Category Environtal Studies

Is there anything that people can do to save the planet?

We depend on nature for everything from air, water, food and shelter to sources of energy to run our factories and businesses. So, conserving nature and preserving its biodiversity must be our priority. Here are ten simple tips to do your bit for the planet.

1. Plant trees

Trees are carbon sequesters and increasing the tree cover is perhaps one of the easiest ways to conserve nature. A tree can absorb approximately 25kg of CO2 per year. So, plant a tree to mark this day. Make it a tradition to plant a tree during prominent or celebratory occasions of your life. It can be your birthday or when you finish your academic year or any moment you feel is worth celebrating. If you do not have enough space in your home, see if you can adopt your friend’s yard or make use of the space managed by your area’s residents’ association. Where you do it, make sure that the plant is taken care of Encourage friends and family to take up the practice as well.

2. Conserve energy

 We derive our energy from nature. Everything that is manmade runs on energy obtained from nature. Quite often, a lot of energy also goes to waste. By changing a few habits you can help save energy at home. These include small actions such as turning off the lights (when not in use or when you can depend on daylight), unplugging appliances when not in use, not charging your phone overnight, turning off your faucet when you aren’t using water, taking less time in the shower, reusing waste water in the kitchen gardens and so on. This will help reduce carbon footprint and in turn help in conserving nature. PHOTO: UNSPLASH IMAGES

3.3Rs

The 3Rs of “Reduce”, “Reuse”, “Recycle” is perhaps one of the ultimate mantras for nature conservation. These three small words will help manage waste, save the ecosystem, prevent marine animal casualties and address climate change. The first step is to reduce the waste you generate. This will ensure that less waste ends up in landfills or oceans. Effective waste segregation is the key to this. This helps recover materials for recycling and composting. Reuse articles that you can. And lastly, recycle. This helps prevent soil and water pollution. PHOTO: UNSPLASH IMAGES

4. Use public transport

 One of the major polluters is the global transport sector. It is responsible for approximately one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, according to experts. And 95% of the world’s transport energy is still obtained from fossil fuels. Personal transportation adds to the probelm, adding to the greenhouse emissions. The easiest way to avoid this is by switching to public transport. If this is not a practical solution every time, you can still choose public transport twice or thrice a week or during specific hours. This, when done on a regular basis, can significantly help reduce carbon emissions. Alternately, switching to green modes of travel such as a bicycle can help prevent your carbon footprint.

5. Stop using single-use plastics and disposables

 Single-use plastics and disposable cups and utensils have infiltrated our day-to-day life and upended it. Those disposable grocery bags and disposable utensils you use eventually ends up on the earth, polluting our soil. oceans, and marine life. These disposables can easily be replaced with environmentally responsible counterparts. Make a commitment to take out at least one disposable article from your lifestyle. Perhaps. carry a cloth bag to the supermarket instead of asking them for a plastic one. Maybe switch out your lunch box for one made of metal. This can be a good start. And slowly you can make a lifestyle switch by eschewing other disposables. PHOTO: UNSPLASH IMAGES

6. Eat less meat

It is estimated that 80% of forest loss is caused by the conversion of forest land to agricultural land. It leads to habitat destruction and loss of our green cover. Eating less meat can help prevent this and preserve biodiversity and the ecosystem. Since we all have our food preferences, it may not be easy to switch to vegetarianism or veganism. But you can be more aware and mindful of the food on your plate and choose to eat less meat. For instance. you can limit meat consumption to one or two days a week or reduce the number of meals with meat. PHOTO: UNSPLASH IMAGES

7. Use windows and not AC

 Our world is heating up and the surging heat has made us all dependent on air conditioning, the demand for which is increasing by the day. Did you know that air conditioners are also a contributor to the climate crisis? They consume more electricity than any other appliance in your home and consume about 10% of global electricity (along with electric fans). So next time, when possible, open the windows and let the cool breeze in.

