How much impact does aviation have on climate change is it the most polluting form of travel?

The impact of flying on climate change has been well established. On average, the aviation industry generates about 1 billion tons of CO2 worldwide every year. This number is comparable to that of Japan, which is the world's third largest economy.

Add to this the fact that global emissions from flights have been increasing at the rate of 2.5% every year. In fact, over the next 30 years, the aviation industry will likely produce more CO2 than that of its whole history!

Radical solutions required

Even though fossil fuels are increasingly being replaced by renewable energy sources in power generation and electric vehicles continue to grow into a bigger market, there hasn't been enough done to address pollution from aircraft. In such a climate, the need is for bold, radical solutions. Researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy have called for the same through a new commentary article that appeared in Nature in September.

The authors suggest that the two most commonly proposed solutions-carbon offsetting and cleaner fuels - are rather inadequate. While offsetting falls flat owing to poor accountability, cleaner fuels can't yet be produced sustainably in large volume and low costs to replace all jet fuel. Additionally, these two solutions do not address the dimate impact of contrails-clouds produced by aircraft engine edhaust - that can trap heat radiating from the Earth's surface.

Three steps

To address a warming planet, the authors suggest three steps for the industry as a whole. Firstly, they recommend the industry and various governments to work together to be more aware of the risks involved and the role that aviation plays in the dimate crisis.

Next up, they wish for collaborations between the most motivated governments and firms to take risks on new technologies, which could then inspire others to follow their lead. The authors only provide examples such as a partnership between the Norwegian government and businesses to create electric airplanes, but also lay out strategies of how collaborations could be used to ignite other advances.

Finally, they stress the importance of research, not just to better understand contrails and chemical interactions in the atmosphere, but also to provide solutions. They envision these solutions to not just be technological, but also economic and political, thereby providing for a greener future.

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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.

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The river as a dumpyard

The Mekong is one of the longest rivers in the world, cutting across several Asian regions from Tibet and China to Thailand and Cambodia. But spanning a large area means the threats it faces are just as huge. What are they? Come, let's find out.

Waste generated in any region is disposed of in many ways, including being dumped at landfills. (Only a minuscule fragment of waste is recycled globally.) Some countries export their waste. Several Asian countries have been taking in plastic waste from such countries, without really being equipped to handle waste disposal safely. In addition, these Asian countries have their own waste to deal with. The waste in landfills reach rivers and oceans through winds, rains, and drains. One such river is the Mekong. Painfully, three "of the worst six plastic polluting countries China, - Thailand, and Vietnam - have a presence in Mekong", meaning the quantum of waste this river takes in is huge and increasing. The pandemic, with its masks, plastic sanitiser containers, take-away plastic boxes, etc., has exacerbated the situation. And, this is of grave concern.

The Mekong is a treasure trove of biodiversity - several species of plants, birds, reptiles, and fishes call the river and its surrounding regions home. But in the current scenario, rubbish is finding its way into the water, endangering wildlife. Animals and birds are in danger of being affected by plastic debris through entanglement or ingestion. There have been instances of dead whales "turning up in Thailand and Indonesia with many kilograms of plastics in their stomachs". It is not just wildlife that's affected. When humans consume creatures such as fish, we end up consuming plastic, which has the potential to cause serious health problems such as cancer. Since rivers drain into larger waterbodies such as seas (the Mekong mixes with the South China Sea) and oceans, the pollution they carry is transferred too.

An increase in the pollution of waterbodies is an indication of increasing pollution on land. And a grim reminder that unless we change our lifestyles to make this planet greener, we are likely to face the negative consequences of our own actions.

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What is Air Quality Index?

Air Quality Index indicates how safe or polluted the air is, and the health concerns involved

The air quality deteriorates throughout India in October and November every year due to festivals, among other reasons. Post-Deepavali, Air Quality Index (AQI) is the most-talked about.

What is AQI?

The AQI is the yardstick used to report how clean or polluted the air is. It is used to help people know how the local air quality impacts their health. These indices indicate whether the amount of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur dioxide in the air exceeds the criteria set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) or not.

