Browsing Category

Environment

Environment

Air pollution linked to premature death risk

Exposure to toxic air pollutants is linked to increased deaths due to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, warn researchers.

Conducted over a 30-year period, the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, analysed data on air pollution and mortality in 652 cities across 24 countries and regions. 

The researchers found that increases in total deaths are linked to exposure to inhalable particles (PM10) and fine particles (PM2.5) emitted from fires or formed through atmospheric chemical transformation.

“As there’s no threshold for the association between particulate matter (PM) and mortality, even low levels of air pollution can increase the risk of death,” said Yuming Guo, Professor at Monash University in Australia.

“The smaller the airborne particles, the more easily they can penetrate deep into the lungs and absorb more toxic components causing death,” Guo said.

Though concentrations of air pollution in Australia are lower than in other countries, the study found that Australians are more sensitive to particulate matter air pollution and cannot effectively resist its adverse impacts. 

“Given the extensive evidence on their health impacts, PM10 and PM2.5 are regulated through the World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines and standards in major countries,” Guo added.

The results suggest that the levels of particulate matter below the current air quality guidelines and standards are still hazardous to public health.

Air pollution linked to premature death risk

IANS | Sydney

Environment

Weather anomalies in Tibet pose challenge to agriculture: experts

LHASA = The unusually hot and dry weather in Tibet since June has posed new challenges to agriculture, climate experts said.

Sustained heat and little rainfall dried soil and limited the growth of vegetation, particularly in Lhasa, Nagqu and Xigaze, the Tibet regional climate center said.

The water surface of the Yarlung Zangbo River and Lhasa River shrank slightly compared to the same period last year, it said.

Local authorities have been reminded to make preparations for possible drought and step up monitoring of fires, crop diseases and pests, said Wang Xufeng, a researcher with the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

June’s average temperature in the Tibet Autonomous Region was 1.3 degrees Celsius higher than the previous average, with record highs seen in several cities.

On June 24, the temperature in Gyaca, under the jurisdiction of Shannan, soared to 32.6 degrees.

Regional capital Lhasa, which is a generally cool place 3,650 meters above sea level, embraced summer for the first time on June 23 since meteorological data was first collected in 1981.

Moreover, the region entered the rainy season on July 4, 27 days later than previous years.

Such weather anomalies have more negative impacts on agricultural production than positive ones, experts said.

With the highest elevation in the world’s mid-latitude region, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is very sensitive to the impact of global warming, said Kang Shichang, director of the State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science of the CAS.

This year’s weather is an anomaly, and the long-term trend remains that the plateau is getting warmer and wetter, he said. (Xinhua)

Climate Change, Environment

Cloudburst in Arunachal; tourists stranded in flash flood, road closed

 

A calamitous cloudburst leading to massive rainfall and flash flood has made disaster in destrying many houses, bridges and roads in Tenga, Arunachal Pradesh.

Several hundred people were reported to be stranded while many others were missing in the flash flood which left a trail of devastation at Kaspi Nala near Nag-Mandir Tenga in West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh on Monday evening.

An RCC Bridge between Kaspi and Nagmandir has been washed away by floodwater.

The Army and paramilitary forces along with disaster management authorities have been deployed to rescue the victims.

Meanwhile, the West Kameng district administration has closed the Bhalukpong to Tawang  road.

The cloudburst triggered the flash flood on the evening of Monday, damaging over four houses, one boys’ hostel and one hilly restaurant along with several vehicles and motorcycles, according to tourists witnessed.

Earlier in the month of April, Bomdila, the headquarters of West Kameng district experienced cloudburst causing widespread damages to the places in proximity of the township.

The cloudburst was followed by torrential rain and hailstorm which created havoc in the township. According to Chandan Kumar Duarah, a science journalist says the cloudbust and flash flood attributed to massive deforestation, soil cutting in the region and climate change.

The rain lashed the district headquarters for over an hour resulting in chocking of drains and spread of debris all around.

At least 800 people were reported to be stranded while many others were missing in the flash flood which left a trail of devastation at Tenga in West Kameng District of Arunachal Pradesh on Monday evening.

The Army and paramilitary forces along with disaster management authorities have been deployed to rescue the victims.

The cloudburst was followed by torrential rain and hailstorm which created havoc in the township.

The rain lashed the district headquarters for over an hour resulting in chocking of drains and spread of debris all around.

Environment

Jaipur Pays The Price For Overusing Groundwater

At Matasula village just 10 kilometres from the Ramgarh Dam, there is one hand-pump that supplies water for an entire village of 100 households.

Jaipur could run out of ground water in five years, say experts


Amid a long, harsh summer and drought in many parts of the country, Rajasthan has become one of the states where over-extraction of ground water is leading to depletion at alarming levels.

