The Dangers of Biodiversity Loss

One of the most important hallmarks of nature’s beauty is the diversity of plants and animals within it. However, with continued human population growth, excessive consumption, and reduced resource efficiency, the world is facing significant biodiversity loss. This refers to the decline or disappearance of the diverse organisms that inhabit our planet, including their genetic variability and biological organization. Although it is typical for the biodiversity of an area to fluctuate with seasonal changes and other natural phenomena, biodiversity loss induced by human disturbances pose severe long-term threats to the environment. 

According to an article by Britannica, 50 percent of the world’s habitable land (about 51 million square kilometers or 19.7 million square miles) has been converted to agricultural fields. In addition, “this massive conversion of forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other terrestrial ecosystems has produced a 60 percent decline (on average) in the number of vertebrates worldwide since 1970, with the greatest losses in vertebrate populations occurring in freshwater habitats (83 percent) and in South and Central America (89 percent).” 

As a result of these human-driven changes, many organisms are challenged with limited living space and reduced food availability. More importantly, species that are unable to migrate often succumb to extinction. Thus, ecologists emphasize habitat destruction as the top cause of biodiversity loss.


Visual summary of the major threats to biodiversity loss

Consequences of Biodiversity Loss

Biodiversity is not just an environmental concern. Based on four recent regional assessment reports on biodiversity by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), biodiversity places equal weight on economic, social, moral, and developmental matters. Therefore, the impact of biodiversity loss is multifaceted and requires attention by a variety of disciplines. 

  • Biological – Because the loss of individual organisms is accompanied by a decline in genetic diversity, the long-term survival of a species can be significantly threatened. As mates become scarce within a population, mating between closely related individuals, or inbreeding, may increase and pose greater risk to the extinction of a particular species. 
  • Ecological – Biodiversity plays a crucial role in maintaining ecosystem health. Therefore, declining biodiversity depletes the quality of services that an ecosystem offers. These include providing a dependable food supply, maintaining soil health, and purifying the water that runs through the soil. Because we rely on these ecosystem services for our own well-being, biodiversity loss can have a direct impact on human health.  
  • Economic and social – Based on an article by the Green Alliance Blog, “biodiversity has significant market economic value” as it provides food, energy, medicines, and building materials. In addition, it has “a non-market economic value through the regulation of climate, air quality, floods, and pollination services.” Moreover, individuals appreciate nature for its positive contributions to cultural, spiritual, psychological, and physical well-being. However, its aesthetic importance is often undervalued in environmental policy. 

Despite international efforts to prevent biodiversity loss, such as legislation that illegalizes poaching, biodiversity is declining at unprecedented rates in geological history. Continuous population growth and economic prosperity are resulting in a heightened demand for natural resources, which contribute to the ongoing challenges of habitat fragmentation, overexploitation of numerous ecosystems, and climate change.

Habitat Corridors 

As habitat destruction is considered the primary reason for biodiversity loss, prioritizing the development of habitat corridors can enormously benefit a variety of living organisms, particularly endangered species. Habitat corridors can be in the form of bridges, tunnels, or simply land allocated specifically for animals where they can travel without human interference. This is very beneficial for isolated populations since the movement of organisms between these populations promotes genetic diversity, reducing cases of inbreeding. Habitat corridors also provide food and shelter for living species and assist them during seasonal migrations. Furthermore, these natural highways help to reduce vehicle collisions with large animals like deer. 

An image of the Terai Arc Landscape that stetches from the Bagmatio River in Nepal to the Yamuna River in India. It provides a safe pathway for a number of species including rare Indian rhinos, Asian elephants, and Bengal tigers.

While the establishment of habitat corridors is a small step in addressing the massive problem of biodiversity loss, it is a valuable investment in the health of the ecosystem at large. As constant receivers of nature’s privileges, we have both the ability and the responsibility to give some of our thoughtfulness and gratitude to the environment in return. This will require an interdisciplinary approach as well as stronger collaboration between various sectors, from businesses and scientific institutions to civil society organizations and local communities. 


What is that Noise?

Road traffic, along with excessive blowing of horns, is a critical contributor to noise pollution in India.

