INCREASE IN OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

Introduction

When carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by seawater, chemical reactions occur that reduce seawater pH, carbonate ion concentration, and saturation states of biologically important calcium carbonate minerals. These chemical reactions are termed “ocean acidification” or “OA” for short.

Ocean acidification is expected to impact ocean species to varying degrees. Photosynthetic algae and sea-grasses may benefit from higher CO2 conditions in the ocean, as they require CO2 to live just like plants on land. On the other hand, studies have shown that lower environmental calcium carbonate saturation states can have a dramatic effect on some calcifying species, including oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein. Thus, both jobs and food security around the world depend on the fish and shellfish in our oceans.

Why oceans turning more acidic?

Oceans typically absorb about 30% of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But consistent air pollution has tilted that balance. When CO2 levels in the atmosphere increase, CO2 in the oceans also increase accordingly, making the oceans more acidic.

Meanwhile, rising sewage and chemical waste released into the oceans introduce nutrients that spur algae populations to bloom in the oceans. Any algae that isn’t eaten by other marine life then decomposes, releasing CO2 into the water and further lowering pH levels.

Adverse effect on Oysters & Clams

Oysters and other filter feeders suck in gunk & toxins from the ocean and pump out clean water. This clears up the water so much that it lets the underwater plants photosynthesize. Oyster shells also pile up on the ocean floor creating a reef like structure for seaweed to hold onto and fish to hide in.

An increase in CO2 being absorbed into the ocean is hurting the oysters capability to build sturdy shells by causing acidification. In this way oceans are getting more toxic day by day and harming the environment and adding to Global Warming.

SHARKS TO BE SLAUGHTERED FOR COVID-19 VACCINE

“Human use, population and technology have reached that certain stage where Mother Earth no longer accepts our presence with Silence.”

DALAI LAMA

Introduction

Conservationists have warned that at least 5 lakh sharks are likely to be slaughtered in order to develop enough doses of an effective vaccine and immunise humankind against COVID-19

Why need Shark for Vaccine?

All vaccines consist of an immunological agent called adjuvant—meaning “to help” in Latin—which makes the vaccine more efficient by strengthening its immune response. With the help of adjuvants, vaccines can produce more antibodies, and effectively arm consumers with longer-lasting immunity against the disease. One such Adjuvant is “SQUALENE”.

As per estimates made by conservationists, around 30 lakh sharks are killed every year so that human beings can utilise squalene in cosmetics, machine oil, and other products. British pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline, which has announced mass production of 100 crore doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, has already been using shark squalene to make flu vaccines.

Disaster for Ocean Ecology

Conservationists fear that this sudden spike in demand for mass production of vaccines will not just threaten the shark population, but may eventually lead to their endangerment as well, especially considering these top predators do not reproduce in huge numbers. With top predators gone, it will severely affect the delicate ecology of the oceans.

To protect the shark species, scientists have been actively working on a synthetic version of squalene made from fermented sugar cane. But with such an enormous, urgent, and ever-increasing requirement for vaccines against the novel coronavirus, which has so far infected 3.3 crore and killed 10 lakh people around the world, the number of sharks sacrificed for its production may even exceed the predicted number and continue to soar higher and higher.

Conclusion

Not only sharks other marine animals like Horseshoe Crab is also being targeted for the production of the COVID vaccine. For more info, read article below.

thesocialvigilante.wordpress.com/2020/08/23/important-ingredient-for-covid-19-vaccine-horseshoe-crab-blood/

The measures taken by Governments to contain COVID will have very long term consequences on the environment as well as ecology of the oceans, as around 30-40% of the world population is dependent on Sea food for their livelihoods and as a staple diet.

RISING GLOBAL E-WASTE

“BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION, NOT PART OF THE POLLUTION”

Introduction

The rise of technology in recent decades has been a boon to mankind. Most of the jobs which were tedious before can now be completed in minutes or seconds. One of the best example would be the Smartphone, earlier people had to wait for days to get in touch of their loved ones or pass any emergency message but now it’s just two clicks away and you can be connected to anyone across the globe.