How is AQI calculated?

 To calculate AQI, an air monitor and an air pollutant concentration over a specified averaging period is needed. The results are grouped into ranges, and each range is assigned a descriptor, a colour code, and a standardised public health advisory.

The AQI categories are - Good (0-50), Satisfactory (51-100), Moderately polluted (101-200), Poor (201-300), Very Poor  (301-400), and Severe (401-500) - with colour coding ranging from green to dark red.

What are AQI pollutants?

India launched the National Air Quality Index Standard (NAQI) on September 17, 2014. The National Air Monitoring Program (NAMP) covering 240 cities in the country is operated by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

In India, the AQI keeps a tab on eight major air pollutants in the atmosphere - Particulate Matter (PM10), Particulate Matter (PM2.5), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone (03), Ammonia (NH3), and Lead (Pb).

Health risks

An increase in AQI increases public health risks, especially affecting children, elderly, and individuals with respiratory or cardiovascular issues.

During these times, governments generally urge people to reduce physical activity outdoors, or even avoid going out altogether. The use of face masks such as cloth masks are also recommended.

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What are ways to reduce pollution in school?

New research suggests that simple measure that can be implemented in many schools has a telling influence on air quality. Schools form an integral part of childhood. Worldwide, an estimated 10 million students spend 30% of their daily lives at schools. Out of their duration at school, 70% of the time is spent indoors. Low air quality in such environments leave the children vulnerable to many respiratory diseases, behavioural problems, affect lung and brain health, and even lead to an increased risk of cancer.

Poor air quality

Many schools in our country breach the limits set by the World Health Organisation for air quality. In such a climate, enhancing the surroundings in whatever little way helps in the overall scheme of things. There's good news, however, as new research suggests that simple measures that can be implemented in many schools has a telling influence on air quality.

In a paper titled "Investigation of air pollution mitigation measures, ventilation, and indoor air quality at 5 three schools in London", researchers from the University of Surrey listed their findings. The paper, published in the journal Atmospheric Environment, is available online and will be part of the 1 ? issue dated November 15, 2022.

Simple initiatives

Researchers investigated if putting up a green screen along the perimeter of the school, installing air purifiers in classrooms, and organising street initiatives during drop-off and pick-up hours had an effect in classrooms and playgrounds. They did this by working with a select number of London schools.

Installation of air purifiers in classrooms reduced indoor pollution concentrations by up to 57%. The street initiatives, which forces motor vehicles to not ply on roads with schools at the start and end of school days, reduced the particle concentrations by up to 36%.

Based on wind conditions, green screens at school boundaries were also effective. In the best case, they were able to reduce some of the most dangerous outdoor particle levels from the roads by up to 44%.

As ensuring that schools have green perimeters, lesser vehicular traffic during pick-up and drop-off, and installing air purifiers in classrooms are simple and affordable techniques, these can be replicated everywhere. While their effectiveness would have to be studied further, methods like these will eventually ensure that schools remain safe spaces to learn.

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Noise pollution, especially that's due to road traffic, is a widespread problem in cities around the world. At a time when the impact of these on children isn't well understood, a new study conducted at 38 schools in Barcelona, Spain suggests that traffic noise at schools has a detrimental effect on children's cognitive development. The study was led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and the findings have been published in PLOS Medicine in June.

Attention and working memory

 The study covered 2.680 children between seven and 10 years of age. To assess the impact of traffic noise on cognitive development, researchers focussed on attention and working memory-two abilities that develop rapidly in that age group and are essential for learning. While attention corresponds to selectively attending to specific stimuli, working memory refers to the system that enables us to hold information in the mind and manipulate it during a brief period of time.

Over a 12-month period in 2012 and 2013, the field work of the study saw participants complete cognitive tests four times. By doing this, they were not only able to assess working memory and attention, but could also study their evolution over time. Noise measurements were taken in front of the 38 participating schools over the same period.

Slower progression

At the end of the study period, the findings clearly showed that the progression of working memory and attention was comparably slower in students who attended schools with higher levels of traffic noise. This supports the hypothesis that during childhood external stimuli like noise can affect the rapid process of cognitive development that takes place before adolescence.