According to state government figures, in state capital Jaipur, of the 13 water blocks, 12 are in the dark zone – which means the underground water is in the danger of running out here.

“A zero water day is not very far away. Jaipur can run out of water in the next few years and cities like Ajmer and Bhilwara will probably face a zero water day even earlier,” says Dr SK Jain, a water expert and hydrologist.

The water tanks and step well in the Amer and Jaigarh forts, ponds and tanks in villages and the Ramgarh Dam, were some of the ancient water harvesting system of medieval Jaipur that made it self-reliant in water. 

The Ramgarh Dam was built in the early 1900s to supply drinking water to Jaipur city by King Madho Singh, the second. But urbanization and reckless water extraction now mean the dam is completely try and Jaipur is paying the price for its destroyed water heritage.

At Matasula village just 10 kilometres from the historic dam, there is one hand-pump that supplies water for an entire village of 100 households. 

Locals recall a time not very long ago when the wells here were always brimming with water and the Ramgarh Dam contributed to ground water recharge in the area. But with the dam dry for 20 years, practically all wells in a radius of 10 kilometres have dried up too. 

“When the Ramgarh Dam used to fill up during the monsoon, water used to come into our wells too. Since 2000 when the water dried up completely in the dam, our village wells have also gone dry. People have had to go for borewells as water levels have dropped,” said 40-year-old Sita Ram Jogi, a resident of Matasula village.

Women are the worst affected, says Suman, another village resident.

“We fill water all day, not only for drinking and bathing but also for our animals. Buffaloes and goats need water, and when this hand-pump stops working – sometimes it goes dry – then we have to trek many kilometres to fill water. Our children also labour with us filling water for the families daily needs,” she says. 

The Rajasthan High Court has appointed a nodal officer to oversee the rejuvenation of the Ramgarh Dam. 

Rohit Singh, the nodal officer in this case, says the dam has dried up due to increased agriculture, farmers building small boundaries around their fields and urbanisation in the dams catchment area, which obstructs the flow of water. 

“Rajasthan has been historically water deficient but old structures like wells, stepwell tanks, we need to revive those, we need to get back to basics,” he says.COMMENT

But long term measures will not immediately resolve the water crisis in Jaipur. Every year the ground water levels in Jaipur have been dropping by 1 metre. In some blocks the extraction is 600 times more than recharge.

by Harsha Kumari Singh

Environment

INDIA OBSERVES 32 CONSECUTIVE DAYS OF HEAT WAVE, LONGEST AND DEADLIEST AFTER 1988

This year, India reeled under a prolonged spell of heat wave with a total of 32 consecutive days. A similar record was set in the year 1988, when heat wave prevailed over the Indian mainland for a total of 33 days at a stretch after 3 consecutive years of droughts in 1985, 1986 and 1987. Extreme heat was also observed in the year 2015, which turned out to be a drought year.

This year, the state of Bihar has already witnessed many deaths related to heat wave conditions. The current year is turning out to be extremely hot for many places. On June 15, Gaya in Bihar recorded 45.6°C as the day temperature, which was 8 degrees above normal. On the same day, Patna also saw the maximum soar to 45.8°C. While the national capital Delhi broke all records with Safdurjung Observatory recording a whopping 48°C. The maximums in stations like Churu, Phalodi and Ganganagar also exceeded the 50 degrees Celcius mark multiple times.

This has been a rather drier June in the country. Only Cyclone Vayu has led to a few rains over some regions. Even the national capital of Delhi observed a 20 day long stretch (from May 26 to June 15) of 40-plus temperatures, which is very unusual for the city. Chandrapur in Maharashtra also witnessed 45-plus temperatures for at least 30 days on a stretch, barring a few days (when temperatures were still above 40-degrees). Phalodi in Rajasthan observed 40-above temperatures for almost 40 days. Severe heat wave conditions are prevailing over Jaisalmer and Phalodi which haven’t observed any rains in the last 3 weeks now. Severe heat wave is going on over Banda of Uttar Pradesh as well which soared above 49°C on multiple days.

Heat Wave Timeline

The southern parts of the country like Telangana, North Interior Karnataka and Marathwada are usually the first to experience heat. Here, peaking temperatures set in as early as the end of March.

This is then followed by Central India, East and then North India which starts experiencing heat by the second half of April.

Telangana, North Interior Karnataka, Gujarat, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh comprise of the most heat wave prone pockets in the country.

On the other hand, Coastal India, Northeast India and hills are mostly spared from extreme heat.

The reason behind Heat Wave

Whenever there is any heat build-up over an area in the pre-Monsoon season of March, April and May, it is succeeded by some thunderstorm activity, which normalizes the temperatures. But, when the pre-Monsoon rains are absent from an area, for days together, heat build-up takes place.