But the rising Smart devices and other E-devices have led to rise of E-waste at a very considerable rate, more than the world was prepared for and now this is going in the form of landfills thereby polluting the land and environment. E-waste contains harmful chemicals such as barium, arsenic, lead, mercury etc. When these chemicals are broken down in landfills, they tend to leak these hazardous chemicals into surrounding air and water bodies creating a toxic environment.

Amount of E-waste produced per year

The world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) a year, weighing more than all of the commercial airliners ever made. The e-waste produced annually is worth over $62.5 billion, more than the GDP of most countries. There is 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of gold ore.

More than 44 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste was produced globally in 2017, over six kilograms for every person on the planet. Global e-waste production is on track to reach 120 million tonnes per year by 2050 if current trends continue, according to a report from the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) and the UN E-Waste Coalition.

The Rising Concerns

Less than 20% of e-waste is formally recycled, with 80% either ending up in landfill or being informally recycled – much of it by hand in developing countries, exposing workers to hazardous and carcinogenic substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium.

According to the report, in addition to health and pollution impacts, improper management of e-waste is resulting in a significant loss of scarce and valuable raw materials, such as gold, platinum, cobalt and rare earth elements. As much as 7% of the world’s gold may currently be contained in e-waste, with 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of gold ore. The failure to recycle is also leading to shortages of rare-earth minerals to make future generations of electronic equipment.

Dumping of e-waste in 3rd World Countries

Millions of mobile phones, laptops, tablets, toys, digital cameras and other electronic devices bought in Christmas are destined to create a flood of dangerous “e-waste” that is being dumped illegally in developing countries, the UN has warned. Most of the e-waste from European countries and USA is dumped in African and Asian countries like Somalia, Ghana, India, Bangladesh etc. thereby damaging the environment and ecosystem in these poor and developing nations. An old-style CRT computer screen can contain up to three kilograms of lead, for example.

An indication of the level of e-waste being shipped to the developing world was revealed by Interpol. It said almost one in three containers leaving the EU that were checked by its agents contained illegal e-waste. Criminal investigations were launched against 40 companies. Although it is legal to export discarded goods to poor countries if they can be reused or refurbished, much is being sent to Africa or Asia under false pretenses, says Interpol.

Conclusion

It is not only the responsibility of the government to recycle the e-waste but also all the citizens must contribute in better and efficient management of  e-waste. The rising problem of e-waste and its management thereby polluting the local river bodies or land is also contributing in the factor for global warming.

Solutions include durable product design, buy-back and return systems for used electronics, ‘urban mining’ to extract metals and minerals from  e-waste, and the ‘de-materialisation’ of electronics by replacing outright device ownership with rental and leasing models in order to maximise product reuse and recycling opportunities.

Super Women’s of India

“THERE IS NO FORCE EQUAL TO A WOMEN DETERMINED TO RISE”

Introduction

Recently I came across an article on Bloomberg which shed light upon few of the “Women Seaweed Harvesters” in India. Being a sailor myself, I can very well appreciate the unforgiving nature of the roaring seas and how difficult it is to perform any job related to sea, be it fishing, security, transhipping etc. These women come from beautiful South Indian state of Tamil Nadu and every day they risk their lives to sketch a better future for their family and children.

Seaweed Harvest in Tamil Nadu, India

Women’s who indulge in diving and finding the seaweeds, wake up at 0500 hrs to cook meals for their kids before going to work. Around 1300 hrs they bring the seaweed to the shore, remove the waste and stones, then separate the seaweed into piles for drying. When the merchant arrives, they give him the dried seaweed and he weighs it. A day of harvesting seaweed gives these women about 300-500 rupees(5-6$) a day with which they sustain their families.

The Global Warming effect

Due to the rapid rise in Global Warming levels, the sea levels in many parts of the world have increased substantially posing further risks and threats to these women. Most of these women are neither equipped with any lifesaving equipments and solely relies on mercy of the nature.