Thus, the effects of transport on children's cognitive development not only includes schools exposed to aircraft noise and schools exposed to traffic-related air pollution, but also schools exposed to road traffic noise. Further studies on road traffic noise and their effects on children in other populations and cities are necessary to find out if these initial findings can be extrapolated to other scenarios.

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Universal waste is one that is generated largely from consumer products containing mercury, lead, cadmium, etc that are harmful to human health. This include everything from batteries and pesticides to even lamps. Importantly, these are things that cannot be disposed of as domestic waste but still likely to be done so, Segregation at source and recycling help in universal waste management.

Why Do We Care About Universal Waste?
The primary environmental concern with universal waste is the heavy metal components that can easily contaminate the land and ground water (such as lead, mercury, and other elements that can be toxic to humans and the environment). In addition, all heavy metals are easily recyclable, so it makes no sense to throw metals into a landfill when they can be reclaimed and recycled. For this reason, you will usually hear universal waste disposal companies referred to as recyclers.

On the topic of electronic waste (e-waste) dumps in particular, PBS’s Frontline produced a documentary called Ghana: A Digital Dumping Ground about the export of e-waste from developed to developing countries, creating toxic living conditions. Since the documentary was released, there has been much greater scrutiny of e-waste disposal practices in the U.S. and around the world. If you are unfamiliar with this “hidden” world of e-waste dumping, it may be eye-opening to watch the 20-minute video, which will explain the problems associated with these wastes in more depth than we can provide on this webpage.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains statistics on the management of used and end-of-life electronics (see table below). As you can see, less than half of the electronics disposed of in 2009 were collected for recycling. Further, it is unclear how much was recycled in an environmentally and civically responsible manner. For more information on responsible e-waste recycling options, visit the environmental best practice for managing universal waste section at the bottom of this webpage.

Environmental Best Practice for Managing Universal Waste

Use an e-Steward or R2 certified e-waste recycler
There are two leading certifications for the responsible management of electronic waste, also known as e-waste. As described in the section why do we care about universal waste, if not managed properly, electronic waste can contaminate the environment and pose a danger to human health. E-Stewards is a certification system for electronic waste recyclers. It demands that these recyclers manage e-waste responsibly, such as not sending it overseas and ensuring that all hazards are controlled and managed. For a complete list of what an e-Stewards certified recycler commits to, visit the What is the e-Stewards Standard? page. The R2 Standard is another certification system for electronic waste recyclers and offers certification to recyclers and refurbishers who commit to environmental responsibility and worker safety. The U.S. EPA refrains from endorsing one certification system over the other; however, they do offer additional information about both e-Stewards and R2 on their webpage certification programs for electronics recyclers.
Purchase electronics equipment that is EPEAT-rated
EPEAT is a program that began with a grant from the EPA and is now managed by the Green Electronics Council. The EPEAT rating system applies to computers, imaging equipment, and televisions, and gives a rating (bronze, silver, or gold) based on a number of factors, including reduction of environmentally sensitive materials, end-of-life design, product longevity, energy conservation, corporate performance, and packaging choices. Manufacturers can choose to have their products evaluated for an EPEAT rating and can publish their EPEAT rating to consumers. Most of the large electronics manufacturers use EPEAT to some degree, so the next time you are in the market for office or electronic equipment, consider purchasing models that are EPEAT-rated. Visit the EPEAT Registry Search for available products. For more information on EPEAT in general, visit the EPA’s environmentally preferable purchasing section.
Recycle alkaline and button cell batteries
Though you are not required to do so, there are valuable metals in these types of batteries. Best environmental practice is to collect these batteries for recycling with your universal waste recycler. This is very simple to do; set up pails or boxes labeled “battery recycling” – you may be surprised by how many you collect. You can also encourage your staff to bring in used batteries from home. It is inexpensive to recycle batteries and should thus be encouraged at any opportunity.
Donate appliances and e-waste instead of throwing it away
That said, you should be particularly careful about HIPAA – which means it may not always make sense to donate computers or laptops (anything with a hard drive) from healthcare facilities. However, there are good opportunities to donate items like appliances, medical equipment, computer monitors, keyboards, and other accessories, as long as they still have a useful life, are in good working condition, are clean, and your intent is that someone can actually use the items (not just a free way to get rid of your junk). You can list items for reuse on the Minnesota Materials Exchange.
Switch inefficient lighting for efficient lighting
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, lighting accounts for approximately 21% of electricity consumption in the commercial sector (including hospitals, clinics, etc.). Increasing lighting efficiency with CFLs, LEDs, and other efficient lighting options will help you save money and reduce your electricity load.