8. Explore thrifting

 Fast fashion is one of the greatest threats to the environment. Did you know that it takes about 2,700 litres of water to make just one t-shirt. Or that a pair of jeans requires 7,600 litres of water? With a consumer base that updates its wardrobe according to trends in the fashion industry, the damage to the planet has been exponential. This trend depletes natural resources and harms the planet. This is where thrift shopping comes in. Anyone who has had an older sibling would be no stranger to using their toys, books, or school paraphernalia, thus giving the article a fresh lease of life. This is the concept of thrift shopping. It means using hand-me-downs or second-hand articles. It applies to all forms of merchandise such as clothes, games, toys, shoes, books, appliances, furniture, and so on. It’s time to break the cycle of single-use apparel or appliances and shop at thrift stores. Also, remember to let your friends and family know you are using a thrifted article and the positive impact your move has on nature’s conservation.

9. Embrace minimalism

 Minimalism is a lifestyle choice where you make mindful, deliberate choices of buying only what you truly need. As such you make do with less and avoid overconsumption, which is one of the major contributors to the exploitation and depletion of natural resources. By consuming only what’s essential for your living, your ecological footprint gets reduced. Thereby, the individual environmental impact is limited. Replace consumerism with eco-minimalism. PHOTO: UNSPLASH IMAGES

10. Spend time volunteering

 One way to help conserve nature is to help organisations that are working in the field directly. You can do this by volunteering your time and services at non-profit environmental organisations. These organisations run on donations and they are always on the lookout for people who can help them. Here you may get to actively participate in the community and work on projects aimed at conserving nature and get on-field experience.

Picture Credit: Google

What is the mimicry of nature?

Nature has many sustainable solutions to numerous pressing problems that man is struggling to cope with today. Scientists and engineers study these unique models and systems of nature while designing new technologies. This biologically-inspired engineering, called biomimicry, biomimetics or bionics, is fast gaining popularity in many parts of the world.

American biologist Janine M. Benyus, who wrote the book. Biomimicry Innovation Inspired by Nature was the first to propose that learning from nature would be the perfect tool for eco-design

The leaf of the lotus plant has a way surface that is covered with tiny bumps or ridges. These ridges cause water droplets to roll off carrying away dust and dirt. This unique ability of the plant to clean itself called the Lotus Effect, was the inspiration behind self-cleaning paint coatings

Besides paints, roof tiles and optical sensors in public places like toll bridges also use innovations based on the Lotus Effect Research is also underway to create self-cleaning textiles. plastic and metals.

 

Inspired by insects

The Eastgate Centre, an office complex in Harare. Zimbabwe, has been designed to mimic the mounds of the African tower building termites (Macrotermes Michaelseni) which use a unique system to keep their homes cool. The insects have developed a method which involves opening and closing air vents in the mound in such a way that cool air is drawn inside while hot air escapes through the chimney. The Eastgate Centre uses 10 per cent less energy than conventional structures of the same size. by adopting the design and ventilation system of the termites.

Sportswear manufacturer Speedo’s swimsuit. the Fastskin LZR Racer, has been fashioned from fabric that mimics the shape and rough texture of sharkskin. This ‘sharkskin’ swimsuit reduces drag, enabling competitive swimmers to shave a few crucial seconds off their race timings. This technology is also being used to develop coatings for ship hulls, submarines and aircraft fuselage.

The tropical boxfish, a reef-dwelling amphibian, inspired Daimler Chryslers concept car. The Bionic Car, as the automobile is called, mimics the fish’s aerodynamic shape and the structure of its rigid protective skin. This innovation consumes 20 per cent less fuel and emits 80 per cent less nitrogen oxide than conventional automobiles. Researchers at the University of California have created two prototype glues after studying the way geckos move across ceilings and cling to polished glass. The soles of Tokay geckos have sticky ridges which contain half a million microscopic hairs. These tiny hairs which exert an attractive force on the wall or floor are responsible for the lizard’s superb grip. The stickiness of gecko adhesive never wears off. The scientists cast two sets of imitation gecko toe hairs and then tipped the hairs with silicon rubber or polyester. In the lab, both materials adhered as well to most surfaces as gecko’s feet.

Fire-extinguisher

Scientists at the Leeds University in England have built an experimental contraption that can shoot a spray of chemicals up to a distance of four metres. The device mimics the behaviour of the bombardier beetle, which squirts a hot explosive stream of venom to ward off predators. The chemical concoction is mixed in a sort of ‘combustion chamber in the insect’s abdomen, with inlet and exit valves determining the precise blend.