Another adverse effect to their livelihoods is due to global warming effects, the size and density of seaweed have shrunk to significant levels. A decade ago they were able to collect more amounts of seaweed and were able to earn more, but now the deteriorating sea conditions have made a huge dent on their daily incomes leading to loss of livelihood for some.

But I salute these ladies, who fight every day like a brave soldier to sustain their families. Such “Women Empowerment” is required in every strata of our society today, not the false idols like Greta Thunberg or Yousuf Malala.

2020 : YEAR OF MAN-MADE DISASTERS

“THE FIRST FEW DAYS WERE THE NATURAL DISASTERS, BUT THE LAST FOUR DAYS WERE MAN-MADE DISASTERS”

Introduction

We have only reached mid of 2020 and the world has already faced some natural or man-made disasters which will alter our future. In this article I bring along some of the disasters which happened in last few months which will change the world ecology.

Maldives Oil Spill

Fuel spilling from a  MV Wakashio, owned by the Nagashiki Shipping Company a Japanese bulk carrier that ran aground on a reef in Mauritius two weeks ago is creating an ecological disaster, endangering corals, fish and other marine life around the Indian Ocean island, officials and environmentalists say.

OIL SPILL AT MAURITIUS

Thousands of species around the pristine lagoons of Blue Bay, Pointe d’Esny and Mahebourg are at risk of drowning in a sea of pollution, with dire consequences for Mauritius’ economy, food security and health.

Brahmaputra River Oil Spill

More than 200 incidents of oil spills have been reported in Assam, India over the last decade, of various magnitudes. Oil processing factories situated near the river banks pose a major threat and 40 such incidents have been documented by Assam Pollution Board in 2014-15.

One such incident initiated on the morning of January 28, 2020. By 30th January, huge quantities of crude oil had been spilled on the Burhi Dihing, a tributary of Brahmaptura from the Central Tank Farm (CTF) of public-sector Oil India Ltd (OIL). This broke out fire on the river for four days.

GANGETIC DOLPHINS KILLED DUE TO OIL SPILL

On 27th May, 2020, an uncontrolled release of natural gas was reported at Baghjan Oilfield of Oil India Limited (OIL) in Tinsukia district of Assam. The Dangori and Dibru Rivers are home to many highly endangered species including river dolphins, birds, and fishes, and there is no escape for them, as the river has been on flames.

Baghjan Oilfield is located right next to the Maguri-Motapung wetland, part of the eco-sensitive zone of the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, well known for its migratory birds and feral horses. 

Russian Oil Spill

After a storage tank in Norilsk, northern Russia, collapsed in late May, 20,000 tonnes of diesel fuel was released into the environment. Strong winds caused the oil to spread more than 12 miles from the source, contaminating nearby rivers, lakes and the surrounding soil.

As experts in Arctic ecosystems, it is worrisome that the long-term impacts of this diesel spill in such pristine environments where cold, harsh conditions mean that life is limited. While bacteria are known to “clean up” oil spills elsewhere in the world, in the Arctic, their low numbers and slow rates of activity could mean diesel products linger for years, if not decades.

Arctic Ice Melting

Sea ice loss accelerated in early- to mid-July, bringing sea ice extent which measures the area of ocean where there’s some ice cover, down to record-low levels for this time of the year. The Arctic as a region had an ice extent that was about 193,000 square miles below the previous record low for the date, using data from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.

In other words, the difference between the sea ice extent on 18 July, 2020, and the previous record low for the same date is equivalent to the states of Colorado and Oklahoma combined.

GLOBAL FOOD WASTE – A RISING CONCERN?

“For some a SNACK, for some a Day’s MEAL”

Introduction

COVID-19 crisis has wreaked havoc in different parts of the world and the likely 2nd wave of the virus has hit many countries like Australia, South Korea, Spain etc. The Emergency Committee on COVID-19, convened by the WHO Director General under the International Health Regulations 2005(IHR) held its fourth meeting on 31th July and highlighted the anticipated lengthy duration of the pandemic.

