Why is Antarctica a fragile environment

Antarctica, being the last unexplored and unexploited continent on earth is largely untouched and not a contributor to the global warming. Its harsh environment has remained unchanged through millenniums. It is considerably large, about double of Australia’s size, and is covered by a thick sheet of ice. The ice acts as a reflector which makes most of the sun’s heat bounce back leaving the continent cold (-57 deg Fahrenheit) The continent of Antarctica is home to a uniquely beautiful and harsh environment that makes it the coldest place on earth.

All this may soon change as the desire to explore and mine the natural resources of the planet is gaining momentum. Ever since the 1950s scientists have been setting up research stations and exploring the continent, often at huge personal risk. By late 1950s some twelve countries established their bases in Antarctica. The world sat up and took notice. The SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctica Research) was formed with the US, Norway, Chile, France, Argentina, U.K., Australia, Russia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan, Belgium, as members. Poland and Germany joined later. The objective of this committee is to share the research and findings and also consider the issue of climate change.

In 1980 however large deposits of valuable resources such as oil, coal and natural gas were discovered and this has led to a debate on whether to exploit these reserves or not. The debate is pertinent because Antarctica has a huge influence on the climate of the world and the slightest disturbance can have a huge, detrimental impact on the world climate. For example, if just the west Antarctica’s ice sheet melts, the sea level world wide could rise about 20 feet resulting in wide spread flooding in the coastal regions and devastation. It is a valid fear that any thoughtless tampering with the untouched Antarctic environment could lead to increasing the already upset environmental health of the world.

In 1991 a 50 year moratorium was imposed on the use and exploitation of Antarctica’s natural resources, however there is a valid fear that economic and political pressures could lead to nations disregarding it. The global demand for energy keeps rising and this may lead to opening up of Antarctica for oil exploration. If so, the repercussions will be severe as it will cause chaos in the fragile environment of the world.

Why is Styrofoam bad for the environment?

Styrofoam is getting bad press recently and justifiably so. We have all been informed, most emphatically; by environmentalists that Styrofoam does bad things to the planet. A lot of public relations exercises have been done by manufacturers about Styrofoam recycling the efficacy of which is also suspect.

First of all Styrofoam is not foam at all. It is a synthetic material formed by extruded polystyrene and is trademarked by the manufacturer, Dow Chemical Co. Polystyrene is used for protective packaging of food and also for packing non-durables like audio and video cassettes etc. Originally this was considered a wonderful invention in 1940s and put to varied uses because of its many qualities like superior insulating and buoyancy.

However it has a lot of unfavorable qualities too, that are truly harmful to both the human health and the environment.

1. Styrofoam has toxins which leach out of these containers into the edible food that are packaged. Polystyrene actually emits harmful things like Styrene and Benzene into the air and into the food that has been packed in such containers. When the food is eaten, these toxins affect the reproductive system of the consumer. Styrene then ends up getting stored in our fat cells, where they can accumulate to dangerous levels causing nervousness, fatigue, insomnia, depression and nervousness. Benzene causes cancer in humans. Now, due to more awareness, less of these products are used for packing edibles, but they are still used. The reason is that Styrofoam is cheaper than paper cups and containers.

2. Styrofoam products are made with petroleum. Petroleum is a heavy pollutant; moreover this is a commodity that is getting scarce. This is another negative against using Styrofoam.

3. The product is not biodegrade. It seems to last eternally. The reason is that the environment does not seem to harm it. Moreover, since it is light, the wind makes it fly away, and it floats on water. Over long periods of time, a great deal of this material has accumulated in our water bodies, affecting marine life.

3. The Styrofoam that ends up in our garbage continues to live there indefinitely. Over time, animals end up eating it and it clogs their digestive systems. Since animals do get eaten by others and also by man, it directly and indirectly affects our health.

4. Styrofoam is increasingly taking up space in our landfills. The landfills will eventually be breached, and since it does not break down and get recycled by the earth, this is a dangerous situation.