Also, as soon as the Monsoon mitigation takes place in the form of rains starting from South India and then reaching above North, the rising temperatures get arrested.

And this is exactly how the weather has mostly panned out in the country so far.

Relief from the heat

Heat wave has already abated states like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab because of the ongoing weather activities there.

Bihar and its adjoining areas are also experiencing some weather activities now. Some more rain and thundershowers are being expected in Bihar in view of the changing weather. Also, a changed wind profile will lead to more rains in the area in the next two to three days. A weather system is also building up in the Bay of Bengal.

Monsoon usually makes an appearance in Bihar on June 10. It’s already been running quite late till now and may make an appearance in the next week or so.

Image Credits – DW 

Any information taken from here should be credited to Skymet Weather

Environment

14% less rainfall in northeast, India record lowest pre-monsoon in 65 years

As pre-monsoon season ended on May 31, the northeast region witnessed a gross rainfall deficiency to the tune of 14 percent.

According to a recent report by skymetweather.com, India recorded only 99 mm of rainfall against the normal average of 131.5 mm for the pre-monsoon season – March, April and May.

The three-month long pre-monsoon season ended in India with gross rainfall deficiency to the tune of 25 percent. All the four regions recorded deficit rains, the report said.

While the eight northeast states witnessed isolated rains and thunderstorms during the period, the hill state of Mizoram has found a place in the large deficient category states of India.

Ideally in the pre-monsoon season, Mizoram is supposed to receive about 240 mm of rainfall. Unfortunately, the state received only 71.5 mm with a deficit rainfall of about 70 percent.

This has been the second driest pre-Monsoon season in the last 65 years, the report by skymetweather.com said. It added that the pre-monsoon rainfall in 2019 was similar to that of 2009. That year too saw similar rainfall, resulting in 25% lag in rains.

The skymetweather.com also reported that one of the most prominent similarities between 2009 and 2019 is that they have been El Niño years. Thus, rains have been reacting in a somewhat identical pattern.

However, the Skymet Weather has already predicted below-normal monsoon to the tune of 93 per of the long period average.

Environment

People’s biodiversity registers will collate data on plants, animals, trees, crops, traditional knowledge

By: Gulshan Ahuja 

India is among the 17 mega bio-diverse countries of the world. Four of the 34 biodiversity hotspots identified in the world are in India — the Western Ghats, the Eastern Himalayas, the Indo-Burma region and the Sundaland (includes Nicobar Group of Islands). India has 10 bio-geographic zones with 46,000 plant species and 96,000 species of animals recorded so far.
The steep decline in biodiversity is a major cause of concern across the world. Plants and animals become extinct in a gradual process but this decline has increased manifold due to human activities. Many regions in the world have seen a major dip in the biodiversity owing to changes in climate and increasing pollution levels and overexploitation of bio-resources for commercial use. Tasmanian tiger, golden toad, Caribbean monk seal, ivory-billed woodpecker, western black rhinoceros are some of the examples of animals species that have gone extinct and mountain gorilla, sea turtle, Amur leopard and tiger are on the verge of extinction. Similarly, plants and trees like Lepidodendron, Araucaria Mirabilis, wood cycad and Kokia cookei are extinct and many others are endangered.

Rio de Janeiro convention on biodiversity 1992

Realizing the need to conserve biodiversity, the world community met during Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and signed the convention on biological diversity (CBD), a landmark treaty that set the framework for conservation of biodiversity and its sustainable use. The treaty was ratified by 196 countries and India became signatory in 1994. The convention recognizes sovereign rights of the states over their resources with three objectives — conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components, fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of biological resources.

In India, the Biological Diversity Act was passed in 2002 and the Centre formulated Biological Diversity Rules in 2004. The National Biodiversity Authority, headquartered in Chennai, was constituted and all the states set up State Biodiversity Boards. Now, biodiversity management committees are being set up local body levels across the states.

Conservation of biodiversity

It is vital that everyone contributes to the conservation of biodiversity by reducing overexploitation of natural resources, planting trees and avoiding activities that lead to pollution as pollution is the largest single factor responsible for climate change leading to loss of ecosystems and biodiversity.

In Haryana, the Haryana State Biodiversity Board is working to achieve the objectives of the convention on biological diversity by educating people and spreading awareness on the importance of conserving biodiversity. The biodiversity management committees across the state will be imparted skill development training in biodiversity management on the importance of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. They will also be made aware of their rights in use of bio-resources by traders and manufacturers and will be helped in getting their share of benefits through the access benefit sharing (ABS) mechanism that was decided in the Nagoya Protocol signed by the CBD nations in Japan in 2010.