Researchers are utilising this technology to build pharmaceutical inhalers and long-range fire extinguishers.

Bullet train

The world’s fastest train, the Japanese shinkansen bullet train includes a number of biomimetic innovations. The trains, which zip between cities at a speed of close to 321 km per hour, have serrations similar to those that allow owls to fly stealthily through the night. This feature is incorporated in the overhead wire collectors to reduce noise. The train’s nose, which mimics the aerodynamic beak of the kingfisher, enables the train to exit tunnels without emitting sonic booms.

Velcro plants

It was only recently that man discovered the touch and close tape. Velcro. This discovery was inspired by nature, since seeds, fruits and even whole plants stowaway on the coats of animals by gripping on in the same manner as Velcro: and have been doing so since time immemorial.

It was in the 1950s that George de Mestral of Switzerland observed the burdock fruit which led him to develop Velcro. This fruit has barbed hooks that enable it to fasten itself to an animal’s fur. And when the burr is brushed off the coat of the animal the casing splits open. The seeds of the burdock are thus spread over a wide area and do not have to germinate in one place

Stowaways like the burdock can be counted in the hundreds in the plant world

Froggy tape

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IT) Kanpur, who were working on creating a reusable sticky tape, received inspiration from an unusual source- the humble tree frog.

It was observed that the sticky toe pads of tree frogs have a patter of tiny channels that increase their adhesion to a surface and prevent the spread of cracks when the frog moves away.

Based on this study, scientists designed a novel sticky tape by placing elastic layers embedded with air or fluid-filled micro channels beneath the authesive layer. This new reusable tape is 30 times stickier than other adhesive tapes.

Picture Credit: Google

What is a real life example of extinction?

We are in the middle of a mass extinction brought about by human activity.

What is mass extinction?                       

A vast number of species going extinct at one period in time is called mass extinction. It is also known as a biotic crisis, as it leads to a decline in the world’s biodiversity. In a mass extinction, species disappear faster than they are replaced by new species.

What are the causes of mass extinction?

Earlier extinctions took place due to natural causes like global climate change, fluctuating sea levels and catastrophic events like volcanic eruptions or asteroid impacts. However, the ongoing extinction is the result of human actions.

How many mass extinction events have occurred on the Earth?

The Ordovician-Silurian extinction, 444 million year ago; the Devonian extinction, 360 million years ago; the  Permian extinction, 250 million years ago; the Triassic-Jurassic extinction, 201 million years ago; and the Cretaceous extinction, 65 million years ago. The first eliminated marine invertebrates, the second, tropical marine species. The third and the largest decimated most of the marine species and many terrestrial vertebrates, and the fourth destroyed all the Triassic reptiles. The fifth last was most likely caused by an asteroid hitting the Earth. It killed off dinosaurs of all species, including the remaining non-avian dinosaurs.

Are we facing a sixth mass extinction?

At present, we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction, the Holocene extinction, which is entirely caused by the humans. It started 10,000 years ago with the beginning of agriculture and industrialization. Human activities like deforestation, climate change, and pollution have been major contributors.

These events wipe out numerous species, reshaping ecosystems and allowing the evolution of new species. They can disrupt habitats, biodiversity, ecological stru and food chains.

What is the impact of mass extinctions?

These events wipe out numerous species, reshaping ecosystems and allowing the evolution of new species. They can disrupt habitats, biodiversity, ecological structure and food chains.

Picture credit: Google

What’s a frilled lizard?

A type of reptile found in Australia and New Guinea, the frilled lizards or “frillnecks,” are members of the dragon family

Remember Dilophosaurus? That dinosaur in the first Jurassic Park movie which would unfurl its extendible neck frill and spit venom when intimidated?

Well, in reality, there is no evidence that the dinosaur had the neck frill. But meet Australian frilled lizard, the closest you will ever get to watching something as bizarre as the Dilophosaurus’ defence strategy.

Any time the frilled lizard feels threatened, it puts on the greatest show in the wild. It is also perhaps the most dramatic sight you will ever witness in the animal kingdom.

When the lizard feels intimidated, the first response is to scare the other creature away. So it will stand on its hind legs, open its mouth wide, and hiss. But this is not all. A bright-red neck frill, a pleated skin flap around its head, would unfurl as it strikes the intimidating pose, giving the creature a very grotesque appearance. This is a potential gimmick to scare off the opponent. (When unopened, the scaly neck frill lies as a cape over the shoulders of the lizard.)

