No matter how much you want to believe that most species sleep when we do, they don't! Nocturnal species are animals that are active at night. They sleep during the day and wake up at night. Their rhythm is set according to the changes in the day and night. The behavioral and biological activities like sleep-wake cycles, hunting, predation, breeding, reproduction, migration, etc., in many nocturnal animal species, are regulated by cues from light from natural light. Thus, their life functions are greatly affected by the nighttime metropolitan lights.
We have already discussed the general impacts of artificial lighting on wildlife here, but we rarely consider the fact that we need to protect dark skies in order to conserve wildlife, particularly nocturnal species. In this piece, we are going to have a detailed look at the impacts of nighttime lighting on nocturnal species and what we can do to conserve dark skies.
For thousands of years, the moon and stars were the primary sources of nighttime illumination. Now we humans have built huge cities and metropolitans which bustle with nightlife. The rapid urbanization by man is the key source of light pollution. We have harnessed energy in various forms. One of those forms is to use electricity to light up our spaces. But as human encroachment increases, ecosystems are getting disrupted.
Conforming to the World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness and National Geographic, 83 percent of the world’s population lives under skyglow. And about 99 percent of the population in the world’s most industrialized regions, the United States and Europe, can’t enjoy a natural night.
This excessive artificial light has compromised the lives and, most importantly, the pattern of life of animals, mainly nocturnal species. Hunters have adapted and evolved to see in the lowest of light, or they have strengthened their other systems like the hearing to catch their prey. The animals who are hunted have befriended shadows and have learned to use them to protect themselves from getting eaten.
Radioactive pollution results from harmful radiations emitted from radioactive substances. The sources of radiation can be natural (82%) and anthropogenic (18%).
Radioactivity is not an alien concept. We are naturally exposed to radiation from radioactive minerals within the earth’s crust as well as from outside the earth, and from outer space (cosmic rays). Radioisotopes like carbon 14, potassium 40, radon 222, radium 224, uranium 235, and uranium 238 occur abundantly in rock, soil, and water. We breathe radiative gases, and we have radioactive substances in our bodies. We are exposed to various low levels of radiation from man-made sources in our homes, schools, and offices. The most common of these exposures is medical-X-rays; radiation used to diagnose diseases. On average, a person is exposed to about 350 millirems (US unit of effective dose) of nuclear radiation per year in the US.
Man has been engaged in agriculture since the beginning of time. Still, almost 2/3rd of the world population is linked to this occupation. As the human population is expanding, we are getting more and more dependent on this occupation. And this, folks, is what is hurting our earth. Some of those practices will be discussed in this article.
As the demand for food worldwide increases, more and more land is cleared by humans to use for agricultural processes. The lands that are cleared are forests or grasslands, which were once supporting a ton of species, and this is what those species have adapted to through millions of years of evolution. Now, as these habitats are cleared, some species adapt to new surroundings, and some just don’t. The species which fail to do so gets wiped out into extinction. This loss of species is very alarming.
Plastic pollution is widely known as the accumulation of those waste products whose major component is plastic. The range of this plastic can be categorized as microplastic if its size is less than 5mm, or it can be categorized as macro plastics. This problem has been on the main headlines of major newspapers for several decades. Moreover, there has been extensive literature that has been cited on the issues of pollution caused by plastic.
Still, there exists a major gap between scientific research and the knowledge scale of the general audience. We should do everything in our power to ensure a smooth transfer of knowledge from our labs to the rooms of common people. There can never be a proper application of scientific discoveries if we fail to deliver them properly to our public. This is the same case in the current matter.
COVID-19 is something that has been faced by us all at one level or another. With over 185 Million cases reported worldwide and about 4M deaths in 188 countries, the COVID-19 outbreak has been declared as a fast-spreading pandemic by the United Nations’ World Health Organization. We might differ from one another based on intensity, but the after-effects of this global pandemic have left the whole world in jitters.