The biodiversity management committees will also be involved in creating people’s biodiversity registers (PBRs) to collate data on plants, animals, trees, agricultural crops (agri-biodiversity) and traditional knowledge existing in the area about use of bio-resources, particularly herbal plants. This information will help them become partners in benefit sharing in bio-resources occurring in the area in case of commercial utilization of bio-resources.

Bio-resources are plants, animals and micro-organisms, but not human genetic material, according to the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.

The theme of the International Day for Biological Diversity being celebrated across the globe on May 22 this year is “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health.”

Haryana is organizing essay writing and photography contests, and painting competitions by professional painters and nature lovers as well as school children. On this day, it becomes imperative for all of us to start thinking about conservation and sustainable aspects of biodiversity. The conservation of biodiversity is a necessity and we must make efforts to conserve it rather than contributing towards its decline.

(The writer, a former IFS officer, is chairman of the Haryana State Biodiversity Board, Panchkula)

Environment

The heat is on over the climate crisis. Only radical measures will work

by Gaia Vince

Drowned cities; stagnant seas; intolerable heatwaves; entire nations uninhabitable… and more than 11 billion humans. A four-degree-warmer world is the stuff of nightmares and yet that’s where we’re heading in just decades.

While governments mull various carbon targets aimed at keeping human-induced global heating within safe levels – including new ambitions to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 – it’s worth looking ahead pragmatically at what happens if we fail. After all, many scientists think it’s highly unlikely that we will stay below 2C (above pre-industrial levels) by the end of the century, let alone 1.5C. Most countries are not making anywhere near enough progress to meet these internationally agreed targets.

Climate models predict we’re currently on track for a heating of somewhere between 3C and 4C for 2100, although bear in mind that these are global average temperatures – at the poles and over land (where people live), the increase may be double that. Predictions are tricky, however, as temperatures depend on how sensitive the climate is to carbon dioxide (CO2). Most models assume that it is not very sensitive – that’s where the lower 3C comes from – but a whole new set of models to be published in 2021 finds much greater sensitivity. They put heating at around 5C by the end of the century, meaning people could be experiencing as much as 10C of heating over land.

Such uncertainty isn’t ideal, but for our purposes let’s plump for an entirely feasible planetary heating of 4C by the end of the century. If that seems a long time away, consider that plenty of people you know will be around then. My children will be in their 80s, perhaps with middle-aged children and grandchildren. We are making their world and it will be a very different place.

Four degrees may not sound like much – after all, it is less than a typical temperature change between night and day. It might even sound pleasant, like retiring from the UK to southern Spain. However, an average heating of the entire globe by 4C would render the planet unrecognisable from anything humans have ever experienced. The last time the world was this hot was 15m years ago during the miocene, when intense volcanic eruptions in western North America emitted vast quantities of CO2. Sea levels rose some 40 metres higher than today and lush forests grew in Antarctica and the Arctic. However, that global heating took place over many thousands of years. Even at its most rapid, the rise in CO2 emissions occurred at a rate 1,000 times slower than ours has since the start of the Industrial Revolution. That gave animals and plants time to adapt to new conditions and, crucially, ecosystems had not been degraded by humans.

Things look considerably bleaker for our 2100 world. Over the past decade, scientists have been able to produce a far more nuanced picture of how temperature rise affects the complexities of cloud cover and atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns and ecology. We’re looking at vast dead zones in the oceans as nutrients from fertiliser runoff combine with warmer waters to produce an explosion in algae that starve marine life of oxygen. This will be exacerbated by the acidity from dissolved CO2, which will cause a mass die-off, particularly of shellfish, plankton and coral. “We will have lost all the reefs decades before 2100 – at somewhere between 2C and 4C,” says Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.Advertisement

Sea levels will be perhaps two metres higher and, more worryingly, we will be well on our way to an ice-free world, having passed the tipping points for the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets, committing us to at least 10 metres of sea-level rise in coming centuries. That’s because as ice sheets melt, their surface drops to a lower altitude where it is warmer, speeding up melting in a runaway feedback loop. Eventually, dark, heat-absorbing land is exposed, speeding the melting process even more. By 2100, we will also have lost most low-latitude glaciers, including two-thirds of the so called third pole of the Hindu Kush-Karakoram-Himalayan mountains and Tibetan plateau that feeds many of Asia’s important rivers.

However, most rivers, especially in Asia, will flood more often, according to research by Richard Betts, head of climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre, because the hotter atmosphere will produce more intense monsoons, violent storms and extreme rainfall. His studies predict a wide equatorial belt of high humidity that will cause intolerable heat stress across most of tropical Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas, rendering them uninhabitable for much of the year. Tropical forests of heat-tolerant species may well thrive in this wet zone with the high CO2 concentrations, especially with the disappearance of human infrastructure and agriculture, although the conditions will probably favour lianas (vines) over slower-growing trees, Betts says. To the south and north of this humid zone, bands of expansive desert will also rule out agriculture and human habitation. Some models predict that desert conditions will stretch from the Sahara right up through south and central Europe, drying rivers including the Danube and the Rhine.