“This Pandemic is a once in a century health crisis, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come.” – Dr. Tedros

Many have lost their jobs, industries have been shut down and some sectors like Tourism have completely diminished from the current scenario leading to rise in World Hunger and malnutrition.

Facts related to Food Waste

According to FAO data, over 1/3rd of all the food produced globally goes to waste and the value of this wasted food comes to about $1 trillion, weighs about 1.3 billion tonnes.

All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in US, UK and Europe alone. This failed global food system is putting immense pressure on our planet ecology also.

Environmental Cost of 01 Meal

Whether eaten or thrown out, to deliver one meal to one person requires:-

10 kgs of topsoil

1.3 ltrs of diesel

800 ltrs of water

0.3 gms of pesticide

3.5 kg of CO2 emissions

Multiply this figure with 03 meals a day for 08 billion people and you will get the gigantic total. This process has led to loss of 1/3rd of the world’s soil is past 40 years and in next 40 years we will need to produce more food than produced in the world in past 8000 years.

Growing Hunger and Malnutrition

After production of food on such biblical scale, world hunger index is increasing in many countries. According to UN reports around 821 million people worldwide do not have enough of the food they need to live an active and healthy life. One in nine goes to bed hungry each night.

In developing countries and poor countries, matters are even worse. India one of the most developing nation, the number of hungry people have increased by 65 million which is more than population of France. According to survey by an NGO called “Bhook” in 2013, 200 million Indians sleep hungry on any given night and around 07 million children die every year due to malnutrition.

Conclusion

Hunger continues to strike at the core of the humanity during this pandemic and with serious economic concerns, the problem intensifies even more.

Sustainable food consumption techniques need to be implemented from the grass root levels. In many European countries, people keep the leftovers or extra food in the freezers which can be taken by the needy or poor people which is a great initiative and others need to follow. The waste food could also be converted into Compost and can be used for plants and in kitchen gardens.

Many NGO’s also work in the direction of educating the masses about the effects of food wastage and such drives need to be supported by local communities and administration.

MAJOR OIL SPILL AT ARCTIC CIRCLE, RUSSIA

Introduction

On 29 May 2020 a massive oil spill took place in the Arctic region of Russia. A power plant owned by Norilsk Nickel, a Russian mining giant accidentally leaked around 150,000 barrels or 20,000 Tons of fuel into the adjoining Ambarnaya river. The incident was informed almost 02 days late to the respective administrative authorities and following the events Russia declared emergency on 03 June.

An already “AILING” Arctic

Scientists have discovered a troubling new characteristic of the tough algae that grow on the surface of Arctic glaciers: not only do they turn the glacier surfaces red, they accelerate the melting of the ice. Across the Arctic, from Greenland to Sweden, glacier ice is turning red in what has been termed “watermelon snow.”

WATERMELON ICE

The Arctic region covers the majority of the Earth’s northern pole, and contains over 275,500 square kilometers of glaciers. It is also one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, warming at a rate nearly twice the global average.  According to NASA, the rate of Arctic warming from 1981 to 2001 was a staggering 8 times larger than the rate of melting over the last 100 years.

Due to their red pigmentation, algal blooms on ice substantially darken the surface of the glaciers and change their albedo—or the amount of light reflected off of the surface of an object. Just as black concrete is much hotter to the touch than a pale sidewalk, glaciers covered in red algae absorb more light and melt at a faster rate than clean white ice.

The Oil Spill of 20 Tonnes of fuel spilt at Ennore Port, India resulted in 34,000 sq mtr of sea area being seriously affected with marine life and sea shores affected. So one can imagine the extent of damage 20,000 Tons of oil could do, it would be unimaginable to predict at this stage.

Conclusion

Scientists predict that if the Arctic ice starts melting fast, it could lead to significant rise in sea levels which could soar up to 20 feet. Such impact will lead to significant land submergence of some of the world’s most big and populous cities like Mumbai, Hawai, California etc.

Still concrete evidences towards what work is being undertaken by Russian administration is behind closed doors and much of the after effects are not being published/ mediatized by the administration.

