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.

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.

Dear America, please stop using GMOs

To whom this concerns, 

If you knew how dire the situation was, you would understand. If you are going to rely on a product when you’re unaware of the consequences, please listen to me. 

For years and years now you have been relying on a product that has been unintentionally destroying your ecosystems. It has been changing the way you create products and it has been destroying other organisms in the process. To be honest, I’m not sure you can fully recover from this. For years now, you have been changing the face of your country. Your farms have changed from extensive family-owned farms to being intensive and commercialised with the small families not being able to earn a living anymore. I know you want your economy to thrive and grow by expanding your financial sector and allowing trans-national corporations to use your landscape for profit but please, it’s not going to help. Eventually, all of this exploitation will cause degradation of your environment to such an extent that it won’t be farmland anymore but rather, it will be development for urban landscape and your food will have to be imported from other, more renewable sources. This doesn’t sound like a solution. This sounds like you’re ignoring a problem that’s going to put stress on your future.

By farming soybean and corn to be genetically modified, you have been contaminating 90% of your landscape. Soybean and corn is used in animal feed and is also consumed by humans. Do you really want your citizens to be consuming a product without their knowledge? Is that really fair or ethical? Do you think it’s a coincidence that other countries such as Kenya have banned your products from entering their country? Do you think it’s a coincidence that 16 EU nations voted against GM crops all together? Their population is aware that GM crops have unknown consequences for both them and their environment. They don’t want to risk potential health effects on the future generation. They don’t want to degrade their environment by creating an ecosystem that relies on monoculture. What if this fails? If one crop contracts a virus, they all will. Then what will you do? Create a new GM crop? The cycle will continue until eventually, the whole ecosystem will fail. 

I know you think that it’s a solution rather than a problem because you are ‘over-populated’ and stuck in a Malthusian trap whereby you think your society will collapse without these crops. You’re wrong. There are ways of working with the environment that doesn’t involve biologically engineering organisms to withstand everything. By allowing family-run farms to create a diverse range of crops, you’re able to increase your biodiversity thus allowing your ecosystems to be restored. From this, a multiplying effect could occur. Now you’ve increased your natural ecosystems, these can be used to create a balanced food chain in which your population can use without exploitation. 

Please open your eyes. The only way these products have been approved is because the companies that make them are the ones approving them. You might hear that barely any GM foods are served to your population but in reality, that cow you just reared? It was eating your GM soybeans. That papaya you just harvested? It was engineered to survive viruses in its environment. There are 120 varieties of GM crops that are regulated in your country. How many are in the EU? One. 

So please take into account everything I have said; after all, it’s your whole country that’s at stake here. 

Kind regards, 

Everyone else

 

Reference:

Cover image: GM Crops. Future Food

The Earth is flat. Arguments and Responses.

Do you believe?

It seems to be a hot topic at the moment. Is the world really flat? Are all photos from space a conspiracy from NASA? Well, I’ve decided to outline the arguments for and against this ‘flat earth’ theory because really, I do think it is pretty stupid. I know a lot of these arguments may make sense but listening to science, astronomy and physics, I think it’s difficult for these arguments to stand.  If you still believe in the Flat Earth theory after hearing these arguments then I have to shut up, but from an earth science perspective, I couldn’t understand why you would actually believe this (though that won’t stop me from wearing the t-shirts).

The earth is surrounded by an ice wall

As the animation shows, the earth is seen to be a disc that is surrounded by an ice wall that manages to hold oceans back. According to conspiracists, explorers have traveled here but have not returned to tell the story and now travel is banned to Antarctica for these reasons.

This doesn’t make sense. They believe that if you reach the outside ‘wall’ you are magically transported to the other side (like in Pac man). Why would this be the case when people have traveled to Antarctica and have not experienced this ‘Pac-man’ sensation? Also, the theory completely changes the ACCEPTED world map view. This would imply that the southern continents are a lot further away than traditionally thought. If this were true, the quickest way to get from South America to Australia would be to fly over the North Pole. Enough said.