Our best hope lies in cooperating as never before: decoupling the political map from geography

In South America, the picture is more complicated: increased precipitation could enhance the Amazon rainforest, leading to mightier river flow. Other models predict a weakening of the easterlies over the Atlantic, drying the Amazon, increasing fires and turning it from forest to grassland. The tipping point for the Amazon could well be triggered by deforestation; while the intact forest could cope with some drought because it generates and maintains its own moist ecosystem, areas that have been opened up through degradation allow moisture to escape. “A combination of climate change and deforestation could push it into a savannah state,” Rockström says.Advertisement

All of nature will be affected by the change in climate, ecosystems and hydrology and there will be plenty of extinctions as species struggle to migrate and adapt to an utterly changed world. Daniel Rothman, co-director of MIT’s Lorenz Center, calculates that 2100 will herald the beginning of Earth’s sixth mass extinction event. But what about us? This is undoubtedly a more hostile, dangerous world for humanity, which by 2100 will number around 11 billion, all of whom will need food, water, power and somewhere to live. It will be, in a giant understatement, problematic.

The good news is that humans won’t become extinct – the species can survive with just a few hundred individuals; the bad news is, we risk great loss of life and perhaps the end of our civilisations. Many of the places where people live and grow food will no longer be suitable for either. Higher sea levels will make today’s low-lying islands and many coastal regions, where nearly half the global population live, uninhabitable, generating an estimated 2 billion refugees by 2100. Bangladesh alone will lose one-third of its land area, including its main breadbasket.

From 2030, more than half the population will live in the tropics, an area that makes up a third of the planet and already struggles with climate impacts. Yet by 2100, most of the low and mid latitudes will be uninhabitable because of heat stress or drought; despite stronger precipitation, the hotter soils will lead to faster evaporation and most populations will struggle for fresh water. We will have to live on a smaller land surface with a larger population.

Indeed, the consequences of a 4C warmer world are so terrifying that most scientists would rather not contemplate them, let alone work out a survival strategy.

Rockström doesn’t like our chances. “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate a billion people or even half of that,” he says. “There will be a rich minority of people who survive with modern lifestyles, no doubt, but it will be a turbulent, conflict-ridden world.”

He points out that we already use nearly half the world’s ice-free surface to produce food for 7 billion people and thinks meeting the needs of 11 billion in such hostile conditions would be impossible. “The reason is primarily making enough food, but also we would have lost the biodiversity we’re dependent on and be facing a cocktail of negative shocks all the time, from fires to droughts.”

Others are more sanguine. “I don’t think that humans as a species or even industrial civilisation is seriously threatened,” says Ken Caldeira, climatologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in California. “People live in Houston, Miami and Atlanta because they live in air conditioning through the hot summers. If people are rich enough to air-condition their lives, they can watch whatever is the successor to Game of Thrones on TV, as the natural world decays around them,” he says. But he points out that while richer people risk a loss to their quality of life, the poorer risk their actual lives.

So how might we give all of humanity the best chance?

Our best hope lies in cooperating as never before to radically reorganise our world: decoupling the political map from geography. However unrealistic it sounds, we’d need to look at the world afresh and see it in terms of where the resources are and then plan the population, food and energy production around that. It would mean abandoning huge tracts of the globe and moving Earth’s human population to the high latitudes: Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia, parts of Greenland, Patagonia, Tasmania, New Zealand and perhaps newly ice-free parts of the western Antarctic coast. If we allow 20 sq m of space per person – more than double the minimum habitable space allowed per person under English planning regulations – 11 billion people would need 220,000 sq km of land to live on. The area of Canada alone is 9.9m sq km and, combined with all the other high-latitude areas, such as Alaska, Britain, Russia and Scandinavia, there should be plenty of room for everyone.

Food production will need to be more intensive. This will be a mostly vegetarian world, devoid of fish and livestock

These precious lands, with tolerable temperatures and access to water, would also be valuable food-growing areas, as well as the last oases for many species, so people would need to be housed in compact, efficient high-rise cities with reflective roofs and resource-recycling systems. That risks raising local temperatures to intolerable levels, because compact cities function as heat islands, so solar-powered cooling or even artificial winds would be needed to counteract this. There is also an increased risk of epidemics in such densely populated spaces.

