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Almost half the systems crucial to the balance of our planet are “compramised”

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(Water systems are especially at risk)

Hey Bearcats! Yes this is not a happy go lucky Eco article (Not that many are anyway). However with No Impact Week coming up on February 2nd – 6th I thought that this topic would be a perfect fit to highlight certain habits we are trying to encourage during said week. Let’s begin.

An international team of researchers have found that four of the main systems critical in maintaining Earth’s resilience have been “seriously affected by human activities”. The researchers believe that the most impacted of the nine systems is our nitrogen-phosphorus cycle. This is extremely vexing as this cycle is integral in food production and natural purification of water in the water cycle! Therefore we are at risk of reducing our capability to increase food yields as well as provide clean water. Now that sounds bad to us urban folk imagine  what low income farmers are thinking.

Furthermore data from the team, more specifically researchers at McGill Universities’ Environmental programme have found that there have been significant shifts in “Biosphere and land integrity” levels. Boy oh boy. Much of the reason land quality is decreasing is due to the use of phosphoric fertilisers, but not only this alone. 90% of all reserves of phosphorous are entered in three nations (Morocco, China and Algeria). With our dependence on these resource to produce such high yields of crops we see another issue. We are running out of ways to make food artificially, yet we are also destroying our natural backups to produce food in the future! Ugh humans am I right?

The researchers listed the systems below that are at risk. Take a look for yourself.

Nine planetary boundaries

  1. Climate change
  2. Change in biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and species extinction)
  3. Stratospheric ozone depletion
  4. Ocean acidification
  5. Biogeochemical flows (phosphorus and nitrogen cycles)
  6. Land-system change (for example deforestation)
  7. Freshwater use
  8. Atmospheric aerosol loading (microscopic particles in the atmosphere that affect climate and living organisms)
  9. Introduction of novel entities (e.g. organic pollutants, radioactive materials, nanomaterials, and micro-plastics).
 With half of these compromised it may all look doom and gloom. However if we look at it with the essential habits we plan to acquire in No Impact Week, we can see these as warnings and not mistakes that have already happened.

Day 1 – Wellbeing Day: This day revolves around showing empathy, compassion and gratefulness with the people and things around you. We often get caught up in our own routines and we take for granted the world around us. This day is about reinvigorating ones desire to care about ones environment and take actions to keep it safe.

Day 2 – Nature Day: This day involves appreciating and reattaching oneself to the beauty of nature. Nowadays our eyes are so glued to screens we fail to appreciate the subtle beauty of the world around us. The humming of bee’s in a tree, the smell of morning dew on grass. This day is about appreciating the little things in life around us and showing our respect and love for our environment.

Day 3 – Transportation Day: We’ve all heard the typical lecture on carbon emissions and the dangers of fossil fuels. However most people don’t really see how they can do anything about such a wide scale problem that has contributors not just in domestic livelihoods but also agricultural and industrial. So here is a great way to play your part in reducing your carbon footprint. Carpool with a friend, take the bus home or something in that regard to continue your No Impact for this Week.

Day 4 – Waste Day: The Environmental Councils core focus this year is on waste. Now it is not as easy as it may seem. We need to ask ourselves, “What do I want to do with waste?” Do we want you to reduce the consumption? Reduce the production? Increase the production of recyclables? Its all pretty dense. However this is still a key topic that needs addressing. My tip for waste day is to not only recycle your waste (which is still a great start) but also get into the habit of identifying and removing interactions in your day where you can reduce waste. Such as when you purchase an item from the canteen and they give you unneccesary napkins or plates or containers. Just smile and say you’re fine without it!

Day 5 – Conservation Day: Finally we have conservation day. Though this spans over a multitude of areas such as paper conservation, water conservation, electricity conservation. The main habits here to end the awesome week of sustainable activity is to be aware of how your lifestyle and again trimming away the areas where you can. Such as turning off the sink as your brushing your teeth for water, using google docs or your phone instead of printing papers out, or unplugging your devices if they are not being charged or are fully charged.

And with that you have a brief idea of No Impact Week and how we plan on making it cleaner and greener. As always no pixels were harmed in the writing of this article.

– Cristian Garcia (ECO Media Director)

“Stay classy, not trashy”

Plastics in the oceans – Who’s trashy now?

