Skip main navigation

£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 28 February 2023 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more

New resources and increased efficiency

Our technological advancements have made us more efficient and effective in meeting our needs.
© Adam Smith Center, Singapore

Innovation brings about new technologies, which alleviate the strain on resources. Our technological advancements have empowered us in searching for new resource deposits and identifying new methods to harvest more resources that were once inconceivable.

Deep sea drilling, for example, has expanded our capacity to harvest oil deposits from the oceans’ depths. Hydraulic fracking, a process using high pressure water with a low concentration of chemicals to fissure rocks to release oil and natural gas, has spawned new industries eager to attain fossil fuels from previously unyielding shale rock. Today, no drop of crude oil is wasted in refineries due to fractional distillation which isolates different components of crude oil based on their boiling points. Besides refining crude oil into diesel and petrol for vehicles, refineries produce cooking gas and lubricating oils and even tar for roads from the residue of the distillation process.

We have also utilised our resources more efficiently through technological innovations. Thanks to fertilisers, genetically modified seeds, irrigation systems, etc., our scarce fertile agricultural lands have produced higher and more nutritious yields. Between 1866 and 2012, the corn production of American farmers skyrocketed from 24 bushels to 122 bushels of corn per acre. Concomitantly, the price of corn declined from $5.55 in 1866 (1982 dollars) to $3.15 in 2012.

Technology helps us conserve resources. One of the commodities in the Simon–Ehrlich wager was copper, which faced shortages for its extensive use in wiring electronics. Though we have overcome copper shortages through means such as recycling (in the United States, nearly as much copper is recycled and reused as is harvested from ores), copper reserves have been conserved by substituting copper wires with fiber optic cables made from sand.

© Adam Smith Center, Singapore
This article is from the free online

Overpopulation: Resource Depletion and Human Innovation

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education