Credit : MN TAPE 

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Particulate matter or refers particle pollution to the mixture of tiny solid and liquid particles-metals, chemicals, dust, spores, etc.-present in the air we breathe. Many of these particles are harmful to us humans. Not just that. Particulate matter pollution alters our environment by contributing to acid rain, changing weather patterns, global warming, etc.

Where does particle pollution come from?

Particle pollution can come from two different kinds of sources — primary or secondary. Primary sources cause particle pollution on their own. For example, wood stoves and forest fires are primary sources.

Secondary sources let off gases that can form particles. Power plants and coal fires are examples of secondary sources. Some other common sources of particle pollution can be either primary or secondary — for example, factories, cars and trucks, and construction sites.

Smoke from fires and emissions (releases) from power plants, industrial facilities, and cars and trucks contain PM2.5.

Particle Pollution and Your Health

Breathing in particle pollution can be harmful to your health. Coarse (bigger) particles, called PM10, can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat. Dust from roads, farms, dry riverbeds, construction sites, and mines are types of PM10.

Fine (smaller) particles, called PM2.5, are more dangerous because they can get into the deep parts of your lungs — or even into your blood.

How can particle pollution affect our health?

Particle pollution can affect anyone, but it bothers some people more than others. People most likely to experience health effects caused by particle pollution include:

  • People with heart or lung diseases (for example, asthma)
  • Older adults
  • Babies and children

Particle pollution has also been linked to:

  • Eye irritation
  • Lung and throat irritation
  • Trouble breathing
  • Lung cancer
  • Problems with babies at birth (for example, low birth weight)

Take Action

When particle pollution levels are high, take steps to limit the amount of air you breathe in while you’re outside. For example:

  • Think about spending more time indoors, where particle pollution levels are usually lower.
  • Choose easier outdoor activities (like walking instead of running) so you don’t breathe as hard.
  • Avoid busy roads and highways where PM is usually worse because of emissions from cars and trucks.

Credit : Centers of disease control and preventions 

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Noise pollution can be defined as unwanted or excessive sound that can have adverse effects on human health, wildlife, and environment quality. Sound is measured in decibels (dB) and the normal hearing frequency rate of healthy individuals ranges from 0 to 120 dB. Sounds that reach 85 decibels or higher can damage a person's ears. Some audio sources that exceed this threshold include power lawn mowers (90 dB), trains (90 to 115 dB), and loud rock concerts (110 to 120 dB). Noise pollution impacts millions of people on a daily basis. The most common health problems it is responsible for include noise-induced hearing loss and high blood pressure.

Human Diseases Caused by Noise Pollution

Whether we realize we are subjected to it or not, noise pollution can be hazardous to our health in various ways.

Hypertension is, in this case, a direct result of noise pollution caused elevated blood levels for a longer period of time.
Hearing loss can be directly caused by noise pollution, whether listening to loud music in your headphones or being exposed to loud drilling noises at work, heavy air or land traffic, or separate incidents in which noise levels reach dangerous intervals, such as around140 dB for adult or 120 dB for children.
Sleep disturbances are usually caused by constant air or land traffic at night, and they are a serious condition in that they can affect everyday performance and lead to serious diseases.
Child development. Children appear to be more sensitive to noise pollution, and a number of noise-pollution-related diseases and dysfunctions are known to affect children, from hearing impairment to psychological and physical effects. Also, children who regularly use music players at high volumes are at risk of developing hearing dysfunctions. In 2001, it was estimated that 12.5% of American children between the ages of 6 to 19 years had impaired hearing in one or both ears
Various cardiovascular dysfunctions. Elevated blood pressure caused by noise pollution, especially during the night, can lead to various cardiovascular diseases.
Dementia isn’t necessarily caused by noise pollution, but its onset can be favored or compounded by noise pollution.
Psychological dysfunctions and noise annoyance. Noise annoyance is, in fact, a recognized name for an emotional reaction that can have an immediate impact.