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For the past six years researchers have been studying our oceans to determine how much of our big blue planet is covered in plastic. And the results are huge. A study published by PlusOne predicts that 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are kicking it with the fishes weighing around 250,000 tonnes. This both includes big pieces of trash like large canisters and water containers to smaller pieces called “micro plastics” which can be the size of a grain of sand. Now what is the harm of small sand like plastics in the ocean? I mean there’s already a bunch of sand in the ocean anyway right? Not entirely.  These micro plastics may not seem detrimental to marine life however consider the basic fundamentals of food chains. [See image below]1210-1242156850ss7a

When micro plastics are consumed by small fish (Purple one in diagram), the toxins present in the plastic are moved up through the food chain to the apex predator. And in many cases the apex predator is us humans. So the next time you chomp down on that fine piece of tuna, you may also be sinking your teeth into a soggy old crest toothpaste cap. Now this study displays figures much higher than previous studies have produced, however it has not included the impacts on marine life purely via digestion. In addition to this data PlusOne also included information saying that the total weight of plastics in the ocean “outweighs the total biomass of all humans”. That’s a lot.

So bearcat’s, whats the craziest piece of trash you’ve found in a water body?

Happy 2015! Let’s start it with…bang?

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Hey Bearcat’s! As we greet 2015 with bright lights, cheers and pyrotechnics like fireworks/crackers, we must first pause.  Wait a second. Smell the air. Peer through the foggy sky and see through the beautiful lights of celebration. Yes i’m talking about fireworks, their negative environmental consequences, and what we can do to reduce their impact.

Though most firework usage tends to lend itself to staple holiday celebrations like New Years and July the 4th, the mass number of fireworks that are used annually is staggering. In fact, the firework industry is worth nearly a billion dollars!

But what is harmful about them? When certain compounds are ignited (such as Nitrates or Oxides) they produce a coloured flame. Most common commercial fireworks tend to consist of the ignition of compounds to produce a violent POP!  and beautiful light.

Depending on the intended aethetical purpose, most fireworks produce smoke, fumes or dust upon combustion. The gases produced remain in the air, which is fine in small quantities but considering the prolonged and large usage of fireworks during celebrations, the gases accumulate in the air causing a great deal of air pollution.

Remember the compounds that colourfully ignite? Well those are dangerous too. Take Barium for example, this element is what makes the green colouration of fireworks and is commonly used…despite it being poisonous and radioactive. Copper is also regularly used to make blue fireworks, despite it containing “dioxin”, a chemical that has strong links to cancer incidences. That’s just the start of issues with fireworks that may lead to air pollution and respiratory conditions from its ingredients and fumes.

Not only is the air damaged, but also the land and water. The containers and remnants of a sued firecracker tend to fall into physical litter on the ground but also unfortunately land in water bodies. This runs the risk of contaminating them with the chemicals we just listed, and I wouldn’t want to be swimming or drinking in water remotely near a fireworks show.

A surprising new development in firework technology is Disney Studios, who are known for their wonderful and aweinspiring pyrotechnic displays. Disney has implemented a new form of firework technology that does not use gunpowder as fuel for ignition but rather compressed air. Though this reduces the air pollution problem, the risk of litter and contaminated water bodies is still an issue. But it is a step in the right direction.

So what? Are you supposed to sulk inside next time people are celebrating with the fiery wonder that is pyrotechnics? No! But The American Pyrotechnics Association recommends that rather than use fireworks you should try “parades or bloc parties” instead. With new technology, laser light shows can still have the WOW effect that fireworks have too.

Let’s start 2015 with a bang! It’s year of the Millennium Development Goals too, so lets all play our part in making our world a better place, one step at a time.

Stay classy, not trashy!

West Antarctic melting rate has tripled in the last decade!

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The hit movie “Frozen” got something right, we are letting go…of around 7 billion tones of ice into the ocean as melted water per year. So if you still “want to build a snowman”, then get your shovels and make haste because time is growing neigh! One of the most discussed consequences of climate change is the melting of the ice caps. But just how quickly are we losing ice? And more importantly, why should we care?

In a 30 year data collection experiment by NASA scientists, their data has found that the rate of ice melting in the West Antarctic has tripled in the last 10 years. This data is extremely important in identifying that climate change is more due to humans than a natural phenomena, as natural change tend to take place over long periods of time. In this initial 21 years of their study the rate of ice loss had been large (around 6 gigatons per year). Within the last 9 years however this rate has increased to around 16 gigatons per year! This is most likely due to a culmination of natural and human factors, the more prominent being

But so what? A little ice gets in our massive oceans, what could be the issue? Here’s a brief run down.