Peter Cox, a climatologist at the University of Exeter, thinks this is viable, but would require a massive programme of infrastructure to manage waste, air quality and water needs. City-scale underground reservoirs could supply domestic needs and efficient recycling would keep water – and other resources – circulating in the population for years rather than hours. Post-fossil fuels, we will require unprecedented electricity production. This could come from vast arrays of solar- and wind-power plants in a belt across the uninhabitable desert regions. High-voltage direct current transmission lines could relay this power to the cities or it could be stored as thermal energy in molten salts and transported in hydrogen – after solar energy is used to split water to provide hydrogen for fuel cells.Advertisement

Hydrogen production will be on an industrial scale and it could be used for nonelectric transport, for instance. Wave farms, nuclear fission (and potentially fusion) and solar power will help meet our electricity needs. In the meantime, the effective capture from the air of today’s carbon emissions will with luck be a reality; they can be stored or used in the manufacture of materials.

Food production will need to be more intensive, efficient and industrial. This will be a mostly vegetarian world, largely devoid of fish and without the grazing area or resources for livestock. Poultry may be viable on the edges of farmland and synthetic meats and other foods will meet some of the demand. Heat-tolerant, drought-resistant crop varieties, such as cassava and millet, will replace many of our current unmodified staples such as rice and wheat and they will grow faster and with greater water efficiency because of the high COlevels.

One problem is that almost all of our agriculture will need to be at higher latitudes, because the tropics will be too dry or too hot for farmworkers. And that means less land and less sunlight in winter. “Global agriculture could be limited by the geometry of Earth’s orbit around the sun,” Cox says. “However, studies have shown that crops thrive with artificial light delivered by LEDs at exactly the right frequencies for photosynthesis. This means we could grow crops through the winter months, hydroponically in smaller spaces, stacked up in warehouses or even underground, leaving valuable land surfaces for other uses.”

Cultivation of algal mats and crops grown on floating platforms and in marshland could also contribute, while crops could potentially be grown in uninhabitable regions, farmed and processed remotely by artificial farmers. Either way, we would need to use far more precise nutrient and irrigation systems to avoid polluting more fertile ecosystems and reduce food loss and waste.

He points out that we already use nearly half the world’s ice-free surface to produce food for 7 billion people and thinks meeting the needs of 11 billion in such hostile conditions would be impossible. “The reason is primarily making enough food, but also we would have lost the biodiversity we’re dependent on and be facing a cocktail of negative shocks all the time, from fires to droughts.”

Others are more sanguine. “I don’t think that humans as a species or even industrial civilisation is seriously threatened,” says Ken Caldeira, climatologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in California. “People live in Houston, Miami and Atlanta because they live in air conditioning through the hot summers. If people are rich enough to air-condition their lives, they can watch whatever is the successor to Game of Thrones on TV, as the natural world decays around them,” he says. But he points out that while richer people risk a loss to their quality of life, the poorer risk their actual lives.

So how might we give all of humanity the best chance?

Our best hope lies in cooperating as never before to radically reorganise our world: decoupling the political map from geography. However unrealistic it sounds, we’d need to look at the world afresh and see it in terms of where the resources are and then plan the population, food and energy production around that. It would mean abandoning huge tracts of the globe and moving Earth’s human population to the high latitudes: Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia, parts of Greenland, Patagonia, Tasmania, New Zealand and perhaps newly ice-free parts of the western Antarctic coast. If we allow 20 sq m of space per person – more than double the minimum habitable space allowed per person under English planning regulations – 11 billion people would need 220,000 sq km of land to live on. The area of Canada alone is 9.9m sq km and, combined with all the other high-latitude areas, such as Alaska, Britain, Russia and Scandinavia, there should be plenty of room for everyone.

Food production will need to be more intensive. This will be a mostly vegetarian world, devoid of fish and livestock

These precious lands, with tolerable temperatures and access to water, would also be valuable food-growing areas, as well as the last oases for many species, so people would need to be housed in compact, efficient high-rise cities with reflective roofs and resource-recycling systems. That risks raising local temperatures to intolerable levels, because compact cities function as heat islands, so solar-powered cooling or even artificial winds would be needed to counteract this. There is also an increased risk of epidemics in such densely populated spaces.

Peter Cox, a climatologist at the University of Exeter, thinks this is viable, but would require a massive programme of infrastructure to manage waste, air quality and water needs. City-scale underground reservoirs could supply domestic needs and efficient recycling would keep water – and other resources – circulating in the population for years rather than hours. Post-fossil fuels, we will require unprecedented electricity production. This could come from vast arrays of solar- and wind-power plants in a belt across the uninhabitable desert regions. High-voltage direct current transmission lines could relay this power to the cities or it could be stored as thermal energy in molten salts and transported in hydrogen – after solar energy is used to split water to provide hydrogen for fuel cells.Advertisement

Hydrogen production will be on an industrial scale and it could be used for nonelectric transport, for instance. Wave farms, nuclear fission (and potentially fusion) and solar power will help meet our electricity needs. In the meantime, the effective capture from the air of today’s carbon emissions will with luck be a reality; they can be stored or used in the manufacture of materials.

