What is a flash drought?

A flash drought is an extreme dry spell. Of late, it is becoming a big concern for farmers and water utilities in some countires, Flash droughts start and intensify quickly, over periods of weeks to months, compared to years or decades for conventional droughts. Still, they can cause substantial economic damage, since communities have less time to prepare for the impacts of a rapidly evolving drought.

Flash droughts also can increase wildfire risks, cause public water supply shortages and reduce stream flow, which harms fish and other aquatic life.

What causes them?

Flash droughts typically result from a combination of lower-than-normal precipitation and higher temperatures. Together, these factors reduce overall land surface moisture. Reduced moisture at the surface increases surface air temperatures, drying out the soil. Even moist regions can have flash droughts. In 2017, a flash drought in Montana and the Dakotas damaged crops and grasses that served as forage for cattle, causing U.S. $2.6 billion in agricultural losses.

Difficult to predict

Predicting flash drought events that occur on monthly to weekly time scales is much harder with current data and tools, largely due to the chaotic nature of weather and limitations in weather models. That's why weather forecasters don't typically make projections beyond 10 days there is a lot of variation in what can happen over longer time spans. And climate patterns can shift from year to year, adding to the challenge.

Early warnings

New monitoring tools that measure evaporative demand can, however, provide early warnings for regions experiencing abnormal conditions. Information from these systems can give farmers and utilities sufficient lead time to adjust their operations and minimise their risks.

The U.S. story

Flash droughts started receiving more attention in the U.S. after notable events in 2012, 2016 and 2017 that reduced crop yields and increased wildfire risks. In 2012, areas in the Midwest fell into severe drought conditions in June and July, causing more than $30 billion in damages. New England, typically one of the wetter U.S. regions too experienced a flash drought in the summer of 2022.

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What is acid rain?

Acid rain or acid precipitation is a term used to define any kind of precipitation that is abnormally acidic and contains high levels of nitric and sulfuric acids

What one needs to note here is that normal rain is slightly acidic having a pH value between 5 and 5.6. (pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline a solution is. A solution with a pH value less than 7 is considered acidic while a solution with a pH greater than 7 is considered basic or alkaline.) Meanwhile, the pH levels of acid rain are lower than normal precipitation and stand between 4.2 and 4.4. Acid rain can also settle onto Earth in the form of fog, snow and so forth.

The cause of acid rain is attributed to human activities, mostly resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels. In some cases, it can be a result of natural causes such as lightning, volcanoes, decaying plant and animal matter, and so on. When fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas are burnt gases such as sulfuric dioxide and nitrous oxide get released into the air.

The reaction of these chemical compounds with oxygen and water vapour in the air leads to the formation of nitric acid and sulfuric acid which then mix with water molecules in the air. Sometimes, they can get blown away across several kilometres before they fall to Earth as acid rain.

Dangers of acid rain

Acid rains can wreak havoc on an ecosystem. Apart from affecting the water bodies, it affects the plants and animals in that area.

When it falls into aquatic sources, it can harm fishes, insects and aquatic animals. The low pH level can kill the adult fishes and even the eggs I wouldn't hatch when the pH level dips below 3. The biodiversity gets significantly affected by acid rain. Just like how it affects the aquatic ecosystem, acid rain is harmful to land-based ecosystems.

The chemistry of the soil gets altered drastically, the pH level gets lowered and nutrients of the soil get leached away. This affects the plants which rely on these nutrients.

Further, when acid rain falls on the leaves of the plants, it causes direct damage. It has also been observed that the eggs of the birds (species such as warblers and other songbirds) in the affected areas tend to have thinner shells.

What can be done to prevent acid rain? Well, the ideal way is to limit the quantity of sulfuric dioxide and nitrous oxide that gets released into the atmosphere.

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What is AQI?

Don't we often come across news about air pollution in our city or surrounding areas and the frequent mention of AQI? But what does AQI stand for and how is it helpful to us? Come, let's find out

AQI is the abbreviation of Air Quality Index. It is a yardstick that shows us how clean or hazardous the air we breathe in in a particular region is. It is a numerical representation of the air quality in a place, which is determined by measuring the level of pollutants present in the air.

Health concerns

With a rapidly growing population and corresponding economic development, India has been grappling with the issue of air pollution for several decades now, leading to health and environmental concerns. Several factors are responsible for the poor air quality in most parts of the country. While natural sources of air pollutants include smog, storms, dust, and wildfires, we humans are responsible for emissions from factories, automobiles, construction activities, stubble burning, fossil fuel burning, etc. These are responsible for the presence of major air pollutants in the country such as particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, etc.