In an ever-increasing urbanized society, cities have become the hub for an unnoticeable, yet dangerous type of pollution. Some of its causes include the following:

  • Street traffic noise from pedestrians, cars, buses, etc
  • Construction activities that involve the use of enormous machinery
  • Events involving fireworks and loud music
  • Industrial noises like fans, generators, and mills
  • Persistent elevated sounds at airports, such as airplanes taking off or landing

Indeed, noise pollution is defined as regular exposure to elevated sound levels that can potentially induce harmful consequences for both humans and wildlife. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sounds levels less than 70 decibels do not pose risk to living organisms, regardless of the duration of exposure to those sounds. However the constant presence of noise beyond 80 decibels can be hazardous.

Impact of noise pollution on human beings

Whether an individual lives in a metropolitan city or works in close proximity to a busy road or highway, noise pollution can be unknowingly responsible for various health problems.

  • Hypertension – This is one of the few direct effects of noise pollution since blood pressure levels can be elevated for a long period of time. 
  • Noise induced hearing loss – Can occur due to prolonged exposure to loud drilling noises, considerable land and air traffic, or even listening to music at an unnecessarily loud volume. 
  • Sleep disturbances – Nightly noise pollution plays a major role in human sleeping patterns and can deplete performance on a physical and mental level. For children in particular, experiencing noise pollution is one of the contributing factors to higher stress levels, impairments in memory, and a reduced attention span. 

Impacts on Noise Pollution on Wildlife

This image highlights the presence of noise pollution in aquatic life.

While the environment contains natural sounds like rustling leaves (20 to 30 decibels) and thunderclaps (120 decibels), many animals have adaptations to these noises. In other words, they are able to understand and interpret nature’s calls in an effective way. However, when anthropogenic or manmade noise pollution is introduced to natural soundscapes, marine and terrestrial habitats can be significantly disturbed. As a result, animals can face major challenges in communication, reproduction, and navigation. 

Marine animals use echolocation to communicate warnings of danger,  attract mates, and look for food. When unwanted noise is created, it can disrupt these essential processes for survival. Ships, oil drills, sonar devices, and seismic tests are some threatening sounds that have transformed a tranquil marine environment into a chaotic atmosphere.

Similar to echolocation, sonar devices are used by sending pulses of sound into the deepest parts of the ocean so that the sound bounces off an object and produces an echo, indicating the presence of an object. While sonar may be a valuable technique for the navy, sonar transmits sounds up to 235 decibels, which is equivalent to a rocket take-off. Thus, marine animals like whales are not only hindered in their ability to use echolocation, but research also suggests that sonar can cause mass strandings of whales and alter their eating behaviors. 

Another important factor that damages the overall health of aquatic creatures is a seismic test, in which blasts of sound are transmitted within the ocean to find oil or gas deposits. Consequently, animals are forced to adjust the pitch of their calls in a manner that is not advantageous for echolocation. Furthermore, sea creatures can experience hearing impairments and other major injuries.

Ways to prevent noise pollution

As it can be seen, noise pollution leads to major physical, behavioral, and psychological hazards for both humans and other living organisms alike. Nonetheless, there are certain practices that can mitigate the dangers of noise pollution and contribute to a more productive society:

  • Proper placement of trees – Trees are one of the most powerful noise absorbents and can have a profound impact when planted near noise sources, such as roads and equipment facilities. 
  • Using quieter mechanical tools for maintenance tasks – Along with limiting unwanted noise, these tools are typically more efficient in energy usage. 
  • Taking precautions in loud areas – This is particularly important for senior citizens and infants as their hearing is more sensitive. By wearing earplugs, headphones, or monitoring the amount of time spent at noisy locations, individuals can protect themselves from any physical damage to their hearing and to their health.


Fast fashion: trendiness over Consciousness

The detrimental impacts of the fast fashion industry

The nature of various garment industries has shifted over the past few decades. Not only have clothing prices dropped significantly, but people are also able to obtain clothing that corresponds to the current style. However, a fashion trend typically doesn’t last for a long time, prompting people to get rid of their old clothes and buy new ones with unique characteristics. This vicious cycle of buying and disposing clothing is the cornerstone of the fast fashion industry.