THE SIXTH MASS EXTINCTION

INTRODUCTION

Since the creation of planet Earth, there have been 05 massive extinction level events and around 15 small scale extinction events. Scientists and researchers have predicted that presently we are facing the Sixth Major Extinction Event where many of the species are almost on the verge of extinction or already extinct.

History of Extinction Events

The great oxygenation event which occurred around 2.45 billion years ago, was probably the first major extinction event and following events followed :-

  • Ordovician–Silurian extinction events (End Ordovician or O–S): 450–440 Ma (million years ago) at the Ordovician–Silurian transition. Two events occurred that killed off 27% of all families, 57% of all genera and 60% to 70% of all species.
  • Late Devonian extinction: 375–360 Ma near the Devonian–Carboniferous transition. At the end of the Frasnian Age in the later part(s) of the Devonian Period, a prolonged series of extinctions eliminated about 19% of all families, 50% of all genera and at least 70% of all species.
  • Permian–Triassic extinction event (End Permian): 252 Ma at the Permian Triassic transition. Earth’s largest extinction killed 57% of all families, 83% of all genera and 90% to 96% of all species (53% of marine families, 84% of marine genera, about 96% of all marine species and an estimated 70% of land species including insects).
  • Triassic–Jurassic extinction event (End Triassic): 201.3 Ma at the Triassic–Jurassic transition. About 23% of all families, 48% of all genera (20% of marine families and 55% of marine genera) and 70% to 75% of all species became extinct.
  • Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event (End Cretaceous, K–Pg extinction, or formerly K–T extinction): 66 Ma at the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian)– Paleogene (Danian) transition interval.  About 17% of all families, 50% of all genera and 75% of all species became extinct.

Sixth Extinction Event

Scientists and researchers predict that “Sixth Mass Extinction Event” is already underway and this sixth wave is first which is caused by human interference.

Einstein apparently said “Extinction of bees will eventually lead to a global extinction event”, as bees are responsible for pollination and in recent years bee’s population have fallen significantly.

Scientists found that 1/3 of the thousands of species losing populations are not currently considered endangered and that upto 50% of all individual animals have been lost in recent decades. Nearly half of the 177 mammal species surveyed lost more than 80% of their distribution between 1900 and 2015. And about 515 species are on the brink of extinction. More than 400 vertebrate species became extinct in recent years, extinction on this level could have taken upto 10,000 years in the normal course of evolution.

The research analysed data on 27500 species of land vertebrates from the IUCN(International union for Conservation of Nature) found that about one-third have shrunk in recent decades.

Causes for Sixth extinction event

You must have come across swarms of dead insects almost everyday on your window shields, but recently all those insects have disappeared owing to enhanced use of fertilizers in the fields, eventually depleting the food source for birds and thus their population have also depleted significantly in recent years. The entire food cycle have been disrupted, affecting almost every organism.

In the last few decades, humans have taken over vast areas of animal habitat causing pollution and global warming which have led to catastrophic declines in population sof botyh common and rare vertebrate and invertebrate species.

Conclusion

Palaeontologist Doug Erwin told that “ I think if we keep things up long enough, we will get to a mass extinction but we are not in a mass extinction yet, and I think that’s an optimistic discovery because that means we actually have time to avoid Armageddon.”

Mass extinction or not, but we are definitely based on a road to Sixth Mass Extinction Event. The COVID-19 lockdown have definitely benefitted the environment and significantly brought down carbon footprint, but on other side events like Oil spill in Arctic, Oil well blasts in Assam(India), Forest fires in USA poses new challenges for the environment.

THE SILENT PROTECTOR – WHALES

“Man masters nature not by force, but by understanding”

Jacob Bronowski

Introduction

Carbon footprint has increased across the globe at an alarming rate in last decade. The total global emissions in 2017 stands at 36.153 MTCO2(Metric Tonnes Carbon Dioxide) with China, USA and India accounting for almost half of the emissions. The rapidly growing economies and fast pace of industrialization have had a very negative impact on our environment, with many of the species gone extinct or on the brink of extinction.