Exposure to air pollution may lead to severe respiratory illnesses, irritation in the eye, heart disease, and even premature death. Air pollution reduces visibility on the road and may lead to accidents and loss of lives. Besides, it can have a deleterious impact on the environment, damaging crops and trees, affecting yields, causing acid rain, etc.

Launched in 2015

India is home to some of the most polluted cities in the world. In order to address the widely prevalent air pollution crisis, the Government has taken several initiatives. One such is the National Air Quality Index which was officially launched in April 2015 in New Delhi. The NAQI was developed by IIT-Kanpur scientists along with the Central Pollution Control Board. It has been designed to disseminate air quality information to the people. The AQI shows eight pollutants, namely PM2.5, PM10, ammonia, lead, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide.

Colour-coded index

 The colour-coded AQI helps people and the administration understand the condition of the air by providing real-time information on air quality. The index converts data of various pollutants collected from monitoring stations into a single number, name, and colour. The AQI value runs from 0 to 500. There are six AQI categories, namely Good (0-50, green), Satisfactory (51-100, light green), Moderately polluted (101-200, pink), Poor (201-300, yellow), Very Poor (301-400, red), and Severe (401-500, dark red), with each being decided based on the concentration values of air pollutants and their likely health impacts. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. An AQI value of 50 or below represents good air quality, while an AQI value over 300 represents very poor air quality. There are smartphone apps such as Sameer and SAFAR and websites.

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How can I invest in our planet?

Earth Day, celebrated each year on April 22, just went by. With "Invest in Our Planet” as the theme, the focus is on engaging governments, institutions, businesses, and people across the world to do their part. And, this includes dedicating time, resources, and energy to solving the climate crisis. What role can we play in this? Here's what!

Population, a concern

While there are many factors impacting the condition of our planet, one significant aspect is our population. According to the recent UN world population dashboard, India has surpassed China to become the world's most populous nation with 142.86 crore people as against China's 142.57 crore. When a country's population increases, one of its most important benefits is the potential for economic growth. But a spike in population also has negative environmental implications. When the number of people in a country increases, it becomes more difficult to reduce carbon and methane emissions. Not just that, more number of people means more space required for living and more mouths to feed. This could translate to forests being cut down-for meeting both housing and farming needs. When forests go, habitats do too, and along with them the flora and fauna of the region. Apart from food and housing, people's necessities, comforts, and luxuries also use up natural resources - more the number, faster the depletion of resources. A growing population also leads to a higher amount of pollution - in air, water, and land. This pollution affects not just humans but also animals and plants. In a world already grappling with climate change, population increase too adversely affects our environment.

What can we do?

Individual efforts can be as fruitful as collective ones. There's so much we can do alone and as a community to be invested in the planet we call home. Here's a glimpse into a few ways in which we can be kinder to the Earth

• Plant native saplings in your neighbourhood

• Make conscious efforts to reduce the use of plastic

• Take a pledge to choose a sustainable lifestyle

• Plan regular awareness campaigns on local environmental issues

• Conduct river and beach clean-up programmes

• Invite environmentalists and conservationists for talks

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How do oceans play an important role in ecology?

Oceans cover more than two-thirds of Earth. Understandably, they play a vital role in keeping all life forms going. World Oceans Day (June 8-) just went by, reminding us that an important natural resource is in need of our urgent support.

The importance of ocean

Initially, our ancestors were nomads, moving from one place to another. However, they eventually started settling in one place invariably around waterbodies such as rivers, lakes, oceans, etc. For thousands of years, oceans have been the backbone of human survival. But for even longer, they have been inevitable for all life forms, from the tiniest to the largest. All living beings, even those on land, are directly or indirectly dependent on the ocean for their very existence.

We all breathe easy because all oceans together produce at least 50% of the planet's oxygen. Due to their sheer size, oceans distribute heat from the Equator to the Poles, regulating the world's climate. Without this, different regions will constantly experience only extreme weather. Marine life is a good source of food for both humans and animals the world over. In addition, some also have medicinal properties. Oceans are also crucial for global economy since they help in transport and tourism.

What is ailing them?

Oceans face several threats today. Thanks to global warming, our oceans are warming too. This affects marine life since many cannot survive warmer waters. When a few species struggle, they can affect others that are dependent on these species, and this can result in ecosystem collapse. Further, warming waters can increase sea levels, resulting in natural disasters. Human activities such as overfishing, plastics, polluted wastewater discharged into the oceans, etc. affect the natural balance in a marine ecosystem.

