So, the Amazon forest has been on fire for the past couple of weeks and nothing of substance has been done to put out the Amazon fires and save the world’s largest tropical rainforest. You’ve probably seen how sluggish the Brazilian government has been and how fast the news has moved down the priority list in the CNN and Fox News bulletins.
Amazon fires are a big deal!
The UN’s zeal to come to the rescue of the “earth’s lungs” has been questionable and the ordinary population has been unconsciously lulled into believing there is not much at stake or that we would lose more than we would gain trying to save the forest.
Well, this should be a no-brainer. Trees take in CO₂ and release oxygen, which we survive on. Without a single tree on earth, carbon dioxide would accumulate to toxic levels and jeopardize the very existence of the millions of animal species that call this planet home. It would be the beginning of the end of life on earth as we know it
Of course, trees make up for a measly 1/3 of the overall oxygen supply in our atmosphere with the bulk of it coming from phytoplankton and algae in the ocean, but this seemingly negligible dip would still take a massive toll on the higher animals, humans included. Believe it or not, the oceans and all the animal and plant species they house all depend on trees for survival.
We would start experiencing extinctions in as little as 50 years. Flooding, hurricanes, erosions, and landslides would become commonplace and some areas, particularly the lowlands, would become near-uninhabitable. Sediment deposits in water bodies would be detrimental to lake wildlife and one important source of food for humans will go down the drain with it.
Any species that survives it all will face an extremely reduced lifespan, and the high toxicity in the air and water would make life on earth an utter living death. We would also have to do without rubber, paper, beer and host of other products that are extracted from trees. And, don’t even get us started on the aesthetic impact of such a catastrophic event on the planet.
The Amazon rainforest has an estimated 400 billion trees – little over ten percent of the world’s tree population. What makes it so important? What would happen if we lost it or even just half of it?
There are animals that can only be found in the Amazon Rainforest
Over 2,000 species of animals call the Amazon rainforest home. These include jaguars, macaws, sloths, poison dart frogs, glass frogs, river dolphins, and anacondas. A whopping tenth of all known species can be found in the rainforest, and that is certainly nothing to sniff at.
But, did you know that there are species that live only in the Amazon Rainforest? Yes, some animals have never been sighted outside the Amazon and inability to adapt to other environments could have something to do with it. Popular examples include the sloth, the electric eel, the amazon pink river dolphin, the Amazonian manatee, and the toucan. That’s just a fraction of what we would lose if the Amazon disappeared today, given that 400 new species of animals have been discovered in the ecosystem over the past one decade only.
80 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are stored in the Amazon Rainforest
Global warming may not be a theory you believe in, but just in case it is true, then the rainforest is partly to thank for the fact that we haven’t crossed the Rubicon yet. A third of the world’s carbon stores are in the Amazon and loss of even half the forest would immediately make global warming a global problem.
300 indigenous tribes rely entirely on the Amazon for food and shelter
There are suspicions that the recent Amazon fires were started by crop and animal farmers looking for more land for Soybean farming and grazing. If this is true, then the farmers must have been oblivious of the science that the Amazon is a self-sustaining ecosystem that would take the favorable climate with it if it had to go.
The Amazon Rainforest experiences heavy rains for the better part of the year, and this is not a mere coincidence or accident. It is a concoction of chicken-and-egg and catch-22 situations, whereby there wouldn’t be as much rain in the Amazon basin were it not for the rainforest, and the forest wouldn’t be there were it not for the heavy rains in the region. While looking to harness the favorable climate, humans are killing the very reason the climate is there in the first place.
If we surpass a certain threshold, this orchestra of self-sustenance will likely fall out of tune. There will not be enough trees to absorb moisture from the ground and evaporate it into the atmosphere for rain formation, and this would be the beginning of the end. Without sufficient rainfall, there would be a fierce competition among the vegetation and animals for the reduced water availability, and the less adaptable species will be forced to bow out. The rainforest will gradually move from dense woodland to a sparse savannah, in a scenario called a forest dieback. The Amazon tribes will have to adapt to the drastic changes or be forced to migrate to more hospitable places, which will not come without short and long-term consequences.
But this is not the first fire incident in the Amazon
This is certainly not the first time the Amazon is rocked by thousands of wildfires at around this time of the year. This year’s fires started early in August, coinciding with the start of the dry season in the Amazon basin. Towards the end of the month, there were already 156,000 fires in the rainforest and this rapid surge is what captured the international community’s attention. There hasn’t been a worse case of wildfires in the rainforest since 2010. The highest Amazon fire numbers this century were recorded back in 2001, between 2002 and 2005, and in 2007.
