Small Things You Can do to Save Your Planet

Why were we always using plastic, single-use straws when we use reusable cutlery? They’re the same thing.

Anyone reading this that has looked outside this past summer has witnessed the extraordinary weather. Whether you are reading this from the UK or the USA or even Asia, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Over 48 different places all over the world this summer have experienced record temperatures. Places such as Taiwan recorded its highest ever temperature of 40.3 degrees C and there have even been wildfires in RUSSIA due to temperatures reaching over 30 degrees C. I could list go on and on but we would be here until next summer.

If you didn’t believe in climate change, maybe now is your time to re-evaluate what you think. You see, this isn’t normal. It’s not normal for overnight temperatures in Oman to be 42 degrees C. It’s not normal for the UK to have a month long heat wave.

But this will become our normal.

It is thought that the human race has started the ball rolling with a ‘hothouse’ Earth. This basically means that everything we’ve been doing to the planet over the last 250 years is now out of our hands. A ‘hothouse’ means that the climate will continually get more extreme and heat-up because of what we’ve done. Those anomalous summers like the one we’ve just witnessed will become every other summer. A ‘hothouse’ is exactly what it sounds like; bloody hot with a high sea-level rise and a mass extinction rate because species can’t adapt in time to adjust to an out-of-control climate change. And this doesn’t necessarily exclude humans.

So now you might be wondering…what’s the point then? Well as an individual reading this now, you can’t save the planet; but you can do your bit to save your part of the problem. If you do your part to save your planet, the one you live in, in your everyday life, this will reflect on other people and the message will be spread. You might be one person, but it only takes one person to send a message.

1. Reusable Straws

What has been warming my heart warm in the media is the demonising of single-use, plastic straws. Seeing photos of sea life being suffocated by these plastic lines of evil has been the wake-up-call the public needed to see how your iced caramel, triple shot, almond latte might end up harming actual other living beings. It is the awful wake-up-call that we needed. Fortunately, as of April 2018, the UK has announced it has banned the sale of drinks with plastic straws and stirrers in a bid to save the rivers and oceans. Not only this but independent companies such as Delieveroo has an ‘opt-out’ option for their plastic cutlery which has led to a 91% decrease in usage.

Image result for greenpeace straw campaign
Reference: Greenpeace

 

So what can you do? Well, you can buy your own reusable straws. You can buy them HERE for just £4.99 and have them delivered tomorrow. Why were we always using single-use straws when we use reusable cutlery? They’re the same thing. There are no excuses with using these straws. If you’re buying plastic straws from the supermarket because you think it’s ‘easier’ or because you’re having a party and you think your friends won’t want to use reusable straws…you’re wrong. If you tell people to bring their own straws or that you have reusable ones, they will start to see themselves that there is something small everyone can do to help our wildlife and the environment.

Not only this but if you find that you’re drinking Costa coffee’s or Starbucks frequently but are still conscious about your plastic use, you can buy COLLAPSABLE KEYRING STRAWS. These can just be put on your car keys for those times you need your 11am pick-me-up but still care about the planet.

2. Buy In-Season Produce

When you’re shopping in Tesco for your dinner for the next week, see if you ever look at where the produce has come from? Have your strawberries come from Norfolk or from Spain? If you do check, then give yourself a pat on the back, you are one step ahead of me here. If you don’t check, DO NOT WORRY, you are not alone. I have to remind myself to check where my produce has come from.

‘Why?’ You ask. Well, if you’re eating strawberries in the middle of winter, ask yourself, how? Strawberries grow in the summer, so where are they coming from? They cannot grow in the UK during colder months so they must be imported from abroad, somewhere hot. Somewhere that requires a flight.

If your produce has been flying, not only has the amount and quality of the nutrients decreased, but your produce has collected its own carbon footprint. By flying, the food you are eating is contributing to carbon emissions to what we call ‘food miles’. Bet you didn’t think that when you were eating your roast lamb last night.

In order to reduce your impact on climate change to the fullest extent, try to buy produce that is grown in the UK during its growing season. Even if you don’t mind buying food with air miles, consider the fact that seasonal produce is WAY CHEAPER than off-season produce. So if you weren’t convinced already, I bet you are now.