According to the U.N., "With 90% of big fish populations depleted, and 50% of coral reefs destroyed, we are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished." The U.N. calls for us to work together in such a way that we not just take less from the oceans but help these natural resources flourish.

The theme for 2023

The theme this year is "Planet Ocean: tides are changing". The United Nations will work with people from different walks of life - from policy-makers, indigenous leaders, and scientists to private sector executives, citizens, and youth activists to turn the spotlight on oceans.

What is the 30 X 30 target?

At the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, more commonly COP27, held in Egypt last November, as many as 112 nations took an important pledge. They promised to take steps for protecting at least 30% of Earth's land and ocean by 2030 to help curtail biodiversity loss and climate change.

Did you know?

  • The ocean is key to our economy with an estimated 40 million people being employed by ocean-based industries by 2030.
  • Oceans absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming.

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What important events happened in environment in 2022?

ENVIRONMENT & WILDLIFE: Unsurprisingly, the past year was dominated by extreme weather events- from floods and drought to heatwaves and hurricanes (see graphic below)

The repercussions of these global occurrences were felt in many ways, including in the record melting of glaciers and the drying up of rivers in many countries. In December, parts of the U.S. and Canada experienced the unprecedented impact of "bomb cyclone” that brought heavy snow, caused power outage, and claimed dozens of lives. Throughout the year, several volcanoes erupted, most notably Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai in the South Pacific. Etna and Stromboli in Italy. Mauna Loa in Hawaii, and a few in Iceland, leaving houses destroyed and a few deaths. The Amazon rainforests continued to be in the news with about 1.000 major fires reported during the "fire season" while a recent study indicated that "large parts of Amazon may never recover”. But not all news last year were bad. There were many positive news too. Even a few bizarre ones! Let's take a look at a few of them.

1. China gets its first vertical forest city

China's first vertical forest city became a reality in January 2022 through a private project. Turning a tower block into a green space, it houses nearly 500 people and more than 5,000 shrubs and trees. It is viewed as an example of sustainable residential building and a project of city reforestation that allows residents the experience of greenery. The green cover in the project is from native and non-invasive species. The trees are dominated by the Ginkgo biloba species, from an order dating back at least 290 million years. There are over 4,500 shrubs, apart from perennial grass, flowers, and climbing plants. The vertical forest is expected to absorb nearly 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide while emitting about 10 tonnes of oxygen annually.

2. Healthy environment a human right: UN

In what is seen as a historic move, in July 2022 the United Nations General Assembly declared "that everyone on the planet has a right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. As our natural world faces an "alarming decline" through climate change and degradation, this could just be the right step to counter the grave issue. Though the resolution is not legally binding on member states, it is hoped that the move will prompt "countries to enshrine the right to a healthy environment in national constitutions and regional treaties" and encourage states to implement them. This could also arm environmental campaigners with more power "to challenge ecologically destructive policies and projects".

3. There's a Jane Goodall Barbie!

As part of its "Inspiring Women" series, which pays tribute to courageous and risk-taking women, in July 2022 Mattel announced the release of a doll made of recycled plastic and dedicated to conservationist Jane Goodall. It coincided with the 62nd anniversary of conservationist's first visit to Tanzania's Gombe National Park, where she conducted ground-breaking research on wild chimpanzees. The Barbie wears a khaki shirt and shorts, a pair of binoculars. and holds a notebook. It also comes with a miniature replica of David Greybeard, the first male chimp Goodall named and discovered making tools out of sticks.

4. India bans single-use plastic

A step lauded by green warriors, in July 2022, the union government banned the manufacture, sale, and use of identified single-use plastic items such as plates, cups, straws, trays, and polystyrene, "which have low utility and high littering potential". What promised to be a success story has turned out to be a struggle as critics pointed out that the country could neither find an alternative to single-use plastics nor set up an effective waste management system. However, Modhera in Gujarat becoming the country's first solar-powered village in October was news to cheer about. Earlier in June, Delhi airport became the first one in the country to function solely on hydro and solar energy.

5. Denmark to pay for 'loss and damage from climate change

By pledging more than $13 million to support developing nations that have experienced losses caused by climate disruptions, in September 2022 Denmark became the first UN member to offer "loss and damage" compensation to the most climate-vulnerable areas. Stating that it is "grossly unfair that the world's poorest should suffer the most from the consequences of climate change to which they have contributed the least" and that it was time for action, the country will channel the funds to regions such as Africa through various organisations and partnerships.