Governments and various international bodies are trying hard to reduce the carbon footprint and even standing on a united front in the form of “Paris Agreement” on climate change with 195 signatories to the agreement. There’s an old saying        that – “Nature heals itself”, due to the pandemic most of the countries are under strict lockdown which has given chance to nature to take a breather and restart again. There are news of Dolphins coming up on Mumbai shores which were not seen in more than a decade, beavers building dams in rivers of England to fashion parade of Wild Pigs on the streets of Paris. There is one more species which have been neglected in the past and was mercilessly hunted to brink of extinction, but has the power to turn the tide in this fight against global warming –  “WHALES”.

How Whales contribute in reducing Carbon Footprint

Whales can play a decisive role in fight against climate change, with each great whale absorbing about 33,000 kg of CO2 over its lifespan whereas 1 Tree absorbs only 22 kg a year. Another silver lining to the story is that wherever Whale migrates to or moves, Phytoplankton growth in the area increases at tremendous levels. Phytoplankton’s absorb around 40% of all CO2 which is equivalent to 1.7 trillion trees or 04 Amazon rainforests. Increase in number of whales would ultimately result in large number of phytoplankton’s and just 1% rise would be equivalent to planting of 02 billion trees across the planet. Restoring the whale numbers could lead to absorption of about 1.3 billion tonnes of CO2 every year, thereby self-healing the nature.

Not only they are useful when alive, but their dead carcass descends to the bottom of the sea, that stored carbon is taken out of the atmospheric cycle for hundreds to thousands of years, a literal carbon sink. Researchers have estimated that each of these gentle giants is worth about $ 2 million over its lifetime. The entire population of them would worth more than $1 trillion worth of asset to nature and humanity.1

Whales on verge of Extinction

Unregulated and unauthorized hunting in the South West Atlantic and North Atlantic have driven whale population to brink of extinction. The sharp decline in their numbers over the years not only owns to relentless hunting but also to increasing oceanic pollution, global warming, increased marine activity including cruise liners and merchant ships. Many of the whales die by entangling themselves to fishing lines or getting injured by propellers of trawlers or bigger ships.

These fishing lines are extremely heavy because of the weight of the traps, so when whale gets caught in them they often drag them for months which ultimately slow them down making it hard to hunt, reproduce or even swim. The line cuts into their flesh, thereby causing infection and death.

With increasing influence of Japanese and Chinese trawlers which are also termed as “Killing Machines”, IUU(Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing is on the rise leaving many marine species threatened.

Conservative efforts by Govt. and NGO’s

Due to their declining numbers, organizations across the globe and even governments have stepped up to increase efforts for preservation of these beautiful and humble species. Organizations like Oceanic Preservation Society, American Cetacean Society and many philanthropists and nature lovers have come up and joined hands in preservation and saving of these species. Even govt. across the world have deputed their navies and coast guard to tap the  unregulated and illegal hunting of whales, even stricter environment laws and marine protection acts are in place to counter such offences at sea.

Diligent efforts by NGOs and Govt. have helped rebound the current status of these mammals, a new survey led by British Atlantic Survey indicates that Blue Whale and other large whale species are making a strong comeback in Antarctic waters. The 3 year wild water whale project conducted off the island of South Georgia in the South Atlantic spotted 55 of the critically endangered whales in 36 sightings in 2020, where only one was seen in 2018.2 Not just Atlantic, but significant increase in their numbers across the globe was recorded this year.

Conclusion

In this battle against Climate change, each and every one of us plays a critical role. We can do our bit by keeping our surrounding free of plastic, keeping our oceans clean and come to use of recyclable and bio-degradable materials like cloth or paper bags. With enhanced measures in place, we can maybe one day see these Large Mammals thriving in their natural habitats.

References

  1. “How much is a whale worth?” www.nationalgeographic.com .Retrieved on 14 Apr 20.
  2. “Antarctic survey shows increase in blue whale number.” www.newatlas.com . Retrieved on 14 Apr 20.