Food production will need to be more intensive, efficient and industrial. This will be a mostly vegetarian world, largely devoid of fish and without the grazing area or resources for livestock. Poultry may be viable on the edges of farmland and synthetic meats and other foods will meet some of the demand. Heat-tolerant, drought-resistant crop varieties, such as cassava and millet, will replace many of our current unmodified staples such as rice and wheat and they will grow faster and with greater water efficiency because of the high COlevels.

One problem is that almost all of our agriculture will need to be at higher latitudes, because the tropics will be too dry or too hot for farmworkers. And that means less land and less sunlight in winter. “Global agriculture could be limited by the geometry of Earth’s orbit around the sun,” Cox says. “However, studies have shown that crops thrive with artificial light delivered by LEDs at exactly the right frequencies for photosynthesis. This means we could grow crops through the winter months, hydroponically in smaller spaces, stacked up in warehouses or even underground, leaving valuable land surfaces for other uses.”

Cultivation of algal mats and crops grown on floating platforms and in marshland could also contribute, while crops could potentially be grown in uninhabitable regions, farmed and processed remotely by artificial farmers. Either way, we would need to use far more precise nutrient and irrigation systems to avoid polluting more fertile ecosystems and reduce food loss and waste.

Environment, Science

Endangered Himalayan yew, high value medicinal plant of Himalaya, on the brink of extinction

by Seema Sharma | TNN |

Kullu based GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development based in Himachal Pardesh has
conducted a study on ‘Population Ecology of the Endangered Himalayan Yew, in Khokhan Wildlife Sanctuary (Khokhan WLS) of
North western Himalaya for conservation management.
Yew is an endangered native high value medicinal plant of the Himalayan region. The several medicinal properties of the bark
and leaves of this species have increased its risk of extinction due to pressures for utilization. The species does not regenerate
from seed which is another risk factor. Six forest communities where the species is present were sampled in the study, which
revealed that abundance of the species, impacts of harvesting and its current regeneration patterns indicate that it may soon
be disappear from the Sanctuary. A plan for conservation the remaining sub-population was also presented in the study, which
could provide a template for conservation in other locations where this species is at risk.
The objective of the research were to assess the status of Himalayan yew in the Khokhan WLS to provide factors responsible
for depletion of the population and develop a strategy for conservation of the species in the sanctuary.
Khokhan WLS is located in the Kullu district in North West Himalaya. Globally , the yew is primarily valued for the medicinal
properties of taxol. As per dictionary meaning, a compound, originally obtained from the bark of the yew tree, which has been
found to inhibit the growth of certain cancers. Its anti-cancerous properties were first reported in 1964. In India, the
conservation community became concerned that increased utilisation of Himalayan yew made it more vulnerable. The tree is
also a source of drug Zarnab, which is frequently used in the Unani system of medicine. The extract derived from the bark and
leaves is used to cure bronchitis, asthma, acute headache, cough &cold and poisonous insect bites and is also used as
aphrodisiac.
5/11/2019 Endangered Himalayan yew, high value medicinal plant of Himalaya, on the brink of extinction – Times of India
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/endangered-himalayan-yew-high-value-medicinal-plant-of-himalaya-on-the-brink-of-extinction/articleshowprint/69250275.cms 2/2
Besides from its medicinal use, yew wood has value as an extremely hard and durable wood product. In East-Anglia and India,
yew wood has been used for making furniture, for wood carving and also for fuel. Because of its many beneficial uses,
Himalayan yew has been exploited to the brink of extinction. Its habitats have been degraded by deforestation and human land
uses. These effects are further exacerbated by the species’ relative intolerance to fire and drought and poor regeneration.
S.S. Samant , head of the GB Pant Institute said, “Although the present study was limited to one location, its finding indicate that
there is an urgent need to develop an appropriate conservation strategy for this species. The population of Himalayan yew
throughout the Indian Himalayan region should be inventoried using standard ecological method.
A monitoring plan should be developed and implemented to determine trends in existing populations. Apart from this,
sustainable methods of bark and leaf extraction should be developed and disseminated to local inhabitant.
Further Research should be done on the regeneration of this species, both vegetative and by seed.” He further recommended
in his study that an effort should be made to enlist the aid of local residents in propagating the species. In-situ conservation of
the species should be promoted. Seedlings developed from seeds and cuttings should be transplanted to appropriate
locations in the sanctuary and their growth and survival should be monitored.
His co-researcher Shreekar Pant mentioned in the study that collection of wood for fuel by the gujjars and inhabitants of the
peripheral villages has caused damage, increased susceptibility to disease and likewise contributed to mortality. The
information gathered during this study indicated that 50% of the surviving yew trees have been affected by bark removal and
remainder are subject to lopping and felling for fuel. Most bark is collected from the largest trees (60% are affected).