6. NZ's tax on animal farts and burps!

In a controversial proposal aimed to deal with climate change, in October 2022 the New Zealand government unveiled plans to tax greenhouse gas emissions from farm animals. The plan wanted farmers to pay for gas emissions from their animals, such as methane gas in the farts and burps of cows, and nitrous oxide in the urine of livestock. Outraged farmers were quick to condemn the idea. Though changes were outlined later, it appears that the tax still leaves a lot to be desired. It may come into effect a few years from now, and it remains to be seen if this idea would affect President Jacinda Ardern's chances when the country goes to polls within a year.

7. Children and Youth Pavilion at COP27 - a first

In a first, the United Nations Conferences of Parties, held in November 2022 in Egypt, allocated a pavilion for youth and children to make young voices heard in climate decision-making. Run by young people themselves, the pavilion hosted youth-led climate forum, a session on "climate change threats to health, nutrition, education and the future of children", and working groups, becoming a platform for networking opportunities and policy briefings. Meanwhile, December witnessed UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15), the biggest biodiversity conference in a decade, held in Canada. Amidst criticism for "lacking urgency" and rushed process, the event focussed on the protection of land, ocean, and the rights of indigenous people, reducing biodiversity loss, etc.

8. UK universities ban 'climate wreckers' from campus recruitments

In December 2022, career services at three universities - the University of Bedfordshire, University of the Arts London, and Wrexham Glyndwr University - promised to end all relationships with oil, gas, and mining recruiters. According to reports, this ban is a result of "a passionate student-led campaign", and comes three months after a similar move by Birkbeck, University of London. The sponsor of the campaign charity described it as "a victory for climate campaigners against big polluters". The step is seen as important because fossil fuel companies can attract new graduates with high starting salaries. Apparently, now many job seekers "are shunning these lucrative offers in favour of more environmentally friendly careers".

9. Seaweed as plastic alternative

As plastic and packaging waste litter streets globally, the solution could come in the form of seaweed. Notpla, a London-based startup is set to come up with a totally natural, completely biodegradable plastic alternative using seaweed and plants- to create a range of packaging from bubbles to hold liquid to linings for food containers". The startup won the Earthshot Prize in December 2022 in the 'Build a Waste-Free World' category, and along with it, one million pounds, which will go towards research, development, and business expansion. Earlier, researchers from Flinders University in Australia partnered with a German biomaterials developer to create a seaweed-based biopolymer, which can be used as a wrapper.

10. Cheers for cheetahs and bustards

The government released an action plan in January 2022 to reintroduce cheetahs in India. Amidst criticism and applause, eight cheetahs from Namibia reached Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh in September. The animals are now acclimatising to their new home. Meanwhile, due to natural factors and conservation efforts, four great Indian bustards in Rajasthan's Desert National Park laid two eggs each, though the bird normally lays only one at a time. There's more hope for this endangered bird as the Supreme Court floated the idea of Project GIB on the lines of Project Tiger.

11. No rhino poaching in Assam

For the first time in more than two decades, not a single one-horned rhinoceros was poached in Assam in an entire year since January 2022. This is believed to be the result of the anti-rhino poaching mission - a special task force formed in 2021. with 22 senior police and forest department officials. Apart from strict vigil by armed commandos and forest personnel, the use of "sophisticated technology" too is said to have helped the State achieve this target. The years 2020 and 2021 saw two rhinos each poached. The threatened species is killed for its horns because they fetch large sums due to their supposed medicinal value.

12. World's largest plant, and rare flowers

The world's largest plant a seagrass 180 km long and the size of 28.000 soccer fields - was discovered off the coast of Australia, a report in June 2022 said. Apparently, over 4,500 years ago, a single seed sprouted in the region now called Shark Bay. This seed spawned a mammoth seagrass covering more than 200 sq. km. In August 2022, Chile's Atacama Desert was in the news for its rare floral bloom that occurs once every few years. The government acted swiftly, and announced that the area would become a national park to accord it high protection.

13. Happy birthday, tortoises!

In August 2022, Kemp's Ridley - the world's smallest and most endangered sea turtle - hatched in Louisiana, the U.S. for the first time in over 75 years, thrilling conservationists. In September, Janus, the world's oldest two-headed tortoise celebrated his 25th birthday. Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise and the world's oldest living land animal, celebrated his 190th birthday in December, and in the process, entered the Guinness World Records. His official record title is oldest chelonian-a category which encompasses all turtles, terrapins, and tortoises. Meanwhile, during the 19th meeting of the Cop 19 at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in November, India reiterated its commitment on conserving tortoises and turtles in the country.

