Category Archives: science

The best way to curb climate change: have one less child

In a world with 7.7 billion people, water is scarce, food is no longer abundant (despite over production), and affordable shelter is becoming rapidly more difficult to find, is our population truly sustainable?

Every year the world’s population grows by another 83 million people. With an upward trend in population size leveling out at an annual 1.4% increase, it is no question that the size of our population is slowly, but surely becoming a clear issue.

In 2017, the Guardian brought the topic of overpopulation to light.

Now more than ever, environmentalists are posing if more feet equals more heat and if having one less child is actually the best way to help correct climate change.

The silent killer of our oceans: everything you need to know about ocean acidification

For thousands and thousands of years, oceans have been a critical part of people’s lives. The oceans have been our grocery stores, highways, pharmacies, and source of entertainment.

Due to our ocean’s vastness, we see them as infinitely bountiful, infinitely abundant, infinitely ample. Now, more than ever we are seeing beaches that are so polluted people can’t swim. We are seeing an increase in bleached coral reefs. We are seeing shellfish unable to reproduce. We are seeing massively overfished areas.

Ocean acidification, osteoporosis of the sea, the silent killer of our oceans. Whatever your preference it all means the same thing. Over the last 250 years, the average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has made an unbelievable increase from 280 parts per million to 390 parts per million. That’s a 30 percent increase. Half of which was made between 1980 and today. To most people, this just seems like numbers, but when you realize that in the past, humans have only lived in concentrations of 190-330 it is easier to comprehend the problem at hand.

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Illustrations by: Lucie Brunellière are available here

In long-term ocean acidification is likely to have the most significant impact on the coral reef ecosystems. Marine organisms that provide up to 50 percent of the oxygen that we breathe, such as Plankton and other small organisms, are abundant in coral reefs and will decrease dramatically. These small organisms not only affect us but other marine organisms as well. With pH levels dropping at this rate, current estimates reveal that we will lose 50 percent of our coral reefs over the next 40 years. That means that the quarter of marine species that rely on coral reefs to provide them home will face extinction unless able to adapt. At a pH level of 8.2, our seas are already acidic enough to dissolve shells. This is evident due to the 85 percent of oyster reefs gone because of the acidification of our oceans.

Not only does it threaten 25 percent of marine organisms, but ocean acidification also affects the estimated 500 million people who depend on coral reefs for their daily food and income. Finding jobs, I’m sure you all know, is hard enough in this economy, nonetheless it will become harder. Travel agencies workers, fishers, ecologists, chefs, food manufacturers and marine biologists will all be affected by ocean acidification. Areas such as Cairns, Australia, will no longer be generating over 6.5 billion dollars in tourism revenue due to the death of the Great Barrier Reef. As a result, 63,000 people would lose jobs in the area.

Although research is underway to improve the conditions of our oceans, not much is being done at the local or global level. Seeing that this is a reasonably recently discovered problem, scientists are still researching ocean acidification and its effects on the environment. Even so, scientific research has already saved species such as the Pacific Oyster from extinction.

Scientists do know one thing: irreversible damage will occur around 2060. Even if all carbon emissions stopped today, the pH of the ocean would still drop 0.1-0.2 pH units and it would take thousands of years for the world’s oceans to recover. Nonetheless, that is still better than the 0.5 units the pH was expected to fall by 2100, a 320 percent increase in acidity.

Our highways, our entertainment, our medicines. Our food, our stress reliever, our memories. Our expansion, our destruction, our mess. Ocean acidification will be a problem for centuries to come. Environmental problems have become apart of our society. Although some are discussed until the point of no longer caring, others are worth listening to.

GMO’s: How do they effect our bodies and our environment?

 

Video credit: TabithaDurrant

Genetically modified foods are everywhere. Technology has come so far that we can now design our ideal foods. Genetic modification is when the DNA of the crops we eat are changed in attempts of resistance against pathogens, herbicides and pesticides. Other benefits include additional nutrition and more crops being produced.

I reached out to Greenpeace, who were unable to give me a direct quote, but gave me permission to use their GM campaign in support of the article. The campaign suggests that using GMO crops isn’t what is right for the general public because we need to know what it is we are putting inside our bodies. Much isn’t known about the process of genetically altering the DNA of these crops.

As we don’t know exactly how they are made, nor do we know for certain what it means to modify crops, should we really be putting them into our bodies?

As they are in nearly everything, especially processed foods, it is difficult to avoid them. But, if you do want to avoid them, try going for organic fruits and vegetables and anything with a GMO free label.