Environment

Natural high: why birdsong is the best antidote to our stressful lives

Dawn chorus day is a good time to celebrate the benefits to mental and physical health of birdsong – and fight for beloved species facing extinction

Stephen Moss @stephenmoss_tv

When I hear the first willow warbler of the spring, the first cuckoo, or the first booming bittern on my local patch, I feel an enormous sense of comfort and satisfaction. As the poet Ted Hughes wrote about the annual return of swifts, “They’ve made it again, which shows that the globe’s still working…”

It’s International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 5 May, and this year the RSPB has released a single of birdsong (currentlyat number 11 in the charts) as part of a campaign to draw attention to the dire situation facing British birdlife. Populations of once-common species such as the house sparrow, starling and swift are falling fast, while the nightingale, turtle dove and grey partridge are rapidly sliding towards extinction in Britain.

Climate change, intensive farming and pollution are just some of the genuinely existential threats to the future of our birds. And, indeed, to us. Having been a naturalist since before I can remember – more than half a century now – I’m always astonished that so many people fail to make the connection between birds’ wellbeing and our own.

Spending time connecting with the natural world is the perfect antidote to the pressures of modern life. Getting close to nature – and especially listening to birdsong – doesn’t just bring us physical benefits – it also helps improve our mental and emotional health, happiness and wellbeing. And this isn’t just some warm, fuzzy feeling.

Scientists at the University of Surrey have been studying the “restorative benefits of birdsong”, testing whether it really does improve our mood. They discovered that, of all the natural sounds, bird songs and calls were those most often cited as helping people recover from stress, and allowing them to restore and refocus their attention.

What we hear is the males of each species saying “Keep out!” to every other male, and “Come in!” to every female

In other words, birdsong is good for you – something that will hardly come as a surprise to those who tune in to Radio 4 six mornings a week to catch its 90-second Tweet of the Day.

This spring, I’ve been taking people out to listen to birdsong near my home, on the Avalon marshes in Somerset. I’m always struck by their sense of wonder at this daily wall of sound, made by so many different species. But I’m also interested in the way they choose very human imagery to describe what they hear: words such as “performers” and “orchestra” as well as “dawn chorus”.

Sometimes I hesitate to explain what is really going on, for fear of breaking the spell. For, however much we think the birds are singing to delight us, this is of course a biological process – a life-or-death struggle between individual singers.

Willow Warbler
 A willow warbler. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Put simply, what we hear is the males of each species saying “Keep out!” to every other male in the vicinity, and “Come in!” to every female. Birdsong may sound beautiful, but it is all about the race to reproduce.

For a bird like the nightingale I heard singing in Kent last week, this is a crucial time of year. This male had just flown more than 2,500 miles from its winter quarters in west Africa, arriving back a week or so ahead of any females. As soon as it gets here, it must sing its complex, haunting song for hours on end, by day and night, to ensure that he keeps hold of its territory.

If it does, it will be one of those chosen to mate when the females return. Most songbirds live only a year or two, so if it loses out this year, it may never get the chance to breed again.

Life is tough for this nightingale, and for all our migratory songbirds. And it’s not as if we don’t care. The RSPB has more than 1.2 million members, and Springwatch is one of the most popular programmes on TV. Our love of birds is deeply rooted in our very being.

For centuries, we have celebrated them in song, prose and verse. From Chaucer to Shakespeare, Wordsworth to John Clare and Shelley to the Beatles, birdsong looms large in both our literary and popular culture.Advertisement

The other night, I attended an event hosted by singer and musician Sam Lee. His show, Singing with Nightingales: Live, is a unique blend of music, folk tales and birdsong, in which Lee and his colleagues celebrate the wonder and beauty of the nightingale’s song, complete with a live feed from a wood in West Sussex. It left the audience feeling truly humbled, while reminding me of the continuing power of birdsong to inspire and move us.

It’s vital that we preserve this birdsong. When the RSPB was founded, the biggest issue was the slaughter of birds for their feathers, which were used to adorn hats.

Nightingale adult, singing, standing on log in woodland

Today, the problems are far more serious. That’s why, earlier this week, I joined a group of actors, artists, singers, scientists, poets, conservationists and campaigners – including Lee – in signing a letter asking the UK government to heed this alarm call from nature.

If you weren’t up early enough this morning to listen to the dawn chorus, it’s not too late. The birds will still be singing tomorrow, and the next day, and hopefully next spring, too. But as we contemplate what has happened to Britain’s birdlife over the past half century, can we really be sure that they will still be singing in 50 years’ time? I’m not sure that we can.

Stephen Moss is a naturalist and author based in Somerset, and course leader of the MA in travel and nature writing at Bath Spa University