The effects of nighttime lighting on animals have been known for hundreds of years when hunters and fishers would use the light of the flame, lamps, or gas-lit lighthouses to attract their prey to them. But in the past century alone, with artificial light increasing by two percent per year worldwide, the problem of light pollution has become too prevalent.
All species (plants and animals, including humans) are genetically adapted to definitive biological clocks or circadian rhythms. These rhythms are regulated by cues from unchanging days, nights, and seasons, which dictate important life functions and natural behaviors of animals such as sleep-wake cycles, breeding, reproduction, hunting, predation, migration, etc. But, these cycles have been long disturbed by humans lighting up the night.
Plastic, previously lauded for its longevity, has become a serious threat to the planet. From our kitchens to roadsides, hanging with the branches of the trees to floating in our water channels, from deep oceanic trenches to far north at the highest of the peaks--it is found everywhere! Our life is incomplete without single-use plastics like plastic bags, bottles, coffee cups, straws, grocery and trash bags, food packaging and storage containers, utensils and cutlery, just to name a few.
All of these single-use plastics are responsible for a major chunk (about 40%) of plastic pollution, particularly in the marine environment.
Being a fossil product, it takes up to 1,000 years to naturally degrade, meaning that every bit of plastic ever produced still exists, either in landfills or oceans. But this hasn’t affected its production, which has been soaring since the 1950s and became popular in the 1970s, then replaced paper by the end of the 1980s. According to a 2017 study, about 18.2 trillion pounds of plastic has been produced so far, and the number is bound to double by 2050.
Long before the landfill and environmental regulations, anything and everything was simply dumped directly or buried under the ground at an abandoned site, typically known as dumpsites. A landfill serves the same function as a dumping site, except that the former is well-engineered and regulated by the government.
According to the U.S. EPA, 4.4 pounds of trash are produced per capita per day in the U.S., amounting to over 250 million tonnes of garbage per year. We’re generating trash more than we can deal with sustainably. Only a tiny fraction of this trash is recycled, rest (or a part of it) ends in incinerators, landfills, or oceans-where it’d be sitting centuries from now. Only 9% of the plastic ever produced is recycled!
When we think about the cacophony of noise in the environment, we rarely consider military noise pollution and often overlook its toll on humans and animals. Throughout the military service, noisy equipment and processes expose all military personnel and servicemen to hazardous noise levels that pose the risk of ear damage or permanent hearing loss. The constant noises not only wreak havoc on our auditory systems, but it also affects wildlife in their natural environment, from disrupting their communication and hunting abilities to mating.
Ocean acidification is frequently interpreted as the evil twin of climate change. For about three centuries, there has been an unnatural spike in carbon dioxide concentrations in our oceans. There’s more of it in the atmosphere than there was in the last 20 million years. This comes from human-based sources mostly. Fossil fuel refineries, fossil-based power plants, industries, land-use changes, and transportation are the main outlets of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide gas. These unbridled carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for ocean acidification.
Oceans cover two-thirds of the earth's surface and absorb about one-quarter of the carbon dioxide. Oceans help sustain life on earth. They are the home to oxygen-generating phytoplankton, kelp, and algae. They also provide nutrients and maintain food webs as well as support the fish and tourism industry, absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide, and regulate the climate.
Mining sites have considerably increased in number worldwide with the high demand for valuable minerals and geological materials. The non-renewable products are mined on large-scale that cannot be fabricated artificially. These naturally exhaustible resources are now an everyday commodity. We interact with minerals, including the calcite from our toothpaste, phosphate in fertilizer, gold and diamonds in our jewels, copper in wires, and plastics from fossil fuels.
The mine project, Pebble Mine, is aimed at the extraction of precious metals like gold and toxic metals like copper. Copper is of real concern, since it is widely used in wiring, electric appliances, medical instruments, solar panels, wind turbines, and various other infrastructure developments. However, it is not the only mineral that is extracted in the United States.