Image result for seasonal produce uk

3. Bags for Life

Most people in the UK will immediately know what I’m talking about. Since October 2015, supermarkets in the UK had to place a 5p tax on all plastic bags. Instead of using these harmful products, supermarkets started selling reusable, material bags that cost anywhere from 25p to £3 that are named as ‘bags for life’. Since this law has been put in place, the use of plastic bags in the UK has reduced by 80%. You could say, it was a resounding success.

Related image

So if you’re reading this from the UK and thinking, ‘yeah I do that’, you can move onto the next point. However, I know from personal experience that countries such as the USA use an astounding amount of plastic bags. On my visit to Washington State during the summer, for every new vegetable, a new plastic bag was used. Since I’d been living in a plastic-bag-free society since 2015, I felt guilt for where these plastic bags might end up. Luckily, the family I was living with reused their plastic bags but I cannot think that every family in America reuses their plastic. Now, I’m not accusing everyone of doing this as I know that regional areas of the USA do have a plastic bag tax.

In an ideal world, the whole planet would have a plastic bag tax but this is not realistic. A good place to start is with buying your own ‘bag for life’ maybe just from Amazon or if your local supermarket has them hiding near the check-out counter. It might cost money, but it will save the environment.

4. Your Wardrobe

You might not think about how what you are wearing is damaging the environment but what we are wearing is destroying ecosystems. I didn’t learn of this until I decided I needed to know as clothing companies do not advertise how your cotton t-shirt is made, or what happens when you throw away those pair of black jeans that have gone a bit grey. So I’m going to tell you.

In order to make that cotton t-shirt and pair of denim jeans, they require 20,000 LITRES of water. 20,000 litres. To put that into perspective, an average person in the UK uses 150 litres per day. So 20,000 litres is equivalent to over 4 months of a water supply for one person. Seems a bit ridiculous for a simple outfit right?

However, it is almost impossible to avoid buying clothing that are negatively affecting the environment so this is what I am suggesting;

  1. If you want to get rid of a bunch of your clothes, donate them to a charity shop instead so they can be reused and reloved.
  2. However, if you want to earn some money from your old clothes, try to sell them on a website called Depop or even Ebay. It increases the clothes’ life expectancy and decreases landfill usage.
  3. Again, if you’re going to throw out that pair of jeans, see if you can modify them to make them have a new lease of life. Can you rip them? Could you cut them into shorts?
  4. If you’re buying new clothes, check to see the brands environmental statement to see if they are doing anything to reduce their carbon footprint or agricultural impact. For example, ASOS uses 100% recycled packaging to send their clothes and even brands such as Adidas have a whole line of clothing called Parley made from plastic waste.

By repurposing your old clothes, or giving them to charity, you are preventing them from entering a landfill site (3/4 of all clothes do) where cotton will take between 2-5 months to biodegrade.

5. Be Aware

Education is the only way that people will start to understand how to do their bit to save the planet. Whether you care or not, the climate will continue to get more extreme, and the more people that understand, the more chance that something will be done to prevent the effects of climate change. This does not even have to be about meteorological effects, it could be what is going on with the ecosystems or even just land usage. For example, if you know which cosmetic companies test on animals, then you can choose not to buy from them as they are threatening food chains and conceding the process of extinction.

Everyone can do their bit to help the damage that humans are causing on the planet.

There are no excuses.

Knowledge is all you need to make smart choices.

The Truth Behind a Geology Degree

There’s a lot of colouring in.

I am a baby in the Geological studies world. I’ve only just finished my first year of studying Geology and Physical Geography where I spent a lot of time having absolutely no idea what was going on and coming out of lectures thinking they were in a different language. I didn’t really know what I was expecting, I mean, I chose to study those specific modules at that specific university so I can’t really complain right? There were a lot of things that I would have benefitted from knowing before choosing Earth Sciences.

1. It’s a lot more Difficult than I Expected

If you’re currently studying geography A level or even geology A level (if your college is cool enough), and you think you may want to study geology at degree level then prepare yourself because that basic knowledge of volcanoes is assumed and they hurl you in at the deep end. In my second lecture of dynamic solid earth which started with geochemistry, we covered a semester of A level chemistry in 45 minutes. Bearing in mind, I hadn’t studied chemistry in 2 years, I was so lost. And I was terrified. I did not sign up for chemistry. No thank you.

I still am not sure what this was going on about. If anyone ever says the words “Stereonets” to you, run away.