14. Corals of Great Barrier Reef show signs of recovery

Two-thirds of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showed the largest amount of coral cover in 36 years, a report in August 2022 said. Researchers believe this is indicative of how it "is still a resilient system" given that it has the capability to recover from disturbances. The recovery occurred in the central and northern stretches of the reef while the southern region faced a loss of coral cover due to crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks. It means that though the recovery is good news, the reef continues to remain vulnerable to increasingly frequent mass bleaching events. In November, a United Nations-backed mission to GBR concluded that the reef system should be placed on a list of world heritage sites in danger.

15. Spectacular wildlife recoveries

Research revealed that about 50 species, including bears. wolves, bison, whales, turtles, otters, and wolverines were making a spectacular comeback across Europe, a September 2022 report said. Most of the species were previously struggling, and the recoveries are a pointer to the fact that humans play a decisive role in creating conducive conditions, facilitating habitat restoration, and species reintroduction. Not just that! The black-naped pheasant pigeon last spotted 140 years ago was found in Papua New Guinea: a baby bison was born in the U.K. for the first time in millennia as part of a groundbreaking rewilding project. and the Galapagos Island land iguana last spotted on Santiago Island more than 187 years ago too made a comeback, delighting conservationists.

16. Beavers now a protected species in England

Eurasian beavers were recognised as a European protected species in England in October 2022, making it illegal to capture, kill, injure, or disturb them. The move ensures that measures earlier in place to 'control' beavers are curbed. For instance, landowners will not be able to damage a burrow or dam without a licence from Natural England. Eurasian beavers were once widespread but hunted to extinction 400 years ago in Britain. They are being reintroduced at multiple sites across the region. These creatures are crucial for maintaining a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Their dams help the environment, keep water clean, and prevent flooding and drought.

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What's celebrated on 16th October?

World Food Day is celebrated annually on 16 October to promote global awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and to highlight the need to ensure healthy diets for all. World Food Day (October 16) just passed us by. The day focusses on aspects such as hunger, food accessibility, and eating what is healthy for both you as an individual and the planet as a whole. Here are a few simple ways in which your food habits can be kind to Earth.

Understand the food system

The food system collectively refers to the processes involved -from food production, packaging, and transportation to consumption. In simple terms, it is the journey of how the food reaches you. But it is also much more than that- it focusses on aspects such as food cost, affordability, sustainability, waste, its impact on the environment and the people, etc. Understanding food systems help you make sensible choices. For instance, when you trace the origin of an imported food item, you may learn that it has travelled from another continent, wrapped in plastic, perhaps losing its nutrition along the way, and costing exponentially more than what it cost in its place of origin.

Eat local and seasonal foods

Anything produced locally and during the right season has more nutrition and flavour because the time between production and consumption is less when compared to something that has been brought from far or harvested long ago. Seasonal foods also offer health benefits. Many vegetables and fruits-such as watermelon that grow in summer have high water content just perfect to keep us hydrated. Similarly, some of the fruits and vegetables - such as oranges and lemons are rich in vitamins and offer protection against viral infections such as cold that can happen during winter.

Decrease waste

Right from purchasing to consumption, we have several opportunities to eliminate or at least decrease waste. For instance, buying only the food item that we need rather than go in for impulse buying, buying the required quantity, storing the item carefully, and using the exact amount we require. At home and outside, it is good to have small portions on our plates. One can go in for a second helping after completing the first portion rather than load up the plate with a lot. Also, just because a fruit or vegetable looks misshapen, it does not mean it is rotten and must be discarded. They will certainly pass the nutrition test! Remember to bring back your excess food from restaurants in your own containers, and use the left over later.

Sustainable eating

Sustainable eating habits cannot happen overnight. Talk to your family members, pick one day every week when the food you consume is planet-friendly and all meals are prepared at home from scratch. The ways to ensure these are by going in for local and seasonal food, produce that require less water and are grown using eco-friendly methods, using diverse items from fruits and vegetables to a variety of grains, etc. In addition, vegetable and fruit peels can be utilised for making compost. Once these become easy to follow, gradually every day will turn into 'Sustainable Eating day!

Grow your own food

It has been proved that processed food can lead to a range of health issues from obesity to cancer. The more you prepare your own food, the better it is for your health. One way of knowing what you eat is by growing your own organic food at home. With a little thought and effort you can raise anything from cilantro, ginger, and chillies to okra, and pumpkin. Use kitchen waste water-such as ones used to wash rice and lentils- to water these plants. Such steps also help you connect with nature, and become aware of ways in which you can lead a sustainable life.