The Brazil government, with a little pressure from the west and donations from countries such as Germany and Norway managed to enforce new policies that were aimed at preventing runaway deforestation in parts of the Amazon. The most notable actions were taken in 2004 and 2012, with counties that did little to reduce deforestation receiving heavy penalties. The effort seemed to work, albeit deforestation and wildfires continued to eat up the rainforest at an alarming rate of about one football pitch every hour. The recent fires have sped that up many times over and the international community for the umpteenth time has had to offer financial aid to Brazil – the most affected nation – to extinguish the fires.
But, the question is, why is the world so worried about something that has happened time and again in the past? There are several plausible explanations to this. Firstly, we are in the middle of the catastrophe. The Amazon fires are spreading fast and there is potential of beating all previous records if the Brazilian troops don’t put the fires out, and fast. Secondly, the Amazon is significantly smaller now. Since the early 2000’s, the Amazon has lost as much as 200,000 hectares of forest, which is the equivalent of around 6 percent of the Amazon of the 1970’s. Any fire right now definitely has a far larger impact than a fire of its size 15-20 years ago as it eats up a bigger portion of the rainforest.
Experts also believe internet and social media accessibility has contributed to the 2019 fires being more publicized. Indeed most people have only learned about the fires on Twitter and Facebook, something that may have not been possible in the previous decade.
You can also not overlook the fact that there has been a lot of global warming and climate change sensitization talks on television and platforms such as YouTube lately, which have undoubtedly made more people echo-conscious.
Additionally, being an ongoing issue and still fresh on our minds, the tendency to think and feel that the incident has been publicized a lot more than preceding crises of equal magnitude is expected.
With so much on the line, there is more to worry about the Amazon fires than the cause of it and why there is such a big fuss about it this year. The planet’s lungs are on fire, that’s the bottom line. The 3-million-square-kilometer green land is at the very center of our plans to decelerate global warming and put the future of our species and that of millions of other species back in our control.
Nothing can justify sitting back and watching as it goes down on a free fall. Not the costs, not the cause, and certainly not the political and diplomatic relations between the host countries and the rest of the world. In one way or another, we are all going to be affected and held liable for the far-reaching impacts by the future generations.
Independent Travel & Ecology: What You Need To know
For most people, independent travel is more than just a fun activity or a holiday. It is a life-changing activity or experience. Whether you are taking off around the world after retirement, taking a gap year, or simply heading off on your mid-20s career break, independent travel offers you the opportunity to take a break from your ‘normal’ work life, travel around the world, and get unforgettable experiences. Also, traveling independently teaches you a lot about different parts of the world and yourself.
What’s independent travel?
It is any trip that you organize by yourself. That means you must book a hotel (accommodation), plan your itinerary, transport, and other aspects of your trip. The concept revolves around traveling on a shoe-string, spending nights in hostels, and choosing experiences over luxury. Independent travel requires you to be more of a traveler and less of a tourist.
Tourist vs. traveler
Most people use these words interchangeably. It might sound like a negligible distinction, but these two words signify a unique approach. The term ‘tourist’ often refers to a person visiting a specific area or region only for a short period before going back to their everyday life. It also relates to people who visit some destinations just to see exciting things without getting emotionally involved.
On the other hand, travelers spend a lot of time on the road and have less of a fixed objective in terms of timing and destinations. They can travel for an extended period, spend time gaining new experiences, and don’t rush to return to their everyday life. That means traveling is all about am exciting journey while tourism is all about seeing new things.
Travelers are more likely to stay in a single destination for a long time, perhaps working there. Some travelers end up settling in some of the regions they visit. Generally, the definition of a traveler emphasizes the journey rather than the excitement and pleasure associated with visiting new destinations.
The best places for independent travel
The world is your oyster, and in numerous ways, it is. Your choice of destination is influenced by many factors. Therefore, it’s important that you consider the following factors to ensure that you get the most out of your independent travel.
What do you plan to do? This might sound like an obvious question. But it’s the right one, to begin with. What experiences are you seeking? Do you desire to connect with like-minded travelers? Are you ready to spend quite some time away traveling and working?
