in articles published in the American Journal of Bioethics, Archives of General Psychiatry, British Journal of Psychiatry, European Psychologist, Health Affairs, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Psychological Review.

In addition to the U.S. daily newspapers and electronic media, accounts of genetics research and milestones in the Human Genome Project were reported in the United Kingdom in the Daily Express, Guardian, Mirror, The Sun, and Telegraph, and in the U.S. magazines Newsweek, New Yorker, and Time.

The Human Genome Project Information Web site, operated by the U.S. Department of Energy, describes the ambitious goals and accomplishments of the Human Genome Project since its inception in 1990. The Environmental Genome Project was launched by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The National Institutes of Health provides definitions, epidemiological data, and research findings about a comprehensive range of genetic tests and genetic disorders.

Public opinion data from the following organizations was also very helpful: Los Angeles Times Poll, NBC News/ Wall Street Journal Poll, Time /CNN Poll, and the Gallup Organization. The Genetics and Public Policy Center is a part of the Phoebe R. Berman Bioethics Institute at the Johns Hopkins University. Additionally, many colleges, universities, medical centers, professional associations, and foundations dedicated to research, education, and advocacy about genetic disorders and diseases provided up-to-date information included in this edition.


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The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration is the major source of energy statistics in the United States. It publishes weekly, monthly, and yearly statistical collections on most types of energy, which are available in libraries and online at The Annual Energy Review provides a complete statistical overview, and the Annual Energy Outlook projects future developments in the field. The International Energy Annual presents a statistical overview of the world energy situation, and the International Energy Outlook forecasts future industry developments. The Energy Information Administration also provides the Natural Gas Annual and the Electric Power Annual. The U.S. Crude Oil, Natural Gas, and Natural Gas Liquids Reserves Annual Report discusses reserves of coal, oil, and gas. In addition, the Department of Energy makes available information on the development of alternative vehicles and fuels, renewable energy sources, and electric industry restructuring.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 is available at The 2006 Advanced Energy Initiative is available at The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is available at

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics provides transportation information in its Transportation Statistics Annual Report .

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maintains Web sites for the Yucca Mountain Repository ( and for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant ( The agency also provides Light-Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy Trends and Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is also an important source of information. It provides the documents NRC—Regulator of Nuclear Safety and Information Digest .


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resources In economics, a country's collective means of support. Economists divide resources into four categories: land, labour, capital and raw materials.