It didn’t stop there. In the second semester we had a module on palaeontology and palaeobiology which took up 5 contact hours a week. More than this, I was convinced that my lecturer was speaking a different language most of the time. Learning about the anal system of a Brachiopod was really not my forté and stressed me out more than it should’ve. It wasn’t really what I thought I’d be studying and it’s definitely something to look for when looking at Earth Science degrees.

2. You’re Doing a Legit Science

When you tell people that you study geology, their initial reaction is “ew you study rocks” but then they do understand that it’s a difficult and well respected degree to have. You learn everything from GMOs to statistics. You’re likely to have an understanding of both essays and scientific research. Your job prospects are pretty damn good, especially if you have geography in there with it.

3. You do Colour In

Okay okay so you tell anyone that you’re studying Geography and Geology and they say “so all you do is colouring in right?” Well, they are kinda right. You do A LOT of colouring in if I’m honest. Sometimes it’s literally drawing fossils with your GCSE art qualifications and sometimes it’s drawing fault lines in the field.

If someone’s accuses you of drawing, you proudly agree that that is the majority of your degree and then find some way of judging their degree. For example, if they study engineering they also draw and if they study communications, all they do is learn how to talk to people.

4. There are Field Trips and They are Cold

Having just finished my first year, I can confidently say that sleeping in a caravan in Pembrokeshire in March while it was snowing has not been a highlight of my university experience. Luckily for me, I managed to escape after 2 days but that’s another story.

With an Earth Science degree, you will 100% have at least 1 field trip every year. It’s actually a requirement from the Geological Society in order to become a certified geologist. The field trips actually are so helpful (especially if you have no idea what’s going on in lectures). Being able to see features in the field help to solidify how the processes of rocks form and just like what was going on 350 million years ago (a lot btw).

Try to enjoy being cold while drawing pictures of rocks, it’s some of the best times of your degree.

5. Not Everyone is like Howard from Fresh Meat

After watching Fresh Meat, I genuinely thought that all geologists were nerdy male scientists who spent their time travelling to holiday destinations with cool rock formations. I was partially wrong. In my degree, I would say that it is a 50/50 split between genders and most of the people are actually normal and will do normal student things (like clubbing and taking part in societies). Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely nerds on my course, but I’ve managed to make a group of friends who don’t just talk about rocks all the time.

6. No Matter How Hard you Try, you LOVE Rocks

So when I joined my degree I was set that I thought rocks were boring and that I would hate staring at them for extended periods of time. That maybe lasted 4 weeks. Looking at rocks like the one below under a microscope really changed how I think everyone felt about rocks. They’re stunning. Not only this, but they tell a story about the environment, the climate and the geography of what that time period was like.

The moment I realised I love staring at rocks was during a practical and we were staring at a trilobite. I just remember thinking that this species went extinct like 250 million years ago but we can still look at them today to deduce where the trilobite would have lived, the environment in which it died and what this meant for the global climate at the time. I just thought that it was kinda cool that a tiny dead organism could show that.

Just accept that you get excited by rocks and move on.

What you need to know about Tropical Cyclones.

 

For those who read the news and have seen Storm Alberto heading towards Lake Michigan (for the first time ever), you may still be wondering what a ‘Tropical Cyclone’ is and why they always seem to be in the same region. Here are some facts you might like to know as we enter the Atlantic storm season.

1. What are they?

A tropical cyclone is essentially a system of low pressure over tropical or sub-tropical waters. These systems contain thunderstorm activity (otherwise known as convection) with slow-moving winds that can circulate both clockwise and anticlockwise; anticlockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere.

2. Why are they called different things in different places?

It confused me for a long time; is there a difference between Cyclones and Typhoons? If there is, what is it? Well, it turns out it’s just a geographical difference. Once wind in the system has exceeded 74mph, in the Atlantic it is classed as a Hurricane and the eastern Pacific whereas, in the western Pacific it is classed as a Typhoon. Areas such as the Indian Ocean and South Pacific, it can be classed as a Tropical Cyclone or Cyclone. The literal only reason for these different terms is dependent on where the storm forms.