The Concept of Fast Fashion

Essentially, “fast fashion” refers to the mass production of cheap, trendy clothing that quickly comes in and out of style. While the fast fashion concept has dangerous effects, it is highly favorable in terms of both production and consumption. In other words, manufacturing is done at groundbreaking speed, which allows the latest apparel styles to rapidly appear in the market. As a result, consumers are able to buy stylish clothing at very low prices while they’re still at the height of popularity. Since clothing from fast fashion industries is produced with synthetic fabrics like polyester, it quickly wears out and is typically worn less than five times. However, as fresh styles emerge into the market on an ongoing basis, consumers end up engaging in “inexpensive overconsumption,” buying more and more clothing to “update” their appearance.

Another eye-opening aspect about fast fashion industries is how they create their products. First of all, they heavily rely on low-cost, intensive labor practices. Working conditions are often unsanitary, and employees are paid much less than the average  living wage. In addition, many women have shown concerns about violence and harassment within the factories. Therefore, fast fashion industries can have a direct impact on the physical and mental health of their workers, as they are likely to succumb to disease and taxing demands.

A fast fashion factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Environmental Impacts of Fast Fashion

Fast fashion industries have proven to harm the environment in multiple ways. As mentioned previously, the clothing is made from synthetic fabrics like polyester, which is not biodegradable. In fact, it takes over 200 years for polyester to decompose, and it does not break down in the ocean. As a result, fast fashion industries generate a significant amount of textile waste; about 75% of our clothing ends up in landfills, and 72% of our clothing uses synthetic fibers.

Fast fashion industries also contribute to about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is approximately the same amount released by the aviation and shipping industries combined. Furthermore, fabrics like polyester are derived from fossil fuels, further reinforcing the impact of pollution and global warming.

The third environmental risk posed by fast fashion industries is their water usage. For each ton of dyed fabric, approximately 200 tons of water are required, making these companies the second-largest consumers of the world’s water supply. Also, in many countries where garments are produced, untreated waste waters that consist of toxic chemicals released from the clothing can pollute various bodies of water. This can have a severe impact on the health of aquatic species. 

This diagram illustrates the impact of synthetic fabrics on the health of the environment, animals, and human beings.

How to Identify a Fast Fashion Brand

Some of the major fast fashion brands include Zara, H&M, GAP, and TopShop. In order to help create a more sustainable environment, one should choose clothing from a good-quality brand that utilizes eco-friendly fabrics. The following are some ways in which one can recognize fast fashion clothing:

  • Thousands of styles are available, all of which highlight the latest trends.
  • There is a limited quantity of a particular piece of clothing.
  • The clothing is made from cheap low-quality materials.

Clothing styles come and go in the blink of an eye, but the mission of creating a sustainable environment will not disappear. And it begins with each individual choice to prioritize consciousness over trendiness.


A Thriller in Environmental Change

Chances are, many of us will recognize this dashing, extraordinary electric vehicle: Tesla. Founded in July 2003, this company has an ongoing mission to revolutionize the automobile and energy sectors. By enhancing sustainability efforts through the use of renewable energy, Tesla has the great potential to combat the effects of climate change by reducing reliance on nonrenewable energy sources.

Fossil Fuel Emissions

In an increasingly industrialized environment, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen from 280 parts per million to 416 parts per million in the last 150 years. These carbon emissions are largely associated with human activity, specifically with the burning of fossil fuels (coal, gasoline, oil, etc.). In the United States, the greatest release of greenhouse gases (29%) comes from transportation.

Thus, Tesla ultimately aims to create a zero-emissions future by combining performance, safety, and efficiency in an all-electric vehicle. According to the 2018 Tesla Impact Report, over 550K vehicles had been sold, and they had been driven over ten billion miles; along with that, over four million metric tons of CO₂ were prevented from being released into the atmosphere. In fact, because several automobile companies have recognized the environmental risks posed by internal combustion engines (ICEs), more electric vehicles are being produced everyday.

The Role of Batteries

The heart of the Tesla vehicle’s energy source is its battery power. Electric vehicles typically use lithium-ion batteries, which are also used to charge smartphones and other electronic devices. These batteries are generally pretty efficient, having a lifespan of about eight to ten years.

Based on the 2018 Tesla Impact Report, Tesla’s Supercharger Network “has delivered over 595 Gigawatt-hours (GWHs) of energy, saving the equivalent of over 75M gallons of gasoline.” In addition, the company utilizes a battery recycling program, in which the materials are refined to be reused multiple times. This method reinforces the valuable qualities of recyclable materials since Tesla batteries were still operating at over 90% of their original capacity after 160,000 miles of recycled battery use (April 2018). At the same time, the Yale School of the Environment reported a serious decline in coal burning on a global scale in 2019. These statistics indicate significant change in the energy sector as more companies are looking up to the implementation of renewable energy sources.

