Category Pollution

Can we save Earth?

The history of our planet has been divided into tiny sections of time, and this is called geologic time. Depending on many factors within a specific period, these sections are called eons, eras, periods, epochs, and age. What we now live in is officially called the Holocene (meaning “entirely recent”), an epoch that began more than 11,000 years ago after the last major Ice Age. However, for decades now, many scientists have been calling for a specific name to be given to the epoch that begins mid-20th Century. A name that will sum up how intensely and singularly we humans have altered our planet – Anthropocene (anthropo meaning “human” and cene, “new”). Mid-century was chosen because that’s when the first atomic bomb exploaded leaving behind radioactive debris in sediments and glacial ice, “becoming part of the geologic record”. While we do not know if Anthropocene will be officially accepted and adopted, what we can be sure of is that our actions are directly responsible for how the Earth is today. In fact, we’re in the midst of the sixth mass extinction – the first one for which humans are to blame! But many are still hopeful that we can work collectively to save the planet despite the window of opportunity closing really fast.


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Where are most bushfires in Australia?

Bushfires happen almost every year across the island-nation of Australia. However, this time around, it has been one of the worst-ever. What began in September 2019 has continued well into 2020. It has claimed more than 25 lives while reducing millions of acres to ash. And New South Wales was hit the hardest – in this State alone, more than half-a-billion creatures, including mammals, birds and reptiles, are feared to have perished. There are reports that thousands of kangaroos and koalas have been consumed by the fire across the country. The last few decades have seen an increase in the number of bushfires, and may be attributed to global warming. As for Australia, the bushfires season seems to be beginning earlier and lasting longer. In a chilling revelation, the U.K. scientists have said that the recent fires in Australia are assign of what the world will go through as temperatures increase.


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Why tiger population was reduced rapidly in India?

A telling identity of our planet’s biodiversity, the tiger is also a keystone species. And its population the world over, and especially in India, has been of particular concern. However, July 2019 brought with it some comforting news. The findings of the Tiger census, conducted in our country once in every four years, showed that the tiger population had increased from 2,226 in 2014 to 2,967 in 2018. With that, India is estimated to be home to around 70% of the world’s tigers. Following an alarming decrease in the tiger population since the early 20th Century, the government had put in place stringent laws in the 1970s to protect the national animals, and this seems to have been paying off over the last decade or two. However, human-animal conflicts continue, and conservationists have repeatedly called for an increase in protected areas for the tiger.


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How many lions died in Gir Forest?

Between September and October 2018, the Gir forest sanctuary – the only place to find the Asiatic lion in the wild today – lost nearly 25 of its most popular inhabitants. The death of lions is believed to have been caused by a potent combination of canine distemper virus and babesiosis, a disease caused by tick-borne parasites, according to government officials. The officials also said that the lions belonged to one pride. Following the deaths, 33 lions from the area were rescued, quarantined and vaccinated and kept under observation. Interestingly, answering a question at the legislative Assembly in early 2019, the Gujarat government said that over 200 lions had died in the Gir forest region in the previous two years (2017 and 2018).

Canine Distemper is a viral disease that is frequent in dogs, foxes, wolves, big cats and even primates. It is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus of the family Paramyxoviridae (the family of viruses causing measles, mumps and bronchiolitis in humans). It infects the spinal cord and brain and also the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. The virus is believed to have a 50% fatality rate in dogs.

In 1994, the CDV was responsible for an epidemic in the Serengeti region of Africa, where 1,000 lions died in three weeks. Its prevalence in India has not been studied and only a few reports are available regarding its detection in wild carnivores.


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What has Greta Thunberg done for the environment?

It’s not Al Gore. It’s not DiCaprio. It’s a teenager that’s undeniably the face of the environment chapter in the book of impactful stories from the decade. Swede Greta Thunberg’s story begins on August 20, 2018, when the 15-year-old skips school to protest outside parliament for more action against climate change, with just a placard in hand. Within a week, she is joined by students, teachers, parents, and has the attention of the media. Soon enough, she marks Fridays for climate protest, and suggests students everywhere take up the “Fridays of Future” campaign by staging walkouts at their own schools. How she made an entire world hear her out is history. When a few world leaders undermined her concerns, determination and impact, she came up with witty updates on her social media pages, showing them – and us – that she’s more than just a concerned teenager asking irresponsible adults “How Dare You?”