5. Styrofoam manufacturing is done using hydrofluorocarbons or HFCs and more recently CFCs that contribute to global warming and deplete the ozone layer.

What is Carbon Footprint

A lot has been said and discussed about the carbon footprint, and how we need to reduce our carbon footprint to save the planet. In order to do so we need to first understand what carbon footprint is. Carbon footprint refers to the emissions of carbon dioxide or green house gases we emit in the course of our daily activity.
Allow me to explain this. The carbon footprint that the person has on the environment can be calculated by the lifestyle of the person, his actions, his home and the level of emission of greenhouse gases that these things emit. These emissions of greenhouse gases are then measured and calculated to CO2 units, and figure reached by these calculations are the carbon footprint of the person.

Actually, everything we do can add to our carbon footprint. Every breath we take also adds to our carbon footprint. This does not mean that we stop breathing!!! We can however start being careful and making corrections in our lifestyle. Small changes in our lifestyle can go a long way to reduce our carbon footprint.

All our actions, driving a car, cooking food, energy consumption through one’s day and night produces carbon. The climate of earth is undergoing rapid changes that are not beneficial for the atmosphere and our well being. As per environmentalists, the carbon emissions produced by humans has caused our environment great harm. Polar ice caps have shrunk over the last hundred years or so, the climate is changing and the seasons have shifted. We are harming the planet.

We need to take steps to reduce our carbon footprint. An excellent way of doing this is to reduce our energy consumption. Switch off the TV when not in use, unplug our electrical gadgets or switch off power points when we are not using them. We can also switch of lights when we don’t need them. This is a good way to reduce our carbon footprint.

We can start reducing our carbon footprint by reducing our fuel consumption. One excellent way of doing it is to take public transport, or start a car pool. For short distances it is always a good idea to walk. It saves the gas bill and also helps reduce carbon footprint.

Planting trees is a good way to reduce the carbon emissions. Trees help reducing the carbon in the atmosphere and are healthy for us.

Small things like this go a long way to help us with carbon emissions.

Do you know your carbon footprint

Carbon footprint is an issue that has been worrying environmentalists for quite some time, because due to greenhouse gas emissions the planet has become hotter, the polar ice caps have shrunk and there are more natural calamities. The truth is that we have impacted the earth’s climate in a very harmful way due to our living habits.

There are two types of carbon footprints due to human activity;

1. Primary carbon foot print which is the direct carbon emission done by a human being’s activity – such as fuel and energy consumption

2. Secondary carbon footprint which is the indirect carbon emissions, for instance if you prefer to buy and eat food products from overseas, it burns a lot of fuel to get to your table. It also relates to your fashion tastes, if you recycle or not, and even what you prefer to do in your free time.

Food Preference also means that if you like to eat meat, you would have a larger carbon footprint since cooking of meat takes longer than cooking of organic vegetables. Processing meat also takes longer.

Another significant feature of larger footprints is excessive buying of clothes and accessories, just to keep up with fashion.

Hobbies can be environmentally beneficial or not, it depends on what you choose. If you would like to race automobiles or speed boat you are consuming more fuel and that will increase carbon emissions.

It is imperative to know what your carbon footprint is so that one can take steps to reduce it. Reduction of carbon footprint is not difficult. Small insignificant changes in lifestyle and habits go a long way in reducing carbon footprint.

The car you use, the distances you drive, your fuel consumption can be calculated. How you heat your home, the air-conditioning you use also emits carbon gases. So does the food and other stuff you buy.

If you go online, you will find excellent ways to calculate your carbon footprint taking your lifestyle into account. To reduce your carbon footprint, you have to simply go back to a simpler lifestyle. You would need to start re-cycling, re-using and also returning to the environment by planting trees.

The best part in all this effort would be that you will also save money. Eating food that you grow at home, reducing your fuel and energy consumption would mean that you will be spending less money. Cutting down on your clothes bill and keeping your needs simple makes a positive impact not only on the environment but also your budget.