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CLIMATE CHANGE

Part 3 of 9 in PLANETARY BOUNDARIES

Climate change is a loaded topic and you can dig deep into intimidating mathematical calculations and chemistry. What it all boils down to (pun intended) are the molecules in our atmosphere. Before the industrial revolution, it worked like this: The sun shines down on earth and mostly the energy bounces back out to space. Water vapour and some carbon  dioxide keeps a fraction of the energy maintaining warmth. This way, the sun warms the earth enough to sustain life but doesn’t burn us to a crisp.
With carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydroflourocarbons and other gases in the atmosphere, a harmful amount of the sun’s heat is trapped in our atmosphere and not enough is reflected back out into space.
This is ultimately the greenhouse effect which warms our planet. This is why we are reaching record high temperatures and earth’s creatures are behaving differently.

I got so lost in links of links of links in Wikipeadia and whilst I understood the just of it, I couldn’t write about it the way I would like to. Luckily, there are some brainiacs on Youtube that can explain it perfectly in visuals.

Enjoy the videos below and pat yourself on the back for learning the science behind climate change. They all compliment each other and are fun to watch.

 

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PLANETARY BOUNDARIES Part 2 LOSS OF BIOSPHERE INTEGRITY (BIODIVERSITY LOSS & EXTINCTIONS)

 

PLANETARY BOUNDARIES Part 2
LOSS OF BIOSPHERE INTEGRITY (BIODIVERSITY LOSS & EXTINCTIONS)

See part 1 of 9 here.

 

CHANGE OF BIOSPHERE INTEGRITY

This planetary boundary is one of two core boundaries. This means that if this threshold has been crossed, it affects other processes on earth. The other core boundary is climate change.
By looking at the planetary boundary picture above, you can see that the green to yellow to red piece of the pie, indicates that we have crossed this threshold.

We are now experiencing the sixth mass extinction of planet earth. This beautiful blue and green planet of ours has experienced 5 mass extinctions before. These have been said to be caused by volcano eruptions, asetroid strikes, climate shifts and other natural causes. During these natural phenomenons, species extinction occurs at 1 to 5 species a year. This is called a background rate.

The sixth mass extinction known as the Holocene or Anthropocene extinction is caused by humans. The extinction rate of species is 1,000 to 10,000 times larger than the background rate of previous extinctions.

We are facing a future of losing 30 – 50% of all species by 2050 if we don’t act dramatically now.

This is caused by a number of factors:

  • Habitat loss and degration due to farming especially animal agriculture
  • Climate change through heat stress and drought stress
  • Excessive nutrient load and other forms of pollution
  • Over-exploitation and unsustainable use (e.g. unsustainable fishing methods) we are currently using 25% more natural resources than the planet
  • Armed conflict, which disrupts human livelihoods and institutions, contributes to habitat loss, and intensifies over-exploitation of economically valuable species, leading to population declines and local extinctions.
  • Invasive alien species that effectively compete for a niche, replacing indigenous species

The threat of extinction is at large and includes:

  • 1 out of 8 birds
  • 1 out of 4 mammals
  • 1 out of 4 conifers
  • 1 out 3 amphibians
  • 6 out of 7 marine turtles
  • 75% of genetic diversity of animal crops have been lost
  • 75% of the world’s fisheries are fully or over exploited
  • Up to 70% of the world’s known species risk extinction if the global temperatures rise by more than 3.5°C
  • 1/3rd of reef-building corals around the world are threatened with extinction
  • Over 350 million people suffer from severe water scarcity

1.29 minutes

 

4.52 minutes

23.42 minutes

 

 

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The Power of Trees

Trees are incredible forms of life on this planet.

I can write pages and pages about them. If you knew what I knew about trees, perhaps you would hug them too now and again. They are essential to our existence and without trees, our planet would be inhabitable. I cannot empahsise enough how we must strive to plant them, whenever we can, and in many places as we can.

 

Just because you don’t have a garden, does not mean you cannot plant a tree.  Enhance public spaces like parks and sidewalks with trees. Choosing an indigenous and water wise species will increase chances of survival and not consume too much water.

Here are some important facts you should know about trees:

1. Trees seed rain

Trees transpire water which form clouds and rain back down. Check out these awesome videos which explain the process.

 

2. Trees increase the fertility of the soil

The leaves that fall off the trees, cover and protect the ground from evaporation. Microorganisms and other small creatures like worms, eat the organic matter and process it into nutritious soil for plants. The oranic matter becomes food for the ground. There are also trees that absorb nitrogen from their air and return it to the soil through their leaf litter and nodes in their roots. If the tree is large enough to prune, the stored nitrogen in the root nodes are released into the soil as the tree balances its roots with its canapy. When deciduous trees lose their leaves in autumn, you can decide how you would like to use them, as they have great fertilizing qualities.