Challenges and Future Directions

Although Tesla has taken groundbreaking steps to encourage the wide adoption of clean energy, various challenges continue to arise.

  • Battery Disposal

This is a serious concern among environmental scientists since improper battery disposal can generate toxic waste. However, Tesla is looking into how lithium-iron phosphate batteries can be incorporated into its vehicles since these batteries do not rely on cobalt – a rare and expensive element that contributes to the high cost of electric vehicle batteries and discourages recycling. On the other hand, 90% of cobalt-free batteries can be recycled, as well as making vehicle production more cost effective. 

  • Evaluation of electric vehicles versus conventional vehicles

Comparing the effectiveness of both types of cars can become complicated since several factors have to be taken into account. These include vehicle size, the way electricity emissions are calculated, driving patterns, and the geographical location where the vehicle is driven. In other words, there is not a set method to determine the efficiency of both vehicles in a variety of circumstances.

Nonetheless, Tesla continues to be a global icon in sustainability initiatives and in mitigating the negative consequences of climate change through innovative efforts.


The Environmental Future of Genetically Modified (GM) crops

With an increasing global population and the ongoing risks of climate change, effective human interactions with the environment are critical to nurture all aspects of natural life. One of these key interactions is the use of GM (genetically modified) crops, which strongly contribute to the agricultural food supply and the environmental outlook of our planet. 

What are GM Crops?

GM crops are plants whose DNA has been modified before using them in agricultural practices. GM crops were initially developed to increase resistance against certain pests, diseases, and environmental conditions. However, they have evolved to not only alter the nutritive value of various foods, but to also be incorporated into the production of biofuels and pharmaceutical products. The use of GM technology has dramatically increased overtime, with acreage rising from 1.7 million hectares in 1996 to 185.1 million hectares in 2017.

The diagram above shows some of the foods that typically undergo genetic engineering.

Environmental Advantages of GM Crops 

According to a 2014 meta-analysis, GM technology has reduced the utilization of chemical pesticides by 37%. In addition, it has increased crop yields by 22% and has elevated farmer profits by 68%. These benefits are significant because decreased pesticide use has preserved the nutritional characteristics of various crops, while allowing more foods to be sold and consumed at the same time. Hence, GM crops have the potential to feed enormous amounts of people and will continue to harness changes in agricultural production. In fact, it is expected that about 9.5 billion people will be living on Earth by 2050, which is an increase of three billion people in less than 50 years.

Another critical benefit of GM crops is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. This massive reduction was actually equivalent to removing 16.7 million cars off the roads in 2016 alone. Therefore, GM crops can play a significant role in mitigating the harmful effects of climate change, specifically global warming.

Environmental Disadvantages of GM Crops

Although GM crops have major advantages that can transform the global food supply and the rate of climate change, this form of agriculture also brings some risks.

Toxicity- This is a serious issue when it comes to the herbicides and pesticides that are often used in GM crops. More specifically, the toxins from these chemicals have indicated negative effects in non-target organisms, such as bees and monarch butterflies. Furthermore, these harmful substances can be released into the soil, leading to fewer soil bacteria that enable plants to grow in a natural and healthy way. Irrigation systems that help cultivate GM crops can also negatively different water sources and the overall atmosphere.

Insect Resistance and Invasive Species- There have been various instances of insects developing resistance to the harmful chemicals in certain GM crops, with the first case reported in Canada in 2019. Additionally, specific herbicides have contributed to the emergence of “superweeds” and other invasive species that are unaffected by these herbicides. As a result, invasive species can appear in their natural ecosystem, which can disturb the broader ecology of the planet.

What is the long-term potential of GM Crops? 

Considering the fact that GM crops have ground-breaking benefits as well as serious disadvantages for the environment, the long-term implications of GM crops remain complex and uncertain. Although regulations exist to ensure that these crops are safe, they must be evaluated individually since certain genetically-engineered foods can pose different effects on human and ecological health. In addition, the comparison of the risks and benefits of GM agriculture with other farming techniques will be able to illustrate the effectiveness of each method. Nonetheless, GM crops are an essential element as we look towards more global challenges, along with various resources to overcome them.