Effects of Noise Pollution on Wildlife and Marine Life

Our oceans are no longer quiet. Thousands of oil drills, sonars, seismic survey devices, coastal recreational watercraft and shipping vessels are now populating our waters, and that is a serious cause of noise pollution for marine life. Whales are among the most affected, as their hearing helps them orient themselves, feed and communicate. Noise pollution thus interferes with cetaceans’ (whales and dolphins) feeding habits, reproductive patterns and migration routes, and can even cause hemorrhage and death.
Other than marine life, land animals are also affected by noise pollution in the form of traffic, firecrackers etc., and birds are especially affected by the increased air traffic.

Tips for Avoiding Noise Pollution

Wear earplugs whenever exposed to elevated noise levels.
Maintain a level of around 35 dB in your bedroom at night, and around 40 dB in your house during the day.
If possible, choose your residential area as far removed from heavy traffic as you can.
Avoid prolonged use of earphones, especially at elevated sound levels.
If possible, avoid jobs with regular exposure to elevated sound levels.

Credit : Environmental pollution centre 

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The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a measurement used to report daily air quality. Employed by most government agencies, it helps communicate to the public as to how clean or polluted your air is, how polluted it is forecast to become and associated health effects that might be a concern. Based on ambient concentration levels of different pollutants and their impact on human health, the National Air Quality Index in India has six categories: good, satisfactory, moderately polluted, poor, very poor, and severe.

Air quality index (AQI) is used by government agencies  to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become. AQI information is obtained by averaging readings from an air quality sensor, which can increase due to vehicle traffic, forest fires, or anything that can increase air pollution. Pollutants tested include ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, among others.

Public health risks increase as the AQI rises, especially affecting children, the elderly, and individuals with respiratory or cardiovascular issues. During these times, governmental bodies generally encourage people to reduce physical activity outdoors, or even avoid going out altogether. The use of face masks such as cloth masks may also be recommended.

Different countries have their own air quality indices, corresponding to different national air quality standards. Some of these are the Air Quality Health Index (Canada), the Air Pollution Index (Malaysia), and the Pollutant Standards Index (Singapore).

Credit : Wikipedia

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It's unnecessary light which creates health hazards for humans and animals, and affects the ecosystem. Ms. Sumaira Abdulali, an activist who has been fighting against noise pollution, is now urging the government to regard light pollution as a serious environmental hazard and frame a regulatory policy to make night-time lighting safer. Learn more about light pollution and what we can do about it here.

What is unnecessary light?

 Flashing lights and additional colours in hoardings, halogen lights, car headlights, street lights using blue LED lights of high intensity are a few examples (the International Dark Sky Association recommends using LEDS of 3000 Kelvin or below).

Wrong lighting is also hazardous. For example, street lamps that don't light up an area uniformly create patches of brightness followed by darkness. If they are not shielded and set on high masts. the light gets projected onto the eyes of residents or they get directed into the sky, causing a sky glow and blotting out the moon and the stars.

Light is necessary, so how can we prevent it from becoming a hazard?

 Use light only when needed and in the required amount. Use better lights, not brighter lights. Instead of using very bright lights that light up only particular areas, have lights that light up the room evenly. Switch over from blue light to yellow light. Blue light creates glare impairs vision and brightens the sky more than any other colour. Have shades for lights. Deploy motion sensors instead of leaving lights on all night. Also avoid watching TV or working at the computer at night without lights.

What should the government do?

 The government should plan a proper lighting policy with rules regarding what is the right amount of light, what is appropriate light and state the limit for light pollution. It should see that car headlights are checked for colour. intensity and beam angles so that they don't create temporary blindness in drivers of oncoming cars. pedestrians and people living close to the streets.