  • The World Food Day commemorates the date of the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
  • While FAO was established in 1945, World Food Day was set up in 1979.
  • Two years after that, it introduced a theme. There has been a theme every year since then. The theme for 2022 is "Leave NO ONE behind".
  • The United Nations states that enough food is being produced for everyone in the world. The hunger and poverty that happens is largely due to the lack of access.

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Is our world undergoing the sixth mass extinction?

There's proof we are increasingly losing species, and this is not good for us humans

What is mass extinction?

To be classified as a mass extinction, at least 75 % of all the species on Earth must go extinct within a short geological period of less than 2.8 million years. That timeframe seems long to us because modern humans have only existed for about 2,00,000 years so far.

Mass extinction is not new

Extinctions and speciations (species evolving over time) do not happen at uniform rates through time; instead, they tend to occur in large pulses interspersed by long periods of relative stability. These extinction pulses are what scientists refer to as mass extinction events. The Cambrian explosion was a burst of speciation some 540 million years ago. Since then, at least five mass extinction events have been identified in the fossil record (and probably scores of smaller ones). Arguably the most infamous of these was when a giant asteroid smashed into Earth about 66 million years ago in what is now the Gulf of Mexico. The collision vapourised species immediately within the blast zone. Species were killed off later by resultant climate change and volcanic activity too.

Are humans responsible for the current crisis?

Humans have been implicated in smaller extinction events going back to the late Pleistocene (around 50,000 years ago) to the early Holocene (around 12.000 years ago) when most of the megafauna, such as woolly mammoths, giant sloths. diprotodons, and cave bears, disappeared from nearly every continent over a few thousand years. Much later, the expansion of European colonists throughout the world from about the 14th Century precipitated an extinction cascade first on islands, and then to areas of continental mainland as the drive to exploit natural resources accelerated. Over the last 500 hundred years, there have been more than 700 documented extinctions of vertebrates and 600 plant species. These extinctions come nowhere near the 75 % threshold to include the modern era among the previous mass-extinction events. But those are just the extinctions humans have recorded. In fact. many species go extinct before they are even discovered- perhaps as many as 25 % of total extinctions are never noticed by humans. But it's not the total number of extinctions we should focus on; rather, it's the extinction rate. Even the most conservative estimates place the modern era well within the expected range to qualify as a mass extinction. If the current rate of extinction continues we could lose most species by 2200.

When species disappear

One may think that so long as the species that provide resources for modern societies survive, there's no reason to consider extinction a problem. The evidence suggests otherwise. Species loss also erodes the services biodiversity provides us. These include reduced carbon removal from atmosphere (which climate change), reduced pollination and increased soil degradation that compromise our food production, poorer water and air quality, more frequent and intense flooding and fires, and poorer human health. Even human diseases such as HIV/ AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19 are the result of our collective indifference to the integrity of natural ecosystems.

There's still hope

We could potentially limit the damage if societies around the globe embraced certain fundamental, yet achievable, changes. We could abolish the goal of continuous economic growth, and force companies to restore the environment. We could limit undue corporate influence on political decision-making. Educating and empowering women would also help stem environmental destruction.

Did you know?

  • In the timeline of fossil evidence going right back to the first inkling of any life on Earth- over 3.5 billion years ago - almost 99 % of all species that have ever existed are now extinct. That means that as species evolve over time, they replace other species that go extinct.
  • When the giant asteroid hit our planet, about 76 % of all species around at the time went extinct, of which the disappearance of the dinosaurs is most well-known. But dinosaurs didn't disappear altogether-the survivors just evolved into birds.

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What is wind tree system?

Get to know about wind trees and how they help harness energy.

French innovator Jérôme Michaud-Larivière designed the Wind Tree as a sustainable energy-harnessing device that would also enhance urban landscapes. A wind tree is a tree-shaped structure that harnesses wind energy using small trembling wind turbines called 'aeroleaves’ that look exactly like leaves on a tree.  The micro-turbines work well even when there is little wind. Just a gentle breeze as light as 7 kmph is sufficient. This is something a conventional windmill cannot do.

French innovator Jérôme Michaud-Larivière designed the Wind Tree as an elegant, sustainable energy-harnessing device that would enhance urban landscapes. The first Wind Tree was a 3-m-tall structure with 72 aeroleaves. It produced 3.1kW of power. ‘Wind Bush’ is a combination of aeroleaves and photovoltaic petals that harnesses both wind and solar energy.

 For the Indian market, Larivière has created ‘Lotus’, an affordable wind tree minus the solar petals.

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Where is world's Largest Solar Tree?

The largest solar tree in the world has been installed at the CSIR-CMERI Centre of Excellence for Farm Machinery in Ludhiana, Punjab.