But this may not help you entirely. Even the livestock we eat can be affected by these crops. Farmers feed their livestock genetically modified feed because, simply, it is cheaper. But when the livestock end up on our plates or on the shelves at your local supermarket, there is no way to tell which beef joint was fed genetically modified grain and which was not. So, in any case you could be consuming GM foods without actually knowing.

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Image credit: TabithaDurrant

GM foods are not the only thing that is wrong with the food industry though. If we look at what we are putting into our bodies, we need to look at what types of foods we eat as well. Not eating genetically modified foods won’t be effective to your health if you carry on eating non-healthy foods.

In defence of GM products, they have a longer shelf life, which essentially can reduce the amount of food we, as a collective, throw away. Think about how much food your household throws away and whether these are genetically modified foods.

Even so, these crops can be designed to produce the maximum amount of nutrients and vitamins that we need to survive. This is revolutionary, because it can (if used properly) end world famine. But is that really an excuse to change the DNA of food that has served us well for so long?

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Image credit: TabithaDurrant

Well… yes and no. The world’s population has increased massively since mass farming began and now in 2018 farmers can’t keep up, especially if they are faced with bad weather and crops don’t make harvest. Genetically modified crops can fix this. They are able to protect themselves from bugs, germs and weather because their DNA has been adapted to do just this.

GMO’s are suspected to cause food allergies, of which there is an increasing number of people who suffer from them; wheat, eggs, milk, dairy, fish, nuts and seeds. Though it is uncertain that genetically modified food actually causes these allergies, most of these food products have had their DNA altered, which kind of puts them hand-in-hand.

It isn’t just our food we need to think about and how it affects our bodies. What about our environment? Are genetically modified organisms good for the Earth and its wildlife?

Well, it is common knowledge that the pollen in these crops is vastly different from plants that are not altered in any way. It is supposedly far down inside the plant so it is not picked up in a wind transfer, however Prince Charles made an excellent comment, “can you govern how far a bee flies?”

No, no you cannot.

Monsanto were unavailable for comment when I reached out to them. The company has facilities in 69 different countries and contribute to the use of GM crops. Monsanto encourage the use of these crops on the basis that they can be more efficient in feeding the masses.

Genetically modifying crops can be harmful to the earth but it can be very beneficial, especially to humans. I mean, now that we have over populated the earth and are running out of food, we need this food-based revolution so we have enough for everyone.

Is the unknown as scary as we think it is or should we continue to allow the modification of our food?

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Image credit: TabithaDurrant

What is this Siberian “Beast from East” and how did it make Britain so cold?

Why was the UK suddenly covered in heavy snow?

The blast of cold air sweeping in from Siberia to Western Europe, popularly dubbed as ‘beast from east’, is a result of a break down in jet streams over Scandinavia.

Jet streams are basically ribbons of strong, high altitude winds (upto 200mph), blowing across Atlantic west to east, that are responsible for the shifts in weather across the globe.

Jet streams naturally move either in a “wavy” irregular path or in strong-steady flow. And previous studies have shown the weather to be much cold moving south from the Artic towards the mid-latitudes, even bringing freezing temperatures when the jet streams move in a wavy path. Whereas, when jets streams move strong and steadily from west to east, winter weather conditions are milder in the countries that lie between the tropics and the Artic, including the UK.

And although there is no denying that last week’s bad winter weather has been a result of a natural shift, scientists are now linking the increasing frequencies of such weather shifts and anomalies to a larger change in global weather.

(Check out this video by Met Office on jet streams)

 

What is causing these weather anomalies across the globe?

While rest of the world is suffering from dropping degrees, scientists say temperatures have risen above freezing repeatedly at the North Pole, reaching as high as 30C above normal for the depths of winter.

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Source: Research on Arctic Temperatures by Zachary Labe

Such a radical difference (rise) in temperature in Arctic, especially in winter seasons, evidently does not bode well for the rest of the world. And the fact that these changes are in-part largely a result of man-made climate changes, makes things even more critical.

Professor Edward Hanna, of the University of Sheffield, said: “We’ve always had years with wavy and not so wavy jet stream winds, but in the last one to two decades the warming Arctic could well have been amplifying the effects of the wavy patterns.

“This may have contributed to some recent extreme cold winter spells along the eastern seaboard of the United States, in eastern Asia, and at times over the UK.”

(Read more about his research on Extreme cold winters fuelled by jet stream and climate change here.)