1) Sea levels rise –> Increased floods in coastal areas –> Loss of tourism –> Economic shortcomings
2) Sea levels rise –> Loss of costal land –> Displacement of local communities
3) Loss of fresh water –> Loss of potential water in the future
4) Loss of habitat for Polar Bears –> Reduction on Polar Bear population
5) Loss of ice –> Change in lifestyle and culture for Inhuit peoples
6) Loss of ice –> New shipping routes –> More shipping –> More water pollution
7) Damage to infrastructure built upon ice

What do you think? Is our loss of antarctic ice, or ice in general, that big of a problem?

Public bus powered by…poop?!

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What’s the first thing that comes into your mind when I say “public transport”? Crowds? Waiting? Carbon emissions? Though these words have merit they do not come near the incredibly strange sounding but interesting poop powered bus! The “bio bus” is the first of its kind and a week ago had its first run through the streets of the UK using biomethane gas. The bus is not only powered by fecal matter, but also sewage and food waste! Talk about sustainable am I right? The bus can travel 300 kilometres based off of the annual waste production of 5 people! This method of sustainable transport is the right step in improving the air quality of many UK cities. In fact, GenECO (the manufacturer of the bio bus) has also started distributing gas cannisters to 1800 families to power their homes! And yes you guessed it, this gas was also produced by waste.

What do you think about this waste revolution? With ECo’s main target of waste this year, do you think waste is ISM’s new doorway to a sustainable future? What about bringing this technology to other cities?

Oh and whether this technology smells bad…well i’ll let you come to that conclusion

New evidence supports the oceans more significant impact on climate change

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See the red and blue lines above? Yeah, ocean currents. These are in charge of distributing the worlds heat around the globe, in addition to being the staples of nutrient conveyer belts and marine animal migrations. Now when climate change is mentioned, for some reason our brains always think of a gloomy grey sky and greenhouse gases. But lets not forget the infamous underdogs who also play a major role…ocean currents. Data from Rutgers University found that major shifts in global temperatures millions of years ago found in deep soil samples coincides with global climate shifts.

What this means is that now more data on the significance of ocean currents is coming out, and similar to Kim Kardashian’s new reality spin of series, we should start paying attention to it. The theories here are that oceans pull heat and CO2 gas along with their flow, thus being able to regulate the Earths average temperatures.

Even more interesting is the data that they’ve found that supports a massive shift in earths temperature millions of years ago due to shifts on ocean currents. Before this change, Earth’s temperature was roughly the same in terms of CO2 levels and even 15 degrees warmer than it was now! So this supports the idea of ocean currents having greater impact on Earth’s climate than greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s quite the food for thought eh? What do you think about oceans? Serious player or overhyped?

Belief disparities between farmers and scientists on climate change.

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Climate Change, Global Warming, Natural, Human. Now do you know how these words are interconnected? If you have made connections, which are supported theories and which are “true”? Trick question, nothing in the academic world is ‘proven’, but supported through various varieties and volumes of evidence. In our world full of misinformation and lack thereof, it’s not surprising to see a large gap in climate change knowledge between the scientists doing the research and farmers who are more at the effecting end of the spectrum.

In a study done by Purdue University, they found that 90% of scientists (of 7000 surveyed in the US) believed climate change was occurring, with over 50% saying it was primarily due to human activities. This makes sense, the climatologists and meteorologists who collect climate data are able to see the trends and patterns over time and make educated guess’s with data.

Lets debunk a common misconception. Climate change is defined by the oxford dictionary as “changes in the earth’s weather, including changes in temperature, wind patterns and rainfall, especially the increase in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere that is caused by the increase of particular gases, especially carbon dioxide”. This is fancy speak for changes in our Earth’s weather and climate patterns. Global warming is a theory that specifically relates increases in greenhouse gases (the most notorious being (CO2) that lead to the gradual increase of the Earth’s temperatures. 

People are split on many things, like whether climate change is truly happening, whether global warming is true. But more importantly, what are the causes, human or natural? Majority of studies finds that both play roles, though human influence has become more pronounced over time.  When farmers in the US were asked, 66% thought that climate change was happening, and a mere 8% thought humans had an impact. Meaning that they thought the changes were due to natural oscillations in climate.

With 33% of the farmers sampled believing that there isn’t enough evidence to support climate change, my question is, what harm can this misinformation cause? With many farmers not believing in climate change, they are less likely to take precautions and prepare for upcoming weather anomalies. This makes them increasingly vulnerable to improper crop planting timings, water usage and soil maintenance.

What do you think the negative repercussions of farmers, or even populations not believing in climate change are? Is it even important that we know if its happening or it? Maybe we should focus on what we can do to be more sustainable regardless!