The known universe is filled with countless galaxies. Yet, Earth is the only planet that we know of where life exists. Our blue planet in the infinitely vast universe, has everything–from water and air to land and greenery that create and sustain life.
But life on Earth didn’t just appear one fine morning, like magic out of thin air. About 4.5 billion years ago, scientists theorise, Earth was nothing but a red-hot, molten planet with a poisonous atmosphere. Over the next few millions of years, something miraculous happened. Eventually, Earth had rocky terrains, breathable atmosphere, ice, oceans, rains, and finally, life.
Earth has come a miraculously long way to become a habitable planet, home to millions of species. But today, it is well on its way to losing everything because of man’s selfish nature. For long, we have taken the planet for granted. In the name of progress, we have exploited natural resources and turned a blind eye to industrial sludge, oil spillage, vehicular emissions and other toxic pollutants.
In our greed for her resources, we have subjected Mother Earth to melting glaciers, soil erosion, radical climate changes, and extinction of species. Many fail to understand how these larger phenomena affect us. But we need only look at Ulaanbaatar to see how thick smog can eclipse the sun, or at Cairo to see how climate change can make it snow even in a desert!
Many of us are of the opinion that conservation is the objective of developmental organisations. This is where we stumble. It is time we realised it is every individual’s responsibility to do our bit for Mother Earth. On the eve of International Earth Day, Soulveda takes a closer look at our blue planet, the risks it faces, and what we can do to save our home before it’s too late.
We know clean air is important, that oxygen is the essence of life. Yet, we rarely seem motivated enough to make the planet pollution-free.
The wind beneath our breath
A lot has been spoken about cutting carbon footprint. As individuals, we have implemented several measures to achieve that goal–solar panelling for electricity, planting more saplings, using bio-degradable products and the like. These are preventive in nature. But what about the harm we’ve already caused? What of the toxic gases we’ve already released into our atmosphere?
This might seem like futuristic science fiction, but there already are innovations that can extract pollutants out of thin air. There’s a ‘smog-free tower’ in Beijing that produces diamonds from smog! Powered by solar energy, this tower sucks up several cubic metres of polluted air from its surroundings, cleans it at the nano level, and releases clean air back into the city. Today, the air around this tower has been reported to be far cleaner than the rest of the city.
We know clean air is important, that oxygen is the essence of life. Yet, we rarely seem motivated enough to make the planet pollution-free. Perhaps, in time, where the ‘clean air’ carrot couldn’t make the cut, smog diamonds will.
The elixir of life
Nearly 71 percent of the Earth is covered in water, and yet, one fifth of the world’s population suffers from water scarcity. Unfortunately, the kind of water that many life forms need to survive–fresh water–forms only three per cent of the earth’s water. This comes from glaciers, rivers and the groundwater table. Global warming has led to the rapid melting of the glaciers, which has snowballed into the depletion of rivers and contamination of ground water, thanks to the sea levels rising.
When we overuse, contaminate or waste this already limited resource, we end up in a crisis. Looking at the severity of the crisis in cities across the world–like Cape Town, which scientists fear will be the first city to run out of water–it may seem like the time to solve this problem is long past.
But if we are meticulous about conservation, we might still make it. Desalination units can be set up in cities across the world to make sea water fit for our consumption. On our part, we can minimise daily water wastage and install reverse osmosis units in our homes and offices to recycle and make used water potable once more. The elixir of life is running out and the time to act is now, for can we even imagine life without water?
Land, the changing landscape
Fiction often portrays blights wiping out crops, green lands morphing into barren ones, or droughts becoming prevalent. But given the radical changes in the environment we have caused, fiction can soon turn into reality. Many experts predict that in the imminent decades, long dry spells and soil erosions will reduce the production of fruits and vegetables, thereby affecting the entire food chain. Fatal changes in diets will ensue that will put many species at the risk of extinction.
These probable consequences of land abuse are just the tip of the iceberg. Scientists also predict that if deforestation continues, and we don’t stop the spillage of waste, the climate change will make Earth a lifeless red planet, just like Mars.
When one animal species becomes endangered, it triggers the loss of another in the ecosystem, thereby destroying the balance, and
Ironically, we talk of going to Mars, when our own planet is at risk of turning into something similar–lifeless! We are better than this. We need to be accountable for our actions, and stop being indifferent towards our environment. For all we know, there might not be another planet like ours. As children of Mother Earth, all we need to do to save our land is plant more trees to minimise runoffs, recycle non-degradable items, and reuse all possible items.
The green martyrs
We don’t think twice before destroying forests–we convert them into farm lands to feed our population, or replace them with concrete jungles. But irrespective of our needs and wants, we cannot afford to do away with trees. They are guardians of our wellbeing. Several studies reveal that people living in cities (where there are fewer trees) are more prone to stress, anxiety, and depression. People even develop respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses without greenery.
Italian architect Stefano Boeri, has come up with an idea to compensate for the loss of green cover–designing vertical forests on skyscrapers and buildings. They could be scaled up to create forest cities as well. In fact, the first forest city is being implemented in China. Isn’t it amazing how one individual can make a difference in the world?
The reluctant lives
The death of the last male northern white rhino in Kenya is an indicator of how rapidly the landscape of our ecosystem is changing. Poaching and habitat loss have cost white rhinos dearly. Their population has dwindled from 2,000 in the 60s to just two female white rhinos today.
This is just one among the many endangered species on the planet. Much of the wildlife is under severe threat. Though man is solely responsible for these outcomes, he is yet to learn from his mistakes.
When one animal species becomes endangered, it triggers the loss of another in the ecosystem, thereby destroying the balance, and jeopardising lives. Take bats, for instance. Bats are known to be important cross pollinators of certain species of cacti and agave in the deserts. If there comes a day when bats become extinct, these cacti and agave, which are used in cooking, may eventually die!
It need not be this imbalanced. We can do our bit by creating awareness regarding endangered species. Just discussing it with our peers can be a good start. Further, we could buy faux fur and leather instead of real ones, and stop buying animal products to stop poaching. After all, going by the delicate nature of our ecosystem, animals are just as important a part as we are. Wiping other species off the face of the earth only means we are next.