The lead scientist at Berkerley Earth, Robert Rohde, too pointed out recently that the North Pole is warmer than much of Europe.

And this anomaly is due to the dark retreat of sea ice in Arctic winter, resulting in temperatures above the freezing level at the meteorological site in the northern extreme of Greenland for a record-breaking 61 hours, so far in year 2018. As shown by the graph (below) from Robert Rohde’s research.

But the bigger question that comes to mind is that what is the probability of such weather conditions repeating itself? They are possibly higher than what would have been few decades ago. Especially with recent studies showing an increase in frequency of warm air intrusions, making scientists believe that the further reduction in ice sea on the Arctic Ocean will allow warmer water to release heat into the atmosphere, resulting in knock-on effects for the jet stream.

The most worrisome thing is not what is happening right now to the weather but how often this has started happening in the recent years.

This video by the Robert Rohde and the Berkerley Earth division showing how climate has changed in 168 years.

Cars and street covered with heavy snow in Central London. As the snow and cold grew, many motorways were forced to close down due to high levels of invisibility and accidents. Trains were delayed when not altogether cancelled. Even the airways suffered, with British Airways cancelling many flights from Heathrow Airport, London.

 

 

 

 

Which types of treatments are available to reduce the risk of heart failure?

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With recent research showing an increase in heart failure by consuming too much non-prescriptive drugs such as ibuprofen. Are there any other factors that need to be considered that can contribute to the increased risk of heart failure?

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Diclofenac – 50%   Ibuprofen – 48%

Naproxen – 53%     Rofecoxib – 58%

Source: NHS

 

Treatments for heart failure:

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor – The inhibitor opens the blood vessels to allow the heart to pump blood around the body more smoothly.

Beta-blockers – These are used to reduce the heart rate by reducing the effects of adrenaline which increases the heart rate and blood pressure of the body.

Hydralazine with nitrate – This tends to prescribed by a cardiologist as some patients cannot take an ACE inhibitor. The drug is used to relax the blood vessels.

Diuretics – These are designed to reduce ankle swelling and breathlessness by causing the body to remove large quantities of urine.

Digoxin – Is used to strengthen cardiac muscle contraction as well as reducing heart rate.

Is it worth worrying about your ibuprofen usage?

Research into anti-inflammatory tablets has clarified that this medication is closely linked to heart attacks. The study which was conducted at the University of Montreal has received a huge amount of coverage, but should it concern you?

This research is reminder that NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are not harmless; although these drugs have already been linked to heart failure and strokes in the past, they are still sold all over the country in supermarkets where no professional advice is given on how to take the drugs correctly.

What did the research highlight?

The research explored health records of around eight million patients who had an average age of 77 and whether or not they had used NSAIDs, such as: ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen.

People who had used NSAID were found to have a 19 per cent higher chance of being admitted to hospital for heart failure. However, many news outlets also failed to point out that drugs like diclofenac are more dangerous than ibuprofen which the articles seemed to be focused more heavily on.

How was the media coverage of the story?

A large quantity of the coverage failed to highlight how the correlation between anti-inflammatory medication and heart problems was already well known.

The story received a huge amount attention from various media outlets and tended to exaggerate the research which had been conducted. Here are some of the titles:

  • Ibuprofen WARNING: Regular usage for just ONE week ‘increases heart attack risk’
  • Common painkillers may raise risk of heart attack by 100%
  • Taking ibuprofen to treat pain ‘for just ONE DAY increases your risk of heart attack by half’

What was the view of experts?

Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation stated in response to growing concerns about the consumption of NSAIDs that, “It has been known for some years now that such drugs need to be used with caution in patients with, or at high risk of, heart disease. This applies mostly to those who take them on a daily basis rather than only occasionally.”

Chief medical officer at the Australian Heart Foundation, Garry Jennings stated, “There is really no information which suggests that they can cause either a cardiac arrest or a heart attack out of the blue. I think that is very unlikely.”

The overuse of NSAIDs can lead to various complications such as: stomach ulcers, and liver and kidney problems. Jennings stated, “They’re not smarties, they’re serious medications.”

 

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So what should I do?

Researchers have highlighted how ibuprofen can still be taken, but consumers should stick to small doses and only take it for as long as it really has to be. It is also important to remember that you can always look for nondrug treatments, such as ice packs and muscle sprays for any inflammation which you may be facing.

 

Listen to more about the issue below, with interviews from various professionals questioned about some of the points above:

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