It should hold advertisers responsible for light clutter (grouping of lights that cause confusion and distract from obstacles, potentially causing accidents). It should also ensure that street lights are shielded, placed at the right distance from each other and at the right height and angle, so that they project light down onto the street..

What can children do to reduce light pollution?

Children should be taught about light pollution. They could use a single yellow light. that would brighten up the entire room when they want to study or read but at other times, they could make use of low voltage lights. They should also turn off lights when not in use.

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Pollution is considered to be one of the world's biggest environmental threats. Here are ten shocking facts about pollution.

  1. Plastic pollution adversely affects marine life. Over 1 million seabirds and 1,00,000 sea mammals are killed by plastic litter in the oceans every year.
  2. In January 2019, the Ministry of Environment. Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) launched the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to monitor and curb air pollution around the country. It aims to reduce air pollution in 122 cities by 20-30 per cent by 2024.
  3. According to the World Air Quality Report, 2020' released by the Swiss organisation, IQAir, New Delhi is the most polluted capital city in the world. Altogether 35 Indian cities are among the world's top 50 most polluted cities.
  4. River Ganga flows through many urban centres such as Kanpur, Patna and Kolkata, which dump their industrial effluents and wastewater in the river. The entire length of the river is polluted by the presence of faecal coliform bacteria (germs found in the faeces of warm-blooded animals and humans), making its waters unfit for bathing and drinking.
  5. About 70% of water sources in India are severely contaminated. Every year about 37.7 million Indians are affected by waterborne diseases.
  6. Noise pollution is one of the most under-rated forms of pollution. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), noise above 65 decibels (dB) is termed as noise pollution. Sounds becomes harmful when its exceeds 75 decibels (dB) and painful when it is above 120 dB.
  7. Only 20% of about 3.5 million tonnes of solid waste that our world generates every day is recycled, thus overwhleming the landfills with unmangable quantities. Waste is often disposed of at hazardous open dump sites in developing nations including India causing land pollution. Indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has led to degradation of soil. making it infertile.
  8. According to the WHO, air pollution kills about seven million people worldwide every year. Almost all of the global population (99%) breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants.
  9. 80% of the world's wastewater is released back into the environment-most of it untreated, in the developing countries. Farm runoffs containing minerals such as nitrogen and phosphurus causes nutrient pollution leading to algae bloom. This destroys marine life and even results in permanent 'dead zones.
  10. The Asian Brown Cloud (ABC) is a dense fog of pollutants that blankets South Asia from November to April. It hovers over western China, northwest Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Indo-Gangetic plain in northern India. The cloud is almost three kilometres thick. It contains a deadly cocktail of aerosols, ash, soot and other particles, 80 per cent of which is caused by human activity.

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What is circular economy?

The recently-concluded UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi highlighted the need to promote sustainable production, consumption and management of plastic, through "circular economy approaches". When India signed the Plastic Pact last year, it aimed to promote a circular economy for plastic. What exactly is circular economy?

Linear economy businesses take a natural resource and turn it into a product which ultimately becomes waste. It follows a take-make-dispose approach of production. The resulting waste including plastics, textiles, food, electronics and more - is taking its toll on the environment and human health.

Whereas a circular economy employs reuse, repair and recycle policy to create a closed-loop system. In a circular economy, all types of waste, such as scrap metal, clothes, and expired electrical appliances are returned to the economy. The result is minimal use of resources, and minimal waste, pollution and carbon emissions. To achieve a circular economy, the work should start from the way we produce our products. It entails redesigning products to be more durable, reusable, repairable, and recyclable, and therefore kept in circulation for as long as possible. Beyond product design innovations, it also means changing the way we consume and use goods and services, and rethinking consumerism as a society.

A circular economy offers a wide range of social, economic, and environmental benefits. However, only 8.6% of the world is circular right now and a switch from linear economy cannot happen overnight. It requires the collaboration of everyone in a product's cycle. The transition requires new models of business and trade. Technology does not provide all the solutions, altering consumer behaviour and cultural change are also vital. Governments, policy makers, businesses, innovators, consumers, and recyclers should come together to accelerate the circular economy transition to realise a sustainable future.