If this stunt fails, and the attacker doesn’t flinch, the lizard has another trick up its sleeve. It will quickly turn, and bolt, running on its hind legs, its yellow mouth wide open, legs flailing, and will not stop until it ambles up a tree for safety.

The frilled lizards or “frillnecks,” are members of the dragon family. It is a type of reptile found in Australia and New Guinea. its size and color may vary from region to region. This creature spends a large part of its life on the trees. It is seen to descend to feed on lizards, small mammals, and ants.

These lizards can be classified into three different genetic groups. The main predators include birds of prey, larger lizards, snakes, and so on. The lizard lives in the tropical and warm temperate forests and savanna woodlands of northern Australia.

The eggs are laid in underground nests and hatchlings are independent, able to hunt as they emerge and adept at using the neck frill. The color of the frill of the lizard varies and is a result of carotenoids, which it acquires from the insect diet.

Picture: Credit Google

Is Meghalaya the wettest place on Earth?

Mawsynram in Meghalaya is the wettest place, based on rainfall in the world. Located in the Khasi Hills, it receives about 11,872mm (nearly 467 inches) of average annual rainfall According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the region received 26,000mm of rainfall in 1985. The mountainous terrain of Mawsynram and the nearby Cherrapunji, the second wettest place, are known for their lush greenery and scenic beauty The “living bridges are one of the most beautiful features of this region. These have been created by the local people by training the roots of rubber trees into natural bridges. With the root systems constantly growing, these bridges are self-sustaining.

Primarily due to the high altitude, it seldom gets truly hot in Mawsynram. Average monthly temperatures range from around 11 °C in January to just above 20 °C in August. The village also experiences a brief but noticeably drier season from December until February, when monthly precipitation on average does not exceed 30 millimetres (1.2 in). The little precipitation during the village’s “low sun” season is something that is shared by many areas with this type of climate.

Three reasons can be cited for high rainfall at Mawsynram:

The warm moist winds of the northward-moving air from the Bay of Bengal during the monsoon, which cover an extensive area but are forced to converge into the narrower zone over the Khasi Hills, thus concentrating their moisture.
The alignment of the Khasi Hills (east to west) places them directly in the path of the airflow from the Bay of Bengal, producing a significant uplift (plus cooling, further condensation and thus more rain).
Finally, uplift over the Khasi Hills is virtually continuous in the monsoon period because the lifted air is constantly being pulled up by vigorous winds in the upper atmosphere; hence, the rainfall is more or less continuous.

Picture Credit : Google 

When boreal forests burn?

A large portion of our planet’s land surface is covered by forests (of different types). These include tropical, subtropical temperate, and boreal forests. While forests the world over are threatened by global warming boreal forests grapple additionally with an issue unique to them. What is it? Come; let’s find out the boreal forests of the northern hemisphere span Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska, and Canada. Due to this vastness and the sheer number of trees they hold, these forests are an important carbon sink. Carbon has also accumulated over thousands of years in the soil due to the (long) time it takes for dead organic matter to decompose, thanks to the region’s cold climate and water-logged ground. The ecosystems here have been shaped mainly by “wildfires ignited by lightning” During these fires, due to the quantum of carbon it holds, a boreal forest “will release 10 to 20 times more carbon compared to a similarly sized fire in other ecosystems”. But then, unlike most other types of forests, these forests “might burn only once a century, sometimes even less often than that”. Because of this frequency, the amount of carbon stored has always exceeded that of carbon released into the atmosphere; it has been so for at least 6,000 years now. But now global warming is threatening this delicate balance.

Due to rising global temperatures, the fire season has become longer, leading to an increase in the frequency and severity of wildfires. As the “interval between fires shortens, more carbon is being released from organic soils in boreal forests than the ecosystems can reabsorb”. A new study shows a dramatic spike “in emissions from boreal fires over the past two decades”. In 2021 alone, they showed “a record 23% of global vegetation wildfire emissions, more than twice their contribution in a more typical year. If such spikes continue, it is likely that boreal forests may soon become a significant source of global emissions from biomass burning.

Picture Credit : Google

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