Image result for map of tropical storm

3. Why do they have personalised names?

This is just so there is an ability to distinguish between the storms as there is likely to be more than one per year. Also, the names don’t keep going down the alphabet until ‘A’ is reached again. Every year the first storm will start back at ‘A’ and will then continue down the alphabet until the new year is reached. After 6 years, the names are recycled, so for example, if there was a Storm Alice in 2011, Storm Alice would then be used again in 2018.  This system started in 1953 by the National Weather Service whereby it was also stated that the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z shall not be used. The furthest it’s ever come to reaching the end of the alphabet was in 1995 when 19 named storms passed over the Atlantic ending with Storm Tanya which dissipated on the 1st November 1995. Also, extremely intense and destructive storms (that are potentially Category 5) are not used more than once to show sensitivity to people that were affected by these events. (The National Hurricane Centre has a list of retired names on their website.)

4. How do they form?

In the tropics, there is an area of low pressure which is above and below the equator. Above the equator the winds blow north-west and below, the winds blow south-east. When these two meet, they are moving in opposite directions so can spin around each other. Not only this, they require warm water to form which means that the warm air (usually around 27 degrees C) on top of this ocean rises, causing an area of low pressure. Underneath the warm air system, the cooler air is moister and forms clouds underneath the warm air. This whole system is fed by the warm ocean and the two sets of winds that cause the motion of the cell.

Image result for formation of cyclones

5. When might they occur?

As the previous point suggests, they are caused during warm seasons during peak level of solar radiation. The ocean itself reaches its maximum temperature a couple of weeks after this peak and thus the storms will start occurring usually during the late stages of summer and early autumn. This occurs from July to September in the Northern Hemisphere and from January to March in the Southern Hemisphere.

6. How do they die out?

In the most basic terms, when these systems reach land or cold water, they are no longer being fed by the warm ocean. This means that they are not being fed any water or convective energy to use so therefore they weaken. Another way they could weaken and die out is when dry, cool air is suddenly present in the system, this reduces the possibility of convection to keep the storm going.

7. How are they ranked?

There are multiple different scales used to measure their intensity. The most common scale uses wind speed to measure its intensity and is called the Saffir-Simpson scale.  Category 1 is the weakest form of a cyclone and Category 5 is the strongest.

Not only is wind speed used but also a less objective measure can be found. This might include observations of destruction the cyclone causes. For example, a Category 1 might only damage some crops and trees but no houses whereas a Category 5 would cause extreme and widespread destruction. There is also a scale for this subjective measure which is called the Beaufort Scale which is a scale from 0 to 12 (similar to that of the Modified Mercalli Scale for earthquakes). This scale covers all wind speeds and not just storm events. It starts at wind speeds less than 1km/h and escalates to hurricane force winds at over 118km/h.

Not only are there different types of scales, but the different geographical regions have all have their own scales with different categories for the severity of cyclones.

8. How are they forecasted?

Due to technological advances in meteorology in the past 50 years, computer modelling, stationary satellites, ships at sea and aircraft can all predict the formation and track of cyclones.

Organisations such as the National Hurricane Centre in Florida track specific areas of the ocean that are susceptible to storm events to measure changes in pressure and seeing clusters of thunderclouds that could lead to tropical depressions. Once a storm system has been detected, computer modelling, synoptic forecasting and statistics can predict what the storm is going to do from studying previous storms. (Of course, you can’t control mother nature so predictions may not be completely accurate).

9. Could they occur in the UK?

In theory, they can’t as they are tropical features that occur in latitudes up to 20 degrees away from the equator. However, the UK can receive areas of low pressure that have originated as tropical cyclones but have moved to higher latitudes so are technically cyclones/hurricanes. It is very unlikely that the UK will receive extreme cyclones found in Central America as the sea surface temperatures are not warm enough and the area of depression is not low enough. This did not stop Storm Rachel in February 2018, Hurricane Ophelia in 2017 and Storm Rina in 2017.

 

ophelia.jpg
Photo of the strength of Storm Brian in the UK in 2017

 

10. Are they affected by climate change?

This is a million dollar question (quite literally) and is not yet fully understood. It is theoretically thought that a rise in temperature by 2.5 degrees C could double the amount of storms we receive as warmer temperatures cause warmer oceans which cause more evaporation and could cause more storms. However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thinks that the frequency of storms will stay the same (or even decrease) while their intensity goes up. It’s clear that it’s not yet fully understood and will need to be further researched in order to help to reduce the risks in association with them.

If you have any questions or points of interest, please feel free to comment below or send me a message on Instagram @_alicefowle_

Cover photo taken from here.