A solar power tree is a device that is shaped like a tree with its steel branches holding the solar photovoltaic panels.

Just like a natural tree, the steel branches of the solar tree are arranged in such a fashion that every solar panel is properly exposed to the Sun. Moreover, the panels can be mechanically tilted east or west to derive maximum benefit of the Sun's position. The height of the tree is about 9-10 metres. One tree can produce about 5kW of power.

One of the main hurdles in installing solar power plants is the lack of availability of large spaces. Often, farmers are reluctant to sacrifice their cultivable land for solar power production. But a solar tree with its vertically arranged branches, occupies only four sqft of area, leaving almost the entire land free for cultivation. The energy generated can be used to run pumps, e-tractors and tillers as a green alternative to diesel.

India's first solar power tree was produced by Central Mechanical Engineering and Research Institute (CMERI), at Durgapur. The largest solar tree in the world has been installed at the CSIR-CMERI Centre of Excellence for Farm Machinery in Ludhiana. Its total solar PV panel surface area is 309.83 m2. CMERI hopes to install many such solar trees along highways and farmlands.

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What is the device of Ulta Chaata used for?

Ulta Chaata, a concave structure, collects rainwater in the monsoon and converts it into potable water. Find out how it's done.

Ulta Chaata, as the name suggests, resembles an inverted umbrella. It is a large concave structure that collects rainwater in the monsoon and converts it into potable water, while the solar panels fitted alongside the canopy, produce energy in the dry season.

The rainwater collected in the bowl of the Chaata, trickles down the stalk to reach a filtering unit of activated carbon where it is cleared of impurities. A duster of ten or more Ulta Chaatas is connected to a common device where the water undergoes further filtration to remove microorganisms, making it fit for drinking. A single unit can harvest as much as 100,000 litres of water every year.

The solar energy harnessed in the dry season is stored in the battery and is used not just to light up the Chaata, but also the premises. Unlike a typical rainwater harvesting unit, Ulta Chaata's attractive design lends itself well to the aesthetics of the surroundings, especially when lit up.

The device takes up to one sq. ft of area. Ulta Chaatas can be installed as sustainable workstations in open spaces. They can provide a green roof for reception areas, cafeterias, gazebos, car parks, bus stops and even railway stations.

Besides a number of corporates, Guntakal railway station in Andhra  Pradesh has installed six such structures on its premises.

Ulta Chaata is the brainchild of a Mumbai-based environmentally conscious couple Priya Vakil and Samit Choksy whose start-up ThinkPhi designs sustainable products.

Ulta Chaatas can be installed as sustainable workstations in open spaces. They can provide a green roof for reception areas, cafeterias, car parks, bus stops and even railway stations.


  • A single unit of Ulta Chaata can harvest as much as 100,000. litres of water every year.
  •  Ulta Chaata's attractive design lends itself to the aesthetics of the surroundings.
  • The solar panels fitted alongside the canopy produce energy in the dry season.

Picture Credit : Google 

Why are astronomers concerned about light pollution?

Light pollution is very much a concern across the globe, something astronomers and skywatchers are trying to bring attention to. It not only takes away the right to enjoy the night skies and explore the celestial bodies with the naked eye but also affects the circadian rhythm of humans and wildlife.

Have you seen a sky spangled with stars winking at you from light years away? Have you ever spotted the Milky Way?

Well with the amount of artificial light strewn across the sky. it is a fact that dark skies that bring out the beauty of the cosmos are a rarity.

Light pollution is very much a concern across the globe, something astronomers and skywatchers are trying to bring attention to. It not only takes away the right to enjoy the night skies and explore the celestial bodies with the naked eye but also affects the circadian rhythm of humans and wildlife. So what is light pollution?

Light Pollution

Across the world, people have to deal with the nighttime glow caused by artificial light. This has been affecting humans, wildlife, and the environment equally. There is a global movement to reclaim the dark sky and reduce light pollution.

Sources of light pollution

The major cause of light pollution is misdirected light which scatters out into the open sky caused by human activities. From street lights to lights from buildings, boats, and outdoor advertising to illuminated sporting venues, every misdirected light leads to light pollution. High levels of sky glow mean fewer chances of seeing enough celestial bodies in the sky.

The circadian rhythm and light pollution

Artificial light can affect the circadian rhythm in both humans and animals. The circadian rhythm is the natural process regulating the sleep-wake cycle. The production of the hormone melatonin is linked to this. This sleep-inducing hormone gets released when it is dark. The presence of light inhibits it. If the ambient light is high at night, then it lowers the production of melatonin and leads to sleep deprivation, stress, fatigue, and anxiety.