 

You can choose to rake up the leaves, and store them to make leaf mould. Leaf mould is an excellent form of compost, or you can let nature do all the work for you by leaving them on the ground. Fallen leaves have a wonderful purpose, they protect the ground  from extreme cold or heat. Leaves (as mulch) stop water evaporation and when the worms eat them, they turn them into super compost for the soil. This is nature’s cycle of returning nutrients back to the soil so that more life can grow.

3. Trees stabilize the soil

The roots dig deep into the soil to secure the tree and this also protects the soil from soil erosion. Soil erosion occurs when rains fall and top soil is washed away where there are no trees to hold the soil in place. This leaves big gaping holes where it is difficult to grow anything.

 

4. Trees provide shade and regulate temperature.

If you measured the temperature of various man made things like tar roads, concrete, bricks and steel and then compared those temperatures with the tops of trees, you will see a big difference. Trees regulate the temperature. Man made structures like roads and concrete increase the temperature in cities and contribute to global warming. I am sure all of you have experienced the sanctuary of shade underneath a tree on a very hot day.

 

5. Trees help in the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem balance.

Trees provide a home to wildlife and increase chances of survival of many species. They provide food and shelter. Where many species live together, a balance is retored and is called an ecosystem. An ecosystem can fall out of balance if a species of life is removed and this threatens the survival of all other life. Biodiversity is key for survival of all species.

 

6. Trees are a resource for fuel and building

Wood from the fallen and dried branches of trees, can be burnt to provide warmth. Burning dried branches also makes coal which can be burnt or used to clean water. It can even clean our teeth! We can make things with wood like furniture, shelter and paper. We must be careful to prune for the trees health, and not cut them down. Destroying a forest for our own needs is selfish when there are better and more sustainable ways of providing for our comforts.

7. Trees store carbon

Do you know about all that carbon in the air that is making our planet hotter and making the sea acidic? Well, it should be in the ground or in trees where it is safe and put to good use. Trees store carbon and return it to the soil by decomposition.

 

The Moral of the Story

Go out there and plant a tree for Arbor month. Plant 10 trees if you can and try stick to indigenous, water wise trees. Let’s fix the grass deserts in our parks and restore the land, climate and wildlife with trees. Plant some fruit or nut trees in your garden and you will be rewarded with delicious food.

Trees are so vital to our survival. We need more of them to fix the damage we have done to this planet.  Plant a tree for Arbor Month.

 

 

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CLIMATE CHANGE in August 2018

Where to start…

I wanted to write about climate change so that every day people could understand what is happening to our planet. The science journals and graphs and special lingo can be offputting and a lot of information is not understood by the majority of people. The motivation to write about climate change happened one year ago and sadly, I have not devoted the time needed to resarch this topic fully in the way that I would like to write it.

My starting point was to explain planetary boundaries. This is a system based on 9 planetary life support systems and how they are interconnected. If a number of them are pushed, then the system in it’s entirety collapses threatning this planet’s habitability. To just explain one of these nine systems, I had to build on my limited scientific knowledge and quickly, I realised that writing this would be a series of artcles that would take a considerable amount of time.

Writing articles is not my main focus however I do feel that humans need to radically change their lifestyle to live harmoniously with the ecosystem. Hence, I write artciles to promote regenerative living however, there is more to expect…

9 Earth Systems
Planetary Boundaries

Climate Change is happening now.

We are at the point of irreversable damage and that point may have passed us already. Sustainable is no longer good enough and regenerative living is not enough right now. For those that can accept the difficult and uncomfortable truth, preparation for adaption is needed.

We need to be informed of what to expect so that we can make preparations. Unicorn Cafe focuses on the positive side and drives change from this angle. Doom and gloom is not an experience we want to feel yet ignoring that serious consequences lie ahead of us would be irresponsible.

What I can do now is post links to media out on the world wide web and I hope to take you on the journey with me as I explore options to survive.

Polar Bears affected most by climate change. Less ice to reflect the sun’s rays.

There are support groups in place

It is inevitable that some of us will feel hopeless and helpless when we understand the magnitude of what is to come and so, suport groups are forming.

You can find a list here.

Find support

What Media is Reporting

There is a paper written by Professor Jem Bendell called ‘Deep Adaptation:A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy’.

Fedback on the paper can be found here.

What Do We Do When The Science Gets Scary: Climate Change And The End Of Civilization?

Runaway warming could push the world into a ‘hothouse Earth’ state

The 5 Best Places to Live in 2100

I hope that we can adopt the ‘Each One Teach One’ Philosophy and change our bad habits soon.