Do you have enough time to travel? Well, there is little point in heading to Fiji if you have a 5-day holiday. This is because you will spend a lot of time to get to your destination and have little time to explore it.
Therefore, it’s worth working out the travel periods between your desired destination early enough. This will ensure you have enough time to see around and gain memorable experiences when you get to your destination.
How much money have you saved for your travel activities? Once you have decided on the specific experiences you seek and created a travel plan, it’s time you consider the financial aspect of your travel activities. Money is the single most significant constraint on most plans. It is worth working out a budget before you start booking flights.
How safe is your preferred travel destination? Well, it might sound like most questions asked by mums. However, nothing can ruin your trip more than getting robbed, beaten up, or being kidnapped. Therefore, you should make sure that you are traveling to a safe region.
Independent travel is more than just a fun activity
Traveling independently opens your mind to new and exciting possibilities. Indeed, it helps you learn more about how the planet, get lifetime memories and have a lot of fun. Just think about planning a long trip to Africa to learn more about social change through experiencing the journey and discovering what we have all lost touch with.
Kenzie Kersen, a 24-year-old American model looking to promote a positive message about eco-tourism, wildlife conservation, and other aspects of the environment. In partnership with Justin Cleaver, a reputable wildlife and fashion photographer from South African to produce an eBook in SA that will be a mix of cool fashion photography (all on film) and wildlife photography (also on film). The reason for incorporating fashion photography and a social media campaign into this story is again to pull the interest of the young generation.
These are some of the important initiatives that send a positive message about eco-tourism, independent travel, and the importance of environmental conservation to the world. Times are changing and planet earth needs our care. It’s time we start sending a positive message to the world like Kenzie and Justin are doing.
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (also known as MoEFCC) was formed in 1985. It falls under the jurisdiction of the Government of India. The current Union Minister of MoEFCC is Prakash Javadekar. As the name suggests, MoEFCC is a nodal agency responsible for the accomplishment of policies related to the environment, forests, and climate change.
Duties of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change:
- Prevention and control of pollution
- Conservation and survey of flora
- Conservation and survey of fauna
- Conservation and survey of forests
- Conservation and survey of wildlife
- Afforestation and regeneration of degraded areas
- Protection of the environment
- Ensuring the welfare of animals
These above-mentioned duties of the MoEFCC are well supported by a set of legislative and regulatory measures, aimed towards the conservation of the environment. Besides the legislative measures below mentioned are some policies that also guide the Ministry’s work.
Policies that guide MoEFCC’s work: The National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development:
This policy entails the guidelines that will help to weave environmental thoughtfulness into the fabric of not just our nation, but in our development process as well. It also examines the nation’s development plans so that they are aligned with our environmental perspective. The policy explains the magnitude of our environmental problems and lists our strategies and action plans, some of them include:
A) Population control
B) Conservation of natural resources
C) Prevention of air and noise pollution
National Forest Policy:
The National Forest Policy of 1988 was launched was to ensure environmental stability and maintain the ecological balance of the country. Basic objectives of the National Forest Policy include:
A) Restoration of the ecological balance by massive afforestation, especially on the unproductive lands and preservation of the existing forests of our nation.
B) Conservation of the natural heritage by preserving flora and fauna.
C) Encourage efficient utilization of forest produced products and maximize substitution of wood.
D) Check for soil erosion.
E) Check the extension of sand-dunes in the desert areas of Rajasthan.
F) Meet the requirements of fuel-wood, fodder, minor forest produce, and small timber of the rural population.
Policy Statement on Abatement of Pollution:
This policy was introduced due to an increasing trend in environmental pollution. Air quality in the major cities of our country has deteriorated! Levels of nitrogen dioxide are increasing in urban cities with growing vehicle emissions. Water is polluted by four kinds of substances: organic waste, waste generated from industrial processes, chemical agents for fertilizers, and pesticides for crop protection and from degraded deposits. The goal of this policy is to control and prevent pollution with the combination of command methods, voluntary regulations, financial measures, and awareness promotion. It further includes – waste minimization, reuses or recycle, improvement of water quality, natural resource accounting, institutional and human resource development, and many more.
National Environment Policy:
This policy aims at mainstreaming environmental concerns into all developmental activities. Few objectives of this policy are mentioned below:
A) Conservation of critical environmental resources.
B) Integration of environmental, social and economic development.
C) Ensure poor communities, which are dependable on environmental resources for their livelihoods, have access to these resources.