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What were the 3 major hurricanes of 2017?

The U.S. suffered three hurricanes – Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria in just two months, August and September 2017. It would also turn out to be among the five costliest-ever to hit the country. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that together they cost the country USD 265 billion. The storms brought widespread death and destruction to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since the hurricanes killed hundreds of people and brought misery and hardship to millions of people and brought misery and hardship to millions of Americans, the World Meteorological Organization decided to retire the names of these hurricanes.

NOAA said the dollar amounts are “the estimated total costs of these events — that is, the costs in terms of dollars that would not have been incurred had the event not taken place. Insured and uninsured losses are included in damage estimates.” 

In all, 2017’s hurricanes caused more than a quarter-trillion dollars in insured and uninsured losses, the National Hurricane Center reported. 


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When did the US withdraw from the Paris agreement?

On June 1, 2017 the U.S. President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement that his predecessor had signed. The agreement had come into force on November 4, 2016. Trump claimed it “gives undue advantage to India and China at the cost of the United States’ interests”, and that it “is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the U.S.”. He also insisted that the accord would have negative impacts on job growth, manufacturing and industries. His speech suggested that he was open to negotiations to “make a deal that’s fair”.

To date there are only two other countries that have not yet signed on to the Paris Agreement: Syria and Nicaragua. Syria, which remains in the throes of a destructive civil war, noted that it was not in a position to sign such agreements because of ongoing sanctions from Western countries. The government of Nicaragua, however, refused to sign on for different reasons. Nicaragua believes that the Paris Agreement does not go far enough to reduce emissions, arguing that wealthy countries such as the United States should have been forced to make deeper commitments.


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Which is the World’s largest marine reserve created off Antarctica?

In October 2016, a vast stretch of ocean off Antarctica received international protection to become the world’s largest marine reserve. Over 15 lakh of water in Ross Sea is protected, thanks to the decision of the international body that oversees the waters around Antarctica- the Commission for the Conversation of Antarctica Marine Living Resources, comprising 24 countries. The nutrient-rich waters of the region are the most productive in the Antarctic, and the protection will guard everything from krills to penguins and whales. Unfortunately, only two years later, Russia, Norway and China would stop global efforts to turn a huge tract of pristine Antarctic Ocean into the world’s biggest sanctuary of about 1.8 million


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What’s destroying the Great Barrier Reef?

Due to higher-than-normal water temperatures in 2015 and 2016, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef suffered its worst-ever coral bleaching event on record. According to a November report by researchers at ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in James Cook University, about 67% coral had died in the worst-hit northern part. However, those in the southern part were in good health, while the central part of the Reef witnessed a six % die-off, the report said. Since coral bleaching (or die-off) usually occurred as a result of continuous warm water temperatures, scientists were concerned about the recovery of the corals.

The Great Barrier Reef is made by trillions of tiny invertebrate creatures known as coral polyps, which have built it over the past 600,000 years. The polyps, which excrete calcium carbonate to make reefs, are extraordinarily sensitive to changes in water temperature. When it rises by two to three degrees Celsius above normal levels many species of coral are forced to expel the multicoloured algae that live within its tissues, an effect known as “bleaching”.  The white coral skeletons that remain can regenerate if temperatures fall and water quality conditions are good. But in many instances entire reef systems can be destroyed if water temperatures remain elevated for several months. 


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How humans are driving the sixth mass extinction?

June 2015 was a terrible month to be a human. Anew study in the journal “Scientists confirmed what only the discerning had perhaps expected all along – that the sixth global mass extinction was happening and humanity’s existence was being threatened. The researches had used conservative estimates to prove that “species are disappearing faster than at any time since the dinosaurs’ demise”. We are wiping species off our planet at a rate at least 100 times faster than historical levels. They called for swift action to conserve threatened species, populations and habits, and also cautioned that the window of opportunity was closing really fast.

The impacts of a still-avoidable sixth mass extinction would likely be so massive they’d be best described as science fiction. It would be catastrophic, widespread and, of course, irreversible. In the past, it has taken life ten to thirty million years to recover after such an extinction, 40 to 120 times as long as modern-looking humans have been telling tales by firelight. Moreover, Williams and his team argue that future changes driven by humanity may go so far as to create not just a new epoch in geologic history – such as the widely-touted Anthropocene – but a fundamental reshaping of Earth on par with the rise of microbes or the later shift from microbes to multicellular organisms.


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