Saturday, 31 August 2019

Burning Planet


The planet is burning. We knew about the problems, but we ignored them, for far too long. Now Amazon rainforest is burning, burning with it our biggest supply of oxygen. And the future? Yes, it is bleak.

Amazon rainforest is the source of 20% of oxygen on the planet. Spread across 9 countries (Brazil, Peru and Columbia being the major countries) this rainforest has grown in size and complexity over millions of years, making it the breeding ground of biodiversity and the second biggest source of oxygen on earth.

Today this incredible rainforest is burning. Human activity, burning of forest to clear ground for farms or ranch, deforestation, cover for illegal logging, global warming leading to lesser rains all contribute to this disaster. There have been nearly 75,000 fires in Brazilian Amazon in 2019, a staggering 84% increase over same period last year.

We don't exist without oxygen. So as the lung of the planet burns, it won't be long before we start suffocating. Already extreme pollution causes severe lung diseases and respiratory failures for millions of people every year, causing thousands of death. If we keep deforestation up at the current pace, pretty soon many more are going to asphyxiate.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Perfection


Ever since I was a little girl, I always marveled at how perfect nature is. One such simple phenomenon is this special property of water which is the building block of probably most of life on earth. Water has highest density at 4 degree Celsius and least dense as ice. It's a simple property of water we learn in physics. But it has infinitely bigger significance in the aquatic life. This simple physics is the building block of aquatic life in colder regions.

Densest water at 4 degree Celsius sinks to the bottom of water bodies. The water at the top is less dense, either hotter or colder than 4 degree. In colder places, the water at the top can further cool down and form ice, which will again float at the top, having lesser density. So even in extreme cold situations, even if the water at the top freezes, the water at the bottom stays in liquid form, preserving all aqautic life. This difference in temperature in different depths also leads to water currents and oxygen flow throughout the water body. Colder water holds more dissolved oxygen. Hotter water with dissolved oxygen at the top changes temperature and sinks to the bottom as it approaches 4 degree, carrying with it life sustaining oxygen throughout the water body.

There are many such apparently simple phenomena together that make life possible on the planet. That is perfection, meant to remain together and function together to perform the magic of life.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Complex Machine


We humans make machines. Over time with technological advancement, we have made increasingly complex machines. But those machines are still nothing in comparison to the complexity of natural machines. 

If you think about it, human body is one such unbelievably complex machines. We have been trying to replicate that complexity of brain to produce artificial neural networks (ANN), recreate human emotions and intelligence through machines (Artificial Intelligence, AI) but the technology is still far from any resemblance to human brain or intelligence. Even genome of humans (or any living being) is incredibly complex and still largely a mistery.

An ecosystem is another type of complex machine. The interactions and interdependence of the living and non living nature is so complex that scientists have only started trying to understand the expanse of it. 

In any complex machine, careless handling without proper knowledge can be dangerous. Like all such machines, ecosystem also should be handled with utmost care, so that we don't cause any irreversible damage.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

My Sweet Melody


Have you woken up to the sunlight coming into your house with the natural alarm of birds chirping? Now compare that to the morning of alarm clock snoozing and opening the window to let in polluted air with honking noise.

As human beings, we understand that one sound is healthy for us while the other harmful. Why then do we continue to focus our energy on increasing noise pollution by honking. It is a show of frustration, of rush, of agitation, making it not just harmful for ears but worse for our mental health.

Isn't the energy more suited to be put into building bird houses or feeders? This will not just help the birds who are becoming endangered fast but also give you a quick sanctuary within this hustle and bustle of the big city.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

The Only Choice


Caring about the environment isn't easy. Often the path can be lonely with too many obstacles.  Ignorance, mockery and excuses being the only persistent companion for miles. At times it may seem without hope, without any light at the end of the tunnel. But still there are some people who would choose that path over any other in an instant, again and again.

Aren't life's most difficult experiences considered to be the most rewarding? Being a mother, raising a kid or saving a life, many people still choose these experiences, knowing the path won't be easy.

Caring for the environment is something similar. The path isn't easy, but it's incredibly rewarding. So let's stop wishing others will take the actions necessary to save the environment and start taking actions ourselves.

Monday, 26 August 2019

What is Success?


Success has different meaning at different stages of our lives. As students, success meant getting through the dream school, grade, getting a job. Later in life, it can be getting married, having children or getting a promotion or the next raise. The standard of these successes are not always entirely our own choice. Sometimes it is set by parents, sometimes spouse, boss or the society. But one thing is constant. It's always competitive, aspirational, asking to go above and beyond.

In today's fast paced world, we run after one success after another. We get into that prestigious college- only to understand that this traditional education will just give us a degree, not teaching valuable life lessons to help us overcome challenges of life. We work harder, burying ourselves in our work to get the next promotion, only to realize later that it's just another title. And by the time we look up, years have passed.

In this continuous pursuit of success, we forget what true happiness is all about. We forget to stop for a moment to re-evaluate our lives, acknowledge all the wonderful things we already have. We forget to appreciate the small things, the tiny pieces of unadulterated happiness we find from watching a sunrise, breathing fresh air, listening to the sound of a waterfall, feeling cold air blow our hair.

Genetically, we just need a happy and healthy (physically, spiritually and psychologically) life where we don't lose the connection with the root of our lives, our environment. But societal structure and its pressure drives us away. So I have stopped letting someone else define success for me. If getting lost in the wild is my definition of success, so be it. If calling of nature is what makes me happy, I will look up and listen, however buried I am in work.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Extinction


Scientists are saying that human interference has led to many species extinction. However, dinosaurs also went extinct, even without any human intervention. Then why is it a big deal?

Extinction is a natural process. As a part of evolution, one species goes extinct only for another or more species to evolve out of the ashes. The problem is the rate at which extinction is happening. When extinction occurs as part of evolution, it happens over thousands of years, if not millions. The time allows new species to also evolve at the same time to replace the extinct species' ecosystem services. In this process, big extinction can still change the face of the planet, but smaller extinctions can leave all ecosystem functions same without any significant impact. The longer time span also allows ecosystem processes to adapt to the environmental changes. The concern scientists raise is the rate at which human intervention is causing environmental changes and driving extinction these days without allowing sufficient time for evolution to take care of the changes. 

The face of the planet has changed drastically in the past century due to human activities. Climate change is a threat just like species extinction. It leads to increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, altered rain patterns causing flood, variation in temperature. Who knows, given another million years, humans may evolve and learn to breathe carbon dioxide, live in the ocean or survive in hotter than desert temperatures. But without the sufficient time to evolve, our existence may well be at threat due to species extinction and environmental degeadations such as climate change.