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THE ANTARCTIC

Six years ago, sitting behind a computer of a construction company, I realised I needed to do more with my life. I no longer wanted keep financial records of wealthy individuals and businesses but make an impact on positive environmental change. I knew life on our planet was under threat and I felt powerless in my position at that time. 

The first time I ever heard of Greenpeace was when I stumbled upon their website and immediately, I felt that connection of wanting to know more. Deep down, I knew that this was where I belonged and by helping this organisation, my life would have some sort of meaningful purpose. I romanticised with the bravery and action of Greenpeace’s ships’ crew but sadly, they would not have a need for my average accounting skills on board.

I signed up as a volunteer regardless, and did my first few hours of volunteer work when the new Rainbow Warrior docked in Cape Town harbour.

I was like a child at a candy store, overwhelmed by the ship’s tall A-frame mast and multitudes of apparatus on the bridge. We, the volunteers, were educated about the ship and guided visitors on tours to view the vessel. I will never forget that day and the impact that it made on my life.

Fast forward to February 2018, Cape Town volunteers were asked to  take photos with a model penguin who was on its journey from the Antarctic to various cities around the globe. My fellow volunteer, who I attended my first climbing course with, picked me up to seek places in Cape Town that were obviously local. We started at Parliament, a place well known to almost every South African. Our first pictures featured the colourful and unique South African flag flying in the background.


We then headed for the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. We were somewhat apprehensive about the venue because of it’s bustling commercialism but once we arrived, we were presented with marvelous photo opportunities and soon we were clicking away at almost every angle. We wanted our Table Mountain in the some of the shots and to deliver some diversity for flavour.

Our large penguin attracted some attention from tourists and general public. So, like me, you are probably asking yourself, ‘What is the big deal with the penguin?’ Good question!

A good place to start is the type of penguin we were photographing. Our model is the King Penguin which breeds in sub antarctic islands at the northern reaches of  The Antarctic. The Antarctic is a polar region encompassing the continent Antarctica and surrounding islands on the Antarctic Plate. The Antarctic is the coldest, windiest and driest continent on our planet ,with even less rainfall than the Saharan Desert. This makes the wild life there extremophiles which means that these forms of life survive extreme conditions that would be detrimental to most life on Earth.

The ecosystems there are extremely sensitive to outside conditions as this continent is surrounded by water and isolated from the rest of the world. This amazing area is a biological carbon pump that regulates climate and carbon uptake. Healthy oceans soak up carbon dioxide and help us tackle climate change.

It’s a no brainer that we should endeavour to keep activity in this area to a minimum. The Antarctic hosts many scientific research stations that record data for various sciences and have made extraordinary discoveries that have changed how we see our planet. These discoveries have been influential in protecting ecosystems in the Southern Ocean, regulating fishing, and banning ozone depleting chemicals.

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean are facing some challenges such as krill fishing and ecotourism. Krill is a keystone species which means that it has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to it’s abundance. Many fish feed on krill and these fish are food sources for other animals namely our model King Penguin.

King Penguins breed on ice free islands around the Antarctic. Their chicks have a thin covering of down and rely solely on their parents for warmth and food. The central Antarctic region would be too cold for these chicks to survive. Global warming is affecting the temperature of the oceans and the fish that these penguins rely on, will swim further south in search for cooler water. This puts over one million King Penguins at risk.

Females swim out into the ocean in search for food for their chicks. Due the temperature of the warming Southern Ocean, scientists are projecting that mothers will have to swim hundreds of kilometers north in search for food. The food that they bring back for their chicks, may not sustain long enough for their return home.

Greenpeace have launched their Antarctic campaign in order to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary which would be the largest protected area on Earth. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in 1982 by an international convention to conserve Antarctic Marine Life. This commission has 25 members and South Africa is one of them. Dr Monde Mayekiso, a South African, is in the chair position of the commission.

In October 2017, the CCAMLR were unsuccessful in agreeing to provide strong marine protection in the East Antarctic. We have seven months to make an impact and create the largest protected marine area on Earth. Greenpeace is campaigning to protect 1.8 million square meters in the Weddell Sea. The proposal has been submitted by the European Union and is backed up by Germany and will be considered when the CCAMLR covenes again in October this year.

This experience of The March of the Penguins and photographing our model King Penguin has been an educational experience to learn more about our diverse planet and it’s complex systems. For me, the King Penguin symbolizes a species threatened by our activities and that like the King Penguin chick is dependent on it’s mother’s catch for survival, so is the species dependent on us to conserve the Southern Ocean and Antarctica from exploitation. 

References:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/warming-antarctic-may-force-over-163917682.html
https://www.livescience.com/g00/21677-antarctica-facts.html?i10c.encReferrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvLnphLw%3D%3D&i10c.ua=1
https://www.ccamlr.org/en/organisation/about-ccamlr
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildlife_of_Antarctica

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