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Why coastal regions are important to lives on the planet and how humans are degrading them?

Places where the land meets the sea are crucial for our planet to function. They support biodiversity and the livelihoods of billions of people. But due to pressure caused by human activity, only 16% of coastal areas around the world remain intact, according to a study. The research, involving an international team of experts, revealed an alarming story.

An international team led by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia has mapped the impact of human-caused pressures on coastal regions to identify those that have been already highly degraded, and those that remain intact. The findings, published in the journal Conservation Biology, provide insights into the widespread impacts of human activity on Earth's precious coastal ecosystems.

What did the study find?

The research looked at two datasets - one focussed on human impacts on land, and the other observed human impacts from a marine perspective. Both maps use data up to the year 2013 - the most recent year for which cohesive data is available.

  • Coastal regions containing seagrasses, savannah, and coral reefs had the highest levels of human pressure compared to other coastal ecosystems.
  • More than half the coastal regions have degraded in 84% of countries.
  • Earth's 47.9% of coastal regions have been exposed to very high levels of human pressure.
  • Human pressures were high in about 43% of protected coastal regions.
  • Scientists believe that some coastal regions have been so degraded that they cannot be restored.

Where are the highly damaged coastal regions located?

High levels of degradation are found in island nations, much of Europe, and in countries including Vietnam, India and Singapore.

Which are the intact regions?

Many of the intact coastal regions are in Canada, followed by Russia and Greenland. Large expanses of intact coast are also found elsewhere including Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Brazil and the United States.

Why are coasts vital?

  • Coastal regions encompass some of the most diverse and unique ecosystems on Earth. They include coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass, tidal flats, mangroves, estuaries, salt marshes, wetlands and coastal wooded habitats.
  • Many animal species, including those that migrate, rely on coastlines for breeding, foraging and protection.
  • Coastal sites are also where rivers discharge, mangrove forests exchange nutrients with the ocean, and tidal flows are maintained.
  • Humans also need coastlines. Among other functions, they support our fisheries, protect us from storms and, importantly, store carbon to help mitigate climate change.

How is human activity impacting the coasts?

As much as 74% of the human population live within 50km of the coast, and humans put pressure on coastal environments in myriad ways. In marine environments, these pressures include:

  • Fishing at various intensities
  • Water and light pollution
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Shipping
  • Climate change and associated issues such as ocean acidification, sea-level rise and increased sea surface temperatures.

On land, human pressures include:

  • Coastal development
  • Infrastructure development
  • Agriculture and pasture lands
  • Clearing of land for settlement
  • Plastic and other forms of land pollution

What should governments do?

Governments should take steps to conserve the coastal regions that remain in good condition, while restoring those that have been degraded but can still be fixed.

Other actions should include improving environmental governance and laws related to encroachments, increasing well-resourced protected areas, mitigating land-use change to prevent increased pollution run-off, better community and local engagement, strengthening indigenous involvement in managing coastal regions, effective management of fishing resources, addressing climate change and tackling geopolitical and socioeconomic drivers of damage to coastal environments.

Picture Credit : Google

NASA Says Tonga Eruption Was More Powerful Than an Atomic Bomb

The recent volcanic eruption in the region was hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb, says NASA

  • Tonga's eruption unleashed explosive forces equivalent to up to 30 million tonnes of TNT - hundreds of times more than Hiroshima's atomic bomb, NASA says.
  • As a comparison, the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945 was estimated to be about 15 kilotons (15,000 tonnes) of TNT.
  • Mount St. Helens exploded in 1980 with 24 megatons and Krakatoa burst in 1883 with 200 megatons of energy.
  • Before the eruption, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcanic island was two separate islands joined by new land formed in 2015.
  • Nasa says the eruption was so powerful all the new land is gone, along with "large chunks" of the two older islands.
  • Tonga says more than four fifths of the population has been affected by the tsunami and falling ash. Three people were confirmed killed in the tsunami last month.

Picture Credit : Google