Animal behaviour and light pollution

It has been proven that wildlife has also been affected badly by light pollution. The animal behaviours such as migration patterns and wake-sleep habits of animals have been affected. Birds and sea turtles have been found to lose their way and get confused due to the presence of increased ambient light. Light also affects the circadian rhythm of animals.

Picture Credit : Google 


A rock that is shaped like a mushroom! What’s interesting is how the rock gets that shape. The strong winds blowing across desert landscapes erode the base of massive boulders more than the top. Over many years, this results in a thin stem supporting a broad cap - a mushroom rock.

Mushroom rock is a naturally occurring rock with the shape of a mushroom. The rocks are deformed in a variety of ways due erosion and weathering, glacial action, and sudden disturbances. Mushroom rocks are generally formed due to such deformations. We will learn about mushroom rocks associated with wind Erosional Landforms/ Aeolian Landforms.

  • Mushroom Rock, also known as a perched rock or pedestal rock, is a boulder balanced on a pinnacle rock or over another boulder or in some other position.
  • Rainwash generally removes the fine debris from around the boulder, causing some elevated rocks to develop.
  • Mushroom rocks are usually found with a strong capping and crumbling or exudation along their edges.
  • these types of rocks are generally found in deserts.

Formation of Mushroom Rocks

  • In mushroom rocks, the wind-carried sand rarely rises more than three or four feet above the ground, although the concentration of the sand is highest at eighteen inches closest to the ground.
  • As a result, the sandblast or abrasion effect will be greatest at or near the ground level.
  • The upstanding rocks at their bottoms are undercut by continued abrasive action, resulting in Rock pedestal or Mushroom rocks.
Picture credit: Google


When strong winds storm across sandy deserts, they lift huge amounts of sand into the air and blow it about forcefully in what is called a sandstorm. The force and speed of the wind can carry the sand for thousands of kilometres before depositing it again. The coarseness of the particles can make a sandstorm really devastating. Smaller grains can remain suspended in the air for a long time.

A sandstorm is described as a natural phenomenon that occurs when a strong wind, such as a gust front, blows fine sand particles and dust from a dry surface. These particles become suspended in the air, causing erosion where they initially were. The wind drops these particles in another place where silt is formed.

Also known as a dust storm, a sandstorm is common in arid and semi-arid regions. The primary terrestrial sources of airborne dust include the drylands around the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa. The Takla Makan and Gobi desert of China, and the Sahara desert also experience sandstorms.

A sandstorm is usually confined to the lowest ten feet. It rarely rises to more than fifty feet above the ground. The sand particles which are picked up by the sandstorm are larger than dust particles. They usually fall out of the storm more rapidly, causing it to launch not far from where the sand was initially at.

It is thought that the particles also fall to the ocean, significantly affecting the marine ecosystem. It is worth noting that the frequency of sandstorms has been increasing, albeit a well-known meteorological phenomenon since the ancient times. It has raised several health and environmental concerns due to the gravity of its surge.

Credit: Earth Eclipse

Picture Credit: Google

1000 trees are presently ‘walking’ down the streets of the Dutch city of Leeuwarden

1000 trees are presently walking down the streets of the city of Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Or rather, the indigenous trees planted in big wooden containers are being lugged around by volunteers. The idea is to let people experience a greener and cleaner alternative.

The unique initiative has been launched as part of the art project 'Bosk, envisaged by architect Bruno Doedens and his collaborator, the late Joop Mulder.

The trees will keep moving around the city till August 14, after which they will be planted across the city. The idea emerged from Doedens 2021 essay Planet Paradise. The essay questions the relationship of humans with the natural world.

Bosk means forest in the local Frisian language. The move is an attempt to raise awareness about climate change. The trees are being moved by thousands of volunteers and roads are closed when the trees are walking. The trees rest on the weekend.

It all started in the month of May, when volunteers started moving the trees in huge wooden containers. After starting their journey, the trees first stopped at Stationsplein. outside Leeuwarden's train station.

Whilst the trees aren't moving, seating areas are provided between the trees to let the people experience life when there is more green cover. Around 60-70 varieties of native trees such as maple, oak, elm, willow, alder, and ash are planted in the wooden containers.

QR codes have been given which lets one know the details such as the species name, its lifespan, soil type, and so on. The city gardening team gets an alert whenever water is required by the tree. A soil sensor alert has been provided for this.

 The trees will get their permanent home in the city after 100 days. The trees will trundle down these roads until August 14 and will later be planted across the city where the greenery is limited.

Picture Credit : Google