D) Judicious use of the environmental resources.
The MoEFCC also serves as the nodal agency in the country for:
- United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
- United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED)
- International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)
- South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP)
The Ministry is also trusted with the following multilateral bodies for matters of the environment:
- Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)
- Economic and Social Council for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP)
- South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC)
- Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Sum and Substance:
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is accountable for scheduling, promoting, coordinating, and managing all the environmental projects and programs. The Ministry is liable for the conservation of biodiversity, lakes, rivers, trees, forests, wildlife, ensuring the welfare of animals and the prevention of pollution in order to control the climate change in the country. The motto of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is sustainable development and enhancement of human well-being.
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Giant Sequoia or Sierra Redwoods: The Most Massive Trees On The Earth
The Giant Sequoia, the tallest trees on the plant, fills everybody with wonder. That a living thing can be so old and enormous is something unbelievable. Commonly known as Sierra redwoods, the largest tree of this family has the capacity to hold as many people as a stadium can accommodate.
History of Sierra Redwoods:
There was a time when redwoods grew all over the Northern Hemisphere. The most ancient redwood fossils unearthed are more than 200 million years old, belonging to the Jurassic Age. At present, there are 75 groves of Giant Sequoia scattered along Sierra Nevada’s western slopes, over 14,400 hectares of the landmass.
Why is a Giant Sequoia tree so huge?
The secret behind giant sequoia’s large size is its long life. They grow so huge because they live the longest. Also, they need a lot of water to thrive. The Sierra snowpack provides the trees with plenty of water as it melts in summer months. As they require well-drained soil, it is harmful to walk around their base as walking compacts the base soil around the roots.
However, giant sequoia trees are quite capable of protecting themselves against natural threats. They are too great to be blown over by the strong wind. The thick bark, rich in tannins, shields them against insect damage and fires.
The strong defense mechanism of Giant Sequoias against forest fires:
Giant sequoias are immune to forest fires due to several factors. Their fire resistant barks save them in times of forest fires. Their cones open after fires, thus facilitating the process of reproduction. So, whereas forest fires threaten the lives of other trees, they benefit from fires.
The larger trees are more resistant to damages caused by fire because of their thick, protective bark and elevated crown. But, as they live for centuries, repeated fire may damage the vascular cambium by penetrating the bark. Most of the larger giant sequoia trees have fire scars
Where can we find Giant Sequoia trees?
All the giant sequoia groves that have developed naturally are situated in the moist and un-glaciated valleys and ridges of the western slope of Nevada range, present in California, in the United States. The altitude of the area is between 1,500 meters and 2,400 meters above sea level.
The northernmost grove, present in the Tahoe National Forest, is known as the Placer County Grove. The Deer Creek Grove, situated in the Giant Sequoia National Monument, is the southernmost grove.
The tallest Giant Sequoia tree:
General Sherman tree is at present the tallest among the Giant Sequoias inhabiting the earth. Situated in the Sequoia National Park in California’s Tulare County, it has an impressive height of 275 feet. So, it is as tall as a building of 26 stories. However, giant sequoias are capable of reaching a height of 310 feet.
General Grant, Lincoln, The President, Stagg, Genesis, Boole, Franklin, and King Arthur are among the largest giant sequoias.
How fast can giant sequoias grow?
The Giant Sequoia is the world’s fastest-growing conifer. Under favorable circumstances, they usually have 4 feet of vertical growth in their third year. The average growth rate for younger trees is 5 feet or 1.5 meters per year. In an ideal situation, with each year their growth rate increases steadily. So, in 40 years or less, a redwood tree can reach a height of 100 feet.
Some incredible facts about Sierra Redwood trees:
- Giant sequoias are the largest living organisms on the earth.
- Giant sequoia trees never cease growing as long as they live.
- A Sierra Redwood tree can live as long as 3000 years.
- They reproduce once every 20 years and need forest fires to open their cones.
- There are 75 groves of giant sequoia left on our planet.
Conservation of Giant Sequoia trees:
There are several governmental laws to protect the giant sequoia trees. The National Park Service devotes much planning and thought to the conservation of these national as well as worldly assets. Road routes in the area are selected with great care. As giant sequoia trees have roots close to the earth’s surface, excessive trampling is not allowed near the trunks. There are barriers surrounding the famous trees that thousands of tourists visit every year, from all parts of the world.
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