The bottoms of clouds are flat

This is one of the principle arguments from flat earth theorists. Yes, some clouds have a flat bottom so in theory, this is a major challenge.

However, this can be explained by simple meteorology. Cumulus clouds (the puffy clouds that you’d recognise from children’s drawings) are created from pressure and temperature changes in the atmosphere. As water vapour moves upwards, the air expands due to a larger volume and a pressure drop. This height where cumulus clouds form is very specific and would appear to form a flat bottom due to the changes in our current atmosphere.

The Movement of the Sun

It is thought that the sun moves in circles around the North Pole and that during the day, the sun is over your head but during the night, the sun is away from you (kind of like a torch). The sun setting and rising is purely the perspective effect that the vanishing point of the sun. If you climb a mountain, the horizon rises according to your eye level and this is thought to be relevant in terms of the sunrise and sunset.

If the world was flat, we would be able to see the sun at all times because the curvature wouldn’t be there to prevent us from it. The only way to explain it is that there must be a complete other side otherwise we would never truly be in darkness.
Day/night cycle on a Flat Earth

Photos from NASA are a Conspiracy

It is thought that all photos of the globe have been edited to make us believe that the Earth is round. Flat earth conspiracists are not 100% sure why governmental agencies want to hide this but they potentially think it’s for financial gain of some sort.

For starters, why would NASA want to do this? Secondly, normal people (such as the video below) can prove that the Earth has a curvature.

The Moon and the Sun are the same size

They believe that the sun and the moon are the same in size, are 32 miles in diameter, and orbit around the North Pole.

This, again, is another argument from empiricism so if you looked up, it could be true. However, as you can also see, the moon is not always a circle. It goes through a cycle whereby the Earth’s shadow prevents us from seeing the full moon. This occurs as the sun is behind the Earth thus causing the shadow effect on the moon. Therefore, empiricism and basic physics can explain why the moon and the sun aren’t rotating around the North Pole. The sun also appears to be the same size as it’s located 149.6 million km away whereas the distance to the moon is only 384,400 km away so will appear to be the same as the sun is further away.

lunar eclipse

 

 

 

 

Gravity isn’t real, objects simply ‘fall’

According to flat earth theorists, gravity is an illusion and objects really just accelerate downwards. Apparently, this force is called ‘Universal Acceleration’  and that the density of objects is the reason they fall down.

Okay, this really doesn’t work. The thing with gravity is that with a sphere, wherever you are, there is the same amount of the sphere underneath you. This means that the gravitational pull is to the same point in the sphere. If the earth was flat, the center would have to pull towards the middle of the plane. This means that on each end, gravity would pull you sideways instead of downwards whereas, in the middle of the plane, you would actually be able to stand up straight.a sphere's center of mass

a plane's center of mass

 

 

 

But I can’t see any curvature?

Surely because ships disappear on our horizon, that means that they’ve reached that ice sheet right? 

You see, this argument is larger than just flat earth theory. If we relied on our senses when coming up with new theories and ideas, then most ideas would be completely unreliable. Our senses and empiricism would fail for flat earth theory because of how small humans are relative to the Earth itself. If we were to go on a hot air balloon ride, we would be able to see that our horizons literally expand. More scientifically, buying a high-pressure balloon and taping a camera onto it, you could see the ‘bigger picture’.  

So, do not rely on your senses to deduce the shape of the earth because if that was the case, my current world is just my bedroom window?

Here’s the proof:

 

If after these arguments you still are in disbelief then okay, maybe you can’t be convinced and should go back to basic science classes. But if you’ve been laughing at flat earth arguments like me, then welcome to science and the world of normalcy. Comment or send me an email if you have other arguments (I’d love to hear them) and then maybe I could write a post replying to those.

References:

Cover photo: Mic

Animation of day/night cycle: Flat Earth Society