What Does Depletion Mean?

“Depletion”… it’s a word that sends shivers down the spine, and that’s not only because it shares a similar cadence to other nightmarish words such as annihilation and extinction, but because it could well be a precursor to them.

In everyday language, depletion refers to the reduction or complete removal of something, and it means the exact same thing in the field of Earth science.

What Does Depletion Mean?

In this context, the word depletion describes the process of using resources quicker than we can replenish them, meaning that, unless action is taken to minimize consumption, the resources in question will eventually run dry.

In the current climate, depletion is usually used in association with things like water consumption, deforestation, fishing, farming, hunting, and the use of fossil fuels.

What Causes Depletion?

There are a number of reasons why resource depletion can occur, and, unfortunately, none of them are easy problems to resolve.

Listed below are some of the most pressing issues that humanity must face in the coming years.


At the root of depletion, there is one overarching issue: overpopulation.

It’s been recorded that even now, the population is roughly one and a half times too large for the planet to provide for if current consumption rates remain the same.

The problem is simple, yet impossibly complex. The more of us there are, the more resources we need to get by — that’s the simple part.

The complex part is that there’s really no way to curtail population expansion.

As long as the population of the planet keeps growing, resource depletion is going to be immensely difficult to avoid.


Trees can be a completely renewable resource when harvested responsibly, but as they take so long to grow, it’s easy for humanity to get carried away and cut down more than we should. 

Forestry is being removed at an alarming rate, chiefly to make room for agricultural pursuits to satisfy the exacerbated population crisis.

Forests are also being cleared to develop more housing, leading to the spreading of urban areas and the destruction of habitats of countless species of animal.

This shines a light on one of the darkest aspects of depletion… it’s never a singular event happening in a vacuum.

If one resource is suffering from depletion, the knock-on effects are seismic.

The clearing of forests has laid waste to the natural biodiversity of places across the globe, sending ecosystems into disarray, essentially fast-tracking widespread extinction.

Logging also contributes significantly towards soil erosion, meaning the soil itself is becoming less and less able to nurture new life.

Poor Agricultural Practices

A growing population leads to an overwhelming need for food, which puts a huge amount of strain on the land.

To keep up with demand, farmers will often end up relying on insidious methods of increasing productivity.

Unsustainable irrigation systems contribute to the destruction of soil integrity, and the use of heavy machinery obliterates soil structure and its ability to support plant life. 

The use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides also damages the mineral profile of soil, rendering it barren.


As mentioned above, more people = more consumption, and the Earth simply cannot keep up with our booming numbers. Industrialization has played a major role in this form of depletion.

The benefits of fossil fuels were discovered before their downsides and notions of depletion, so, as a species, we have become overly dependent on them.

The technology sector has also put massive strain on mineral resources around the world, as there simply isn’t enough to go around.


The more resources we use, the more we pollute, and the more we pollute, the quicker the landscape deteriorates, and the further the Earth falls into disrepair, the fewer resources it will produce — starting to see how instances of depletion are never isolated?

The ocean and other bodies of water, the air, and soil are all being contaminated on a daily basis, reducing the habitability of the planet on all fronts.

And all the while, the ozone layer is wasting away, causing global warming that will have its own devastating effects on the vitality of our shared home.

What Will Depletion Lead To?

What Does Depletion Mean?

Shortages Of Water

Water is by far the most precious resource on the planet, that and the air we breathe, yet, due to wastage, contamination, and destruction of natural water zones, over 1 billion humans don’t have access to clean H2O.

And it’s not just us that need water, but everything we eat needs water to grow, which means water shortages and famine come hand in hand.

Depleted Oil Reserves

It’s thought that there is only enough oil left in the Earth to keep related industries going for about two and half decades.

When it runs out, these industries will go into free fall, which will have dire effects on global economies.

The good news is that, once the fossil fuels are gone, humans will be forced to use renewable energy instead.

Removal Of Forestry

Forest cover is quickly being depleted, which is bringing down wildlife numbers significantly and adding to the emission of greenhouse gasses.

Deforestation also means that soil is becoming less and less habitable and the chances of floods or droughts are increased dramatically.

Mineral Depletion

Minerals aren’t just essential to the production of our smartphones and computers, they’re also essential to soil quality. Once they run dry, plant life will struggle to survive, as will we.


Many species of animals and plants will simply cease to be if we don’t put a stop to depletion.

We are currently seeing an astronomical, widespread reduction in animal numbers due to deforestation, overfishing, and pollution.

How Do We Stop Depletion?

Although our situation is dire, if we act swiftly, we can halt depletion in its tracks. Here’s how it must be done:

  • Putting a stop to excessive deforestation
  • Reducing reliance on fossil fuels and focusing on more environmentally friendly and renewable power sources
  • Protecting natural ecosystems such as wetlands and oceans
  • Spreading awareness of depletion and its causes

Final Thoughts

Depletion is the biggest threat we face, not just as a species, but as life on this planet.

If we keep going the way we’re going, there simply isn’t a future for the human race or any other creatures on the Earth, but it’s not too late to do the right thing and bring our march towards extinction to a halt.

Jenna Bates
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