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The resources problematic

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Etymologically, the word resource is a noun derived from the old French verb ressourdre and its past participle ressours/ressourse (related to the Latin resurgere) meaning “to rise again”. A resource is literally a second or new source, something which relieves, a means of ending difficulties as well as an asset which can be used, bought, sold or exchanged. Resources can be natural, human, economic, institutional or cognitive. Content varies according to what is being referred to : material resources such as the production of agro-ecosystems, energy, biodiversity or population networks ; human resources ; or immaterial resources such as institutional resources.

Far from being a stable and homogenous object of study, resources present a dynamic potential which defies attempts at conceptualization : they are at the heart of (financial, economic, geopolitical and legal) conflicts, of unresolved tensions (between consumption and preservation, exploitation and renewal, adoption and rejection) and they are subjected to continual change of status (recyclable, protected, renewable, etc.) according to the state of science, the needs of the present, medium-term perspectives, and national and international legislation.

This diversity of orders, dimensions and content provides an idea of the omnipresence of the notion of resources in the questions and research concerning models of the past and present development of society. At the local and global levels, in both regional and planetary issues, this notion has become something more than a real problem. It has become a concept, a norm and a horizon for human and scientific practice. It demands the rethinking of the links between science, politics and human life. The resources issue constitutes both a prelude to a protean intellectual area and one of the common denominators of every subject area as well as representing a major issue for our future.

Publié ou mis à jour le 20 février 2012